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How to make your own peace pole

This page tells how to turn a wooden post into a peace pole. For tips about choosing the wood, click choosing lumber. Tips for creating the text yourself are below.

Getting Text on the Pole
This usually is the first thing about which people are concerned. There are several options for accomplishing it. One is making your own templates for free as described below.

Making Templates
On a computer printer, printout a full-size template of the translations. A normal printer will not print out anything longer than a 14 inch long legal page. Labyrnth made of shoes donated for charity for Peace Pole CeremonyDivide the translation into three sections, each shorter than 14 inches, and then tape the three pages together to make one long template, like the one seen below left.

Set the templates on the pole. Drag a pencil or ballpoint pen on top of the letters heavily enough to leave an impression in the wood. The impression is the rough guide for your paintbrush. You can either draw the outline of the letters or just draw the center line of each one. In the photo below right, I drew the center line of each as a guide for my brush strokes.

For some languages that do not use our alphabet, following the center line might not provide all the information you need. It can be more useful to outline the characters so that you see when the brush stroke should be wide or tapered or have the end squared off. But for most languages, it is much easier to run the brush along the center line.

Hand tracing template of text on to wood . . Click to Enlarge . . The traced image on the wood

Normally there would be only a light impression in the wood made by the pressure of the pen or pencil on the paper, with no actual pencil lead coloring the wood. But that did not show up well in these photos. So I ran a pen through the impressions to make them visible in the photo.

There is no reason to be afraid of languages like Chinese and Korean. When I was working with Chinese for the first time, I sought out native Chinese people who could help me learn about their text. If I asked them to write a certain word for me, they pulled out a ball point pen and jotted it out on a scrap of paper the same way I would jot English. Calligraphy and typesetting in any language are more precise and exacting than handwriting. But hand painted letters in Chinese and other languages have the same intelligibility as in English. Just trace a good pattern and you will make handwritten text that will be fine.

Click paint for information on preservatives for the wood and choosing paint for the text.

Paint the letters over the lines with a small paint brush. An artist's supply or a craft shop has such brushes. You might want one kind of brush for languages that are like English that evolved on printing presses and another kind for languages like Chinese that evolved on the end of a brush.

Various paint brushes . . . Two hand painted peace poles

The brush in the top of this photo is the one I find most useful. It is called a "quarter inch angular shader." It is a flat brush. The square edge allows a precision useful in duplicating text. Springing for an expensive one of these can make a big difference in how your pole turns out. This isn't the place to cut corners. Buy cheap wood and cheap paint if you want, but pay $20 and get a good brush.

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Paint isn't the only way to get text onto wood. An example of an alternative was sent to me by a woman who used a magnifying glass for that, a natural form of Pyrography (artistic burning). That can be seen at burning text. However, paint takes less time and lasts longer.

Cutting the Top
Some people leave the top square. Others put a cap on it. Others cut a pyramid shape in the top. If you are cutting it, you should do that before you do anything else.

Cutting a pyramid into the top of the peace pole is not hard to do. You don't even have to have the right tools, although they help. Just measure, cut carefully, and if it doesn't come out right, you can cut another inch off and try again. Someday when I get time I'll post photos of this process. It can be done with a circular saw or a hand saw. And the measuring can be done with any ruler if you don't have something that marks a 45 degree angle.

Planting the Peace Pole
In the world of peace poles, they don't say "install" or "erect." They say "plant" peace poles. To see some ways to plant peace poles, click peace pole planting.

Longevity of the Peace Pole
If you did a process similar to this, but did it on an aluminum or fiberglass post, with the correct sanding and priming and paint (not house paint), it could last fifteen or more years. House paint on wood lasts seven to ten years, possibly twelve.

Longevity of yourself
If your work on this includes much time with glues or resins or torches or anything that produces dust or smoke or fumes, you might want to glance at my page about protecting yourself from such things. Click here.