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How to Make a DIY Rustic Wooden Sign
All of our rustic wood pallet signs are made in our shop, but we wanted to show how we build our signs in case you want to build them yourself. Anyone with the right tools, materials, and patience can do what we do in our shop every day to make your own rustic wood pallet board. This post is a step-by-step guide on how to build your own rustic wood sign.
Step 1: Source your material
Fortunately, wood is one of the easiest materials to find. Here are some options for finding wood to use for your sign:
Old pallets – used pallets are an excellent source of wood. The only downside is that they’re big and awkward, and whoever’s giving them away probably won’t offer to ship them to you. However, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages:
– Rustic pallets are usually either cheap or very cheap
– they are made to carry a lot of weight, so they are made from a hard wood – usually pine at a minimum, but some heavy ones are also made from oak or maple
– old holes made from pallet nails help to add the rustic look of your DIY wooden table
– Please note that some pallets are pressure treated for external use. You should try and use indoor (untreated) pallets if possible. Please see below for additional information.
Old Fences, Decks or Barns – Old fences, decks or barns are also a great choice for a rustic wood sign. When they become available, they are usually cheap or free. Similar to old pallets, you will probably need to make adjustments to get or even dismantle the wood structure. Please be careful – most wood used for decks or fences has been pressure treated to make it weather resistant. We do not recommend sanding or modifying pressure treated lumber unless you have proper face and eye protection and proper ventilation when working with the material. If in doubt, then please plan to work on the material outside to ensure your safety. Additionally, we recommend using weather-treated lumber for exterior signs just to ensure safety inside your home.
Lumberyard or Hardware Store – Finally, you can always buy lumber at a lumber yard or hardware store like Home Depot for your simple DIY wood table. Although the wood won’t impart as much “character” as an alternately sourced wood, it will be durable, and stud-grade or select wood is actually quite inexpensive. Considering how much time you would spend finding and preparing other types of wood, this may be the best option for most people regardless of the “reuse” value of the wood. Fortunately, wood like pine is renewable for the most part as long as the wood is FSC certified. A great resource at Home Depot is the scrap wood section where you can buy all different types of wood at a discount. If you go this route, please keep an eye out for warped wood as much of this wood is placed in the discount section because it did not meet the quality standards for full price lumber.
Step 2: Choose your size and shape
The size of your DIY rustic pallet sign is completely up to you and probably easier if you already know what words or what symbols or logos will be placed on the sign. Here are just a few tips to keep in mind when choosing a size for your sign:
– square shapes are the most common – a tip to keep in mind is to make sure you consider the width of the wood when choosing a size – for example, a 1″x4″ piece of wood is actually 3.5 ” wide, so to make a square-sized rustic wood sign you’ll need to choose a multiple of 3.5″ (3.5″, 7″, 10.5″, 14″, etc… ).
– Keep in mind how and where you are planning to hang the sign – depending on the wood you choose, the sign will become quite heavy and some heavy hanging signs will be needed if the rustic wood sign is very large.
– consider how you are “connecting” all the pieces together. The most straightforward method for connecting wooden signboards is to run the pieces past the perpendicular mark with the “boards” to connect everything together. Horizontal boards will look a lot different than vertical boards, so make sure you understand what you like before you start cutting. In addition, the “width” of the boards will also determine the overall look of the wood board, so that will need to be considered as well.
There are several standard forms of wooden pallet signs:
1. Standard picket fence style with horizontal or vertical slats in the front and two vertical slats in the back to hold everything together. This method is the most direct way to connect everything and allows you to be able to easily hang the board by attaching a hanger between two wooden boards on the back of the rustic wood board.
2. Standard “box frame” sign with a back border around the perimeter of the board. This gives the sign more depth without using full-depth members throughout the sign (and reducing the overall weight of the sign). This has been a very popular sign lately and provides a great alternative to our standard signs.
3. The sky’s the limit – building a wooden sign is really only limited by your imagination, so feel free to get creative! We’ve seen a lot of custom perimeter shapes – usually made with a band or band saw, or even other “standard” shapes like ovals or circles are a great way to get someone’s attention!
Step 3 – Cut and sand
Cut Correctly and Straightly – Remember the old adage “measure twice cut once” for your rustic wood sign! We find it’s easier to use a miter saw (or a box hand saw) for any end cuts and a table saw will do wonders compared to a standard circular saw for any full length cuts and it’s endless safer so keep this in mind or at least Google how to make a straight cut as there are a number of tools / tricks out there to ensure a clean and straight cut!
Sand – even though you’re making a DIY wooden sign, don’t forget to paint it. Whether you are repurposing/repurposing old wood for your sign or using new wood for your sign you will want the finish to look as consistent as possible and the best way to do this is to sand the entire sign . equally. We recommend starting with a coarse grit (ie 50), especially if the existing wood still has any stains or paint on it. Then you can go up to 100 and finish with a 200 grit sandpaper. This evens out your individual boards and will help you in the next step to complete your DIY wood sign.
Step 4 – Finish
When creating your wood sign, you have several options for finishing:
1. Paint – this is the most common option. Some questions to ask yourself when painting the sign as this will affect the paint you will need to choose:
– internal or external? Interior paints are typically made to be low VOC (volatile organic compounds), so they are a good choice when painting a sign that will go inside. However, it’s not a great choice if the sign will be outdoors, as interior paints are not made to hold up well to the sun’s UV rays.
– solid or “beaten”? a popular choice of finish for homemade rustic signs is a “distressed” look – this can be achieved, usually, by watering down the paint of your choice. It is important that you choose a water-based paint that has the ability to be watered down. Please check the label on the paint to confirm whether or not it can or ask the seller where you are buying the paint from.
– what color do you want your font to be? make sure the background goes well with the font
– what shine do you want? Some manufacturers go by different names, but usually you can get a flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, or full-gloss shell, depending on your preference.
2. Stains – we offer stains as a standard option for all our signs. We prefer it because it allows the grain of the wood to show, the stain (when done with a cost of polyurethane on top) will last for years, and the stains available today have many colors to offer.
3. Nothing/clear coat – some people prefer to leave the wood in its natural form or paint the wood and we can’t blame anyone for that. There’s a reason for using wood in the first place, and it’s always great to let the beauty of wood into your rustic sign.
Step 5 – Lettering/Artwork
1. Painted – similar to background color, painted tables offer an unlimited number of options. The biggest items to consider for painting is whether the letters go well with the background (ie light vs. dark, complementary, etc.), whether you want the “weathered” look or now, the gloss of the letters, and what method you will use to paint the letters – whether it is by spray, roller, brush, sponge, etc…
2. Vinyl Lettering – Vinyl lettering is a great option if you are making standard letters and can find the number or letters available at a store or if you have your own vinyl cutter or plotter like kriku, Vinyl Express or similar.
3. Routed – If you have the right tools and expertise, you can go for the routed option.
4. Wood Burnt Letters – again, if you have the right tools and expertise, you can go for the “wood burnt” option. This will really give your wood sign a rustic look!
Step 6 – Protection
If your sign is an outdoor sign or will be subject to constant abuse or handling, we recommend using a protective coating over it. We typically use a clear coat of polyurethane on all of our signs after the lettering is in place to ensure it lasts for years. Again, you have the option of choosing a polyurethane gloss from a “satin” to a gloss.
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