Confession: I love typography as a decor theme, but I really dislike most of the options that are readily available in stores. Signs that say things like “love,” “family,” or “gather” don’t really feel like they fit my personality or decor style. I can be fairly reserved about showing my affection (holla at my fellow Enneagram 5s!). It’s not always my favorite thing about myself, but it is what it is. As a result, I have a hard time finding typographical home decor that suits my personality, so I tend to make my own. That’s how this DIY wood quote sign came to be.
I’ve been looking for ways to decorate our guest bedroom. I haven’t wanted to spend a lot of money on the things in there because it’s the guest room, so I won’t see it as much as the rest of the house. I love movie quotes, and I always have lots of scrap wood floating around from various DIY projects. I figured I could make a cool sign with a movie quote on it, and I could mostly use materials I already had on hand so it would be extremely low cost. The inspiration for the quote came from one of my all-time favorite movies, the 2006 Amanda Bynes teen classic She’s the Man. The quote is a set of song lyrics written by Amanda Bynes’ character’s brother which kicks off one of the major love triangles of the movie: “Wake up. I’ve been waiting for you to open your eyes so I can tell you that I think I’m ready. I’m ready to free fall into the unknown.” I had to shorten it a bit to get it to fit on the sign, but I’m still happy with how it turned out.
If you’d like to make your own DIY wood quote sign, here’s the process:
-Scrap wood-if you don’t have any scrap wood you can buy raw lumber at a hardware store. Lumber is measured by numbers where the first number is the thickness and the second is the width of the board (ex: a 2×4 is 2 inches thick by 4 inches wide). I would recommend sticking to boards that are 1 inch thick or thinner, otherwise your sign will get really heavy and may pose problems when you go to hang it.
-Fine grit sandpaper-the higher the number, the finer the grit. I think I used 240 grit sandpaper.
-Letter stencils-this is optional. I suck at hand lettering, so I rely on stencils when I’m doing typography projects. If you’re good at hand lettering, you could do this freehand and skip the stencils.
-Sawtooth picture hangers or other hanging hardware
To start, you’ll need to cut your wood boards to size. I had a bunch of random 1×8 boards, so that’s what I started with. I actually ended up cutting them down the middle to make 1x4s because I wanted more seams in the panels of the sign so it would feel more rustic. The boards I had were also longer than I needed, so I cut them to about 20 inches long. Choose a board width that looks good to you. If you don’t have a power saw and are buying new lumber instead of using scraps for this project, most hardware stores can make the cuts for you. You’ll need two sets of boards. One set will be the face of the sign; these are the ones you’re going to see. You’ll also need two thin boards (I used 1x2s) to run along the back to hold all the facing boards together.
Next, lay your board out in the arrangement you want the sign to be. If your boards have “good” and “bad” sides, make sure you put the good side facing down at this stage. I had a combination of pine and cedar boards, which is why there are different colors of wood in the photo above. You’re going to screw your support boards in on top of these boards, so the sides you’re seeing now are the back. Before you add your support boards, I would recommend marking where you want them to go.
Let me pause here for a brief discussion of studs, because it’s helpful for deciding where to play your supports. Studs are the 2x4s in your wall which provide the structural support for your house. If you’re hanging something heavy on your wall, the ideal situation would be to put the hook or screw in the stud because it’s much stronger than drywall. Stud finders are inexpensive and can purchased at hardware stores. Most studs are placed 16 to 24 inches apart in the building process. You can use a stud finder to confirm what distance is used in your house specifically. In mine, the studs are 16 inches apart, so I measured and placed my support boards for my sign 16 inches apart. This allowed me to place my hanging hardware at a width that would align with studs if I got lucky and the wall I wanted to hang it on had studs in helpful places.
At this point, attach your support boards to your sign face boards, making sure you have at least one screw in each facing board. I screwed through the back so you don’t see the screws when you’re looking at the sign, but if you like the look of the screws you can flip your sign around and attach the boards from that side. You’ll just want to be a lot more exact about measuring where your support boards are and make sure your line of screws is level. And this probably goes without saying, but make sure your screws are sized right so they’ll go all the way through your support board but not come out the other side onto your sign face!
At this point the structural elements of the DIY wood quote sign project are done. You’ll want to give the sign a quick run with fine grit sandpaper to even out the surface, and then you’re ready to stain.
I used an oil-based stain I had left over from another project. At some point for a future project I want to try out a water-based wood dye because I think the cleanup will be much easier. Cleaning up oil-based stains is a pain in the butt because you can’t use water to clean out your brushes. You’ll need mineral spirits for cleanup, and I have a reaaaaalllllly hard time getting my brushes clean. You also have to be extremely careful with oil-based stains and any rags you use in the staining process. Oil-based stains release a small amount of heat as they dry out, so if you leave bunched-up rags lying around after a staining project there’s a risk of the rags spontaneously combusting. It sounds crazy, but it’s a real thing, and I’ve heard of several friends of friends who’ve had house fires caused by improperly disposed of staining rags. Here’s an article about how to properly dispose of stained rags. It says to put them in the trash once they’re fully dry, but I prefer to keep them in an empty paint can with a sealed lid and take them to our city’s hazardous waste disposal plant.
To stain the sign, make sure you cover your workspace and wear gloves. Paint the stain on the sign, allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so, and then use a rag to wipe off the excess stain. Let the stain dry for 24-48 hours (check the directions on your can), and then you’re good to do the lettering.
To do the quote itself, if you’re good at hand lettering…you take it from here. If, like me, you are deficient in the handwriting department, you can use stencils to add the words. I use letter stencils like these from craft stores. Choose a size and font that fit the aesthetic you’re going for. Then you’ll need to trace each letter onto the sign to write out your phrase. I started tracing mine with a wax pencil meant for marking on fabric, but ended up switching to a regular pencil. I found that the wood was soft enough that the pencil left enough of a mark for me to clearly see where to paint later on.
Once your letters are traced you can go in and fill them in with acrylic paint using a small paintbrush. Another option for the lettering which would allow you to skip the tracing step is to apply the paint directly to the stencil with a foam brush. If you have a short word or phrase this might give you a cleaner line than hand painting. You’ll need to wait for each letter to dry before stenciling on the next one, though, so if you have a long quote like mine the tracing is a lot faster overall.
I only used one coat of acrylic paint because I wanted the more rustic feel from having uneven layers of paint, but you could use several coats if you want something more uniform.
From here, you just need to let your paint dry, then attach your hanging hardware to the support boards on the back of the sign. Then your sign is ready to hang!
If you make your own DIY wood quote sign, please tag us on Instagram! We’d love to see your creations and what quotes you choose. Please also connect with us on social media or join our email list to stay up-to-date on new posts, and check out our other DIY content here.