How to Make a Lit Sign for Your Holiday Décor
One of my favorite things to do anytime, but especially around Christmas time, is create a big décor piece. I like to look at some of the popular websites that feature high-end décor pieces that cost much more than I want to spend. Wayfair, Kirkland’s, and Pottery Barn have items that I like to admire and if I can figure out how to make one – I’m going to.
I saw this sign on the Pottery Barn website for a whopping $499! It didn’t look super complicated so I thought I would give it a try. The original was bigger than the one I’m going to make, but mine will be significantly less than the practically 500 dollars you’d have to spend on the store-bought one.
Materials I Used
I have an extensive collection of junk in my workshop. For this sign, I actually already had a perfect board. It’s a 17” by 24” box sign that I had painted over in preparation for another project, but changed my mind when I saw this marquee sign I could dupe.
To create the word “MERRY” I used an old headboard panel from a crib I picked up from Facebook Marketplace for free.
I did a quick layout of my sign on Cricut Design Space. I like to make a sign look as much like the final product as I can before I start cutting any materials. This comes from the years I spent working at sign shops. I always required customers to sign off on a design and even though my current customers aren’t quite as demanding as those corporate types were, I still send my customers a draft of what their final product will look like. They appreciate the opportunity to contribute ideas when it’s a custom piece.
After my layout was exactly like I thought it should be, I also added the holes where the lights would be placed. Again, no surprises this way. I cut my letters out of vinyl one at a time because I just had 12”x12” squares of vinyl in my stash. If you have the Cricut Maker 3 you can use chipboard to cut out your letters. I don’t have that machine, so I used a jigsaw to cut my letters out. I placed each letter on the board and just used a scroll saw blade in my Ryobi jigsaw to carefully cut out each letter. When I was finished, I used light grit sandpaper to even out the edges. My letters aren’t as perfect as what yours will be if you’re using a Cricut, but they’ll do.
The next step was to use a wood-boring bit to drill out all the holes for the lights that will go in this sign. I used a ¾” bit. If you use power tools to complete your projects, remember to wear your safety gear. A power drill is one of the easiest power tools to master and if you don’t have one, I highly recommend the Ryobi line of battery-operated tools. The batteries are interchangeable between tools, and they don’t become obsolete.
After I have the holes cut out, I place my letters on the board exactly where I want them to be, and I trace around every hole. I then use the same wood-boring bit to drill the same pattern in my signboard.
Now that all the holes are cut. I’m ready to paint. I used Crimson by Waverly for the sign face. It’s a thick chalk paint and I like it because it covers well, and it doesn’t take very long to dry. I used Waverly white chalk paint for the letters. I left my project to dry overnight.
To create the marquee effect on my sign, I use a string of thirty globe lights. I bought mine at Walmart for less than $8. I would have preferred for my lights to have a white cord, but the shelves were bare when I got around to buying these. So green cords it is! I see these types of lights on my thrift hauls all the time and I think I’m going to pick them up from now on.
When my letters and board were all dried, I was ready to adhere the letters to the board. I just lined the letters up with my pre-drilled holes. I used e-6000 and hot glue. This is a good method if you want a project to stick immediately and you also need a long-term hold. Just don’t mix the two or they seem to deactivate each other.
Now here comes the fun part. Just take all those little globes off the light sockets. I put mine in a big plastic bowl so they wouldn’t roll away while I was working. I fed each socket through a hole. I didn’t worry about securing them in because they fit well, and I will probably use these lights in another project after the holidays.
After my sign was put together, I touched up everything with a little paint and it was ready to display.
A Few Tips
If you don’t procrastinate as I did, you can find strings of lights that are battery-operated, and that will be a little easier. This is also a good project to use up your wood scraps. I used a box sign that I had in my stash, but if I hadn’t had one I would have made a pallet. Just construct a simple frame and cover it with slats that are placed right next to one another. The inspiration piece had a shiplap face, and I would have created that, except I had recently used all my shiplap in another project.
My total spent to make this sign was under $10. A practical price if you needed to buy supplies would be about $40.
Whatever you use to create your holiday projects and whatever you create, have fun! I hope you have a very Christmas and until next time – happy crafting!
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