MillWorks: Old-Fashioned Sign

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Old-Fashioned Sign

Measure a poster, and cut plywood to size. Or, you can measure the size of the finished product you'd like, and cut the poster down in size as well. I used 1/4" plywood, but thicker plywood will be less prone to warping. Prep your wood before beginning. Are there any holes that need patching? Words may show through--get rid of them ahead of time if you don't want to scramble to cover them up with antiquing medium (which I had to do!). Even if stamps don't show through when the paper poster is held against the wood, they may once the paper is varnished. The wood grain, knots, and texture may show through, too, but this is part of the character of having a wood-mounted sign.

I adhered the poster to the bad side of the wood (wood often has a "good" side, and one that has been at least lightly sanded), after patching it, in order to have good wood on the back side of the sign. Using a decoupage glue such as Mod Podge, "paint" the very top of the wood with glue. Very carefully align and adhere the poster.

Press down and smooth it out as you go. I went very slowly, lightly gluing, and doing only a small section at a time, and then weighed it down with a dictionary and one-volume encyclopedia (That's one thing you can't do with Wikipedia!). At each step where you stop, let the glue fully dry.

Once you have glued it all down, look at your poster carefully. Are there any accents you would like to make on it? I noticed that mine was likely an old-fashioned postcard that had been glittered with gold glitter. Reprinted as a poster, this detail had been left off, and these areas looked messy and stood out (For example, see the decorations on the tree). Instead of adding glitter, I used metallic gold paint, painted thinly so that it could still be seen through, to cover these areas. This step is optional, since most posters won't have this type of accent. This is also the step where you can lightly add antiquing medium. (You can also add antiquing medium between layers of varnish, but don't put it on after the final varnish coat.) You can see a lot of antiquing medium on the lefthand side of my sign. The reason? I was trying to cover up stamped warnings that showed through from the wood! I learned the hard way, so that hopefully you won't have to!

Next, use coarse sandpaper on a sanding block to sand the edges on a diagonal angle. Turn the board over and repeat. Round all four corners as well. This will remove part of the poster on the poster side, but don't fret! It helps add to the character and old-fashioned look.

Apply a stain to the all-wood side. Once you have finished this, stain the side edges and just the teeny bit on the poster side where the paper poster has been sanded down to the bare wood. This part takes a small brush and good eye! At left, you can see what this detailing that spreads to the front does--it adds character and "age." It also helps blend the poster and wood together as one, leaving the finished product looking less like it's just a poster glued to a piece of plywood!

Once the stain has fully dried, varnish your sign--including the poster side! I did two coats of varnish, a light sanding, and then another final coat. Oil-based varnish will shade amber over time, which can help with a vintage look.

Optional: You can add picture hanging hardware to the back, once everything is dried and cured. However, you can also just leave it as is--to display, prop it up against the wall on the floor, a table, or shelf.


Have you ever seen a poster and thought, "I'd love to have that in my home," only to start thinking about the expenses of matting and framing it? Well, there's thankfully another option--and that's to make the poster look like an old-fashioned sign. Not counting things you as a crafter likely already have around your home--like scrap plywood, stain, varnish, and glue--this heirloom quality craft had an unbelievable total cost of $3.50 . . . for the poster!

Do you like the poster that I used? It has been cut down just a bit from the original--in order to use a scrap piece of wood (free is good!). It's a bulletin board-type poster, and may be available where you can find teaching/office supplies. One of the nicest things about these educational posters is that the backs are not glossy, so they take glue well.

Tip: If you're going to cut down the poster at all, a scrap from the poster and a scrap of plywood can be used to practice all of the techniques in the project. You can see, for example, how to round corners and sand the top edge, and see if the poster is prone to buckling.

This project uses wood finishing supplies, so adhere to all safety guidelines on the products.

Have fun!

Providing crafts since October 2011. Sign created in November 2012. Copyright 2011- and all contents by Melissa. Resulting products can only be kept or given away as gifts. Always keep safety in mind.