AstroCrafts: How to Create Constellation Coasters

Feb 24
2014
by Unknown

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY KATHLEEN HORNER

BASED ON A CONCEPT BY 'ALMOST MAKES PERFECT'

Constellation Coasters Pic 1 LOW RES


One thing we all have in common here at Astronomers Without Borders is that we delight in gazing at the constellations in the night sky. By that I mean a lost in ourselves kind of feeling when we look up at that rich star sky with a yearning to reach out, grab a piece of it and bring it on home. Since time immemorial humans have been drawn to the beauty and wonder of the night sky. The ancients in their fascination with prominent stars and the curious patterns that they formed in the sky gave names to them. Perhaps they did so in an attempt to connect themselves to the stars by familiar symbols thus giving birth to myths set alive in the sky to set examples in their own lives. Many world cultures gave the constellations different names according to their own folklore traditions. To clear up any confusion on the myriad varieties of constellations named throughout the centuries, the International Astronomical Union in 1930 officially assigned 88 constellations total in the southern and northern sky.

However, there are quite a few constellations that the IAU does not recognize officially such as from the Chinese, Hindu and Australian Aboriginal cultures. Ultimately, the story of the origins of the constellations turns out to be a really star studded kaleidoscope of the ingenuity of the very curious and creative human mind, the thirst for knowledge and the understanding of our place in the Universe. Let's capture a bit of that creative mindset by designing something as simple, but very unique as a constellation coaster or wall hanging to grace the inside of our homes to remind us of that great cosmos out there.

"If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and stare."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pleiades LOW RES

For our AstroCrafts project we will create constellation coasters. I made some really cool coasters out of foam core board (see photo at the top of the blog). You can also use ceramic tiles which is probably the best as far as durability. You can hang them individually in a grouping or place them on a ribbon runner as I have done here. First, I will share how I created these beautiful coasters with foam core board and then provide a tutorial link on making them from ceramic tiles.

IMG 0124

Coaster Close Up

You can hang them individually in a grouping or place them on a ribbon runner. First, I will share how I created these beautiful coasters with foam core board and then provide a link for you to follow directions on making them from ceramic tiles. If you can find ceramic tiles in your area, I would highly recommend you use them for this project for durability reasons, however, foam core board works okay, too. Of course, you can also use other materials for the coaster base like wood or cork. Large arts and crafts stores do sell coaster bases in all materials...use your imagination!

Materials:

Foam Core Board 1/4" thickness or Ceramic tiles (White)
Elmer's Glue, Paper Glue Stick or any adhesive
Aleene's Tacky Glue (for gluing ceramic tiles)
Shellac spray, satin, luster gloss or semi-gloss
Acrylic paint, Metallic Copper
Medium Size Art Brush, Flat Edge
Self-Adhesive Picture Hangers (for wall grouping)
Mod Podge (optional)
X-acto Knife
Scissors
Ruler

I found my images from a few star map charts inside some old astronomy magazines. You can also find images of star maps and charts online. Here's a few links that will take you to some really beautiful star maps. Have fun and search online for free star maps both southern and northern hemisphere....there are hundreds of them in high resolution online and free to use. Of course, if you do not have a printer or access to one and want to be really artistic, you can paint your own group of constellations in whatever creative way you wish. If you do paint them make sure you use acrylic permanent paints.

http://www.star-map.fr/free-star-maps/
http://www.stargazing.net/David/constel/skymapindex.html
http://www.outdoorhub.com/how-to/star-gazing-what-to-look-for-january-through-march/

Just for fun, there are also some beautiful wallpaper images from NASA's image gallery that you can download. If you prefer, you could add a mix of images from the gallery to make your coasters. You name it, they've got it. Thank you Hubble spacecraft. Link below:

http://hubblesite.org/gallery/wallpaper/

CREATING YOUR CERAMIC TILE COASTERS

Molly's blog page "Almost Makes Perfect" with directions on how to create ceramic tile coasters. A big thanks for sharing this tutorial with us. Click here for the tutorial: http://www.almostmakesperfect.com/2013/06/12/diy-constellation-coasters/
If you can find ceramic tiles in your area, I would highly recommend you use them for this project for durability reasons, however, foam core board works okay, too. It just takes a few more steps.

CREATING YOUR FOAM CORE BOARD COASTERS

First of all, if you can find Mod Podge that would be the best way to put the coaster together. How to use it is shown in this tutorial : http://www.almostmakesperfect.com/2013/06/12/diy-constellation-coasters/. You can skip the below listed steps on using glue for this project if you choose to use Mod Podge (see tutorial). But in many parts of the world you may not be able to find it so I am listing an alternative way to piece together your coaster.

CUT: You will need to use an X-acto knife to cut out the foam core board squares. You can find them at any large arts and crafts or home improvement stores. On a sheet of cardstock or cardboard take a ruler and draw out a square. This will serve as your pattern piece to trace and cut out your coaster images. The dimensions can be any size you choose. I chose a 4" x 4" square and then decided to leave a 1/8" margin on the coaster so the actual measurements were 3 7/8" square. You can choose to go all the way to the edges of the coasters rather than leave a margin if you prefer. Once you have drawn out your square, cut it out with scissors and then place on top of foam core board and trace around it with a pencil. Using your X-acto knife and a ruler as a steady guide placed along the traced line carefully cut out the coaster base. Be sure to have a thick cardboard sheet placed under the foam core board so the knife will not damage your table top or counter. When using the Xacto knife be sure not to try and cut all the way through the board. You will end up with a ragged edge. You need only to score the traced lines and then by coming back and using some very sharp scissors to cut the rest out. This makes for a smoother cut. Sometimes the edges of the core board will have little pieces hanging off so you can take some sand paper and gently smooth the edges a bit.

TRACE: Lay out your sheet of the star map face down, choose an area on the map and place the square cardstock pattern piece over it. This way you will not have any pencil marks showing at the edges by tracing over the back side of the map. Trace around the cardstock pattern and cut out the coaster image.

PAINT: If you have decided to have a margin showing on your coaster, choose whatever color you want to use and paint a one inch border around the edges and the sides of the coaster base. Also, paint the back of the base. I used metallic copper acrylic paint.

GLUE: Apply either Elmer's glue with a brush to the back of the cut out image or use a glue stick or whatever adhesive you choose. Be sure to apply glue to the very edges of the cut out so it will lay out flat and smooth on the surface. Then carefully place on top of the coaster base and smooth out to the edges. Any excess glue can be removed with a damp dry cloth. Allow glue to set if using a wet glue.

SPRAY SEALANT: Spray Shellac in several coats on the front, sides and back of the coaster in a well ventilated area or outside. Allow to dry. Place some self-adhesive felt pads under the coaster and you are done! If you are wanting a wall grouping then place a self-adhesive picture hanger on the back of each square. For the wall runner just glue each square onto the ribbon and let dry. If you are wanting to create a ceramic tile coaster runner, use Aleene's Tacky Glue or something similar to it to adhere them to the ribbon.

Have fun creating your star coasters. As always we would love hearing from you if you decide to create these really neat coasters. AstroCrafts will be back to celebrate Global Astronomy Month this coming April with a host of creative and unique astronomy related crafts and a special showcase of past AstroCrafts projects! Keep your eyes on the skies!

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