Let’s be honest here; it doesn’t matter if you are in the military, if you’re law enforcement, if you’re into airsoft/milsim or if you are just a collector, you will collect some patches over time. A lot of us just throw them on the dresser or in a corner. But instead of ditching them, why not just put them on display?
Not long ago, I finally decided to do just that and after looking through the optional products online, I decided to make one myself. In this little write-up, I’ll explain the process that I went through and also give you some tips to possibly make things easier for you. I would also like to preface this post by saying that there are multiple ways to make a patch wall. There are no real right or wrong ways here, it is a personal preference of what you want in the end.
Choosing the materials
With this project, I made the decision to make mine with a 3/4″ (0.75″) polystyrene foam backer (easily found at home improvement stores). I did this for a few reasons…1. I wanted to be able to also display patches that doesn’t have a hook & loop (velcro) backing on them. The velcro-less patches can be pinned to the board via small sewing pins that can be purchased from craft/fabric stores or even your local department store. 2. I wanted the ‘wall’ to be lightweight and easy to hang. 3. I just so happened to have a decent amount of polystyrene board leftover from building the neighborhood stray cats a winter ‘igloo’ to hopefully keep them from becoming popsicles this winter.
You can make a patch wall with or without a backer. If you wish, you can also ditch the foam and make your backer from plywood, MDF, plastic and the list goes on.
If memory serves correctly, I think that I paid around $10.00 for the 3/4″ x 4′ x 8′ foam board that I found at my local Menards. From the scrap pieces that I had left, I cut a 3′ x 5′ section of foam board with a retractable razor/utility knife and set it off to the side.
**Tip – Use a fairly sharp utility knife when you cut the foam. If the knife is too dull, you run the risk of having little pieces of foam all over the floor.
The ‘Sticky’ Fabric
If you haven’t looked around online, hook & loop material is not exactly cheap for large sizes but don’t you worry one bit, other materials will hold hook backed patches with no problem.
I ended up using car audio carpet that I’ve had lying around from by console build. It was just collecting dust and I didn’t have to go out and buy something else, so why not? You can find this stuff on eBay, Amazon (this is the exact stuff that I bought and used) and even at some local craft stores for around $25-$30 per roll.
If you don’t want to be stuck with the leftovers and/or you don’t want to spend that much, you can always head out to your local craft/fabric store and locate some nappy felt or some Velcro brand “VELTEX”. Depending on what you get, you’ll spend between $7-$15 for a 1-yard x 60″ piece.
This is going to be the biggest tip that I can give you with this project and it is going to be NOT to use 3M Super 90 spray glue on your wall. This is what I initially tried since I still have a couple of cans in the basement but it is not the best for this application. It is too viscous and ‘stringy’ when you spray it; it’ll either be that you are wasting too much when trying to get full coverage on both surfaces or you will have areas that will not fully stick to your backer. Instead, I suggest picking up a can of ‘brushable’ contact adhesive instead. This will allow you to lay down a nice, even coating of glue on both surfaces before you stick the two materials together.
A little 1 quart can of ‘brushable’ 20-minute contact adhesive should only set you back around $12 and in the end (for a 3′ x 5′ wall) you will barely use an 1/8 to 1/4 of the can.
Now that we’ve got the materials gathered up, we can now start to put this thing together. After you’ve cut your backer board to the size that you want, lay your fabric over top of the backer with the fabric extending past the edge of the board. Cut the fabric with a 2″ border from the edge of the board to the cut line (see the example below) and make sure that you have that 2″ of extra material on the edges.
After cutting, separate the two materials. Read the manufacturer’s instructions on your container of adhesive and apply the glue as specified. In my case, I coated the entire back face of the carpet and the entire face of the backer board. Once both surfaces were tacky, I laid the backer board (glue side down) onto the glued side of the carpet. I then flipped the entire thing over and smoothed out any bubbles/made sure that the carpet had fully adhered to the backer board. After the front side was smoothed out, I flipped the board over again and folded over the 2″ border that was sticking out past the edges of the board. This gives a nice, clean ‘wrap around’ edge to the finished product. Now the new wall sat on the workbench for maybe an hour to make sure that the glue was setting up nicely.
Don’t forget the hangers…
As far as hanging the patch wall, there are several ways to do so. I just took a couple of scrap pieces of plastic, drilled a screw hole into them and hot glued them onto the back of the patch wall. Done…
Below is the end result for my patch wall (partially populated). Obviously, I made the wall large enough to populate it with patches that I come across in the future after putting my old patches on it. As you can see with my OPFOR, 11th ACR and Pittsburgh patches, they are just being held there by pins. The foam backer gave me some flexibility in what I can do with the patches that can be put on it. And in the end, if I ever fill up the patch wall, I can always just make another one and hang it right next to the first one.