Sign Craft: Make A Decorative Sign From Junk Wood

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Because I do a lot of crafts, I tend to collect a lot of odd material like junk wood.  Before you throw away any scrap wood leftover from a project or a demolish, you may want to think about it’s possibilities as a decorative sign inside or outside of your home.  I no longer look at any piece of  wood as anything but it’s design potential.  That is why I picked up this old shutter/door from a resale shop up north.

The price was next to nothing and the size was perfect for making a large sign.  To buy new lumber would have cost a lot more and since I wanted a distressed looking sign anyway, buying old wood made sense.  It saved me a couple of steps in giving a distressed look to brand new wood.

This is what I started with:

I loved the gray colored base that it already had.  You can see that it used to be some kind of small door or shutter with the hinges.  I’m not really sure what the five holes are all about but had a plan for covering them up!

First, I removed the hinges.  Then I painted over the shutter with just a thin coat of white acrylic paint.  I let some areas be thicker than others, letting the gray show through in parts.  I didn’t want to lose the natural distressing that was already there.  I only wanted to brighten the overall color.

Here you can see the paint finish.  It looks like it has faded and weathered in some parts.  The white over the gray brightened the whole piece quite a bit.  I then used letter stencils to spell out my words.  These were super easy to use and line up.  I then used a pencil to draw the letters onto the wood.   Using a very thin paint brush and red acrylic paint, I painted the letters onto the board.  Once the paint was dry, I sanded lightly over the letters to give them more of a faded look to go with the rest of the board.

Now I just had to decorate the other side of the sign and cover up those holes!  There is always something you can do with wood that maybe isn’t quite picture perfect.  At our cabin, we have an area under our deck that is used for canoe and kayak storage.  We jokingly consider this our boat house.  I wanted something on the sign that would tie in with boats and water.

As I looked through my stash of supplies, I found an old rusted Michigan license plate.  It was one that still had the slogan Great Lakes State.  I figured this would be a perfect addition and add to the old distressed feel.

This is where we keep our “boats”:

And so I hung my sign on the wood retaining wall:

I had also picked up some old bouys a while back so I strung them up on some nautical rope.  Then I just attached the ends with a couple of screws and let the rope drape below the sign:

This is a similar theme to what we have going with our dock and stairs that head down to the lake:

Maybe my next sign craft will be directional signs down to the water!  I’ll be keeping my eye out for more junk wood.  All I need is a pallet or two to keep me in good supply.

Happy Crafting!

I'm addicted to crafting and decorating my downtown urban loft and up north rustic cabin. Read more about me.
  1. Hi there,

    Just curious where you get your stencils and if you have any suggestions on best places to buy them or the best brand you like. I manage a hardware store and plan to be painting some signs advertising our selection of items.

    Please email me back at

    1. Hi Annie,
      I get all of my stencils at either Joanne or Michaels. I’m not particular on the brand but I do like a stencil that is somewhat rigid and heavy duty.

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