Rustic Torched American Flag DIY Project

I started my first flag by using old barn wood, which looks good but is pretty hard to come by. I realized after I finished the flag that I had put the stars in the union upside down. At that point, I was pretty discouraged so I locked up my shop and called it a night. The lesson learned from that experience was to write TOP at the top of my star stencil.

I start by finding the right wood. This is pretty easy due to the fact that they sell it at the big box stores. Like I mentioned, my first flag was made of old wood, which is hard to come by so I decided to try furring strips. Furring strips are rough cut, inexpensive boards that are made to raise or level surfaces. Furring strips come in several different widths and they usually have saw marks on their face which adds character.

Once you have the material and you are ready to get started, measure and cut the boards for length. The flag in this video measures 19.5” x 37” so you’ll need 13 boards 37” long. Once you have them cut to length, they need to be ripped to 1.5” wide.

With the 13 boards sized correctly for the flag, place them together with their best side up. Make sure that the boards, in the area in which the union or canton will be, fit together with a minimal crack between the boards and that they are all pretty flush or about the same thickness.

The next step is to use a propane torch. The torch will get extremely hot so do not touch the torch at any time, always hold the propane bottle with the torch attached to it while using the torch. After you extinguish the flame on the torch, do not touch the torch, it will remain hot for several minutes. While using the torch, do not put your hand in front of or close to the flame.

Now that you know how your boards need to be laid out, separate the boards and keep them in order and get out the propane torch and start burning. By burning I mean, use the flame of the torch to darken or scorch the wood. The longer the flame touches the wood, the darker it will get. If you hold it on the wood too long, it will ignite and actually start burning. Do not ignite the wood, simply darken it to the desired shade. Scorch every other board to the desired shade, I scorch mine pretty dark. Once you have every other strip scorched, mark the area of the union with the stencil and scorch that area making sure all of the boards in the area of the union are scorched the same as the rest of the strips.

Now, turn the strips over so that the flag is face down. Make sure the flag is square. You’ll need four strips to staple to the back. I like to use four pieces .75” x .75” x 19.5” that I rip from scrap. Clamp the 13 stripes of the flag tightly together and then glue and staple the four strips to the back of the flag. I start with one end and then the opposite end. At that time I space the remaining two strips evenly between the two end strips.

Once you have the strips glued and stapled to the back, remove all of the clamps and turn the flag over, face up. Now, if needed, you can use a scrap block and hammer to tap the boards down onto the back strips to ensure that they are seated well.

Now, use a stencil and a pencil to mark the stars on the union, be careful not to allow the stencil to move until you have drawn all the stars. Once you have marked the stars, use a Dremel tool to carve them with a #106 carving bit. Simply follow the lines that you marked earlier and cut through the scorched wood causing the un-scorched wood to show through.
Keep in mind that the stars don’t have to be perfect. You do want to follow the lines that you’ve made from the stencil but if the stars aren’t perfect, it’s ok, it is meant to look rustic and imperfect stars will look good too.

Don’t get discouraged while cutting the stars, on average it takes me about 45 minutes to complete all of the stars in the union but on my first few flags it took about 90 minutes.

Once you have the stars completed, use the torch to add a little color to the stripes that haven’t been scorched yet. You obviously don’t want to scorch them the same as the previously scorched stripes because you’ll have a solid black flag. Scorch them slightly to add a little tint or scorch a few places to add spots of tint, you kinda have to decide how it looks best as you go. You can also leave these stripes un-scorched if you like, this looks good as well.
During this process, I like to run the torch across the stars a couple times to add a little tint, this causes the stars to look antiqued or rustic.

While you’re using the torch, scorch the outer edge of the flag to hide the end grain and don’t forget to scorch an area on the back so you can number and sign it.

Now it’s time to add a clear coat. I use Rust-Oleum Satin Clear Enamel in a spray can. You can use pretty much any clear spray to protect it but I recommend not brushing on a clear coat unless you’ve sprayed the flag with clear first. If you apply a brush coat of clear to the flag first, the dark color of the scorched wood will smear onto the lighter wood and cause a mess.

Once the flag dries, add a hanger to the back and display it in your home so that it is visible to all of your friends and family. This will not only be a conversation piece, there’s a good chance that you’ll have several orders which will keep you busy in your shop.

Good luck and thank you for visiting

Jeff Furr