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  • Writer's pictureRoss Tuggle

4x16 Mural - Brookville, Indiana

A few months back I saw that my hometown was doing a mural contest and they asked people to submit their design ideas to be considered in doing a mural. I thought it was a great Idea, but never gave it much thought. A few weeks went by and I saw the designs and something in me thought, “I should have submitted something” I reached out to a city council member and asked if it was too late to submit my idea. I wanted to create something with 2,628 pieces to represent all 2,628 residents in Brookville. I was informed that it was too late so I thought – Bummer. Next time.

A couple weeks went by and the city council member reached out and told me she discovered a grant for an art project from Visit Indiana. I told her, “Let’s go for it.” She filled out all the paperwork and handled the application process. I mocked up a crude image and sent it their way. I was shocked when I won it.

My idea was to do a 4x16 with triangles that ombre into different colors and go into a center. Hoping it would create a super cool effect when its far away. After we won the grant, I decided I needed to close all my custom orders in order to mentally focus on this giant thing. The biggest piece I had done up to this point was a handful of 4x8’s – which is giant and no small task, but I figured, it would be very similar to those.

Once all of my custom orders were done, I really started thinking about this thing. My google searches for the past 2 months have been things like, “How to join two 4x8 sheets together,” “How to seal painted wood to last 10 years” “Is titebond 3 really necessary for outdoor use?” I started going a little crazy, I think.

I ordered paint, and I want to say it was cans 58 different shades. They came in and it was time to start. I asked my friends who are much more familiar with construction than I am and I kept going back and forth on what my backer was going to be. Marine Grade? Treated? OSB? I had decided to go with marine grade since you know, marine-outside, that seems right, no? I found a company in Massachusetts that can ship a joined sheet that is 4x16. I was going to do it! I got a quote and was super close to ordering it. I want to say it was around $600 with shipping. A few days went by and I thought, I can just join it myself and avoid that huge shipping cost. I went to Menards to purchase my backer and their Marine grade ply was all warped to hell. I pivoted and realized; any ply is going to warp. What about OSB. One of my buddy’s didn’t thinks OSB would be a good choice due to the moister it would be exposed to but I thought it would be pretty protected with the art on top, as well as the over hang that the structure it’s hung on provides. I went with the OSB.

My buddy Justin over at WoodCreationsSB cut me out the visit Indiana logo and sent it my way. I can’t thank him enough for it! I was able to paint it pretty easily. I went with a PVC material just to avoid anymore wood. Give Justin a follow on the Gram!

Now I’m at the point where I need to start thinking about the actual art. The triangles. All 3 million of them. It felt like a lot. It is a lot. 2,000 of anything is just a lot of things. I had no clue what size to make them. I’m horrible at math. I didn’t even know how to figure out the size of the triangle to hit my 2,628 mark. I made a post on Reddit, the /askmath subreddit. I explained what I was doing and someone hit with an answer and how to get the answer. I trusted him. It ended up being something a long the lines of 2.79 inches on each side of an equilateral triangle. I figured I would shoot for 2.75 and that would be easier to hit. I went to Menards to by any and all 1/4x3 and 1/2x3 I could find. There weren’t many. I went to the Menards in Southport, Camby, Greenwood, Avon, Lawrence and Fishers. I bought ever single one within the 465 loop. I have 2 left that were my extras, my backups, my “holly shit – I need 3 more triangles”

Once I got my stock, and ripped them down to size and then made a jig on my table saw to cut my triangles. It was super simple. Just a piece of MDF with a board running at 30 degrees with a stop on my fence. It worked pretty well.

Once all they were cut it was time to sand and paint. Painting too so long, but mostly because each row is a different color. I only have so much room to paint, so I would need for paint to dry before I could paint the next row. I painted and set my 2 4x8s down on the ground outside for the week. Thankfully we had amazing weather. I started attaching in a method that would allow each row to have depth. One color in the ¼ size, then a color in ½. It took forever. I started to notice I continuously had to run into the garage and knock a hair off a triangle here and there and was getting confused as to why. Eventually I noticed my triangles weren’t equilateral. The “bottom” of the triangle was a longer than the sides by an amount that is almost impossible to notice. I eventually started putting the “bottom” of each one facing out, this corrected my wonkiness I was seeing. I was too far deep to restart, so I had to use my chisel and a plane to fix some things and I kept chugging along. Assemble took about 3 days.

