DIY Vintage Wood Pallet Signs

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Hello all, hope you had an excellent Christmas or whatever winter holiday you choose to celebrate. I've been so busy with cooking and craft projects lately my little blog has been woefully neglected. But today I'm going to share what I've been up to!


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When looking for possible Christmas gifts for G, I searched for The Shawshank Redemption (our fave movie) items on Etsy, thinking maybe they might have signs with meaningful quotes. I did see a selection of signs, fairly simple looking ones or vinyl wall signs, nice enough, but not exactly what I had in mind. I started thinking, if other people are making these by hand, how hard would it be for me to make my own? I have NEVER worked with wood, have atrocious penmanship, and negligible painting skills, so at first I was guessing, maybe pretty damn hard. But once I get an idea in my head, it's kind of hard to let go of.  Through the magic of Google I stumbled across the DIY wood pallet sign trend- apparently these have been a thing for awhile. You basically procure an old wood pallet (you know, those wooden slat thingies used for transporting goods?), break it down, and then rebuild it into a wooden sign that you can paint with whatever words/quotes/inspiration you want. It's cheap, homemade, vintage style art. I instantly fell in love.

Some pallets, while acquired for cheap or even free, are pretty labor intensive to disassemble, I gathered, and not knowing what they carried, or what chemicals were used to treat the wood, made me uneasy. I wanted to do this with no power tools or saws, no rusty, scary looking nails to remove, and no worrying about where my pallet had been. I wanted to make it as easy as possible my first go-round. So I went to Michaels and bought 2 mini new wood pallets. They look like regular pallets, just much smaller, with new wood, and are held together by staples. The size was perfect for my project, no sawing needed. I decided to make one for G, and if it worked well, I would design another one to gift his dad and stepmom for Christmas.

With the first one, my dad taught me how to break it down, remove the staples, and then put it back together into a sign that can be easily hanged, or even just leaned up against a wall. 

Exhibit A, the upright pallet is how they were purchased, the other one is how it looked after rebuilding. Maisy, as always, must be included in all proceedings.

The awesome thing about this type of project is that perfection is not the goal. The shabbier, the more beat up and aged-looking, the better. So my nails were hammered haphazardly, I also hammered small dents in the woods to give it a lived-in appearance.





I sanded the sign using 80 grit sandpaper before painting so there wouldn't be any splinters. Then, the main technique for aging the sign is to sand everything down again once you're done. I didn't want the color of the raw wood to show through my final paint job, so I gave the wood a "stain" with a brown acrylic paint mixed with some water.




Once that dried, I painted the sign with a sage green acrylic paint.



Now, the REALLY tricky part. How to paint the quote, having shaky, messy painting skills? There are a lot of different methods for transferring text. A round-up of potential methods is listed HERE from the Graphics Fairy. For my method, I decided to go with carbon paper. You can choose any font you want, print it out (use an outline function), arrange it on your sign over a piece of carbon paper, and carefully trace over the printed outline. I went with a really simple font for my first attempt, minimal detail, with lots of space to work in. When you remove the carbon paper, an outline of your text will appear. You just fill it in! I used a dark brown acrylic paint, and used a couple of coats.


Once that is dry you start distressing! Any mistakes you make when painting, going outside the lines, etc., get blurred once you sand over the sign. I focused on the outer edges, where you might naturally expect a vintage sign to be worn down. Basically you're taking something brand new, and beating it up until it looks old. And that's what's charming about it, the imperfections. I used a spray acrylic sealant on the sign once it was all finished.

For my very first try, I'm really happy with it!



And because I loved seeing something I saw in my head actually translate into real life, I decided to go for a vintage Christmas themed sign gift idea for G's family.

I broke the other pallet down and rebuilt it myself (go me with a hammer and nails!), and did the darker stain, and painted the sign a creamy off-white. For the text, I gleaned ideas and printables from multiple blogs, but mainly HERE and HERE. I used the Santa's Sleigh font I found HERE for most of the sign. It's a little more elaborate and tricky than the first sign, but again, sanding cleans up the mistakes wonderfully. Any smears or mistakes you think won't respond to sanding, you can dab off very lightly with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.


Here you can see me tracing over the carbon paper:



And my sad, sad painting skillz:


Here is the sign pre-sanding. It's a little rough but stick with it!


Next, I used wood glue to attach a tiny little chalkboard (which was actually a chalkboard coaster I picked up at Michaels). I distressed the sign prettily heavily to give it that really shabbby, rustic look. I used an acrylic sealant, put in some sawtooth hangers in the back, and it was done. I must say I really love this one and parted with it rather reluctantly! It makes me think of something you might find hiding in the barn of an old Christmas tree farm, all faded and weather-worn. It's got a nostalgic feel to me. G's dad and stepmom seemed to love it, and even if they don't use the chalkboard for keeping track of the days, my hope was for the grandkids to do it when they visit





And finally, it's not Christmas until I bake myself into a zombie-like sleep-deprived state, so here are the cute treat parcels I packed for the family. This year I typed out everything that was included and made little tags so people knew what they were eating. I've also been dabbling in canning, and gave away jars of homemade apple butter and spiced blackberry wine jelly. It's exhausting but rewarding- I like making people happy through the power of noms! So, in case you've wondered where I've been, there you go. Now, I am sleeping in this weekend! To all a good night!





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Please leave me comments if anything strikes your fancy or if you have any helpful suggestions. Remember, I'm no expert and am just sharing my truth. Hopefully you will find something useful to take with you!

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