Over the last few weekends, my in-laws and I have been working on a sign for our new cottage in Harrington, Quebec. We're calling it "Casa Di Tota," which means "home of Di Tota's" in Italian, which they are. We did quite a bit a research into having the sign custom-built, but came to the conclusion that a homemade sign would have the right personal touch. The sign will be a gift for my (soon to be) father-in-law to mark his birthday and retirement. As the cottage's framing and insulation came to a wrap this past long weekend, we were excited to take a break to reveal of our homemade sign and indulge in some much-needed celebration.
If you're interested in making your own sign, read all about our process below.
Here's what we used to make the sign:
Materials and Tools
- Three red cedar 2" x 4"
- Exterior wood glue
- Wood paint
- Paint brushes
- Safety glasses
- Measuring tape and pencil
- Circular saw
Once we finalized our size, shape and design, it was time to get to work. Safety glasses on!
Step 1: Cut the wood
We cut three 2" x 4"s in half to give us an overall size of 24" x 48", allowing for extra space for our final size and shape.
Step 2: Glue the wood together
We placed each piece of wood side-by-side, and made sure the grain on each piece was alternated from the next — grain up, grain down, grain up, grain down. This will prevent the sign from warping over time. After the pieces were glued together (keeping them as level as possible), we used tension clamps to hold the boards tight and left the sign to dry overnight. The next morning we gave the board a nice sanding to smooth out the surface.
Step 3: The design
My fiancé's brother is a graphic designer. He took the design we drafted on paper and made a proper stencil by printing it out on tiled paper. We taped the stencil together, cut out our design and traced it on the board. This was much easier then trying to sketch it out!
Step 4: More cutting
Clamping the board down to the workbench, we cut out the sign using a jigsaw. You can see the cut lines we made here in this photo.
Step 5: Sanding
We sanded down the oval edge to make it nice and smooth. We wanted to keep a squared corner so we made sure the keep the sander as level as possible while sanding around the edge of the sign.
Step 6: Router time
Safety glasses back on! After getting a feel for the tool using a tester piece, we began carving out the letters. We picked a router bit that was the right width for our text, selected an appropriate depth and started carving. We changed the bit to a larger one to carve our little landscape, and decided not to carve the leaves since the smallest bit we had would make them look more like blobs.
Step 7: Dremel the edges
The text style we wanted required squared edges rather than round, so we used the dremel tool to square them off. This took some serious time and a steady hand. The speed of the tool also made it very easy to slip, leaving unsightly marks across the board. We gave the sign a quick sand to remove any frayed edged the tools left behind.
Step 8: Start painting
Once we were pleased with our carving it was time to start painting. We used regular wood paint from a craft store and a small, flat-edge paintbrush. Starting on the bottom of the carvings we then worked the paint carefully up the side edges. We added some contrast to the leaves with two tones of green, and decided to leave the border unpainted for a subtle detail.
Step 9: Finishing coat
For the last and final step we applied a fast-drying polyurethane coat to seal and protect the sign. We started with the outer edge, then filled in the tree and land. We worked our way out with thin layers, being careful not to create any bubbles. After the first coat dried, about 5 hours, we gave the surface a light sanding and applied another thin coat. The next morning we did the same to the back.
I'm so pleased with all the hard work we all put into making this. I only hope it will last as long as the cottage!
Visit our DIY & Home Improvement guide for more fun cottage projects.