I was listening to the guys over at Made For Profit a while back and John Malecki cited a quote that just resonated with me. They were discussing how you can’t just do the minimum and expect to make any kind of real progress. To be successful, you have to “love the process.” I have no idea why that resonated with me so much, but it did. The first thing that came to mind was “I gotta put that on a sign for the shop!” So off I set to make my first pallet sign, which is something I never really thought I’d be interested in doing.
To be sure, any project should start with general direction, no matter how simple.
My idea was that I wanted this pallet sign to be awesome! Easy enough, right? I enlisted the help of my wife for some layout options of the text. Her inspiration ultimately lead me to this design, which I scaled to fit the space.
Tools and Materials
Drill (review here)
Reciprocating Saw (review here)
Wood/Metal Freud blade (this blade rocks!)
1/8″ Drill Bit (or something close)
Detail Paint Brush
#6 x 3/4 Flat Head Screws
Sanding Discs (I use Klingspor abrasives because they are far superior to most products and a good value, I’m not sponsored by Klingspor)
Finishing Cloth (A.K.A. old shirt)
Affiliate links above are provided as a convenience to help you purchase items I used for this project. Purchasing through these links does not cost you a thing and supports woodshopmike.com by helping to fund future projects!
Breaking Down A Pallet
My initial efforts of breaking down my pallet were less than fruitful. The approach of prying the boards off left me with a lot of split pieces of wood. So maybe don’t go this route…
The best part of all this is that Annabelle was in the shop cheering me on. Every time a board was cut free, she’d start clapping and yell “Yay Daddy!!!” It was great 🙂
Here’s my little helper checking out one of those pieces that split during the hammer and crowbar trials.
I didn’t want this sign to be uber huge, so I picked just a few pieces from the stack to give me the look I was after.
To keep with the theme of rough pallet wood, I chose a piece for the top and bottom that was split and then a full width piece for the center. I also made sure they were not equal length pieces. Then I just flipped the boards this way and that way until I was happy with the look.
Before I screwed the pallet sign together, I broke out the sander and smoothed off the edges and sides of each board. Just a few quick passes with a 120 grit disc was all it needed.
I cut a strip of a cross member from the pallet in half on the table saw and screwed each of the boards to them. I pre-drilled and countersunk the holes to prevent the screws from splitting the wood.
If you don’t have a countersink bit, no worries. Just use a larger drill bit before pre-drilling and you’ll create the same effect.
3/4″ flat head screws were used to assemble this sign.
Once things were assembled, I hit the entire pallet sign with the sander. I only used 120 grit and gave it a scant sanding so that most of the “character” is retained.
I used Minwax’s Jacobean stain to darken the sign. I applied it liberally, and once the stain had soaked in for a few minutes, I blotted the surfaces. This helped to create an uneven finish. After that I followed up with the sander again to remove some finish around the edges and across the surface.
Here’s a quick clip showing the process from the previous 3 steps. It’s awesome by the way 🙂
There are many options for applying graphics to this kind of surface, with the most popular being a vinyl overlay. The method I chose was a graphite transfer.
Since I couldn’t find my transfer paper, I achieved this by rubbing the back of a paper print out with a pencil and then tracing the printout with a ball point pen.
I was able to duplicate my design onto the sign and provide an outline for me to reference while painting the logo. You can barely see the outline I had to follow here.
Note: Since I’d stained the piece a dark color it was fairly difficult to see my outline. Next time I’ll use white transfer paper to make it easier to see my outline.
I used some detail brushes from my wife’s painting supplies (with permission, of course) to do the lettering. Since we’re in the middle of choosing trim paint for our house, we have a few samples laying around for me to work from. The color I ending up using was Benjamin Moore’s Simply White.
Let me say that while I’m very meticulous and detail oriented, this kind of painting is not my forte. The texture of the boards didn’t play well with my lack of practice using a paint brush. But by the end of painting the word “process” I was into a rhythm of accepting “good enough” and “that doesn’t look half bad.”
Here’s it hanging out on our back porch for a beauty shot:
The only thing left is to add some way of hanging the sign. I’ll probably just run some drywall screws through the front and… Nah I’m kidding 🙂
I kept it cheap and simple by using fishing line tied through 1/8″ holes I drilled in the strips on the back.
Thank you for reading; I hope it was helpful. Let me know if you make a similar sign and how the process worked out for you!
Suggestions on how this could have been made easier? Let me know!