Make a large temporary sign out of Christmas lights and inexpensive materials for about $45. Great for lighted parades! I created this design for our local parade, and our float won first place.
Step 1: Supplies
To make a 2 foot by 6 foot lighted sign, you will need:
2 pieces of 8' of lumber (I used 1"x2"x8' boards, which were less than $2 each at Home Depot)
An awl or other pointed object (for hole punching)
About a 300-light strand of Christmas lights (I used two 200-light strands which has optional AA battery pack, purchased on Amazon for $14 each). I recommend using LEDs only, because they won't get hot and scorch the foam board.
Computer and printer (for creating the word template)
Enough foamboard to cover the area of your sign (I need 4 pieces, which were $1 each at Dollar Tree)
A heavy duty staple gun with staples
Scrap felt and spray glue (optional-- I needed this to protect my truck from the wood frame but if you're not hanging the sign on a vehicle you don't need this)
Step 2: Create the Frame
My husband's truck is a standard F150 with 6.5' truck bed. A sign which measures 6 feet by 2 feet will hang nicely on either side of the truck for a parade. (By the way, we didn't drive over 35 mph with the sign on the truck-- this is strictly a temporary sign).
Get your two 8' pieces of lumber, and mark them at the 6' mark. Cut carefully with a saw, so you end up with: Two 2' pieces of wood and two 6' pieces of wood.
Now you will need to screw them together to make a rectangle. Because we're going to affix the foam board to the wood, you need the smoothest/nicest side of the boards facing out.
To achieve this, put the long boards flat, nicest side down. Place the two short boards on top of the long boards, lining up the edges.
Put two screws in each corner, being careful to make a very square corner so you have a nice rectangle. I used short decking screws. Obviously, don't use screws that are 3 inches or something, use ones just long enough to go through the two boards. The ends of the screws may poke through just a little, which is OK because we'll cover them with foam board.
(NOTE: My diagram is mislabeled; the length should be 6' on the top and bottom, not 8')
Step 3: Affix the Foam Board
Now that your frame is nice and square and sturdy, line your foam boards up carefully on top of the frame so you don't have any gaps. Use your staple gun to fasten the foam boards to the frame. Then carefully use a box cutter or razor blade to cut the excess away from the edges of the boards. Watch your fingers!
Step 4: Install the Lights
We're going to work with the back of the sign.
I used Microsoft Word to print "Merry Christmas" in a backwards text, so that when I install the lights and flip the sign, you'll see the words the correct way. My first picture shows the words on the FRONT of the sign--- DON'T DO THAT. I was just testing to make sure the words fit-- you will actually tape the printed paper to the BACK of the frame, as shown in the second photo.
Tape the printed words to the BACK of the sign. Use tape on the edges of the paper so they don't move around. Using an awl or other sharp, pointed object, poke holes in regular intervals along the outline of each letter. I used about 16 holes per letter, but you may have more or less depending on letter size. You may want to put extra cardboard under the sign when you do this so you don't damage your floor. These holes will keep your foam board from ripping when you put the lights in.
After poking the holes, poke one light through each hole. As you go along, secure the lights with packing tape so they don't slide too far forward or fall out. I used 200-light LED strands with optional battery pack (from Amazon). I needed about 300-350 lights per board, so I had a few lights hanging at the end. You can just tuck these behind the sign, or use them to make a border, or in my case I used them around the back window of the truck for the lighted parade. Be creative.
That's it! You're done!
Optionally, if you are going to hang the sign on your truck, cut a little spare felt to shape to cover the boards. Affix to boards with spray glue. That way you won't scratch your paint. I used the built-in tie down loops in the truck bed to hang the sign. Just tie some string to the top corners of the boards, then tie the ends of the string to the tie down loops. Don't drive too fast-- this is a temporary sign for parades only. We didn't go over 35 mph.