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California Republic Flag Inspired Sign (And A California History Lesson)

California Republic Wooden Sign over Fireplace

So, this project has a personal and (relatively) interesting backstory.. especially if you are a history buff.   It all started when I sat though a FANTASTIC California State History presentation for my 4th grader’s class. (Seriously.. if you are a parent or teacher in California you need to look into the California Weekly Explorer Program for your school!)   Being relatively new residents to the State of California I didn’t know much about California state history and so the story of the how the current state flag came into being was new to me!

What I learned (in a nut shell and told in a much less amusing way:) 

Originally (way back in the early 1800s when California was considered part of Mexico, or “Mexican California") the California flag was white with a single red star (most likely derived from the Texas Lone Star).
200px California Lone Star Flag 1836 svg
However, in 1846, for a little less than a month, California was its own nation, when California settlers claimed the town of Sonoma from Mexico and declared their indepence as “The Republic of California.”  At that time the grizzly bear was added to the flag as a representation of strength and resistance.  This event was called “The Bear Flag Revolt” and was believed to be the driving force behind California entering the war against Mexico.
1stBearFlag svg
Yeah, I know.. that bear looks like a pygmy hippo or cow or something, but keep in mind these were ranchers and farmers weren’t exactly artists.. we have to take their word that is a grizzly bear! 
The independent Republic of California didn’t last long, since once the US government ALSO declared war on Mexico, California happily declared themselves part of the United States. In 1850 California was officially declared a state (not coincidentally that just happened to be a year after the start of the 1949 gold rush). At that time a number of Bear and Star California state flag versions were produced yet none was declared the official state flag.

Finally in 1911, the version you see below was officially adopted. It includes a homage to the original red star flag, along with the red bar at the bottom to symbolize courage and sacrifice, and the original name of the once independent nation of the California Republic.
900px Flag of California svg
In the interest of full disclosure , some people think that a flag derived by the misbehavior of a group of drunk hooligans (known as “Bear Flaggers” should be replaced, and that California history is being seen through rose colored glasses (and when you read a detailed history the Bear flag Revolt they actually have a point, but that is a debate for another day!

Ironically, the actual bear (Monarch was his name) that inspired the the current version of the California State flag lived right here in San Francisco (at the Golden Gate Park Zoo) until it’s death in 1911 (the same year the flag was officially adopted). He is now stuffed and being held at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park (he is no longer on display since he had deteriorated over time from being out in the light.)   If you are interested in more about the bear and the flag he inspired, this is one of the best articles I’ve read on the topic. (It is a pretty sad story actually.) 

After learning a little more about the flag, and loving the fact is so much more novel than a lot of flags with solid color blocks, I thought I would pay homage to our new home with a California state flag-Inspired stenciled sign:
Reclaimed Wood California Republic SignAnd of course I did it the way I know best:  With a large wooden sign that I stenciled using a vinyl I cut on my Silhouette:Vintage California Flag with BearI didn’t want to stencil it in full color, since it wasn’t supposed to be an actual flag,  just “inspired” by it.  It is also the reason I didn’t include a solid bar at the bottom of the sign.Rustic California Stone Fireplace With State FlagI love how it turned out and it feels a little more personal since it is about California! California Republic Stenciled Sign
It is holding a place of honor above the living room mantel.
Rustic Stenciled wooden sign over fireplace
Here is a quick overview of how I tackled this project.

I got three 1x4s off the cull lumber pile at the home improvement store. they were TERRIBLY warped, which is why they only cost about #1.50 each, but that was okay.. I didn’t mind if the sign was perfectly flat.  I cut them all to length (they are 28 inches wide).  Then I had to sand the heck out of them to get the purple spray painted “cull lumber” marks off
Warped Cull Lumber for Wooden Sign
Next I wanted to stain them dark. Not paint them.. so I decided on a dark dark brown wood stain.
For this project I wanted to try out my new HomeRight Finish Max paint sprayer and spray shelter and I have to say.. they were a DREAM to work with.  I have another sprayer and I admit, it turned me off to spraying projects.  The spitting and sputtering, the clogging and the clean up.   But when HomeRight asked me to try their sprayer I didn’t have anything to lose.

It turns out... everything that made me dislike my old sprayer.. well, the Finish Max didn’t have ANY of that.  The stain flowed like a dream, I didn’t have a any clogging problems, and the disassembly and clean up was SO MUCH EASIER than my other gun.  (I am going to do some more side-by-side tests but right now, the FinishMax is HANDS DOWN a front runner in my paint gun arsenal.
Spray Painting in Driveway using Spray Shelter
The spray shelter was great too. I was able to set up in my driveway and didn’t have to worry about paint blowing onto my car or house or neighbors (and I”m sure they appreciated that too!)
Staining Boards using Paint Sprayer
The finish was smooth and even (which is a big advantage vs brushing on/wiping on stain.) Even on these highly grained white wood boards, the staining was beautiful!  I can’t wait to try more projects with it!
How to Assemble a Wooden Sign
Once the boards were stained I put them together with wood shims and heavy duty Strong Tie wood connectors. (I used the super thick 14 gauge metal which allow me to force the warped boards into being straight.  The heavy duty strips are a little more expensive, but that is okay since I made it up in savings on the wood.  If I was using flatter lumber I would use the thinner connectors (which are slightly cheaper)

Now that I had the sign made, I needed the stencil.   I uploaded the image to my Silhouette Software and traced the bear (which is no small feat.. since do you see all those tiny shade lines!!)  Normally I use contact paper for stencils, but this was CRAZY DETAILED.  Some of the dots on the bear were smaller than a grain of rice!!!

So for this project I used Oracal 631 (semi-permanent) vinyl from Expressions Vinyl. The stencil was larger than 24 inches, so I cut it in three pieces and then used painters tape to fill out where the sections were cut apart.
Vinyl Stencil for Reclaimed Wood SignFor the paint, I used a sample of cream color (I think it was a sample I had leftover from painting my kitchen cabinets, but I can’t remember for sure) latex wall paint. Nothing special really.
Stenciling Wooden Sign With Latex Paint
The vinyl worked like a DREAM.  I was really impressed with how clean the stencil lines were, even for the teenie tiny dots. Painted Stenciled California FlagFor the lettering I did use contact paper, since it was a lot coarser stencil. It definitely didn’t leave as clean of lines as the vinyl. Stenciling Wooden Sign with Contact PpaerOverall, I couldn’t have been much happier with it.  So much so that I hung it over the fireplace.
California Republic Flag over Fireplace Mantel Every time I look at it I am reminded of the Bear Flag Rebellion.. and our new home state of California!

And if you aren’t a California, but like stenciled signs, here are a few other ideas for you:
Stenciled and Distressed Sign
Distressed Door Welcome Sign
Pallet Wood Sign
Chalkboard Arrow
Kim Six Oh Come Let Us Adore Him Lighted Sign
Merry Christmas Lighted Sign

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