I love the look of a perfectly distressed wood sign.  The chippy paint, the aging, and the dents and dings – I want them all.  I’ve seen so many different tutorials on how to distress a wood sign but none of them really worked for me.  Through some trial and error, I’ve found an easy, no fail way to get the aged wood signs of your dreams.  My two secret weapons are a torch and a jar of antiquing glaze.

To start, you’ll need to prep your sign material by cutting it to size and sanding it.  I’m using four 1×4’s cut to 40” for a planked sign.

Now is a good time to add any dents, gouges, and dings you may want.  For this sign, I rounded over the front edges of the planks with an edge break plane and hit all of the planks a few times with a large chain.

Possibly the most fun part of the whole process is using the torch and that’s the next step.  I use the Bernzomatic Pencil Flame torch kit.  It’s under $20 and I use it quite often.

I ran the torch over the front and sides of each plank, paying special attention to the edges and face near the edges.  I also held it a little longer over a few spots on the front of the board.

Paint does not stick well to the more heavily burned areas of the wood which makes this the perfect tool to create the chippy paint look.  Anywhere you have a good burn, you’ll be able to sand away the paint easily so I highly recommend a few strategic burns on the fronts of the planks.  All you need to do is hold the torch in place to get a rich, dark color.  Another reason I like to use the torch, it gives great color that doesn’t sand away as easily as stain when you distress it.

When you’re satisfied with your burning, it’s time to paint.  I prefer to use acrylic craft paints like those from DecoArt.  Chalk paint also works well.

After the paint is dry, get out some sandpaper and go to town on the edges.  If you are like me and have a stack of used sandpaper that isn’t good enough for the sander but still has some life left, this is the perfect use for it.

It takes very little effort to knock paint off of the edges.  I like to use 120 grit sandpaper for this.

To get some distressing on the front of the sign, you may need a lower grit sandpaper and a little more elbow grease.  I recommend sanding a little then stepping back to look it all over.  In my book, less is more when it comes to distressing.  It’s also important to make the distressing look natural so hit the areas where paint would normally wear over the years.

If you are satisfied with the look, you can stop here and finish the sign.  If you want to add some age to the sign, break out the Valspar Antiquing Glaze.  I love this little jar of magic that I found at Lowe’s.  This jar lasts a surprisingly long time because a little bit goes a long way.

To apply the glaze, dip a rag in the glaze then rub it on the planks.  You’ll want to put just a little dab on the rag, particularly with light colored paint.  I dip the rag in the jar then scrape it on the edge of the jar before applying it.  You can always add more but it’s harder to take it back off.  Move in quick, sweeping motions to get the most even coverage.

On a side note, if you don’t have an antiquing glaze available to you, don’t want to buy one, or have bought one but it’s not giving you the effect you want, you can also use a dark stain.  I recently did a piece that was painted with spray paint and the antiquing glaze didn’t really do anything.  I used stain instead and the effect looked the same.  Just apply it in the same manner as the glaze.  The more you know!

If you think you put too much glaze on or want to smooth it out a bit, just sand it.  Finish off the sanding with a high grit sandpaper, such as 220, to get a nice, smooth finish.

And that’s it!  You’re ready to add the words or image you want to your sign.  Please be aware that if you use vinyl stencils to add words or an image to a distressed sign using this method, the vinyl could pull up some of the paint where the wood has been burned.  Most times, it adds to the distressed character.  Other times, however, it can be very frustrating.  For this sign, I glued up all of the planks then glued on letters I cut on my scroll saw and steel bars to make a logo sign for myself.

 I’ve used this distressing/antiquing method for quite some time on signs and other builds and it works every time perfectly.  If you try this, I’d love to see your results!

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