Having just returned home from a week-long vacation at the beach, I felt the itch to make something again. I saw a lot of really cool signs and art pieces while shopping, so I decided to make another sign. This one would hang in a bathroom at home that already has a beach-themed decor. I’ve been seeing signs online that utilize nails and string to create really cool designs, so I decided to try it out for myself!
Step 1: Tools & Materials
- Wood - I used plywood because I had it on hand, but choose whatever looks pleasing to you.
- Nails - Choose a size that is appropriate for the size sign you are making. Also, a nail with a larger head on it will help keep the string from sliding off in the long run.
- Rope / Twine / Yarn - Again, pick a thickness that is appropriate for the size sign you are making. Try using different colors for different parts of your design!
- Paper & Pencil - Used for printing out the stencils and transferring them to the tape.
- Wood Stain (Minwax Golden Pecan 245) - Experiment with different woods and stains to find the right look for your project.
- Acrylic Paint (CraftSmart Island Blue & White) - I chose to paint my sign but you could easily leave the stained wood for a more rustic look
- Matte Clear Coat (Krylon) - You can also use a glossy clearcoat, a polyurethane, or simply leave the wood unfinished
- Thicker Rope & Large Staples / Picture Hanging Hardware - Choose how you want to mount your sign
- Felt Bump Pads - These keep your walls from getting scratched up
- Hacksaw / Bandsaw / Jigsaw - Choose whichever cutting method you prefer
- Hammer - Gotta get those nails in somehow
- Scissors / Xacto Blade - Used for cutting out the templates as well as the string and rope
- Sandpaper - There's no need to be picky about the grits here as long as it smooths out the surfaces and edges. Feel free to run through a bunch of grits and get it really smooth if you're going for a showroom finish.
- Paint Brushes - I used a sponge brush to apply the blue paint and a small paint brush to do the text
- Painter’s Tape - This will be used to make a stencil for the text
- Disposable Gloves - Optional but helpful for keeping your hands stain and paint free
- Respirator - Stain and paint are smelly and sawdust is bad for your lungs
- Rags - I used old cut up t-shirts to apply the stain
Step 2: Disclaimer
As you can see in the section above, this Instructable utilizes several tools and materials than can be harmful if used incorrectly. Please use caution, and ask somebody for help if you do not feel comfortable doing something.
Step 3: Planning & Research
Just like all of my projects, I started by researching and compiling an archive of images. I took pictures of different styles of signs while shopping on vacation, and I also searched online for ideas. I also consulted the boss (my mother) about what kind of design would look the best in the bathroom. We settled on an anchor with a small caption below it.
Step 4: Cutting the Wood
I was lucky enough to find a scrap piece of plywood in my collection that was just the right size for the space I wanted to hang the sign in. If you are making this project at home, you will probably have to cut your wood to the desired size. You can do this with a hacksaw, bandsaw, or jigsaw. Feel free to experiment with different types of wood arranged in different ways to get the look you want. All I needed to do was sand the faces and edges smooth and round off the corners. I did this with several grits of sandpaper and a Dremel with a sanding drum.
Step 5: Prepping for Paint
I decided to stain the wood with a Minwax Golden Pecan stain to provide some color since it was old and faded. I applied 2 coats, then let it fully dry. In some of my previous Instructables, I have stained wood and then used sanding sealer for added protection. I didn’t think it was necessary this time around since the sign is going to be hung indoors.
Step 6: Painting the Wood
I wanted to give the wood a light coat of paint to really make it pop on the wall. You may be wondering then why I stained the wood. I’m going for a worn, distressed look on the sign, so I will be sanding back a lot of the paint and revealing the wood underneath. I brushed on 3 coats of CraftSmart Matte Acrylic paint and let it dry. A quick tip for impatient people like me; you can speed up the drying time of paint considerably by running a hair dryer over the surface.
Once the paint was dry I was able to distress the piece so that it looked old and worn. I purposefully didn’t paint the sides of the wood so that I could sand down the top edges and make it look like the paint had worn away. I used sandpaper to run over the edges of the wood and the face until I was satisfied with the amount of paint that was left.
Step 7: Stenciling the Design
I found an anchor design I liked on Google and imported it into Microsoft Word to adjust its size and add the text. After printing it out and test-fitting it on the wood, I used some double sided tape to temporarily hold it in place while I put the nails in.
Step 8: Nailing in the Design
I hammered a bunch of small nails through the paper template and into the wood around the outline of the anchor. I already had these nails in my basement, but if you have to buy some, any kind of nail will work as long as it can be driven into the type of wood you are working with. Try to pick a nail size that is appropriate for the size sign you are making (large sign = large nails and vice versa).
Step 9: Painting the Text
Before I continued with the anchor I wanted to finish the painting by adding the text. There are multiple ways of adding text to your signs (freehand, stencil, sticker, etc), but I chose to create a stencil since I thought it would yield the cleanest look.
Now I could use white paint to brush in the text. This is where mistakes were made :/ I applied 3 heavy coats of paint and used my hairdryer to try to speed up the drying process. When I thought everything was dry, I tried peeling the tape off of the sign, but the paint actually peeled up with the tape! The paint never adhered to the wood, but rather to the painter’s tape, and it all peeled off in one piece. Luckily I could see the outline of the letters from when I cut the stencil out with my Xacto blade, so I simply used a brush to freehand the text. I’m actually really pleased with the way it came out! Any areas that I messed up, I used the Xacto blade to scrape away the white paint. Once it was dry, I sprayed 2 coats of Krylon Flat Clear Coat over the entire sign.
Step 10: Stringing the Design
Finally I made it to the fun part! I used white string to fill in my design, but you can use whatever color of string, twine, or yarn will look best for your sign. I started by tying one end of the string around the bottom nail and cutting off a very long length of the string. I then worked my way around the outside of the anchor to create an outline.
I wrapped the string once around every nail instead of just the corner ones so that it wouldn’t unravel. This is very tedious, and it will come undone at some points, but stick with it and use pliers or tweezers to help you. I ended up going around the perimeter of the anchor twice to really establish the outline. I then tied the end to the beginning part of the string that was left over from the first knot.
Now you get to fill in the design! I tied one end of another long piece of string to a nail and began zig zagging my way through the interior of the anchor. I tried to cover the entire shape while making sure that I was alternating directions and criss crossing the string that was already there. Once I achieved full coverage (which took quite a long time) I tied cut the string to length and tied it around a nail.
Step 11: Hanging the Sign
Since I really liked the aesthetic of hanging a sign with a rope like in my Outdoor Sign Instructable, I decided to do it again. Last time I fed the rope through holes in the sign, but I didn’t want to have to drill holes in this sign.
I opted instead to hammer in some metal staples to hold the rope. I also stuck felt pads with an adhesive back to the bottom corners of the sign on the back side to prevent it from scratching the wall when its hung. Finally, I hammered a nail into the wall in the bathroom where I wanted it to go and hung the sign! You might feel inclined to use a stud finder and hang your sign on a stud in the wall, but mine was light enough that it wasn’t necessary. If you don’t have a stud in the spot you want to hang your sign, and you’re worried about the weight of it, you can use drywall anchors for more support.
Step 12: Conclusion
Overall I am really happy with how this sign turned out! I have a few changes in mind if I decide to make another one, but I think it looks great, and it’s perfect for the decor in the bathroom. This project was all done in one day, and it actually didn’t cost me any money since I already had all of the tools and materials I needed.
This is a great project that can be scaled up to make larger wall art for a living room or finished basement. The possibilities for designs and colors are endless, so pick something that interests you and start making it!