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Mr. Vieira
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Tennessee
2016-07-18, 21:38

Tomorrow is my mom's birthday. I always make her something every year. After weeks of nothing hitting me, I'm lying in bed the other night and thought "I wonder what a flag made out of pennies would look like?" First thing I did was Google it, and saw where some folks have done just that, in various sizes. So that told me a) it could be done, and b) it actually looked kinda cool (almost like a sepia tone image, from a distance and squinting).

I knew I was wanting to keep it a reasonable, easily-displayed size, so I hopped up, came into the living room and launched Illustrator. I Googled the dimensions of a penny (.75") and began laying it out. Basically, 13 rows of 25 pennies in each results in a "flag" that is 9.75" tall and 18.75" wide. I had some 1x12 boards around (which are actually 11.25" wide, of course), so since that gave me a nice .75" border, top and bottom, I cut one to length at 20.25", giving me a .75" border on the sides as well.

Figuring it out in Illustrator:

Then it dawned on me..."am I going to have enough pennies - and of the right shades (dark, medium and shiny/new) - to do this? "So I raided my spare coin jar and that of my Dad's as well (325 pennies needed, at 25x13)...he had some good dark ones, so that was great. Poured out everything on the floor and kinda worked it out, dry, because I knew once I put them in place, they were going to be stuck for good. This pic is my first go at layout:

I tweaked a few things and eventually got something I liked. The darkest, oldest make up the blue canton field (I also knew, from putzing around in Illustrator, that if I painted the field behind the canton white, those would read as the stars. Yes, the number and placement isn't accurate, but I was constrained by the gaps in the pennies ). At first I thought doing all head, with Lincoln right-side-up and "even". After doing the dry mockup for 3-4 minutes, I was like "screw this...", so I just put them down however they went, totally random. But I did alternate heads/tails over the entire thing, starting with heads in the upper left corner and and alternating over all 25 pennies in a row, over 13 rows. It's heads and tails, both horizontally and vertically. A neat little detail that only I'll notice, probably.

The medium-toned pennies make up the red stripes, and any bright, shiny new ones represent the white. And away I went...

The blue tape is there to give me a highly visible edge line (vs. pencil line on black). Once I pressed a penny down, aligned on the blue tape, across the top and the left side, everything else just got butted up to it and went fairly quick/easy. The adhesive kicked in right away so nothing was moving around on me as I pressed the next course of pennies into place, so as long as you got that very top row and the left vertical column even against the tape, the remaining 280-something pennies just kinda locked into place, up against previous rows/columns.

It's a bit tedious...

But in the end, it turned out kinda cool/nice! (it helps if you squint a bit, or step back several feet)

A couple of shots this evening:

I'll give it to her tomorrow.

I never want to see another penny for the rest of my life...

PS - I'll probably never do this again (see previous sentence), but I now have three separate little jars for my daily/weekly penny/pocket change collecting: dark, medium and shiny/new. I figure if I can just organize/divide them all on the front end like this, if/when the time came and I wanted to make another, a huge chunk of the front-end monkey work would already be done! I just grab the dark jar and make my star field (10 wide x 7 tall), then pull from the medium and shiny jars when it's time to do the stripes.

PPS - I ran out of time so I'll give it to her as is, but one of my original ideas was to build a little frame around it, inset from the outside border of the black backing board, but about 1/8" or 1/4" from the edge of the flag. Glue/nail it down and then pour clear-drying epoxy into the center, burying/encasing the pennies under a thin hard layer of clear. That can be "part 2" of the gift, and something I can do this weekend, if she thinks that sounds good. But she may want to keep it just like this.

Last edited by psmith2.0 : 2016-07-18 at 22:09.
Veteran Member
Join Date: May 2004
2016-07-18, 21:39

YAY! That's awesome.
Mr. Vieira
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Tennessee
2016-07-18, 21:58

Thank you.

Times like these (as with my Captain America shield and the 36" wide rustic flag), I'm so happy I learned/know Illustrator. I can't imagine trying to do things like this on-the-fly, without working out the details/kinks easily beforehand. Taking 10-15 minutes and working it all out on screen on the front end - dimensions, spacing, layout, etc. - makes all the difference in the world! I'm able to proceed with confidence, knowing that any mockups I've done are solid and accurate enough to follow/trust.

It's a great marriage of the two things: the tech/digital on the front end, then wood/paint/glue/handtools to do the actual project itself (using my own printed templates or stencils, if needed). I find that very satisfying.

I love working with wood and doing stuff like this. But I always kick things off in Adobe Illustrator, at 1:1 scale, to get it all set up and squared away before I waste wood, paint, etc. (or experience a major "oh crap...I'm a half-inch off to the wrong side!!!" moment).
Dark Cat of the Sith
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Rochester, NY
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2016-07-18, 22:13

That is a fantastic piece of work. Looks amazing!
Space Pirate
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
2016-07-18, 23:35

What a thoughtful and unique gift! Number one son

Which way is up?
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
2016-07-19, 00:06

Nice job, Paul. Looks great.
Join Date: Jan 2005
2016-07-19, 05:49

That's awesome. Looks really cool and something that would look great hanging anywhere.
9" monochrome
Join Date: May 2004
Location: 🇦🇺
2016-07-19, 05:56

Looks great Paul! Your Mum is lucky to get unique creative gifts from you each year!
Veteran Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Ottawa, ON
2016-07-19, 07:03

I like it a lot. Nice gift. My only concern is whether the effect will be lost as the newer pennies start to tarnish.
Mr. Vieira
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Tennessee
2016-07-19, 08:25

Yeah, that's why I think there will be a "part 2" to this thing...buikding a simple little trim frame around the penny field and pouring in a 1/8" or 1/4" layer of clear epoxy. That would freeze things in place, shouldn't it?

