Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pin Maps - Done Almost!!

Oh the pin maps. The ones I am making are done, almost. I have a few island and state names to do and T is checking my work to see what I missed or messed up. I am very happy to say that this project is pretty much done.

The reason I embarked upon this huge project was T and his love for maps. He sat down with the atlas at one point and started a list of rivers, mountains, and cities. He thought it would be great to explore this more in a pin map format. Unfortunately I didn't have $1200+ to spend on the Cabinet of the US from Nienhuis, so we resorted to making this one by hand.

This pin map set is by no means an exhaustive representation. But I hope my abridged version will inspire further study and exploration of all the geographical notables across our country.
This pin map set is of the United States only. I chose to include only the lower 48 states to simplify everything a bit. If T, or anyone else, wants to take it further, they can construct their own pin map of Hawaii or the Bahamas. Even with those few territories and states trimmed off my to-do list, this project was still quite large. 

I divided up the US into 8 regions. I researched a couple different ways to divide everyone up, but the more I read the more confused I got, so I just divided up the states in my own arbitrary way. My only criteria was that each region had to fit onto an 8 1/2" x 14" piece of paper.

These are the finished pin maps.

And these are the finished control maps.

So, how did I make it all? I wish I could say I just waved my magic wand and there it all was, but that wouldn't be true. It took a lot of time and crafty creativity to get this job done.

First, I'll start with the pin maps.
Materials: (It has been a while since I did these, so let me think....)
Cork board tiles 12"x12" and 1/4" thick
Packing tape, 2 rolls
Canola oil and a paper towel (to un-gum the scissor blades)
Utility knife
Metal ruler
Black poster board
Legal sized printer paper
Color printer
Scrap stuff to cut on (needed something under my utility knife)
Orange masking tape (I wanted something orange to match the orange Montessori North America theme.)
This physical relief map
Sharpie pens - red, black, grey, yellow, green, and blue (fine point)
Colored pencils - green, red
Regular pencil
Pencil sharpener
Laminate (You'll need the ability to laminate legal size. I can't do this at home so I went to an office supply store and had them do it for me.)
An atlas
A bright window and some scotch tape
*      *       *
How To:
1. Lay out digital relief map in Word software, cropping and re-sizing as necessary to fit onto a legal sized piece of paper. Make one map for each region. (I didn't worry about the scale between the maps.)

2. Print out, in color, two copies of each regional map.

3. Outline all state boundaries by hand with a red pencil. Shade in surrounding state areas not included in designated region by hand with green pencil. (So if part of Oregon is sticking into the Mountain West region map, I shaded this portion in since I didn't designate Oregon to be part of that region.)

4. Use an atlas as a reference and use a colored coded sharpie to dot all the pin locations (islands - grey; states - green; cities - red, land forms - yellow; waterways - blue) on one map and label them with a very sharp regular pencil. Tape this map to a bright window and overlay the other blank map on top sticking this up with tape too. Use the colored Sharpies again to copy all the dotted locations on the second map.

5. Laminate all maps.

6. To assemble the maps...
Make a sandwich: laminated map (with dots only) on top, cork tile in the middle and black poster board on the bottom.
Use a straight edge to cut along the edge of the laminate and through the cork and the foam board with the utility knife. (Make sure the knife is sharp so it doesn't snag the cork or the foam board.)
Because the tile is 12" wide and the laminate is 8 1/2" wide, place the just trimmed scrap cork and placed it at the top, and trim everything again.
Take the laminated map off the top of the sandwich, and tape the tile pieces together with orange masking tape. Then tape around the edges of the cork and poster board with orange masking tape and make sure to finish the corners nicely. Above is how the cork side looks. Below is how the foam board side looks when you flip it over.

Place the laminated map back on top of the cork/foam board sandwich (on the cork size) and tape all edges together with clear packing tape. (If your scissors get gummy from the packing tape adhesive, rub some oil onto the blade with a paper towel and rub off the gummy sticky stuff. Make sure your scissors aren't oily afterward or else you'll ruin your project.)
This is how it will look from the front...
And on the back. Just repeat this 7 more times and presto-the pin maps are done. (Remember not to mount the laminated control maps onto anything. These are the ones that have the dots that are labeled.)

8. And the pins...
Sorry there are no pictures to show you...it is hard to take pictures while wrapped up in packing tape.

