With Fall approaching, I’m trying my hand at acorn craft. Today I’m sharing the most effective way to prepare and paint real acorns!
What is the Best Way To Gather Acorns
Late August, for me, if the best time of year to harvest acorns from oak trees. They’re still green, so aren’t quite mature yet, and haven’t fallen to the ground. So we pull them right off the branches. Why pick them up off the ground when you can pluck them right from the tree?
Only gather in a year when there is a bumper crop of acorns; our wild and furry friends rely on them as a food source! White oaks produce a crop every other year and a heavy crop every third year. Red oaks, pin oaks, swamp chestnut oaks, and all the rest produce a crop every other year. The key is to identify which species of oaks will produce acorns this Fall and concentrate on gathering from those trees.
Leave behind any that have obvious pin holes; that means there are critters inside.
Creative Craft Blog Hop
It’s time for another blog hop! I’m excited to share the fun and crafty creations of 14 other bloggers. If you are visiting from My Hubbard Home, welcome! I just love the beautiful velvet pumpkins that Rachelle shared! They are simply gorgeous and I’m definitely going to make some.
At the very bottom of this post, I’ll be directing you to the next stop on this venture. But don’t forget to check out the other stops too. Be sure to drop back in throughout the week to visit them all!
How do You Preserve Acorns for Crafting?
Collecting Acorns for Craft
I gathered our acorns in a plastic bag. That’s ok, but if you don’t plan on preparing them for a few days, transfer them into a mesh bag so they can breathe. If you leave them in plastic, they can start to go mouldy.
If you gather acorns from the ground, you should wash them first to remove dirt and debris.
Add some vinegar into a bucket of water. Swish the acorns around and change the water if they’re overly dirty. Then drain and allow to dry completely before moving onto the next step.
Acorn Craft Supplies
[If you’re looking for some of the things we used, we’ve got you covered (disclosure): Clicking on the affiliate links below, means we may receive a commission from Amazon. But don’t worry, you don’t pay a cent more and it helps us make more unique crafts to share with you! Thanks for helping to support our blog!]
- Paint sticks
- 8 ft strips of cedar (cut in half to make two 4ft strips)
- 3M masking tape
- 1/2″ flat paint brush
- Permanent marker – Sharpie Fine Point
- Plastic trays
- Aluminum foil
- Gorilla glue: I use Gorilla Contact Adhesive
- Paint in a variety of colours – you can use acrylic (like Apple Barrel) or house paint. I used left over PPG BreakThrough
- Clear top coat. I use Varathane Diamond Wood Finish – Satin
- Ice cream stick
- Egg carton
- Plastic container
- Paper towels
Note: The pictures below demonstrate how to set up the cedar strips to clear coat the acorns. We cut our cedar down into 4 ft sections to make it easier to handle. However, the process is exactly the same to hand paint the acorns with a brush. The only difference is that you’ll be using the paint sticks instead of the 4 ft cedar strips when painting. If you plan to use spray paint instead of brushing the acorns, you’re all set. This post shows you exactly how to paint using a spray gun, if you want to give that a try!
How to Dry Acorns for Craft Projects
Drying acorns is essential; it kills off any critters that may be hiding inside. Heat will effectively destroy the risk of future insect problems.
Step 1: Place in Toaster Oven
As soon as you have enough acorns for your project, place a piece of tin foil on a cookie sheet or fashion a tray from the foil. Because you don’t want the acorns to roll away, be sure to fashion a lip around the makeshift foil tray. I have a toaster oven I specifically use for crafts.
Load up the tray with your acorns. You’ll likely have to do several batches.
Set the oven temperature to 200 degrees. I let them bake for anywhere from 2 – 3 hours. Initially, you can leave the door open a crack for the first hour to help dissipate any moisture. Once done, let them cool.
Now that the initial prep is done, let’s move on with what to do with acorns!
Step 2: Separate Acorns and Caps
If you’re tempted NOT to remove the caps from the acorns and glue them back on later in the process, they will eventually fall off anyway. So you might as well spend the time now upfront. Separating the acorn caps from the acorn is also the fastest way to paint acorns – an added bonus!
Pull the acorn caps off the nut. Using a permanent number, write a corresponding number onto each cap and nut so you can easily pair them up later. To organize, a plastic tray with two compartments is ideal for this step. Put the acorn caps in one end and the nuts in the other.
Sometimes the nuts won’t release from the cap. In that case, wait a day or two and try again. All it takes is some extra dry time and a bit of twisting to get it to release. Of course, the later you gather acorns in the season, the easier this is to do because they’re more mature.
Step 3: Prepare to Paint
Tear off two short pieces of masking tape and set aside. Pull out a strip of tape (sticky side up), keeping it attached to the roll . Take one piece of the short masking tape and attach it onto the end of the strip still attached to the roll. When you attach the shorter to the longer piece, put the sticky sides together. Wrap it underneath the stick so it attaches securely as shown below.
Continue to unroll the strip of tape as long as the paint stick and tear off the other end, leaving a bit extra.