I had scheduled with my friends for Sunday 9/18 to hang it. I still hadn’t given the frame, or how to attach the two 4x8’s much thought. Saturday came and I went to get my lumber for the frame and lumber for my cleats that were going to be used to hang it. Some treated 2x4’s was what I decided on. I took them home and ran some rabbets 3x4 in. This would allow the back to butt up against the wall while also catching the cleat – giving no gap…hopefully. The rabbets went pretty smoothly honestly and then I went to cut my cleats. I messed them up. My table saw just couldn’t handle cutting a 2x4 at 45 degrees down the center. It also just didn’t leave enough meat to connect to the wall or the piece. I went to bed Saturday very very stressed. The cleats acted as my hangers, but also as how I was joining the two sheets. They would be glued and screwed to each piece, as well as a 2x4 sheet of treated ply on the back.

Sunday morning, I get up and run to Lowes to get some replacement 2x4’s. When I was sitting in the parking lot I thought, “maybe I should use 2x6’s instead.” I went in, picked up a 2x6 that looked like it was a limp noodle and decided to go with 2x4’s since that stack looked way straighter. I decided to just cut off a 45-degree edge off instead of splitting it down the middle. Luckily I have a small add on to my circular saw called a Squijig. It’s just a little metal piece that connects to your saw that gives you a fence almost. Here’s a link if you want to snag one. they honestly seem super useful if you’re doing framing, I use mine pretty rarely, but they have been very handy for my pieces that have been 6 feet or longer. Cut them down, loaded up and went to my friend Jesse’s house to assemble the frame.

It honestly went pretty smoothly. Usually when Jesse and I do anything, he kind of just leads the way and we do things so differently that I just am happy to let that be the case. We worked really well together understanding how I was joining the two. We made all our cuts for the frame, the went onto the piece smooth enough for our dry fit and then our friend Brandon got there to help load/hang it. We still needed to glue/screw in the frames. For whatever reason, us three together do not work well. I think we just get distracted and we all do things so differently. We kept putting the wrong piece on the wrong side, but we eventually got done.

We went down, and Jesse and Brandon led the charge on getting the cleats onto the brick wall. We lifted it up, threw 2 tapcons into it to help stabilize it a bit and it’s there.

This was insane. It was a lot of work. It took a lot out of me. We are also in the process of moving our retail store in Indianapolis and I had a week period where I think I was close to a true breakdown. My brain wasn’t working right, I couldn’t think straight and I felt off. I’m so pumped that I got to do this, and I’m excited to have a small break from wood art while I work on the new store for a bit (2 weeks). My garage is an absolute disaster right now from this process. I need to get better at cleaning it as I go.

I’m not sure how many of these things that I’ve down that I’ve looked at and said, “That is really dope.” I usually like them and then get excited for the next one if that makes sense. This one was different. This one I felt really proud of and It was hard for me to leave it. I wanted to stay and look at it as long as I could. I know it will change as time goes on. It’s facing south so it will have direct sunlight. I have some protective poly on it, but that can only do so much. Indiana weather is pretty brutal. 100-degree days in the summer, below 0 in the winter. OSB will expand and swell. Treated pine will bow or curve. Triangles will maybe fall off. Some idiot will draw something on it, or pull on something that gives. It happens. I hope that it always adds something to that area of town. That even as it ages, it still has a cool look to it. I’m hoping that by making in ombre out in colors, even if and when the sun mutes the colors, it will still have a really cool look to it.

I love that I got to do this. Art is weird. Some people like what you do, others say “I don’t get it.” Or, “I could do that for cheaper” and that’s fine, I get that. I’ve been that person before. I hope if you go check out that piece down in Brookville, Indiana – it still looks cool and it does something inside you that makes you want to go out and try to make something. Creating something with your hands is one of the coolest and most rewarding things I have experienced. I hope I get to continue to make things for a long long time. Maybe just nothing more that involves triangles…

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