How to Make Wood Signs

By | December 11, 2011

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Have you always wanted to learn how to make wood signs? How would you like to learn from a gal who owns her own DIY sign painting studio? Score!

If we haven’t met, let me introduce myself.

I’m Amanda and I am a craft business entrepreneur. I have owned my own wall decal business for 8 years and last year opened up my own DIY sign painting studio. I’m known for making great strides in Etsy and achieving a 6-figure online business at the age of 24 designing and selling my own wall decals at Luxe Loft. For real. (If you want to learn more about that, read my post about it here). After working from home for 7 years, I had the crazy idea to start up another business, The Rustic Orchid Creative Workshop, which is a DIY and sign painting studio.

But Why Are You Sharing Your Wood Sign Making Secrets With ME?

My Why is pretty simple – I have built multiple successful businesses and now I want to give back and help others start their own successful craft business. And trust me, there is so much demand to meet that it isn’t going to hurt anyone’s business. Additionally, I’m all about COMMUNITY OVER COMPETITION! I want to help other mamas (and dads too) who want to work from home to be with their little ones, or who feel stuck at their unfulfilling 9-5. I want to help others have a satisfying business that will feed their souls!

Where to Buy Wood Sign Materials

To make quality wood signs, you will want to hit up your local lumber yard or hardware stores such as Home Depot or Lowe’s. Sometimes you can find very attractive blanks on sale at Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and Hobby Lobby. However, do keep in mind that these blanks are usually much thinner wood and of lesser quality.

Tools Needed to Make Wood Signs

Head over to the lumbar area of the store and look for Pine. There will be many different widths and lengths to choose from and this is where it can get overwhelming.

I typically make signs from the 4″ wide, 6″, 8″, and 12″ wide boards. A good place to start is by making signs on solid boards. I’ll teach you more about making planked signs later.

Sometimes, the hardware store will cut your wood for you if you only need a couple of cuts. My recommendation is to purchase a quality saw for cutting your boards. The saw I recommend is this Dewalt Miter Saw.

Simply measure the length you need, line up your board in the saw and slice it down. Easy peasy.

Another tool I recommend is this belt sander. This will help you smooth out rough wood, round out edges, and sand down rough edges.

You can also use 100 grit sandpaper to sand down your board by hand. This is a bit labor-intensive, though, especially if you have a lot of orders to fulfill.

How to Stain Wood Signs

I’m pretty anti-chemical and fumes, so I do my darndest to not use “real” stain. I know, some stains can make the wood look so beautiful..and if you’re okay with breathing the stain day after day, go for it! A great stain brand is Minwax water-based stain.

Personally, I either mix acrylic paints with water to make my own wood tint colors, or I use FolkArt Wood Tint. It comes in White, Grey, Cascade, Oak, and Walnut. You can mix them together to make your own unique shades, too. My favorite things about this product are that it has barely any smell and it is NONTOXIC.

To stain, I brush a thin layer onto the top and sides of the wood. I let it sit for a minute and I wipe it off, going with the grain of the wood (same direction as the lines).

Since I’m not patient, I blow dry my board until it is completely dry.

Painting Your Wood Sign

Rather than staining the background of your sign, you can also paint it. Simply brush a thin layer of paint onto the top and sides of the board, then blow dry completely. Don’t forget to sand before putting on any stain or paint.

Also, don’t forget to sand AFTER staining or painting, before applying your stencil. Use 220 grit sandpaper for this step.

Applying and Painting Your Wood Sign Stencil

There are several different ways to transfer text and imagery onto a board:

1. Freehand painting

2. Carbon copy

3. Reusable stencils

4. Single use adhesive stencils

My preferred method for efficiency is single-use adhesive stencils.

There are multiple materials you can use for your adhesive stencil. Some people use contact paper, others use vinyl, and some use stencil material. I use stencil material because it is transparent. This makes it easier to line up the stencil on the board.

Line up your stencil on the board and burnish it using a squeegee or credit card. Remove the top layer of tape. Now you have a stencil on your board with cut-out areas – this is where you will apply your paint.

Painting Your Board

I use chalk paints for this step. My reasoning is chalk paint is thicker so it has less chance to bleed. You may notice if you use thin paint in a bind that it will bleed under the stencil. Always dab the paint on in thin layers and use a thick type of paint. I use makeup sponges to apply the paint. You may use spouncers as well.

Final Steps

Once your paint is applied, peel the stencil off when it is wet. Be careful and watch where you set your hands.

Once the main stencil is off, blow-dry the board and then pick out the middle parts of the letters and designs. You can use an Exacto knife or even a toothpick for this.

Voila! You have made a beautiful sign you can decorate your home with, a gift to a friend, or sell!

I’ve made it even easier for you and condensed this whole post into a FREE simplified cheat sheet you can print off and keep with you while you get the hang of making signs.