Introduction: Rustic Pallet Sign
I made this sign last year for a Christmas decoration. I made it out of pallet wood and used a sheet of labels to transfer an image from my printer to the board. Let's get started!
Step 1: Cut Your Pallet
Disassembling a pallet is a lot of work. To save time I just used a circular saw to cut along side the runners because I don't need long pieces for this anyways. Be careful when cutting around the nails.
Step 2: Cut Them to Size
I selected four boards to make up the sign. I looked for boards with knots, nail holes, and other things to make this look rustic. There's a fine line between "rustic" and "crap" so don't overdo the whole pallet thing. I only used a little bit of the knotty wood and placed a nail hole here or there. The board on the end also has a natural edge on it.
Once I had my boards picked out, I ripped them to random widths until I got a look that I liked. I didn't make them all the same width and I also left the original pallet edge on the outside edges. Some of the boards were wide and some were thin. Again, be careful you don't cut into a nail. The final sign measures 8"x10" or roughly the size of a sheet of copy paper.
Step 3: Glue Up
I spread Titebond II wood glue on the edges that met other edges. To make sure all surfaces got covered, I placed the to mating pieces edge to edge and slid the boards back and forth to spread the glue. I covered two pieces of wood with tape to prevent them sticking to the wood while the glue dries. These two pieces of wood are called "calls." I sandwiched the pieces of wood for the sign in between the calls and clamped them just a little bit to keep the sign flat while it dries. Then I placed as many clamps as I can fit in edge to edge on the sign. I clamped these down until I saw a good amount of squeeze-out (which is good. It means everything got covered with glue) and then I clamped the calls down tight. I left the calls a little loose before so I could still apply good clamping pressure to the sign pieces.
Step 4: Final Shaping
I cut the uneven ends off at the table saw and gave the sign a very light sanding with 220 grit on the random orbital sander. I was very careful not to sand too much because I still wanted it too look rustic, but I didn't want it too feel rough.
Step 5: Image Transfer
I bought a pack of full sheet labels and peeled them off. Opt for full sheet labels because they're quicker to peel off then mailing labels. If you don't want to waste the label, stick it to a piece of wax paper.
I designed an "old fashioned" advertisement for Christmas tree farm (I deleted the file so don't ask for it) and printed it out onto the sheet of labels. If there's any text on the design, it needs to be flipped backwards so it reads correctly once transferred. Be careful to load the label sheet into the printer correctly so that it prints on the waxy side of the sheet. There's no need to rush because ink will practically never dry on the wax paper.
I carefully laid the sheet facedown onto my sign and applied a light pressure from the center out. Once I was sure that I had transferred all of the image, I peeled the sheet away. I finished it up with 3 coats of Deft satin spray lacquer with a quick scuff before the 3rd coat.
Step 6: Note on Image Transferring
I never really liked buying labels just to peel them all off and I tried to find a different way to transfer images. The first thing I did was cut a piece of plywood to the size of a sheet of copy paper. I used this as a cutting template and cut out many copy paper-sized sheets of wax paper. I loaded one at a time into my printer and tried to print my image but it always jammed or tore. I tried flatting the wax paper and loading it into the printer in different configurations but nothing worked.
After 20 or more failed attempts at wax paper, I printed my image on a sheet of ordinary copy paper and taped it face down to a piece of wood. I soaked a rag with lacquer thinner and laid it onto the paper. I hoped that the lacquer thinner would run the ink on the paper and bleed it into the wood. I left the rag on the image for 30 minutes checking every now and then and absolutely nothing happened. No ink had even run on the paper. Nothing.
I've come to the conclusion that the only successful and reliable way to transfer images via printer is the label sheet method. The labels work so well because unlike ordinary wax paper which is curved, the label sheets are paper-backed wax paper making it flatter and thicker than wax paper. If anyone knows a better and cheaper way to do this, please let me know.