How to Make a Vintage-Style Wood Sign Letter
I don't know about you, but I love typography. I have a thing for old signs, old letters from signs, all that kind of thing. And I've always thought it would be fun to have an old, vintage oversized wooden letter in my creative space to inspire me. Before I even started I knew I was going to paint it pink to prop up next to my cute little yellow storage cabinet that I made over last week.
A quick search on Etsy gave me quite a few options. They aren't cheap, though, with foot-tall letters coming in around $25-$30, and tall letters like I wanted (mine is about 20" tall) are going for $50-$60! I'm sure that's a reasonable price and the people who make those things really do deserve the money. But as you know, I don't have any. So if I was going to indulge my dream of vintage-style typography in my space, I was going to have to make it myself with whatever supplies were laying around. Read on to see how I did it.
My goal was to create a letter that really looked like it came from an old fashioned sign, tall and skinny. I drew mine out on the back of a scrap piece of beadboard paneling, and when I was done it looked something like this:
My scrap of board just happeend to be 20 1/2" tall, but anything in the ballpark will give you a similar result.
Now, I drew an "A" and you may want to draw something different. I'll just share how I did the "A" and hopefully that will give you the basic idea so that you can design your own letter!
To draw the letter, I first drew a straight line up and down to use as a center line. I measured from the edge to make sure it was straight.
Next, I measured 1 3/4" from each side of the center line at the top of the board and make a mark.
Then, I measured 5" from either side of the center line at the bottom of the board.
Using a long ruler, I connected the marks on both sides to form the outside edges of the "A."
The lines on the "A" are 3" thick, so I used my quilting ruler to line the outside on the 3" mark and just drew the inside line.
BUT, if you don't happen to have a quilting ruler, you can just measure and mark with a regular ruler, 3" inward from both lines, tipping your ruler so it's perpendicular to the slanted line forming the legs of the "A".
For the crossbar I measured up 3 1/2" from the bottom:
Then measured up another 3" to make the thickness. Of course, if you happen to have a quilting ruler, you could use that here, too.
Now, all the necessary lines should be there! Use a big eraser to erase everything non-essential so that you don't accidentally cut your letter in the wrong spot! You can also use the eraser to erase main lines and redraw if you don't like how they look.
Next, use a drill to drill every inside corner you have to cut out. That gives you a place to use the saw, and also gives a little bit of a vintage look. Mr. Magpie did this for me so I could take pictures, and he used a 1/2" drill bit. Kind of on the fat side. Position the drill bit so that when the hole is drilled, it won't cut into the letter. On the top inside point of the "A" it might seem like it's really low, but it'll look right in the end.
Next, cut out your inner holes. You can use a jigsaw or a coping saw. We used a keyhole saw because that's what was at hand. Just follow the line from hole to hole.
And finally, use a saw to cut the two long straight lines. You can use a hand saw, or if you have one, a circular saw like Mr. Magpie is using here:
(Of course it goes without saying that you should always be as safe as possible when using tools!!)
After the letter is cut out, paint it up any way you want. I chose to do a coat of primer, and two coats of some pink sample paint I had on hand. It's Sherwin-Wiliams Azalea Flower.
A little distressing to show the primer through...
....and, you end up with something like this:
What do you think? I really like how it turned out. Do you like old signage and sign letters? Do you have any? Would you make one or buy one?