Monday, December 28, 2015

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How to Make a State-Shaped "Vintage" Sign


I've been working on decorating my breakfast nook, and after I (well, Frank) installed an antique schoolhouse light, I felt the space needed another vintage element. The large blank wall was practically begging for a vintage sign, except for one problem: The authentic ones are crazy-expensive.

I wasn't willing to spend a few hundred bucks on a sign for my kitchen. Plus, I wanted something personal: a sign advertising a spot in my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, or in my current town, Westminster, Maryland. I couldn't find anything that fit the bill.

So I decided to make a sign of my own.

Again, I didn't want to spend much money, so I decided to poke around underneath the porch of my 100-year-old house, hoping I'd find the perfect piece of wood. I found a long board that was angled at the ends, in a shape reminiscent of Tennessee. This was all the inspiration I needed.

I used a pencil to freehand the outline of Tennessee on the board, then had Frank cut it out with a jigsaw (specifically, a variable speed orbital jigsaw). While cutting it, he discovered my "antique" board was actually some sort of dense plastic, probably from the construction of our deck. So much for salvage wood! But it still worked!

Now: What to paint on my sign? 

Down the road from where I grew up was a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called the Court Cafe. I decided to paint the name of the place on my sign, along with the word "Knoxville" and a picture of a pie.

The inspiration for my sign. The Court Cafe closed several years ago, but it now lives on in my kitchen!

I have a cabinet full of wall paint samples, so in keeping with my low budget, I decided to make do with these. 

But first, I had to find a font. I chose "DIN Condensed," for its vintage look. (If you want to make sure your font is truly from the era of your "vintage" sign, check out this database.) I started by painting the board a light gray (I used "Notre Dame" by Valspar).

Laying out my letters.
Then I printed the letters out on several sheets of paper, and instead of spending money on carbon paper, simply scribbled on the backside of the paper with a dark drawing pencil. I placed the paper on top of the board, used the same pencil to trace the outline of the letters, and voila, the lead on the back transferred to the board.

I used a small brush (size 6) to fill in the letters with white paint, then after they dried, used a gold Sharpie oil-based paint pen to outline them.

The painting begins!
I printed out a drawing of a pie, and as I did with the letters, scribbled on the back and traced the outline of the pie to transfer it to the board. I used more leftover paint from my basement (navy blue for the filling, beige for the crust, dark beige for shadowing on the crust, and light blue for the pan). I outlined the whole thing with the gold paint pen, then used a white paint pen to draw accents on the pan.

Finally, I used 40-grit sandpaper to rough up the whole thing, even my carefully painted letters and pie. Frank bought some D-ring hooks (the only part of the project that cost us anything), then hung it up, giving my breakfast nook the perfect vintage touch! 


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