If you’ve ever had a goldfish you know how quickly they can flounder. But don’t be too hard on yourself; they love being flushed down the toilet! It’s like a day spa for the soul (see what I did there?)! These low maintenance aquatic “pets” are shore to please: no water changes; no feedings to forget. Best of all, they make beautiful decor items. This just may be the greatest thing to ever come down the pike. Will you take the bait on this fun woodworking project?
How To Make Angelfish Decor – It’s the Catch Of the Day
Download this PDF file to print off the Angelfish Patterns for this project.
Get Off Your Bass And Carp Diem
Each fish consists of three layers of 3/16” craft store plywood. Print my patterns – or create your own – and attach them to the wood. I use medium tack spray glue. Spray the adhesive onto the backs of your patterns and let it rest about 20 seconds before sticking them to the wood.
Allowing the glue to dry for a bit before attaching your patterns makes them much easier to peel off afterwards and leaves virtually no residue on the workpiece. That may sound fishy – but trust me – I’m angling to make this as snag-free as possible. Avoid spraying the glue directly onto the wood. It makes an annoying mess you’ll have to deal with later.
How Do You Stack Up?
“Stack cutting”: The scroll sawyer’s secret weapon. If you do much scroll saw work, you’re probably already familiar with this time-saving technique. When I make multiples of a given part out of thin wood I stack several pieces and tape them together.
Stack cutting not only saves time but it also ensures that each piece will come out exactly the same. In this case, I am making a total of four fish. So I need four middles and eight sides. If you make a single fish you need only one middle and two sides. To speed up the process, I’m cutting four pieces at once. Granted, each cut has to be made more slowly – because of the increased thickness of the material – but stack cutting four takes less time than cutting them individually. The sea turtle wins the race.
Dive On In
I filet my fish with a scroll saw but you can use a jig saw, band saw, coping saw, jeweler’s saw, etc… Whatever you have that’s up to the task. Woodworking is all about problem solving and making the best of the tools you have. Just be safe and don’t get shark-bitten.
You’ll notice that my pattern lines are pretty thick. The idea is to cut the main body on the outside edge of the line and cut the sides somewhere in the middle of the lines to give a nicer contour to the assembled fish bodies. I learned, however, to stay closer to the outside edge of the line when cutting the mouth region of the side pieces. Otherwise, the mouth openings might not quite line up.
If you make the same mistake I did, don’t worry. You’ll be able to touch it up after gluing the fish together.
Fish Of A Feather Stick Together. Wait, That’s Not Right.
OK, so maybe I need to go back to school for a biology refresher (holy mackerel, my fish puns are really tipping the scales today!) Before I matriculate, let’s glue together the flaky layers of these finned fellas. Match up the sides in the proper orientation then glue them to the main body section using wood glue.
I glued all of mine together then stacked them up so that I could clamp them all at once. Note that the more layers you try to glue at once, the more prone things are to slipping and sliding around before the glue starts to tack up. After tightening the clamps, monitor for a bit to make sure everything stays put.
Not to carp on this point but, as mentioned earlier – when I cut the sides – I got hooked in the mouth area, causing the openings to be misaligned. I was able to jack the jawfish with a tiny bit of touch-up at the scroll saw. No need for catch and release here.
The Sand Bar
The craft plywood requires very little sanding. But there will be little fuzzies around the cut edges. 120 grit sandpaper cleans it up nicely.
I mounted my fish on a piece of stiff metal wire: A “perch” – or “fish stick” – if you will. Mine is aluminum. Coat hanger wire works as well too.
Next, drill an appropriately-sized hole in the bottom of the fish to accept the metal wire.
Give each fish a colored base coat of acrylic paint. Once the base coat has dried use other colors to bring your fish to life.
Not Bass, But Base
The base is cut from a 3/4” pine board, which is too thick to stack cut on a scroll saw. Unless you’re using a band saw, they should be cut one at a time. I drew up patterns for two different bases: a small and a large, for one fish or two, respectively. Use whichever you prefer. Cut out the base, sand it, then paint it a nice sandy brown color.
While you’re messing with the acrylics, color the metal wire green, leaving about 3/8” unpainted at each end. For best results, first roughen the surface of the wire with sandpaper.
Stick In The Mud
Both base patterns indicate where to drill for the metal support wires. Now is a good time to drill those holes and Super Glue the wires in place.
And now, the finishing touches: rocks, shells and artificial fish tank plants. I found some plastic grass at my local Michaels Arts and Crafts Store and fake water plants at a pet store. I used some of each to conceal the wires that support the fish. Most plastic aquarium plants are a little too flimsy to stand on their own without the buoyancy water would provide. But when cut into short lengths they support their own weight well enough. Here’s the Grass mat from Michael’s.
I drilled holes into the base for the stemmed plants and Super Glued all of them in place.
Finally, we arrive at the tail end. To glue the rocks and shells in place, I used Titebond Quick & Thick Multi-Surface Glue from the local home center. A lot of glues don’t adhere very well to rocks. But this stuff holds onto the smooth rocks with an iron grip.
1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Here’s a photo gallery to provide some inspiration. Don’t be koi, have fun with it and make it your own!
Not Gonna Win An Oscar
If you’d like to see this build in action, you can view my video here: