I recently created a custom sign with a weathered wood look and I absolutely love it! And even better…it was super easy to do! I made it out of scrap wood but the materials are easy to find at any store carrying lumber and they are inexpensive.
I started with a ¾ inch thick piece of plywood for my backer piece and cut it down so that the dimensions would be 18” x 10 ½”. This was to accommodate the “weathered boards” without having to rip any of them down. For these boards, I used thin furring strips! (These strips are also referred to as “fill-it” strips. Lattice wood also works great and I have use it. It is just a little bit thicker than the pieces I used here.) I only needed two 8’ strips. These were perfect for the look I was trying to achieve because they had a rough texture and raw edges. And they are sooo cheap! I wanted it to look similar to a wood panel wall or hard wood flooring in that the joints were staggered. I actually followed the pattern I used on my kitchen tile backsplash. I saw this graphic on Pinterest when I was searching how to tile and it stuck with me.
I started by cutting three 6” pieces from the furring strips with my miter saw. These strips are so thin, however, that they could easily be scored and broke. I laid them out and numbered the back so I wouldn’t get their positioning mixed up (this part is helpful later). I then started cutting according to the pattern. The next row was 2”, 6”, 6”, and 4”.
I continued alternating until I finished the last row.
You’ll want to be sure to paint or stain the plywood a dark color to account for the boards that do not line up perfectly. The last thing you’ll want is to get this all done and see the raw wood peeking out from behind (unless you are going for that look). I chose three colors for my sign. Rustoleum Carbon Gray and Weathered Gray (these colors are also available in Rustoleum’s Varathane line) and Minwax Classic Gray. I started picking random pieces from the signs I had assembled and stained them the different colors. Since the wood is so thin, I knew it was going to soak up the stain so I used a rag and dipped just a bit of stain on it. Instead of applying it like you normally would (wipe on, wipe off), I rubbed it into the wood really well until it was all soaked in. I made sure to apply the stain to the top and all four sides. Remember, the staining doesn’t have to be perfect because it’s supposed to be weathered.
As I was going along, I started to “dry fit” the pieces back together so I could see which colors I needed to put where for the best look. This is where numbering the back was super helpful. It helped me keep the colors where I wanted them through the assembly process.
From here I finished with the Minwax Classic Gray for the rest of the pieces because I knew that my words were going to be black and I didn’t want the darker stains competing with it. You can see between this picture and the previous one that the stain continued to soak in as it dried.
While these pieces were drying, I cut and stained some edge pieces in Carbon Gray. It didn’t take long at all for these to dry because the stain was rubbed into them. I covered my plywood in glue and started putting the pieces in place. I placed some heavy items (tool boxes, paint cans, etc) on the board to help the pieces adhere to the glue well. Once I felt it was dry enough, I glued the edge pieces on and clamped them in place. I did not use any nails or brads on this because I was concerned it would split the furring strips. After everything was dry, I used my palm sander to help smooth the boards a bit for painting the words and to distress the stain a little. Gosh, I love how this looks! I could have hung it up as is!
The next step was to make a stencil for my words. I am not artistic in the least and need all the help I can get. Thankfully, I purchased a Silhouette Cameo late last year and, once I got the hang of it, it’s been such a wonderful addition! I wanted the top line to be script and the bottom to be more of a block print. I was still concerned that the black might not show up as well, especially on the script font, so I decided to give it a white background to make it all pop. I’m still new to the vinyl cutting world so I turned to the great Silhouette School and this tutorial for layering vinyl. I came up with this design.
I used Great Vibes for the top word and Roadway for the bottom words. Both are free font downloads. I cut it in separate pieces according to the tutorial and weeded the parts I didn’t want.
I first applied my outline.
Yes, there are some air bubbles but, in this case, it’s not really important that all of them be smoothed out. You just need to make sure the vinyl is sealed around your letters. Those little squares up top? Yeah, I should have left the vinyl in them. They are there to help me line up the second piece of vinyl. All is well, though, because I still had them and just stuck them right back in.
I used three colors of acrylic paint for the words. Americana’s Zinc, Lamp (Ebony) Black, and White Wash. I began with White Wash and a foam brush. I got a little paint on the brush and dabbed it onto the sign. I didn’t do a swiping motion because I wanted to reduce the amount of bleeding as much as possible. With the texture of the sign, I was already at a disadvantage. If you’ve never used acrylic paints before, they dry super fast. I love this about them because it means I don’t have to wait as long between steps!
Once it was dry, I pulled the vinyl back to see what I had done.
There was a little bleeding but it really wasn’t bad at all. By this point, I’m getting really excited about the outcome! You can see the two squares are still in place to help with the second piece of vinyl. I got it in place and was tickled to see it covering the white paint well.
I love seeing the joints in the white paint! To try to minimize the risk of the black paint bleeding, I painted over this piece of vinyl with white again.
Once it was dry, I mixed the zinc and ebony colors so that the black wasn’t quite as sharp. I then applied it over the vinyl using the same dabbing technique.
I was so excited to remove this vinyl I could barely wait for it to dry. Imagine my disappointment when I saw the black had bled more than I anticipated. Bummer! But…it’s an easy fix.
I got out a small paint brush and carefully went around the black letters to cover the black I didn’t want.
The final step was to get a piece of 220 grit sand paper and go to town on it! Really, any grit of sandpaper would work. The 220 was what I had laying on top of the stack. If you use a different grit, you’ll need to be aware of how it might affect your distressing. I focused on sanding the letters and the outline until I reached my desired level of distressing. There’s no set amount of sanding required. Just go until you like what you see.
Oh my word! I even impressed myself with how awesome this thing is! I can’t wait to make another one! I hope you give it a try as well! It is so easy and makes a big impact. If you have any questions, please ask!