So, here is the run-down.
Colored card stock (red, blue, yellow, green, white/grey)
Paper cutter
Pins (extra long quilting pins will do)
Nail polish (no sparkles...just red, blue, yellow, green and white...my pins were yellow so did I didn't need to purchase yellow polish.)
Pin cushion
Packing tape
Sharpie pen in black
Canola oil and paper towel to un-gum the scissors (this is SO necessary!! see above how to un-gum your scissors)
Tons of tiny containers to store all the pins
Lots of patience, and a couple of great movie series you don't need to look at, just listen to...
How To:
1. Cut card-stock, 1cm x 3cm (this will be the size of each flag)

2. Paint with nail polish the heads of the pins in the appropriate color and stick them into the pin cushion to let dry before assembly.

3. Use the control map and hand write all the pin locations on the appropriate color card-stock (or print out on clear labels the names of all the locations and trim to size)

4. Take a matching color pin and card-stock flag and begin taping/laminating the flags to the pins with the packing tape.

(The easiest way I found of doing this was to cut a bunch of strips of packing tape from the roll and "hang" them on a table edge. I'd do six at one time. Make a "ripple" in the end of the tape on the roll and stick it to the roll so you don't lose the end. Then use the scissors to make a small slit in each piece of packing tape, and rip it the rest of the way in half, so you have two long skinny rectangles of tape. "Hang" these pieces of tape on the table edge. Stick a paper flag to the upper right corner of the packing tape rectangle, (with the lable face down) turn the tape over so the paper flag is on top of the tape, lay the pin with the head to the left of the flag, and wrap the tape around the pin and affix it to the back side of the flag. Trim the edges of the tape. Repeat this procedure fifty million times.)

5. Number code the back of each flag pin so that if one gets loose, you'll know which regional map it belongs to.

6. Store all the pins in a manner you desire. 

(I started using these acrylic boxes from the Target dollar section until I figured out that I didn't have enough. (I had bought them six months prior when I didn't have a use for them.) So now I am searching for a better way to store the flags...or more of these containers.)
To make the holes through the laminated map, simply stick the pins in where the dots are located and the pin will stick into the cork. Make sure the child sticks the pins in by their head and not the flag. (It doesn't work to stick the pins in with the flag even if you are using real plastic/metal flags from a manufactured pin map set anyway.) The pins do not poke out the back of the foam board. 

And that is how I made everything.

So now about cost... 
I didn't really keep track, and I had quite a few things on hand to begin with...but here are a few of the more pricey things I remember:
Packing tape: 2 rolls @ $1/ea
Orange masking tape: approximately $3/roll
Paper, inconsequential
Ink, don't know, but it wasn't too much
Sharpies - already had them
Pins: 2 boxes of 400 @ $6.99/ea
Card stock - already had it
Nail polish - $3/color - already had white - needed to buy 3 colors
Cork: 2 pkgs @ a little less than $6/pkg
Foam board: 3 sheets @ $1/sheet
Laminating everything at the office store: got a discount...don't remember how much this was exactly but it was between $55 and $60.
Containers to hold the flags...if I had enough it would have been 8 @ $1/ea...
So what does that come out to be? $105-$110?

How long did it take??
I have honestly no idea about how many hours it took me. 
Maybe I can do 10 pins in 15 mins? And I did maybe 800-900 pins? The maps took maybe 3 hours to do a regional set from start to finish? 
I did this over several months. But not so that I would prevent burn out but just because other things were way more important than sitting on my butt with my fingers stuck to a roll of packing tape. It took a lot of time and I am glad this project is over.

Where did I get the names for my pins? (Figured I answer this one if MBT answered this one about her set.)
...from an atlas. I knew most all the cities I picked and most all the land forms. I needed the atlas for the water forms the most. In short, my selection was pretty arbitrary.
I didn't set out to be exhaustive. I set out provide interest and spur exploration.

Was it worth it? Oh, I don't know. T really loves working with the set and I hope that S and D will like it too eventually. I am really just waiting for T to ask for the Cabinet of World Parts.


  1. Beautiful pin maps! You did a great job! Its materials like this that get me so overwhelmed because of the amount of time they take to make. Its great that you were able to make them and they turned out so well.

  2. Amazing job! They look awesome!

  3. Thank you all for your comments! They really do work well, but I am so glad that this project is behind me. ;)

  4. Amazing Job Abbie!!! LOVE IT!! Beautiful!!!