Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DIY: Chiseled Wood Letters

Since we moved in, I have had plans to make a plaque for the outside of our house that has our house number and street name on it.  Our house is on the corner of two streets, but both the front door and driveway are on the street that isn't our address, so it gets very confusing for people when they are trying to visit and even confusing for the USPS, FedEx, and UPS.  

I originally wanted to use metal letters and numbers mounted on a piece of wood, but all of the metal letters that I found were too whimsical or fancy, let alone really expensive!  I searched high and low for some modern and simple looking wooden letters but was unable to find any that were the size I was looking for and weren't out of this world in price - and then I went to Hobby Lobby!

I found some wooden letters, and while they weren't exactly what I was looking for, they were the perfect size, and the wood was soft enough that I could chisel away what I didn't want to make them look exactly the way I wanted them to look. 

With four letters per package, and only $1 per package (and I got them for $0.64 each on sale!), I was able to save a lot of money, and for an additional $5 (or $3 with a 40% off coupon!), I grabbed the chiseling tool set that I found in the wood-crafts aisle.  I started by removing all of the little bubbles at the ends of the letters.  Using the chisel tool, all I had to do was press straight down into the letter and it would make a crease in the wood.  A little elbow-grease and the piece of wood would just separate.  This made it so much easier. 

After removing the little bubbles at the ends of the letters, I made some eye-measurements to determine the shape of each letter, penciled it onto the wood, and just used the chisel to remove the extra wood on each letter.  

It took me about two hours to do all of the letters, making sure that they were all just about the same size and each "pencil line" was the same width.  

Once you have all of the letters chiseled out in the shape that you want, use some medium-grit sandpaper just to soften the edges and remove any splintered pieces.  

Next, you can feel free to keep the wood raw, or you can stain or paint it.  Since I already have purchased black numbers for the board, I wanted to paint the letters black too.  I prepped the letters by wiping off the dust from the sandpaper, then I spread them out on my go-to spray painting surface - a lawn bag.  

Starting with the can of spray paint about 12" away from the letters, begin spraying, moving back and forth over the surface area so that you get an even coat.  

Make sure to move the spray paint can around to different angles, that way you can guarantee that you are getting paint on the sides of the letters.  

Once that coat of paint is dry, move your letters to a new spot on your painting surface and add another coat.  

Let the second coat of paint dry and evaluate whether or not you need to add a third coat. My letters looked perfect with just two coats of paint.  Depending on what you will be using the letters for, you may want to spray the backside as well.  Since my letters will be mounted to a board, I didn't feel it was necessary to paint the backs. 

Since the letters I am using are wood and will be exposed to the elements, I wanted them to be protected.  I decided to pick up a can of spray-polyurethane to go over the coats of paint.

I once again spread my letters out on the yard waste bag (I used the other side this time) and got to work putting on the polyurethane, just like I had the spray paint.  

Once I had all of the letters sprayed, I moved them slightly on the bag just to make sure that when they dried, they didn't dry stuck to the paper bag.  Depending on the surface you are using to spray on, you may not need to do this. I just didn't want any pieces of paper stuck to my letters.  

Let the polyurethane dry according to the can directions - mine said it was ready for a second coat after one hour.  Add another coat as you feel necessary - I did a total of three coats since that was what was recommended for exposure to elements and harsh environments.  Also, don't forget to spray the backside if you also painted that side.  

And that's that!  Now, you will have to wait a bit to see the letters on the board along with the house numbers.  I am currently in the process of stealing borrowing my grandfather's table saw since he is 87 and will not should not be using it anymore.  I can't wait to finish up this project!

What have you used wooden letters for? Have you ever chiseled your own to fit your style?

Please Note: For the privacy of my family, I will be showing all of the letters arranged in alphabetical order instead of using my actual street name.


meason98 said...

awesome! I can't wait to see the final product!!!

Sharon - said...

Beautiful... and something I may just try for my very old new home! Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

This is great!! We are renting now, but I would love to do this when we purchase our home :)

Unknown said...

So cool!!!!
I sued wooden letters in the nameplate I made for Addie's bedroom... but I didn't change them- just added paint!

Anonymous said...


Mands @ Rhody Life said...

Thanks everyone! I can't wait to show it to you, and for people to be able to find my house!

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