How to Make a DIY Rustic Wooden Sign

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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 want 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 wooden sign.

Step 1: Source your material

Fortunately, wood is one of the easiest materials to find. Here are a few options for sourcing wood to use for your sign:

Old Pallets – used pallets are a great source of wood. The only disadvantage is that they are big and unpleasant and whoever gives them probably won’t offer to transport them to you. However, the pros far outweigh the cons:

– rustic pallets are typically free or very cheap

– they are made to support a heavy weight, so they are made of hard wood – typically pine at the least, but some of the heavy ones are also made of 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 external use. You should try and use indoor (non-treated) 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 are available, they are usually inexpensive or free. Similar to the old pallets you will probably have to make arrangements to take or even disassemble the wooden structure. Please be careful – most of the wood that is used for decks or fences has been pressure treated to make it weather resistant. We do not recommend sanding or molding pressure treated wood unless you have proper face and eye protection as well as proper ventilation when working with the material. When in doubt, please plan to work on the material outside to ensure your safety. Also, we recommend using weather-treated wood for exterior signs only to ensure safety in your home.

Lumberyard or Hardware Store – Finally, you can always buy lumber at a lumber yard or hardware store like Home Depot for your DIY rustic wood sign. Although the wood will not provide “character” like an alternative source wood, it will be consistent and quality stud or choice wood is actually quite cheap. Considering how much time you have to spend sourcing 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 renewable for the most part, as long as the wood is FSC certified. A great source at Home Depot is the “scrap” lumber section where you can buy all kinds of lumber for a discount. If you go this route, keep an eye out for warped lumber as a lot of this lumber is placed in the discount section because it doesn’t meet the quality standards for full price lumber.

Step 2: Choose your Size and Shape

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 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 keep the width of the wood in mind 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 should choose a multiple of 3.5″ (3.5″, 7″, 10.5″, 14″, etc…).

– keep in mind 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 big.

– consider how you “connect” all the pieces together. The straightest method to connect the boards of the wooden sign is to run members behind the sign perpendicular to the “boards” to tie everything together. Horizontal boards will look very different than vertical boards, so make sure you figure out what you like before you start cutting. In addition, the “width” of the boards will determine the appearance of the general sign of wood so that must be considered as well.

Form:

There are a couple of standard forms of wooden pallet signs:

1. standard “picket fence” style with horizontal or vertical slats in the front and two perpendicular slats in the back to hold everything together. This method is the straightest way to connect everything and allows you to hang the sign easily by attaching a shot between the two wooden slats to the back of the rustic wooden sign.

2. standard sign “frame box” with a back border around the perimeter of the sign. 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 offers 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 many custom perimeter shapes – typically made with a jig saw 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 Straight – 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 miter box with a handsaw) for any final cuts and a table saw will do wonders over a standard circular saw for any full length rip cuts and it’s infinitely safer, so please keep that. 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 sand. Whether you are reusing/repurposing old wood for your sign or using new wood for the sign you 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 a stain or paint. Then you can work your way up to 100 and finish with a 200 grit sandpaper. This evens out your separate boards and will help you in the next step to finish your wooden sign at home.

Step 4 – Finish

When creating your own wood sign, you have a few options for finishing:

1. Paint – this is the most common option. Some questions that you need to ask yourself when painting the sign will affect the paint that you need to choose:

– internal or external? Interior paints are made to be low VOC (volatile organic compounds) typically, so they are a good choice when painting a sign that will go inside. However, it is not a great choice if the sign will be outside as the interior paints are not made to keep well against the UV rays of the sun.

– solid or “weathered”? a popular finish choice for rustic DIY homemade signs is a “weathered” look – this can be achieved, typically, 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 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 font

– what glow do you want? Some manufacturers call it different names, but typically you can get a plain, eggshell, semi-gloss, or full gloss, depending on your preference.

2. Stain – 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) lasts for years, and the stains that are available today have many colors to offer.

3. Nothing / clear coat – some people prefer wood to stay in its natural form or paint the wood and we can’t blame anyone for that. There is a reason to use wood in the first place and it is always wonderful to let the beauty of wood into your rustic sign.

Step 5 – Lettering / Artwork

1. Paint – similar to background color, painted signs offer an unlimited number of options. The biggest items you have to consider for painting is that the letters go well with the background (ie light against dark, complementary, etc.), if you want the “weathered” look or now, the brightness of the lettering, and what method you use to paint the letters – whether with a spray, roller, paintbrush, sponge, etc…

2. Vinyl Lettering – vinyl lettering is 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 correct tools and know-how you can go to the “routed” option.

4. Burnt wood letters – again, if you have the proper tools and know-how, 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 subjected to constant abuse or handling, we recommend using a protective coat over it. We typically use a clear coat of polyurethane on all of our signs, after the letters are installed, to help ensure that they last for years. Again, you have the ability to choose a gloss with polyurethane from a “satin” to a gloss.

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