How to Make Wood Signs

Making wood signs can be an enjoyable pastime, and a well crafted one can give your home or business an earthy, bucolic feel. Hardwoods like maple and cherry work well due to their sturdiness and textural variety as do softwoods like pine and cedar because of their resistance to moisture.

Different types of wood can vary greatly in beauty, strength, cost and availability.

Research the specific properties of each type of wood before starting and choose one that fits your needs. Of course, whichever way you go, the creativity part will be up to you.

Working With Wood

  1. Choose a piece of wood that suits your tastes, both in style, size and durability. Examine the wood to ensure it is dry and not fractured or rotting.

  2. Remove dirt from all sides of the wood using a stiff bristle cleaning brush.

  3. Place the piece of wood on a workbench and clamp it down with a vise. Use a wood router to cut off unnecessary pieces or shape the wood as desired.

  4. Use sandpaper to smooth out rough edges and surfaces on the wood.

Painting and Design

  1. Use a foam brush to apply a coat of primer to the wood's surface. Let dry for 20 to 30 minutes.

  2. Use a thick paintbrush to apply a coat of semi-gloss paint to the wood's surface. Let dry for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.

  3. Decide what you want your sign to say. Then place the appropriate letter stencils on paper and use a pen to trace the letters. Use multiple pieces of paper if necessary.

  4. Place the paper with the stenciled letters over the wood exactly where you want them to appear on the sign. Tape the paper to the wood with painter's masking tape to keep it in place.

  5. Use a ballpoint pen to firmly trace over the letters with enough pressure to create an impression in the wood.

  6. Fill in the traced letters on the wood using a thin paintbrush to apply acrylic craft paint. Let dry for 20 to 30 minutes.

  7. Spray the sign with lacquer to protect the paint.

Let's Hang

  1. Hammer two box nails halfway into the back of the sign. The nails should be positioned about a third of the way from the top, equidistant from the middle, and no less than an inch from the sides.

  2. Use metal snips to cut a piece of picture wire at least three inches longer than the distance between the two nails.

  3. Tightly wrap one end of the picture wire around one nail, then the other end of the wire around the second nail. Allow about an inch of slack in the wire.

  4. Hammer the box nails fully into the wood. The semi-taut wire can now be used to hang the sign on nails, pegs and picture hooks.

  5. Tip

    If you plan to use a darker paint on your sign, get a darker primer. Make a sign looked distressed by adding a second coat of different colored paint and sanding away part of the top coat. Be sure your box nails are shorter than the thickness of your sign. Thinner, blunter nails are less likely to split your wood.


    Use leather or canvas gloves to protect your hands from cuts and splinters. Wear safety goggles when operating a router.