What causes a new, shiny penny to darken/tarnish? I assumed it would be constant use and handling, but would just simple exposure to air do it as well?

Was thinking about dome 3/8" square dowel, or maybe something with a bit of fluting or coving (or just some simple quarter circle trim. Miter the ends to form a "pool wall" around the pennies to hold the epoxy.

Would give it a little dimension/visual interest as well, another plane rising up from backing board.
Veteran Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Ottawa, ON
2016-07-19, 08:55

I am fairly certain that the tarnish is due to oxidization. An effective epoxy coating might well work - it would prevent contact with air. I recall seeing pennies suspended in clear plastic (in paperweights and such items) that appeared intact for years.

When there's an eel in the lake that's as long as a snake that's a moray.
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
2016-07-19, 13:23

I love this project Paul. Sealing it in epoxy or acrylic should help hold the colors the way they are now. I like the idea of building the pool area with trim pieces. I was thinking maybe like corner trim pieces that wrap around the side or the main board too though.

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Selfish Heathen
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
2016-07-22, 20:00

Really cool work, pscates!

Seconded on the epoxy or acrylic suggestion to keep them looking good. The acrylic sealer spray cans (like spray paint) you can get at craft or home hardware stores would probably do the trick and be super easy to apply. They come in gloss or matte; I'd totally go gloss on this.

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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Purgatory
2016-07-22, 20:20

I'll second Brad's suggestion on the spray sealer. You really only need to float a layer of epoxy over something like a penny floor or a penny bar counter – something that will get some use on it. For a neat art piece like this just a couple/few/four coats of spray will suffice (plus be a lot lighter wall-hanging ).

So it goes.
Mr. Vieira
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Tennessee
2016-07-22, 23:30

I didn't think about that. Could be a way to go for sure.
Mr. Vieira
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Tennessee
2016-08-27, 22:40

Been meaning to post this for a while, just keep forgetting to get around to it and get it all down on paper/screen. Below is the "recipe" for recreating the above, for anyone interested (or bored out of your skulls).

It's actually very easy...more tedious than anything. Finding the pennies of the three proper shades will be your trickiest part, most likely.

  • 1x12 shelving or board, cut to a length of 20-1/4" (resulting in a board 20-1/4" wide x 11-1/4" tall, viewed in landscape orientation). Home Depot sells a 4-foot pine 1x12 for about $10, giving you enough to make two
  • Glue/epoxy to attach the pennies to the board
  • Paint (2oz. bottles of craft acrylics for .50 each from Walmart is what I use...Apple Barrel is the brand and they come in about 19 gazillion colors; one bottle is more than enough). I think black makes the pennies pop, but the color is up to you. A nice creamy, weathered white might look nice too...and if you did that, you wouldn't have to measure/lay out for the white field behind the "star" section...if I make another one of these, I'll probably do a nice antique white/parchment color instead of black
  • 325 pennies: 70 dark/old (blue), 135 medium-toned (red) and 120 shiny/new (white)

Step 1
Paint your board and then draw (or tape) a line inset 3/4" from the edge of your board on all four sides (see dotted line in illustrations below). This is the border of your "live" area, and you'll be left with a 3/4" "frame" on all sides. Measure in from the left and top of the boards 1-1/8" and have that be your starting point for the white field you'll lay out/tape/paint in the upper left corner (to show through behind the dark pennies, to read as "stars"). This white field is 6-3/4" wide x 4-1/2" high

Step 2
With your live area and white field established, lay your 70 dark pennies on top of the white field (starting in the upper left corner and working out and down. On these first rows/columns it's important to follow your guideline/tape because everything following will be based on that...getting this first row and column straight will make the following 300+ penny placement a breeze! There will be seven rows of 10 pennies across, representing the blue canton field. Start in the upper left corder and make the top row 10 across. Then do the first penny of the six rows next. This gives you something to "lock into", as you place the remaining pennies. Butt them to the ones above and to the left of the one you're gluing down and they'll all self-align.

Step 3
Start on the very top row to the right of the canton field and place 15 of your medium (red) pennies for the top red stripe. Then place 15 shiny (white) ones. You'll do this for seven rows total, until you match the bottom of the canton. From there, you just lay in the remaining six rows, alternating between medium and shiny for the red and white stripes. Starting at the top, as with the canton, gives you something above (and to the left) to lock your following pennies to. Just apply the glue/epoxy and nudge them up and to the left so they touch the penny above and to its left and they'll all line up (this is the tedious part I mentioned earlier...filling in the remaining field of red/white stripes).

This flag is ultimately comprised of 13 rows of 25 pennies each

When you're done, it should look like this:

70 (10x7) dark pennies in the upper left corner, seven rows of 15 pennies alternating red and white, and then a final six rows of 25 pennies alternating red and white.

Sit somewhere flat and let the glue do it's thing for a while.

As discussed upthread, you can bury it in two-part epoxy or spray some sort of sealer/clearcoat to prevent tarnishing or darkening.

NOTE: An alternative to the white box would be a nice metallic copper paint? You're basically wanting that white area in between the dark pennies to read as the stars, but since the "white" of the flag is represented by new, shiny pennies, it might look better if the "white stars" are a similar shade of shiny, gleaming copper as well? If I do another one of these, I'll probably paint that backing field in the upper left corner a metallic copper. Here's a quick mockup of how that would look:

Anyway, that's how you go about it...the dimensions, materials, penny count, etc. If anyone here ever made one, I'd love to see how it turned out. Please post it here!

If anything above is vague or weird, let me know here (or via PM) and I'll tighten it up or clarify things.

Last edited by psmith2.0 : 2016-08-28 at 11:59.
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