How to Make a Hand-Painted Vintage Sign

For the holidays or anytime, use an old board or a cabinet door to post your favorite message.
CI-Susan-Teare_Joy-Christmas-Decoration-2_s3x4

CI-Susan-Teare_Joy-Christmas-Decoration-2_s3x4

Photo by: Susan Teare

Susan Teare

We found this old board at a recycle shop, cleaned it up and painted a happy message on it to greet guests. If you can't find a piece of salvaged wood the right size, buy a new one, paint it, then distress it by sanding and banging it up with hand tools.

Materials and Tools:

utility knife and scissors
drill
measuring tape
hand saw
paintbrush and red paint - sample size (we used Lowe's Valspar Claret)
shop vacuum
face mask
salvaged wood board (about 70" to 75" x 20" to 24")
shellac (all natural sealer)
2 D-rings with screws and picture hanging wire
3 large paper bags
painter's tape
sandpaper

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-layout-on-paper_s3x4

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-layout-on-paper_s3x4

Prep the Board

Wear a mask. Clean the board with a shop vac to get any paint flakes off. Wipe down with a damp rag. Measure the board and plan out your design on paper.

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-making-letters_s4x3

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-making-letters_s4x3

Create the Design

Create a template for the letters on three paper bags. For a 70" x 24" salvaged board, letters should be at least 16" square.

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-template_s3x4

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-template_s3x4

Trace Letters

Tape letters onto board and outline with marker.

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-outlining-with-marker_s4x3

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-outlining-with-marker_s4x3

Outline With a Knife

Remove templates and use razor knife to cut along the marker lines. Go over it a few times to make the lines wider and deeper.

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-outlining-with-xacto_s4x3

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-outlining-with-xacto_s4x3

Go Over With Saw

Go over them again with a hand saw to create a rough line look. Vacuum to remove all dust and wood chips.

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-outling-with-saw_s4x3

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-outling-with-saw_s4x3

Paint Letters

Paint inside the lines, but leave some of the finish/paint underneath exposed. Let dry. If necessary, put on a second coat and let dry. Use sandpaper to scrape away the paint in some spots to give it an aged look.

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-painting_s4x3

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-painting_s4x3

Apply Finish and Add Hardware

Shellac wood, front and back two times.

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-sanding-letters_s4x3

Original_Christmas-decoration-Joy-Sign-sanding-letters_s4x3

Add D-rings to the back of the wood. Hang with wire.

Joanne Palmisano is the author of Salvage Secrets (W.W. Norton, September 2011). Visit her blog, also called Salvage Secrets.

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