As you did before, take the second short piece and attach it in the same manner tucking the end around the back of the stick to secure. This will leave you with a stick surface the entire length of the strip.
Wrap two more lengths of tape around the mid section of the stick, dividing it into thirds. This prevents the tape from lifting as you work.
What Paint Do You Use on Acorns?
You can use anything you have on hand; from acrylic to house paint, chalk paint to even nail polish! For this project I’m using a variety of colours of left over PPG BreakThrough.
I want my colours looking grey and muted to keep with my Fall decor, as opposed to bright and clear. Because of that, I’m painting directly onto the acorn without a base coat so the woody tone shows through the paint. For dark colours, like blue, I only do one coat. Colours, such as red and yellow, are more transparent so I do at least two coats, sometimes even three.
If you use chalk paint but want your acorns shiny, finish with a clear coat.
How do you Decorate an Acorn?
Step 1: Paint Stick Trick
As explained above, set up a paint stick with masking tape and line up a row of acorns. Leave room in between to allow access with the paint brush.
Start painting the acorns with the 1/2″ flat brush. Start at the top, then move to the middle, then finally paint upward from the bottom for full coverage. The flat brush is ideal for maneuvering around the acorn. Tilt the stick to ensure you have paint coverage along the bottom; you can even turn it around to see all the angles. Allow to dry 24 hours.
The paint sticks can be used up to four times before the tackiness wears out and you have to swap out the masking tape for fresh. Just remember to position the acorns in between where you previously painted (where it’s most sticky).
Of course, for the cedar sticks, you’ll have to refresh the masking tape every time. That’s because clear coat or paint overspray will cover the entire surface rendering the tape unusable again.
If you find an acorn becomes unstuck as you are painting, keep an ice cream stick handy.
Press it down onto the pointy top of the acorn and you’ll be able to continue painting with no problem.
Step 2: Mix Your Own Acorn Craft Colours
I created the purple colour you see in the picture above by mixing equal parts of the blue and red you see below. They end up looking like large, plump blueberries! If you have primary colours – red, green and blue, you can create all the secondary colours by mixing. For example, orange, purple and green.
Step 3: Top Coat Acorns
The next day, prepare a cedar strip with masking tape.
Now that the acorns are painted, it’s time to seal them with a top coat to preserve them.
Attach the flat bottom of the acorns onto the sticky surface. Also, I find it easiest to pair the acorn and cap side by side – with the numbers, this part is easy!
After you’ve got all your pairs on the stick, spray clear top coat onto the acorns and caps.
Hubs just holds the stick in his hand as he sprays. When one side is done, he turns the stick around and sprays the other side. Again, let dry overnight.
Step 4: Glue Acorn Caps onto Nut
I initially tried hot glue but most of them popped apart the next day! Gorilla contact adhesive does the trick. It provides a permanent bond that won’t fail, as long as you follow directions on the package.
Squeeze out a ring of glue around the nut. Place it into the egg carton.
Then squeeze a ring of glue on the inside of the cap. Place cap in the lid of the egg carton (it’s easier to pick up from the lid!).
As a rule, allow the Gorilla glue two minutes to set up. If you don’t allow this time, you won’t get the proper bond! You’ll know it’s ready when you see the clear glue turn to an amber colour as shown above.
Place the cap above the acorn paying attention to the placement. Before making contact with the two sides of the glue, eyeball that you are happy with the fit. Then press the two pieces together. Hold it briefly then place the glued acorns into a plastic container.
Glue 12 at a time. Keep the assembly line going in this manner until all the acorns have their corresponding caps.
Gorilla glue is pretty smelly so wait several days before using the acorns in your acorn craft to let them off-gas.
Acorn Craft Decor
If you read our Fall Home Decor Tour post, you might have noticed this gum ball machine in one of the shots. Clearly, there’s room to improve on the twig grapevine balls, which is why I’m updating it!
Until I started this acorn craft, I really didn’t notice that the gum ball machine has stylized oak leaves and even a squirrel on the metal face! It’s just begging to be loaded up with ‘gum ball’ acorns!
But before loading in the acorns, I’m covering the very bottom so acorns don’t accidentally get stuck in the mechanism.
I simply cut a plastic lid, punch a hole in the centre and slip it over the spindle.
Acorn Craft ‘Gum Balls’
Can you believe I haven’t found a single picture of a gum ball machine filled with acorn ‘gum balls’ in the blogosphere? Maybe that will change after this post :). Without a doubt, these acorns and the gum ball machine are meant to be together!
The painted colours make me happy. While the garden starts to fade, now I’m ready for Fall!
With the few leftovers I pile them into this carved turtle. So if you don’t have a gum ball machine, grab a decorative bowl!
For more DIY fall crafts, check out our Craft Ideas for Autumn.
Or if you’re not overly crafty (or even if you are!), check out our Fall decor picks from Walmart:
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Creative Craft Blog Hop
Now I’d like to send you on to Chloe at Celebrate and Decorate. She has a fairy house wreath for you!
When you are finished visiting Chloe, please remember to visit these other amazing talents below: