Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Make a Pallet Wood Sign...For Christmas!

Welcome to Gathering Branches! For those of you that are new around here, I'm Marian and this is the story of how I build my annual barn show, Branches. It is also the story of my art and my many arty adventures, as well as anything else that comes up. For those of you who are not new here, thank you so much for always coming back. You are true friends.

So, you all are here to celebrate a Wonderful Week of Christmas, yes? Well hooray, because today I'm going to tell you guys how I made this awesome pallet wood Christmas sign. And if you are not feeling very Christmassy, because you are reading this in, say, August or October, well then just think of it as an unusually festive tutorial about how to make a NOT Christmassy pallet wood sign and just change what you write on the sign. Then everyone is happy, regardless of the season. 

But I digress...On to the project! 

the wood from 1 pallet
1 pine 1in x 2in x 8ft board, depending on size of sign
1 2x4 ft or smaller sheet of lauan backer board or 1/4 in plywood, cut to the size of your sign
Loctite wood glue in a caulk style tube
Paint in desired colors
paint brushes, various sizes
100 and 220 grit sandpaper
A palm sander and miter saw are helpful
caulk gun
electric drill
pair of D ring hangers
enough screws for  2 D ring hangers

Step 1. Get a pallet.The first thing you have to do here is get your hands on a pallet. Luckily for you, they are everywhere, pretty much for free. Try to find one that isn't blue or mildew-y. The blue ones are hard to work with and the mildew-y ones are just gross and stinky.

Step 2. Break down your pallet Once you have your pallet, you need to break it down so you are just working with strips of wood. I wrote a whole post about that here, so if you've never done this before, check it out. We'll wait for you. OK, everybody caught up? Pallets all in pieces? Arms, legs, fingers, etc all still attached? Good. Then we can go on.

Step 3. Design your project. This usually involves an inspiration idea/image and a rough sketch. My inspiration idea came the day I decided to do this blog walk. I hate decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving and had a bit of a mental block about where to go with it. So I asked my dear friend Dana what I should do. She suggested a Christmas sign. And that was that. My idea for the wording came from a pillow. You never know when inspiration will strike, right? 

I was actually stalking gazing dreamily at my friend Anna Addcox's wonderful Etsy shop, A Good Home, when I saw this darling pillow. (Just click on the image if you need to have this great pillow right now. It will magically transport you right to the Etsy listing.

While I love it just as it is, I thought I might change it up a little. So first I decided to make it a rectangle, instead of a square. Then I changed the color pallet to Nordic blues, white and silver, like the photo.

Making a sketch of where you are going is also really useful. It will help you with proportion and color balance. You don't need anything fancy or to scale. Just a pencil, paper and some crayons will do the job nicely.

You will need to decide how big to make your sign in this stage. I knew I needed to us the wood I had to build three signs, so that set my lengths. Two 18in wide signs and one 15 in sign that were 5 boards tall. It can be whatever size you want, you just have to know what size before you start cutting.

Step 4. Measure Carefully.  This is the step where "Measure twice, cut once," comes in very handy. Double check your measurements Every. Single. Time. And check your board lengths against each other as you cut. You want them all to be the same size, or you will have trouble fitting on the frame. (If you are going frameless, and you want an uneven edge, you can adjust the lengths of each board here to give the look you're after.)

This step is really important when you are working with the 1x2's you are using for the frame. You are going to be mitering the edges and you want to be sure you measure based on the inside edge of the cut, but still allow extra for the outside cut. it is better to cut it too long, than too short. You can always cut it shorter.

Step 5. Cut your wood.  Pallet Wood
It's time for power tools, baby! You can use any number of ways to cut your pallet wood, but I prefer a compound miter saw. If you are careful, a circular saw, hand saw, or table saw would also work.

Make straight, vertical cuts with your saw.  And don't forget your safety glasses. 

Cutting and measuring can take a while, like over an hour if you're not a regular saw user, so plan for that.

I always find it super helpful to lay the boards out as I cut them, just to be sure the lengths are right and I am getting the look I want. It helps me avoid cutting things too short, long, etc. It also helps you keep track of which group of boards goes with which project. I was cutting for three different signs in three different sizes. By doing this, I kept the boards for each sign together, saving me frustration later.

Framing 1 x 2's:

I have a total love affair going with my neighbor Travis' compound miter saw. I have big plans to BEG Santa for one this year. 

Here you can see the blunt corner on the bottom of the board. Be sure BEFORE YOU CUT, to make sure you have enough wood to account for the larger top edge of the miter. You want to measure the inside and the outside, so you don't cut and have a nicked edge because you ran out of wood. I have done this before. It's very unfun. 

And don't forget that your cuts have to be opposite, with the miters both heading towards the center.

Lauan backer board:
This is the support piece we will glue the pallet wood to. If you buy this at Home Depot or Lowes, you can usually talk them into cutting it for you. I usually go during uncrowded times and show a little cleavage. It's in the section that sells smaller sheets of flat wood.

This needs to be the same size as all your pallet wood boards together or slightly smaller. You will be attaching the frame on the outside of this, so too small is better than too big.

If you have to cut it yourself (HD said I needed too many cuts so they'd only do half for me. Lower cut shirt next time.), use a table saw, if you have access to one. Once again, wear eye protection.
Step 6. Sand your boards. I always start with 100 grit to get the really rough spots smoothed down a bit, and then I switch to 220 or finer, to preserve the texture and grain of the wood, but make it smoother to the touch. Pallet wood is really rough.

Step 7. Decide which board goes where. It helps me to commit to a pattern for my boards before I start painting them. There is usually  grain pattern I like, or two boards fit nicely one way and not another, or some little thing I want to preserve. I flip the boards to the back and make number notes and arrows to show which way is up in pencil, so I can remember what goes where, even after I paint.

Step 8. Put on your fist coat of paint. I knew I wanted to have the white showing through the blue, so I started with that. I used Pure White ASCP (Annie Sloan Chalk Paint), because I wanted to keep the feel really icy. Pallet wood sucks up paint, so be prepared to use a little more than you usually do. Like maybe even twice the normal amount.

Don't be afraid to do two coats, if you want it really white. If you're feeling lazy, one coat will do.

If you have knots in your wood, especially large, dark ones, you might want to use a heavy duty primer to cover those. Knots tend to bleed, even through chalk paint, so hit them with some Kilz or Zinsser Bullseye 123 primer before you paint your base coat. Bleed through is always worse through light colors, so if you are using black or dark blue or dark brown, you are probably OK without the primer. But when in doubt, prime, then paint. Both the above products only take about an hour to dry, so it's not a major time loss.

Be sure to paint the sides of the boards, but not the backs. There will be small gaps between each board.This adds to the charm of the piece, but allows the inside edges to be seen, and it will look weird if the sides are natural wood when the board faces are painted.

Step 9. Put on your Second coat of paint. 
This may be a no-brainer, but let your paint dry completely before you add anything on top of it. if you're in a hurry, you can use a blow dryer. Just be sure not to let the paint get too hot, or it may crackle. It takes about an hour, give or take for ASCP to dry fully.

I went with a very light blue mix of ASCP Louis Blue and Old White. it looks grey in the picture, but Louis Blue is a soft sky blue.Keep in mind that you will be sanding through the top coat, to expose the base coat. So when you choose your colors, be sure to go with two that will look go together.  

NOTE: If you are intimidated with the idea of hand lettering your sign, a much easier option would to be to add vinyl letters or stickers on top of the white base coat, then paint over them in the top coat. Once the top coat is dry, you peel the stickers or vinyl off, leaving letters the color of the base coat.  

Here you can see that the paint is light blue.

I chose to fill the holes and gaps with paint. If you like the look of seeing the holes black, or more natural, then put on less paint. If you want them filled in like mine, you'll need to use more paint and a little more focused effort in those spots.

Step 10. Sand off the top coat to reveal your base coat. I use 220 to gently hand sand off the top coat to reveal the texture of the wood and the color of the base coat. You can go all the way to the wood if you want a more rustic look. I decided to stop once I hit white. 

You can see the difference between the sanded board in the front and the unsanded ones behind it.

NOTE: Normally, this is when you would wax during the chalk painting process. DO NOT WAX HERE. I did not wax my sign at all because I preferred the chalkiness, but if you wanted that smooth look, or the protection wax affords, I would recommend waiting until after you have done all your lettering. 

 Step 11. Glue the pallet wood boards to the backer board. This is the time to commit! (I know. It makes me nervous too.) So you look at the unpainted backs of your pallet wood and be sure they are organized and oriented like you wanted them to be.

Lay then out on the previously cut backer board and make sure everything lines up as it should.

Then you pull out your trusty caulk gun and your tube of Loctite Wood construction adhesive. I was so excited when I saw they made a wood version of Loctite. I LOVE construction adhesive. You can freaking glue anything together with this stuff. It's amazing. I've actually thought about gluing my kids to their bedroom doors before. And no, I did not actually try it, although I may have been sorely tempted.

If you are unfamiliar with the wide world of caulk, the best way to open the tube is to cut the end off at a diagonal with a razor blade or box cutter. Then you will need to pierce the interior seal. You can get a tool for this, but I just cut the bottom of a metal hangar, bent it straight, and keep it in my studio hanging off my shelves by the hook for this exact purpose. Once the caulk is open, you can put it in your caulking gun and use it.

To glue things down, turn your boards over one at a time. Run a bead of glue down the back of each board. I did it wavy so there would be adhesion along all the sides and across the entire surface. Flip the board over, checking to be sure you are placing it back correctly and smash it tight to the backer board, paying special attention to the edges staying lined up.

Repeat this process for each board. And be sure to loosen the lock on the caulk gun each time you put it down so the glue doesn't keep oozing out when you aren't watching.

Wipe off any excess glue with a paper towel. it will glue your sign to your work surface.

Push down all over each board to be sure every thing's all nice and adhered. Then put a bunch of heavy stuff on it. The tube says  to walk away from it for 24 hours. I didn't have that kind of time, so I waited overnight. It seemed to work just fine. The next afternoon I could hold the sign upside down by the backer board and shake it and nothing moved. Once the glue's nice and dry, you can finally get to making the sign part of the sign.

Step 12. Add your design in pencil. You can barely see it in this picture, despite my best efforts to enhance it for you, but there is a pencil guideline for all the words, as well as the star. 

There are a number of ways you can proceed from here. I found freehand lettering just using my pencil guideline was much more difficult than I had anticipated. I would not recommend this method for anyone just starting out hand lettering. You could use stencils or vinyl letter decals or adhere chip board letters and still get a very attractive result. 

Step 13. Add words. If you are sadistic like me, this is when you start free hand paining your words. I wanted a specific look and this was the quickest way I could think of to get it. Please keep in mind, I have freehand painted a lot. If you are a beginner, this has the potential to cause you all kinds of frustration. 

I wanted white script letters with a black outline and so I decided to paint a larger black outline first, and then paint the white inside the black with a smaller brush. This was a great theory and it worked in practice, but it made me sweat a lot and left me very little margin for error.

I practiced on a hand piece of cardboard to make sure I was using the right size brush and to figure out how wide the letters needed to be. I highly recommend this step.

This is the brush I chose to go with. it has a gently rounded edge that gave me a line similar to a calligraphy pen. it was about 1/4 in wide. if you're not sure which brush to use, try a bunch of different ones on your piece of cardboard and see which comes the closest to writing the way you had envisioned.

NOTE: Be sure to paint starting on the far left, or in a location that your hand won't pass over the letters once they are painted.

This was by far the most difficult stage of this project. In fact, while I was thinking about what to tell you guys about this, I dropped the brush and got black all over the place. I was not happy. Luckily, I had a paper towel on the table. Apparently a little saliva is an excellent solvent for black chalk board paint. So I am sorry to whomever wins this sign. My DNA is on it in the form of emergency spit. 

Anyone have a guess as to where the spots were? Hint, it is not near the tail of the "y".

Step 14. Paint in your graphics. Obviously you could paint the graphics first , if you want, or if they are in the background or behind your words. I just did the words first because they made me nervous and I wanted to get that part over. The stars were easier. I love a nice, uneven, five pointed star. And I like painting inside the lines, for some reason. I just started on the far side, in the middle of the line. I painted up toward the tip first with the smaller brush and then back towards the center with the larger brush. I filled in from there.

These are the two brushes I used on the star. They both have flat edges to make straight lines with. You might prefer these for your wording if you are doing thick block letters, rather than curvy script. The larger is about 1/4 in. The smaller is about 1/8 in. None of my brushes are expensive. I think I bought a pack of random "Artist Brushes" at Michael's for about $4.

This is what both elements looked like when they were finished. There was a very large sigh of relief at this point. White lettering on blue is much less intimidating than black or red.

Step 15. Add your highlights. For this project that meant white lettering over the black. I used a smaller version of the round tipped brush and was really, really careful. If I went too far over the edge of the black, I wiped it back with a damp finger or paper towel. This color was much more forgiving.

It took two coats of Pure White and drying time between them to get the look I wanted.

I also added another coat of Emperor's Silk ASCP to the star. I think I forgot to tell you the color before.

If you don't have the right color of chalk paint for the letters, you could just use craft acrylic paint instead. You'll just have to make sure it doesn't get too thick on the brush.

This is what it looked like all painted. It's getting festive, yes?

And if you've made it this far, you are almost done! Take a deep breath. All we have to do is wax or paint the frame, attach it, and add the hangers. Way easier. Trust me.

Step 16. Paint or wax your frame. I wanted a very metallic finish on the rails, so I opted to go with the silver wax sold by Annie Sloan stockists. I already had it from other projects and I love it's silky texture, but it's not cheap, so I would recommend either using Rub n'Buff, (another metallic waxing product that's way less expensive, and available at craft stores) or silver metallic acrylic craft paint.

If you are waxing, I applied thin spots of wax right to the wood randomly and then rubbed them with a paper towel and my fingers until I liked the texture and finish. My hands were very silver by the end of this process.

If you are painting, try rubbing the paint on with a paper towel. Just see what works.

I wanted patchy coverage to suit the rustic nature of this project, so I left some of the white showing through. You can see this on the front side of the board. 

Step 17. Attach the frame to the sign. 
I really did have a great plan for this. Unfortunately things don't always go as planned. My great idea was to glue the frame on with the wood construction adhesive. This didn't work out well. I ended up covered in adhesive and the frame wouldn't stay together well enough to dry properly. I ended up doing a hybrid approach of gluing the mitered ends and then nailing the frame. Taping the ends once they're glued might help keep them in place.

I ended up settling on having a bead of glue down the inside of the side rails and then nailing the ends together. It wasn't the most graceful process, but it worked. 

I let it sit overnight before proceeding so the glue had a chance to dry.

Step 18. Add the hangers. Don't worry folks. This is the easy part. You start by measuring an equal distance in from the outside edge and down from the top and marking it with a pencil. 

Do this evenly for both sides.

Check to be sure your screw for your D ring hanger is short enough not to go through the front of the sign. You can check this with scrap wood if your frame is already on.

Drill a pilot hole for your screw. Use a bit that is smaller than your screw. You can hold the bit up to the end of the screw to check this.

Be careful not to drill through the top of the sign. When in doubt, stop and check.

Place your D ring over the hole. Then put you screw in the hole and tighten it down. You can use your drill to do this as well. I thought I'd show the manual option. 

You can stop with your D rings, but you'll make life a lot easier if you add something between them to hang off of. I went with a larger gauge hanging wire because I had it. Make sure whatever you use can hold a bunch of weight, as this sign is kinda heavy.

I used needle nose pliers to wrap, tighten and cut the wire.

Guess what? You're done! 
You made a pallet wood sign. Way to go! 

After all that, you must be feeling a bit tired. I know I am. So if you want, you can just enter to win the sign. 

Sign up here. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's s Wonderful Week of Christmas...Ideas to Get Your Holiday Started

Remember how I told you all I had a little surprise up my sleeve? Well here it is!

Gathering Branches is part of a 
Holiday Blog Tour!!!!!

I have joined forces with an amazing team of 7 other bloggers to rev up your Christmas Spirit. 
(I know I can always use a few new ideas when it comes to the Holidays!)

7 Blogs
Tons of great ideas 
With enough time to actually use them. 

So here's how it works. Each  blogger has their own day of the week to share their fun ideas. I will update this page daily with the link for that day's project or idea. Just click on the link and head off to see what these brilliant women have prepared for you. It's like opening the same present 7 days in a row and finding something new each day!

Here's a little look-see for you:

 Can you tell which one is mine? I'll give you a hint:

Mine has red on it...

And it happens to be the Giveaway Prize for the whole week!

 I feel so famous!

I will be posting how to make this pallet wood sign in great detail on Wednesday, but if you'd rather win it than build it, enter our giveaway below. I think there are 21 chances to enter. That's a lot of chances, so good luck!

Here's how to enter:

So check back here everyday this week to see the daily post. And while you out blogging about, be sure to give my friends some love and leave a comment or two. 

Thanks a lot. And see you tomorrow! 

CM Shaw