Five-pointed stars decorate barns across the United States. Originally, the stars were painted onto the surface of the barn (often just above a doorway), then they were constructed of wood and hung from the surface. Today, unfinished metal stars are popular: The rusty patina that develops lends a rustic look to a nearly new ornament. You can make your own plywood barn star in only a few hours, and you'll be able to paint it or finish it to meet your own preferences.
If you're handy with a protractor and a compass, or can sketch an attractive star freehand, you can draw your own pattern. If not, check craft, quilting and woodworking books, or the scrap-booking, quilting and painting departments of hobby stores for a suitable star pattern.
Once you have a pattern, copy or trace it on paper, cut it out, and try out the paper star in the location you'll display the wooden star. Check to be sure the scale is right, and that the star will fit where you plan to hang it.
Don't forget that you can enlarge or shrink a pattern that is too big or too small with a photocopier. For a very large star, print sections of the pattern on separate sheets of copy paper, cut them out and assemble them on the plywood to draw your pattern.
Cut Out the Star
Choose the wood -- 1/2-inch plywood works well for very large stars (larger than 12 inches). For smaller stars, 1/2-inch board lumber works well, too. Cedar or redwood stars will last longer in the sun and rain without a varnish or paint finish but, if you want a weathered and distressed ornament, consider cutting your star from still-sturdy pieces of reclaimed wood, such as old barn wood, to make a rustic star that looks like an authentic antique.
Trace the star pattern on the wood and cut it out using a coping saw, scroll saw or band saw. To avoid breaking the saw blade, do not attempt to change direction when you reach the point or the V-shaped bottom of each star arm. Safeguard the blade by cutting from the edge of the board down to the bottom of the V. Then back the saw out through the cut you just made, and start at the edge of the wood to cut down to the same point down the other side of the V.
Finish the Star
Sand the star once it is cut out. Even a rustic-looking star needs the perimeter sanded to remove splinters and sharp edges so it will be easier to handle when you hang it. For a sleeker, smooth-finished star, start with a heavy-grit sand paper on the roughest areas. Move to finer-grit sandpaper as you work, until the star is completely smooth on all surfaces. Wipe the sawdust away with a tack-cloth.
Paint your star to match your decor, or research the traditional meanings of various colors. Blue stars symbolize peace; red stands for passion; yellow celebrates the sun, good health and serenity; green is growth, fertility and success. Alternatively, you can varnish the star, or apply an antiquing paint or finish. An unfinished star displayed outdoors, will eventually rot and fall apart -- even if you use a resistant wood such as cedar or redwood.
Hang It Up
Pre-drill holes for screws at each point of the star for mounting on an interior or exterior wall. Drill a single hole at the top for a nail, or loop a ribbon through the hole to hang a smaller, indoor star. For a hidden mount, check out picture-hanging hardware that attaches near the top of the star back so that it will hang correctly. A cluster of various sizes of wood barn stars on a wall is a folk art focal point for rustic decor.
Gretchen Maron has written content for journals, websites, newspapers, radio news and newsletters, ranging from the International Horn Society journal "Horn Call" and the Air America Radio website, to non-profit organization websites. A librarian for over 30 years and a professional writer since 1996, she's an experienced, knowledgeable researcher.