Maps serve to show the known world. Like a bug trapped in amber, a map gives a glimpse into time at a standstill. Works of fantasy provide fake maps to show the terrain the author imagined. Treasure maps show where "X" marks the spot to find the buried loot. Kids' games, treasure hunts, gags, school projects, craft projects and adventurous undertakings of all kinds benefit from realistic fake maps. The ingredients for creating a fake map come from crafts stores and things you have at home. Use techniques for ageing paper and make a fake map you'll be proud of.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Books or websites with maps
- Parchment from a stationery store
- Black tea
- Wide pot or deep skillet
- Baking tray or wash tub (optional)
- Calligraphy pen from an art or craft store
- Lighter or matches
- Metal tongs
Look at examples of the kinds of map you want to make a fake of, such as maps of islands, pirate maps, medieval maps or fantasy maps.
List the essential facts about the fake map, in order to visualise how you want it to turn out. Write down the desired map size, its age, what it's made of, its condition, whether it has a cover of any kind, what it shows, what its theme or purpose is. For example, you want to make a 12-by-12 inch medieval map , made of parchment, hand-drawn in ink with a quill, showing an island in the Atlantic Ocean, in used but legible condition, providing information on known landforms and shipping routes in the fifteenth century. According to Ohio State University, a map similar to this description, known as the "Vinland Map," aroused controversy as to whether it was legitimate or a masterful fake.
Boil a quart of water in a large pot or deep skillet and put two black tea bags in it. Let them steep for 5 minutes. Put a sheet of parchment in the tea. If the parchment is too large to fit, dip it in the tea a few inches at a time, or carefully pour the tea into a baking tray or other large container. Let the parchment soak for 10 minutes. Leave it longer if you want the parchment darker.
Pull the parchment out of the tea and leave it to dry for half a day or until the paper feels dry to the touch.
Crumple the parchment in your hands and squeeze and rub it with your fingers to soften it and increase the age looked. Fold creases into it.
Draw an arrow in the lower right corner pointing to north to orient the map like a real one.
Draw the shape of the land on the parchment in pencil. For example, create a ragged line for a coastline. Draw the shape of a continent or an island.
Name the important features of the map. For example, name any towns, rivers, seaports, and the island or continent. Write the names on the map.
Add topographical features, if desired, such as drawing triangle tips for mountains and shadows for valleys. Draw a few tiny trees to indicate a forest. Add details, such as a bay or a river.
Mark the treasure location or other important details with symbols, such as a small drawing of a church, a group of headstones for a graveyard, and the classic "X" for the buried treasure.
Hold the map with tongs inside a fireplace or over a sink. Quickly run a lighter flame or lit match along the edge to give the map the appearance of having escaped a fire.
Tips and warnings
- Create an invisible ink fake map by drawing it in lemon juice, then pass the map over a candle flame to make the writing appear. This works well for parties and treasure hunts. Use the same technique to write clues, and have an adult make the clue writing visible.
- Fold the map in thirds and wrap it in a piece of leather or suede. Tie a leather bootlace around the leather map holder. This gives it the appearance of a medieval letter.
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