How to Make a Hand-Painted Vintage Sign

For the holidays or anytime, use an old board or a cabinet door to post your favorite message.


Photo By: Susan Teare

Susan Teare


We found this old board at a recycle shop, cleaned it up and painted a happy message on it to greet guests. If you can't find a piece of salvaged wood the right size, buy a new one, paint it, then distress it by sanding and banging it up with hand tools.

Materials and Tools:

utility knife and scissors
measuring tape
hand saw
paintbrush and red paint - sample size (we used Lowe's Valspar Claret)
shop vacuum
face mask
salvaged wood board (about 70" to 75" x 20" to 24")
shellac (all natural sealer)
2 D-rings with screws and picture hanging wire
3 large paper bags
painter's tape


Prep the Board

Wear a mask. Clean the board with a shop vac to get any paint flakes off. Wipe down with a damp rag. Measure the board and plan out your design on paper.


Create the Design

Create a template for the letters on three paper bags. For a 70" x 24" salvaged board, letters should be at least 16" square.


Trace Letters

Tape letters onto board and outline with marker.


Outline With a Knife

Remove templates and use razor knife to cut along the marker lines. Go over it a few times to make the lines wider and deeper.


Go Over With Saw

Go over them again with a hand saw to create a rough line look. Vacuum to remove all dust and wood chips.


Paint Letters

Paint inside the lines, but leave some of the finish/paint underneath exposed. Let dry. If necessary, put on a second coat and let dry. Use sandpaper to scrape away the paint in some spots to give it an aged look.


Apply Finish and Add Hardware

Shellac wood, front and back two times.


Add D-rings to the back of the wood. Hang with wire.

Joanne Palmisano is the author of Salvage Secrets (W.W. Norton, September 2011). Visit her blog, also called Salvage Secrets.

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