Arts, crafts, and all that jazz

Say It With String

One of the art projects that garners the most response from family and friends is a trio of string art I made for my home.  The contrast of the rich-toned wood to the metallic silver string adds a contemporary yet eclectic touch to the space.  I loved the fact that I could customize the pieces to suit my family, as represented by our heritage in India, our current location in Texas, and the first initial of our family name.

Trio of String Art by

Here is a closeup of the India string art piece to give you a better perspective of the string detail.

India String Art by

India String Art

This is a perfect project for the DIY enthusiast.  Although it is time-consuming, in that you have to wait for stain to dry between coats, the difficulty level is relatively low.

Tools & Materials:

Wooden Boards
Pre-Stain Conditioner
Wood Stain
Gel Topcoat
Nails (1″ x 17 size)
String – Metallic Silver Elastic Cord
India Map Paper Guide

The wooden boards I used were Kiln-Dried Elliots Pine Rounds from Lowe’s hardware store.  The wonderful thing about these particular wooden boards is that they come pre-cut and pre-sanded.   Additionally, the boards come in a variety of sizes.  The ones I purchased were 15-inch, 18-inch, and 24-inch diameter boards.  For the India map image, I used the 24-inch board.

Wooden Boards

Wooden Boards from Lowe’s

As far as items for the staining process goes, I highly recommend General Finishes brand products.  A few years back, when I attempted to stain my kitchen cabinets, this brand of stain worked wonders for transforming my 90’s era golden oak cabinets to more modern looking ones.  Gel stains are wonderful because they do not require extensive sanding between coats like regular stains do.  These are two of the staining products I used.

General Finishes Wood Stain

General Finishes Pre-Stain Conditioner and Wood Stain

Phase 1 – Stain the Board(s)

1) Clean the wooden boards by wiping off any dust off the surface with a rag.  Sand the surface, if necessary, with a 120-150 grit sandpaper, so that the surface is smooth.
2) Sand the surface, if necessary, with a 120-150 grit sandpaper, so that the surface is smooth.
3) Using a rag, apply pre-stain conditioner to the wood. This step is highly recommended if you are using maple, pine, or cherry wood because the pre-stain conditioner will help the stain
apply evenly without a blotchy appearance. Let the pre-stain conditioner dry.
4) Apply the gel stain liberally with either a rag or foam brush. I really love the General Finishes gel stain in a Nutmeg color but you can use whatever stain color you prefer. Wipe off the gel stain, going with the grain, using a clean dry rag. Let it dry. Let it dry. Drying time varies based on the size and nature of your project as well as the environment. Normally drying time ranges from 6 to 12 hours.
5) Repeat Step 4 if you want a deeper/richer finish. The more coats of stain you apply, the darker the finish.
6) When you are satisfied with the stain color, apply the gel topcoat to seal in the stain and protect the wood. I applied two coats of topcoat, letting it dry between coats.

Phase 2 – Add the Nails

If you are interested in making the India map string art on a 24-inch diameter board, here is the paper guide that I used. After you have taped the paper guide to the front of the board, you can start adding the nails. It’s no secret that I am a perfectionist! I wanted the my nails to be evenly spaced and have an even depth. Here are the keys to achieving both:

Even Spacing:
I made an outline of the image I wanted (India map image) using an imaging software. Click here for the outline. I printed the outline and taped it onto my wooden board. I nailed my nails in the dots indicated on the outline printout.

Even Depth:
The key to getting all the nails to have even depth is to hold the nail in place using a pair of pliers and then drive the nails with the hammer until it hits the edge of the pliers.

Phase 3 – Start Stringing

When you have nailed all the nails in place on the dots indicated on the outline image, you are ready to start stringing! This is my favorite part of the project! It is strangely therapeutic. The string I used is a metallic silver string that deceptively looks like metal when strung.  For a more Mid-century modern look, you could even try using gold string and gold-colored nails.

The question I get the most often is whether there’s any particular technique to adding the string. Below is a summary of my stringing process:

Step 1: Select one nail at random and using your string, tie a knot around that nail.
Step 2: Pull the string taut and loop the string around an adjacent nail.
Step 3: Repeat step 2 until every single nail on the board has string around it. Basically, you should now have string forming an outline of the design.
Step 4: Pull the string and loop it around a nail on the opposite end of board.
Step 5: Continue stringing in whatever pattern you want, making sure to stay inside the outline formed in Step 3. See the photo below for an example of my stringing process. You will be done when very single nail has been included.
Step 6: Tie a knot around the final nail once you are satisfied with the design.

Process for creating string art

Stringing process

If you decide to make string art and my tutorial was helpful to you, please let me know! I would also love to see photos of your projects!


  1. Manju Manju
    November 21, 2015    

    I saw your post a few months ago and it inspired me to do string art piece using Malayalam letters. It came out awesome! Thanks for the idea and inspiration!

  2. Shiney Shiney
    June 24, 2016    

    Oh my gosh I have been trying to find this website. I saw it earlier on Pinterest and I am definitely doing this! Thank you for the directions!

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