I wanted to create something for each of my kids’ rooms, something typographical. I am comfortable admitting that I am very much a typophile. So I found these great superhero letters at Hobby Lobby, and, as one would expect, they are male themed…which is unfortunate for my daughter. One of my future projects will be photo transfers onto wood for my daughter, so I can add my own set of superhero imagery. Afterall, girls are heroes too.
For Noah, I wanted the letters to stand out from their background, so I knew I finally wanted to make use of my scroll saw my father bought many several years ago. So let’s dig into this.
Disclaimer: I am in no way a seasoned carpenter. If you are, let me know what I did wrong or throw some advice my way. Secondly, one step of this project is to use reclaimed pallet wood. If you have none, just find some nice, beaten up 2″x1″ or 4″x1″‘s at your hardware store.
Step 1: The first step was to find a modest wood to act as the background. This wood won’t really be seen — just the edges. This, I believe was a cheapish sheet of pine from Home Depot. About 1/2″.
Step 2: Trace the lettering (as can be seen in the photo). The lettering from Hooby Lobby has somewhat of a curved lip, so I wanted them to sit comfortably on the wood; to achieve this, I eyeballed a quarter of an inch or so cutline within the initial stencil. Make sense?
Step 3: Scroll saw time! My first use of my scroll saw since getting it for Christmas a couple years ago. Kids.
Avoid quick, sharp turns as they can easily break the blades. Second, putting on new blades is annoying. Third, make sure to get the tension just right.
For letters needing inside cuts (“A” for example), drill a decent sized hole in the letter. Then, take off the blade of the scroll saw, insert it inside the hole of the letter and reinstall the blade. Takes practice.
Step 4: Select your pallet boards. So, this step is bit of a big step if you haven’t already reclaimed your pallet wood. There is a lot of work that goes into reclaiming pallet wood that I will discuss in a later post.
Long story short, use a sawzall (reciprocating saw) with blades that can cut wood and metal. Wear gloves, work shoes, and a mask. Secure a pallet vertical. Go to town. After dismantling pallets, decide if you want to pop the nails out with a nail punch or not. I don’t take most of them out; I like the way they look still embedded in the wood. Usually upon applying your project’s coat of polyurethane, the nails are secured in there home, so no worries about them falling out.
Step 5: Lay your boards out and check to see if there are any annoying gaps or awkward boards that might jeopardize the success of this project. Once selected and you’ve decided the order of the boards, lay your lettering out to determine the length that you need cut. Mark your boards and cut with a chop saw (miter saw) or circular saw (electric hand saw).
Step 6: Pallet wood is not kid, adult, finger, hand friendly. Also, not all pallet wood is fair game. Many are treated to avoid rotting and can be treated or stained with chemicals and much more. To understand the potential hazards and codes printed on each pallet, check out DIY Projects article on this topic. Exercise caution.
If you hit a safe pallet gold mine and are ready to roll, the fastest way to get your boards ready to go is to use an orbital palm sander, pictured on the left. I first use a 50 or 60 grit paper (very coarse) to get the chunks off. Then either a 100 or 120. No need for anything higher unless you want super smooth. Again, use a mask and goggles. Be sure to sand every side.
Step 7: You are getting there! Now for the back. Grab some sanded reclaimed boards or something from the hardware store to secure the boards of your nameplate together. Measure the height of your nameplate and cut the boards to length. I cut mine two inches shorter. Flip your letter side over and with either a nailer or screws, fasten the board to each horizontal board in two places each.
After applying a liberal coating of wood glue, I used 1″ black dry wall screws and fastened them close to the edge. No science behind this. Keep in mind that you will mount your wall hanging hardware to these boards when you are finished.
While taking note of the length, don’t worry too much if there are gaps between the horizontal and vertical boards. When you secure them, the hand drill will eliminate these. Keep in mind this will draw the board up and the fornt side of your nameplate will no longer be flat. This is not much of a problem since we’re going for rustic. If it is a problem to you, use little wood shims, a stack of old credit cards, or your finger (just kidding) to maintain the gap in the back as you secure the boards. Make sense?
Step 8: Let’s decide on the stain. I tested two different types. Mahogany (on the left) and Dark Walnut (on the right). The Dark Walnut matched my son’s bed frame. Perfect.
Step 9: Get some protective gloves, old shirt or brush, and a bowl of some sort. With a dark stain like this, brush/mop it on as thin or heavy as you like and wipe with a cloth after applying. Keep in mind, the longer you keep excess stain on wood, the deeper the stain will be.
Leave it to dry in a tepid, low humidity, well-ventilated location. Wipe excess stain off later as well.
Step 10: Opps, no photo. Polyurethane time. Poly will give it a nice shine. This step is not necessary, but it does act as a protective coat and it will also help secure the old nails in the pallet wood if you left them. There are different kinds of Poly – a spray, a wipe, and a basic liquid with which you use a brush. Stir it well as a nice gooey layer of Poly settles at the bottom of the can when it sits.
For the season of the year, it took forever to get the Poly to dry. Two coats are necessary and avoid applying the second coat until the first is completely dry. Again, find a tepid, low humidity, well-ventilated location.
Step 11: After the second coat of poly dries, locate your lettering and lay them out all pretty. Be sure to allow proper spacing by laying the finished letters on top as well. Pop quiz, in typography what is spacing between letters called? Leave your answer in the comments.
Hobby Lobby also sells decorative wood lettering. I plan on doing this for my daughter as well. If you want to skip all that scroll saw nonsense, just buy some nice lettering and wood glue the pieces onto the wood. For my project, I used my nailer.
In some spots the finish nails were too long (used 1 1/4″) and they poked through in the back. I clipped the tips and grinded them with a dremel to avoid sharp edges.
Step 12: Marvel at a completed project. To hang it, I used picture mounting hardware and wire. Then I taped those items in case they rub the wall.