A couple of days ago I shared a Hot Cocoa bar I created out on my screened porch. The bar area included a sign I made that was inspired by a sign I had seen floating around blogland a few years back.
After not having any success locating a similar sign, I decided it was time to head downstairs to my basement workshop and make my own. (Inspiration sign and detail views of the Hot Cocoa Bar can be seen in yesterday’s post here: Create a Hot Cocoa Bar for Fall & Winter Entertaining)
A few years back I made a flag to hang on the porch for patriotic holidays, but this was my first attempt at sign-making.
One of the great things about making signs is you need very few supplies. I started with 1/4 inch plywood. You may remember when I made this Cubby Organizer. The back of the organizer was cut from plywood.
After cutting out the back, I still had a some left over. You can see it leaning against the wall in this photo from the organizer tutorial.
So the only other items needed to make the Hot Cocoa sign were: paint, dark brown furniture wax, paint brushes (medium size for sign and small for letters), sander or sandpaper, screwdriver, screws, letter templates-found online, cup hooks and an exacto knife.
I also used a jigsaw to cut the plywood down to the size needed, but you could use a circular saw or have the good folks at the hardware store cut your plywood to the size needed when you purchase it.
One of the most time-consuming parts of any project for me is the planning. My hutch is 40 inches wide and I wanted the sign to be a little smaller. In the end the sign came out to be around 39-1/4 inches wide…just right for the hutch.
Sign: For reference, the sign is 39-3/4 inches wide and 16 inches tall.
Large Letters: The large letters that spell out “Hot Cocoa” were around 5 inches tall and 4 inches wide, but after tracing and painting them, they averaged out around 5-1/4 inches tall and 4-1/2 to 5 inches wide on the sign itself. The reason the letters came out a bit bigger on the sign after painting is because I slightly painted over my tracing lines to hide those.
Small Letters: I already had some template cards for the small letters, bought years ago. They are 2 inch letters and measure around 1/4 inches wide. Again, they came out slightly bigger after painting.
Moose Hooks: Moose hooks were found in Hobby Lobby and measure 6 inches tall by 4 inches wide. Approximately 5 inches of each hook is on the board with about an inch hanging below it.
Mug: I free-handed the mug onto a very thick piece of cardboard and it measures, 8-1/4 inches tall including the steam. The mug itself is 5-1/4 inches tall by 4-1/2 inches wide, which includes the handle. The steam that trails up and off the board is 3 inches tall.
The mug turned out fine but if I were making this sign again, I’d probably make it a little fatter. The size you make your mug will depend on how much room you have between the “T” and the “C” and how much you don’t mind covering up the letters.
Before getting started, I cut the mug out of some super thick cardboard using scissors and an exacto knife. The exacto knife was definitely needed for the inside part of the handle and for getting down into the corners around where the steam billows up from the mug.
This mug went through several transitions. I wanted the mug to look metallic and rusty like it had in the inspiration sign, shown below.
I purchased a couple of these wax metallic products. They come in gold, brass and a bunch of other colors, but no rust. I guess there’s not a big demand for making something look like it has rusted. Ha! I tried the copper one and it was just too coppery. The more you work with this product, the duller it looks. So trying to mix in another color with it wasn’t working either.
Then I tried adding another brownish color called “Iced Expresso” on top of it, thinking they might sort of blend together to look rusty. Nope.
Finally, I decided to just spray the mug portion with Rust-Oleum black metallic paint and paint/scrape in the design I had seen on the inspiration sign. The reason I finally decided on the metallic black paint for the mug was because I realized my moose hooks were more black in color than rust-colored. The rusty-brown mug on the inspiration sign worked because the hooks they used were also rust-colored. But I think the black actually works better on my sign than rust would have. Sometimes things just work out for the best, no matter how I try to screw them up! Ha!
Before cutting the plywood, I placed the letter templates on the wood to get an idea what size the sign would need to be. The green paint is left over from where I repaired and made over a frog fountain a while back. (See that makeover here: Frog Fountain Makeover)
At first I was going to use the same phrase that had been on the original sign: Come on in and warm up! (I didn’t have enough of some letters so I substituted an “x” to hold the place of the missing letters.) I ultimately went with a different phrase all together, one from a favorite song.
Next I cut my plywood down to the size I had determined it needed to be. Both ends of the plywood I used were warped, so I cut the sign out of the center of the plywood.
On one of the edges I planned to cut off, I tested the paint I had purchased for the sign. I couldn’t decide between two shades of the gray and ended up getting some of both. I ultimately decided to go with the darker of the two colors shown below. Before beginning the painting process, I lightly sanded over the surface of the plywood for a smoother finish.
I knew at some point I would be distressing/aging my sign. Since I didn’t want blond-colored plywood showing through, I painted the plywood with two layers of the lighter gray color that I wasn’t planning on using on the surface. It had primer already in it, so there was no need to prime the wood first.
Next I applied two coats of red paint. The picture below was taken while the paint was drying in front of a fan.
