Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Forgiving DIY: Gifts for Geeks

My father is, without a doubt, a computer geek. So, for his birthday this year I made him some prints of technical diagrams from important patents from computer history -- namely the vacuum tube, the transistor, and the integrated circuit. Happily, these documents are in the public domain if the patent is expired (that's the whole point of public disclosure), and the diagrams are pretty easy to find. You could do this for any of your giftee's interests related to inventions (automobiles, motorcycles, tools, cameras, food packaging, watches, airplanes, music equipment, firearms... you could go on and on!).  I aged the paper so this would also be really attractive with botanical prints, architecture, or bugs... I am really into bugs lately.
 Here's the plan: We are going to age regular old printer paper and then run it through a plain old ink-jet printer.  Then, we'll frame it (with a white mat, of course) and give it.

First, find some images (though you don't need to print them until after you age the paper).  For patent diagrams, I started with Wikipedia articles on the technology I was interested in.  You will either get to the patent directly from the references section in that article, or you will get the name of the inventor and can get to the list of their patents on his or her Wikipedia articles (e.g. for the transistor, I got to the patent I used by looking at Julius Edgar Lilienfeld).  Google hosts most patents now and the images show up as a jpg without even having to read much of the document or finagle file types.  Sometimes you might run into a pdf you'll have to sift through and maybe deal with changing the file format if it is a document that was scanned all caddywhompus.  But I think it's worth it.  If you are looking for non-patent drawings, as I have mentioned before, I really like ClipArt ETC. Be sure to crop your images so that they will look nice in the frame.

These are the images we are going to use.  But no need to print them yet, really, because the tea-staining will wash away the ink.
Ok, now to the fun (and a tiny bit messy part).  There are plenty of ways to age paper, as described plenty of places on the internet.  Here, we are merely going for the "modern paper that is yellowed and otherwise worse for wear" not the "treasure map on parchment" kind of aging.  So, I'm not doing any burning, tearing, or really anything but dilute tea staining.  I found that fairly uniform yellowing felt most authentic and this was acheived by a tea soak and not by blotting. However, soaking paper that has already been printed results in washing away the printing, so I aged the paper first and then printed on it.  I soaked paper in tea (2 bags steeped in about 1.5c hot water, cooled, then poured in a baking sheet), then baked at 250 until it was dry (baking on a cookie sheet, not a rack, to avoid imprinting with the pattern of the rack). 
Soaking in tea.

Let excess tea drip off and then lay flat in a different cookie sheet and bake to dry.
 I was using documents from three different eras (1960s, 1930s, 1900s) so I used 3 different levels of staining, just by serially staining (i.e. the paper that would be printed with the 1903 patent was soaked with tea and baked, soaked with tea and baked, soaked with tea and baked).  I ironed the paper a bit before printing but it was still pretty crumpled (I had a bear of a time getting the printer to feed the "oldest" paper).  The inkjet tends to smudge on any crumples too.  I liked this effect for this project though because I thought it was reminiscent of carbon copies, drafters, and typewriters.

Top page has been soaked and dried twice.  Bottom has only been stained once.

I am linking up to these great parties!


  1. Such a great idea!
    Thanks for sharing with us at Your Designs This Time!

    Emily & Erin @

  2. Love this! Great gift idea for the "difficult man" on the Christmas list. Would look really nice in an office.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...