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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 share 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 DIY Rustic Wood Pallet Sign. This post is a step-by-step guide on how to build your own rustic wood sign.
Step 1: Get your material
Luckily, wood is one of the easiest materials to find. Here are some options for getting the wood to use for your sign:
Old Pallets: Used pallets are a great source of wood. The only downside is that they are big and awkward and the gift giver probably won’t offer to carry them around. However, the pros far outweigh the cons:
– Rustic pallets are usually free or very cheap
– they are made to hold a lot of weight, so they are made of a hard wood – usually at least pine, but some of the sturdy ones are even oak or maple
– Old holes made from pallet nails help add the rustic look of your DIY wooden sign
– Please note that some pallets are pressure treated for outdoor use. You should try to use inner (untreated) pallets if possible. Please see below for additional information.
Old fences, sheds or barns – Old fences, sheds or barns are also a good choice for a rustic wooden sign. When they are available, they are usually cheap or free. Similar to old pallets, you will probably need to make arrangements to pick up or even dismantle the wooden frame. Please be aware that most wood used for decks or fences has been pressure treated to make them weather resistant. We do not recommend sanding or modifying pressure-treated wood unless you have adequate face and eye protection, as well as adequate ventilation when working with the material. When in doubt, plan to work the material outside to ensure your safety. Additionally, we recommend using weather-treated wood for exterior signs only to ensure safety in your home.
Lumber or Hardware Store: Lastly, you can always buy lumber from a lumber or hardware store like Home Depot for your DIY rustic wood sign. While the wood won’t provide as much “character” as an alternate source wood, it will be consistent, and grade or choice wood is actually quite inexpensive. Considering the amount of time you would spend buying and preparing other types of wood, this may be the best option for most people without considering the “reuse” value of the wood. Fortunately, wood like pine is mostly renewable as long as the wood is FSC certified. A great source at Home Depot is the “scrap” section where you can buy all types of wood at a discount. If you go this route, watch out for warped lumber, as much of this lumber is placed in the discount section because it doesn’t meet the quality standards of 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 put on the sign. Here are just a few tips to consider when choosing a size for your sign:
– Square shapes are the most common – a tip to keep in mind is to make sure you take the width of the wood into account when choosing a size; for example, a 1″ x 4″ piece of wood is actually 3.5″ wide, so to make a square sized rustic wood sign you should choose a multiple of 3.5″ (3 .5″, 7″, 10.5″, 14″, etc…).
– Consider how and where you plan to hang the sign – depending on the wood you choose, the sign will become quite heavy and will need some heavy hanging signs if the rustic wood sign is too large.
– Consider how you are “connecting” all the pieces together. The simplest method of attaching wooden sign boards is to put the members behind the sign perpendicular to the “planks” to tie everything together. Horizontal planks will look very different than vertical ones, so make sure you understand what you like before you start cutting. Also, the “width” of the planks will also determine the look of the overall wood sign, so that will also need to be considered.
There are a couple of standard forms of wooden pallet signs:
1. Standard “spot” style with horizontal or vertical slats in the front and two perpendicular slats in the back to hold it all together. This method is the easiest way to connect everything and allows you to easily hang the sign by placing a hanger between the two wooden slats on the back of the rustic wooden sign.
2. standard “box frame” sign with a trailing border around the perimeter of the sign. This gives the sign more depth without using full-depth members along the length of the sign (and decreasing the overall weight of the sign). This has been a very popular signal lately and offers a great alternative to our standard signals.
3. The sky’s the limit: Building a wooden sign is only limited by your imagination, so feel free to get creative! We’ve seen a lot of custom perimeter shapes – usually made with a jig saw or band saw, or even other “standard” shapes like ovals or circles are a great way to catch someone’s eye!
Step 3: Cut and polish
Cut Right and Straight – Remember the old adage “cut twice once” for your rustic wood sign! We find it’s easiest to use a miter saw (or a miter box with a handsaw) for any end cuts and a table saw will do wonders over a standard circular saw for any full length miter cuts and it’s infinitely safer, so please keep it. Keep in mind or at least Google how to make a straight cut as there are a number of gadgets/tricks to ensure a clean and straight cut!
Sand: Even if you are making a DIY wooden sign, remember to sand it. Whether you are reusing/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. evenly We recommend starting with a coarse grit (ie 50), especially if the existing wood still has some stain or paint on it. You can then work up to 100 and finish with 200 grit sandpaper. This evens out your separate planks and will help you in the next step of finishing your homemade wood sign.
Step 4 – Finish
When creating your own wood sign, you have a few finishing options:
1. Paint: This is the most common option. Some questions to ask yourself when painting the sign as it will affect the paint you will need to choose:
– Interior or exterior? Interior paints are made to be low VOC (volatile organic compounds), so they are a good choice when painting a sign that will go inside. However, it is not a good choice if the sign will be outside, as interior paints are not made to hold up well to the sun’s UV rays.
– solid or “tempered”? a popular finish option for homemade DIY rustic signs is a “worn” look; this can usually be achieved by reducing the paint you choose. It is important that you choose a water-based paint that has the ability to soak up water. Please check the paint label to confirm whether or not it can be or ask the seller where you buy the paint from.
– What color do you want your font to be? Make sure the background goes well with the font
– What brightness do you want? Some manufacturers go by different names, but you can usually get flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, or gloss, depending on your preference.
2. Stain: We offer stains as a standard option for all of 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 keep the wood in its natural form or the clear coat and we can’t blame anyone for that. There’s a reason to use wood in the first place and it’s always wonderful to let the beauty of wood shine through in your rustic sign.
Step 5: Letters/Illustrations
1. Painted: Similar to background color, painted signs offer an unlimited number of options. The most important things to consider when painting is whether the letters go well with the background (i.e. light vs. dark, complementary, etc.), whether you want the “worn” look, or now, the brightness of the letter, and what method you will use to paint the letters, be it spray, roller, brush, sponge, etc…
2. Vinyl Letters – Vinyl letters are a great option if you are making a standard letter and can find the number or letters available at a store or if you have your own vinyl cutter or plotter such as a cricut, Vinyl Express or similar
3. Routed – If you have the right tools and experience, you can go for the “routed” option.
4. Burnt Letters – Again, if you have the right tools and experience, you can go for the “burnt wood” option. This will really give your wooden sign a rustic look!
Step 6 – Protection
If your sign is an outdoor sign or will be subject to constant abuse or manipulation, we recommend using a protective coating. We typically use a clear coat of polyurethane on all of our signs, after the lettering is installed, to ensure it lasts for years. Again, you have the ability to choose a gloss with polyurethane from a “satin” to a gloss.
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