Next I painted the lower part of the sign with the dark gray paint. There was a tremendous amount of measuring, plotting and angst that went into deciding exactly where to start the dark gray color on the sign. I wanted the red color to be the dominant color over most of the sign, just as it had been on the inspiration sign.
But the hooks they had used on the inspiration sign were much smaller than those I ultimately chose for my sign. I looked for small rusty hooks like those on the inspiration sign, but the only ones I found that were similar were brass-colored and too ornate.
Notice how the smaller phrase, Come on in and warm up! is on the gray part of the sign in the inspiration photo below. I really liked that but if had painted the gray paint up high enough on my sign to place both the phrase I had chosen AND my moose hooks atop the gray section of the sign, my sign would have ended up with as much gray coloring as red, maybe more. Not what I wanted.
So to keep from having too much gray, I had to put my phrase, Weather Outside Is Frightful, atop the red part of the sign. Depending on what hooks you choose and how prominent you want the red paint to be, you may need to adjust where the gray paint starts and where you place your phrase. It’s the little things like this that can bog you down on a project and zap your time. Hopefully seeing how I handled it will help speed the process up for you.
After finishing the painting, it was time to move on to plotting out the lettering. First I traced around my template letters and hand-painted the letters with latex paint purchased at the same time as the red and gray paint. I tried using some acrylic paint I already had, but after testing it on a letter, I could see it was going to take 3-4 coats to fully cover. The off white latex paint had primer built in and it only took two coats to fully cover.
Once that was in place, I begin tracing out and painting on the phrase below. Can you see the faint lines of where I had traced on the lettering? It took two coats of the white paint to fully cover.
Here’s how it looked when the lettering was all done. I went back and touched up the red in a few places.
I hadn’t planned on painting a border around my sign at this point, so I was ready to get busy installing the moose hooks. Before adding those to the sign, I went ahead and screwed on the D-Ring Hangers I chose for hanging the sign.
Let’s back up a bit. When I was plotting out the sign in the very beginning, I considered a couple of different hooks. I kind of liked these horseshoe/star hooks.
Ultimately, I decided the horseshoe/star was too western-themed and went with the moose hooks instead. The hooks were normally $4.99 each but I lucked out because they were on sale at 50% off making them just $2.50 each.
Before installing the moose hooks, I distressed the sign and the lettering in various places with my electric sander. You can do this by hand but I found it faster and easier to do with my electric sander set on a very low speed with “fine” grit sanding paper.
Next, I installed all the moose hooks spreading them out at an equal distance across the bottom of the sign. The hooks were another major decision point. I couldn’t decide if I wanted four hooks like on the inspiration sign (which I think is a smaller sign), five hooks which is an odd number and normally looks better in design, or six hooks which is the number of mugs I had. I ultimately went with what looked best to me and installed 5 hooks across the lower part of the sign. In the photo below, the cup wasn’t attached yet.
It wasn’t long after installing the hooks that I decided to add a border to my sign. I had thought about cutting a scalloped edge aroundthe sign similar to the one seen on the inspiration sign, but when I tested doing that on a scrap piece of plywood, I realized my jigsaw wouldn’t be able to curve in and out as steeply as I would have needed. So the border seemed like a good way to go.
Note: If you want to add a border to your sign, it’s easier to do that before adding on the hooks. It actually wasn’t that big a deal to add the border around the hooks but it would go a bit faster if you do that first. You can see in the picture below where I tested out adding a border down the left side of the sign, distressing/antiquing it to see how it would look.
You can see in the photo above and below where I was beginning to test out the antiquing/aging process on the “H” letter. That’s another good thing to do before installing the hooks. This was my first sign making attempt so it was definitely a learning process. I first tried a light brown furniture wax but it looked reddish on the white lettering. So I ultimately went with a dark brown color.
I really don’t like this part of sign making at all! It’s so hard for me to distress and antique lettering I just spent hours meticulously painting! The sign just wouldn’t have looked right all pristine and shiny new. It was the look of the inspiration sign I was going for, so I gritted my teeth and did it!
You can also see in the photo below where I attempted to draw on shadow lines like I had seen on the inspiration piece to give the letters more depth and more of that 3-D effect. I was noticing today that the lines aren’t near as visible now that I’ve antiqued the sign. I think I need to draw them back in again on the finished sign.
After painting on the border and distressing/aging my sign (and me a little in the process…ha!), it was time to add the mug to the sign. Since I wanted it to have the same 3-D look as the one on the inspiration sign, I used double-sided, adhesive foam pieces to attach it. Even though they were pretty thick, (I bought the thickest ones I could find) instead of using just one, I doubled them up.
Since they are sticky on both sides, I took two of the foam circles and peeled off the protective covering and stuck them to each other. That gave them double the thickness. Then I stuck them on the back of the mug I had made and stuck it on to the board.
That’s how I got the 3-D effect of the mug projecting out from the board.
Hope you enjoyed this post and found this tutorial helpful. This sign would be great to have up all fall and winter, not just at Christmastime. If you end up making this sign, I would love to see it!
See more of this Hot Cocoa Bar in this post where I share lots of closeup photos: Create a Hot Cocoa Bar for Winter Entertaining
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I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.