Do Try This at Home – DIY Reclaimed Whale

Finished Piece Whale DIY


DIY Reclaimed Whale

by Danielle Braun

Living in a seaside town, I can’t help but lean towards a coastal décor vibe, yet so much of what is available in home decor is either factory made or literal (think “BEACH!” sign with plastic stick-and-peel letters). I confess to spending more time than I should observing the world around me for ideas and inspiration for my next small project, and when I saw this photo on Pinterest I immediately thought: I want that. I can make that.

This reclaimed whale project is a simple, low-cost DIY that even someone who has never used a jig saw can accomplish quickly and easily.


  • pencil
  • jig saw
  • sandpaper
  • drill
  • dowel (cut in two 6” pieces)
  • slab of reclaimed wood
  • wood block or picture hangers

whale 1Don’t drive yourself crazy looking for a vintage barn to steal a board from. “Reclaimed” is just a trendy way of describing “something you already have lying around the house.” For this project, I used one of the wooden ramps from the old trailer I had in the garage.If you don’t already own a jigsaw, you need to run out and buy one immediately. The jig saw makes the list of the 5 basic tools that every homeowner / DIYer should own and even the very basic $20 version will accomplish virtually any task.

Before we start, there are a couple things worth mentioning:

  • Decide how large you want your whale to be and sketch it out on the wood surface. If drawing isn’t your strong suit, Google “whale sketch easy” and you’ll find some simple outlines to copy.

whale under construction

  • When using your jig saw, be sure to keep the blade straight up and down and the metal guard flat against the surface of the wood. Slowly pull the trigger and push the saw forward, following your sketched outline.

    Pro tip: For tight curves, you can cut straight to the outside edge of the board and then start in again from a new angle (this will prevent you from breaking your blade trying to navigate a tight space).

whale under construction part 2

  • After you finish cutting the basic outline, go back in with your saw to clean up any curves you aren’t completely smitten with. You can always take more wood off but you can’t add, so go slow until you achieve a shape you love. True confession: It wasn’t until I was completely finished with all the cutting and on to the sanding that I realized my knot happened to fall in the exact perfect location for the eye. #happyaccident
  • Sand the edges to remove any sharp bits and splinters.

  • Now for the fun part. There are a ton of options to finish your piece: leave the wood raw, seal it with furniture wax, spray to seal with water-based shellac, or wash it down with diluted paint (white blue, green, pink — whatever accent color you think would make your whale pop in his new home). I sealed my whale with some leftover Annie Sloan soft furniture wax, which smoothed it and brought out the warm gray color and wood grain.
  • Once your whale is finished, choose how you want to display it. I chose to drill holes in the bottom of my piece and insert dowels to create a stand, like in the Pinterest photo. This is easy to do, just be sure to keep the drill perfectly straight so everything lines up when you go to insert the dowels into your base. For an easier and more versatile option, drill picture hanging rings to the back and hang like a photo.
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