Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Scoutmaster Mike: Philmont Grace Signs Completed

Yesterday, I completed the last of my Wood Badge "Ticket" items. For those not familiar with Wood Badge, it is, the top level of training that can be performed by Adult Leaders in the Boy Scouts of America. In addition to completing the course work, every participant commits to five "projects", called ticket items, aimed at improving their Units, Districts or Councils.

Four of my projects were close to home and revolved around training for either our Troop or our Lodge:

* Develop a training and program plan for the Chaplain's Aide in LDS Units

* Develop and present a mid level training course for youth leaders between introductory Troop Leadership Training and National Youth Leadership Training

* Create and use a training guide for our Council's Order of the Arrow Dance Team

* Convert our Troop over to using Troopmaster software for managing information, plus develop a training guide for our youth and committee to use it

I'll talk a bit about those experiences in other posts, but today's entry covers the ticket item I've approached with the most apprehension:

* Create three signs (one each for our council camps), that displays the Philmont Grace, to be hung in the dining halls and eating areas of our three Council camps (Boulder Creek, Cutter, and Oljato) for purposes of encouraging more regular mealtime prayers at our council camps.

Half the reason it has taken me nine months to complete my ticket was the fact that I *dreaded* doing this particular item; it was going to take a *lot* of time to do. Unlike the other projects, which I could do here a little and there a little, this one required substantial up-front time in the way of preparation and execution. Realizing that I wasn't going to get it finished without imposing some deadlines on myself, I decided I needed to make a hard commitment and just hammer it out.

First, here's the dimensions for these signs. They're rather large, approximately two feet by four feet (one of them is roughly 18 inches by 4 feet because it will be going into a smaller area). Each of the signs has the entire Philmont Grace routed into the wood in both 2 inch and 3 inch hetters to a depth of 3/8 inches. For those not familiar with the Philmont Grace, here it is:

"For Food, For Raiment, For Life, For Opportunity, For Friendship And Fellowship, We Thank Thee, O Lord"

As you might guess, that's a *lot* of wood to carve and paint (LOL!).

Here are some of the steps along the way to making it happen:

Taking a stencil and scribing all of the letters, making sure to leave the right amount of space on all sides so that it is centered on the boards.

Next step, after scribing all of the letters was to route them all out of the wood. Each sign took me about three hours to do... multiply that by three. Additionally, each sign had another pass with the router to round the edges of the boards to give them a more professional look. This was where one of my disasters struck... the guide fence on my RotoZip loosened and I ground way too low and wrecked one of the edges. To compensate, I had to usa a table saw and remove the edge, and then remove a litle from each side so that the sign would still be centered.

After routing out all of the wood pieces, I used a dark mahogany stain to seal and protect the wood, as well as to add a dark rustic look to the signs. I left them out on our deck to dry for about 18 hours.

With the signs stained, sealed and dried, it was time to start painting the letters. This takes almost as much time as routing out the letters does, as you want to make sure to get as much paint inside of the letters as posible, as well as along the routed walls, but not get paint outside of the routed impressions.

My daughter, Karina, loves to paint, and so she was a big help when it came to finishing these signs.

And here's what the signs look like painted. After this step, it was one more pass over the boards with the mahogany stain to color the corners and clear up some of the residue of the paint smears near the letters.

I learned a few things by doing this project. the first and foremost is that making routed signs takes a *LONG* time. Second, it is extremely satisfying to get into the middle of such a big project and lose yourself in the process. I started out really nervous, and not sure how I was going to do it all, but by the end of the project, I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

I wanted to do something that rose to an Eagle Project's level of work. My son will be a Life Scout starting in July (if he does everything he needs to on time) and as such will need to start thinking about his own Eagle project. Having seen Dad working on this one, I think he will have a better appreciation for the time and effort that needs to go into an Eagle project. Plus, this way, he knows that *I* know how long these things take and how much effort goes into them. This project required me to stretch a bit, and learn some skills I never used before. Would I recommend a project like this to another Wood Badge participant? Absolutely, although I might suggest making *ONE* sign instead of three, but hey, I was ambitious (LOL!).

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