These DIY wood farmhouse signs are easy to make. Make a farmhouse sign for every season (you can even make them double sided!) or make a sign for a gift! If you want a large sign to hang on the wall, or a small sign to style a bedroom dresser, here’s how to make a wood sign!
These signs are some of my favorite farmhouse decor in my home. They are easy to make, and you don’t need any fancy tools to make them!
These homemade DIY wooden signs consist of a plywood or MDF back, a simple frame and then the design you want on the sign.
The simple wood frame is my favorite part about these signs. It’s rustic but modern. It’s simple and easy to make.
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Tips for Making a Wood Sign
Have Home Depot Cut the Wood for You
If you don’t have a saw at home, ask the employees at Home Depot to cut the wood down to size for you.
Keep in mind that they have certain regulations. For safety reasons, they can’t rip boards that they deem too small. So ask an employee to see if they are allowed to cut a certain board for you.
Also, they aren’t always the most accurate cutters. Just keep that in mind if you really want everything to be accurate.
Plywood VS MDF
You can use any type of wood for this project, but my go-to types are plywood or MDF.
I don’t like to use a nice piece of wood because it’s just getting painted. Plus, nice wood is more expensive.
Plywood comes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. But it is also rough. There are a lot of divets and character in the wood.
So if you want a super smooth sign, you’ll want to go with this MDF. It’s a bit cheaper, and also comes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses.
For a large 24″ x 48″ sign, I pick a pre-cut project panel that is 1/2″ thick. Project panels also come in 24″ x 24″. (Measure the pre-cut panel that you pick out, because it may vary in size a bit).
Most of the time I go with the plywood, just to keep it all wood.
Other Wood Options
For a different size, you can check out the edge-glued panel boards, or for smaller signs, you can use cheap 1″ whitewood common board of your choice (I believe they are available in 2″ increments from 2″ to 12″, which is really about 1.5″ to 11.25″ wide)
Do you have to prime?
If you want the background of your sign to be white, make sure to use this stain-blocking primer on the plywood before painting. Otherwise, any knots (or random spots) on the plywood will turn the paint a brownish / yellowish tint over time.
If you don’t use primer, it will definitely end up in more of a farmhouse rustic feel, so if that’s your thing, by all means, don’t prime.
MDF doesn’t need a stain-blocking primer, but it will soak up paint like no one’s business (especially on the sides, so don’t worry about painting the edges if you are going to frame it).
Either way, primer is cheaper in the long run, so if you have some on hand, use the primer first so you don’t have to use so much paint. That goes for plywood or MDF.
Chalk Paint vs Latex Paint
For the final layer of background paint, use chalk paint.
When it comes to painting the design or words onto the sign, a chalky and porous surface is the best for this method.
By all means, you can use latex paint, but you’ll spend a little more time painting on the design with a nonporous surface.
It will take at least 3 coats to get full coverage.
The Farmhouse Wood Frame
For the wood frame, I always go with the cheap 1″ x 2″ x 8′ furring strips. Their edges are a little bit rounded, and they have a lot of character!
It’s also usually time-consuming to pick some up because the pile is usually pretty warped or twisted.
Take some time to dig through the pile (or ask any employee to cut the band on a new section) for some straight furring strips. Your sign will look so much better when you do!
If you want something just a little nicer, they have 1″ x 2″ x 8′ common boards that have straight edges and are a little bit nicer.
Wood Frame Measurements
The exact measurements are going to change depending on what wood you use, and how big your sign is.
But here is how to figure out the measurements for your sign.
You need 4 pieces all together.
- 2 pieces the exact height of the sign.
- The other 2 pieces need to be the length of the sign + (2x) the thickness of the framing wood.
Example Measurements for a 24″ x 48″ sign (the size of the plywood).
These furring strips that I like to use are right around .656″ or just over 5/8″ thick (measure yours for the best results).
If your sign is 24″ tall, you need to cut 2 furring strips 24″ long.
And if your sign is 48″ long, you need to cut 2 more furring strips to be a hair over 49 1/4″ long. (48″ + 5/8″ + 5/8″).
A Hack for Staining the Frame
Staining the frame is pretty straight forward. But here’s a little hack to make it even faster!
(Before staining, make sure to sand the edges of the wood. They get splinters where they were cut, so you want to remove those before they become a sliver in your finger. Just sand with 220 grit sandpaper to remove them.)
The Hack! DIY Wood Stain
Instead of using regular stinky oil-based wood stain, grab a sample size container of brown latex paint. (I like to use a dark brown that has grey in it to create a weathered stain)
- Pour a little bit of the brown paint into a plastic cup.
- Then thin it out with water.
- Stir until completely mixed.
You want the consistency to be like a wood stain.
I never measure the water to paint ratio. You just want it to be thin like stain is.
Now use the watered-down paint as your stain!
- Brush the paint on.
- Immediately wipe it off with a lint-free rag.
It looks just like a stain, but it isn’t stinky and it dries really fast!
If you have wood stain on hand, by all means, go ahead with the wood stain. I just love how fast, not stinky, and not flammable the latex paint is to use as a stain.
I would tell you the exact color that I use for my latex paint stain, but my can is covered in paint, so I have no idea. Plus, my paint was a mixture of a brown paint and a grey paint.
But I checked out some paint swatches of colors that were similar to my mixture. They are Rare Wood (Marquee) and Bark (PPG).
*Note: This latex water-based stain doesn’t work well bigger surfaces. I only use this on small decor like the frames.
How to Attach the Frame to the Plywood
The most secure way of attaching the frame to the plywood sign is to nail it together.
- Lay the plywood on a flat surface.
I prefer to lay it close to the edge of my workbench or table. Line the frame up around the plywood to make sure it all fits together correctly.
- From the outside of the frame, nail the frame onto the plywood.
Make sure to not let the nail go through the front of the sign, and try not to let it go through and onto the back of the sign.
I like to lay the sign close to the edge so I can get a straight shot into the plywood.
This is why I choose 1/2″ plywood or MDF instead of a thinner piece of wood. 1/2″ gives me enough space to get a straight shot into the plywood.
Anything thicker than 1/2″ can get heavy if you’re making a large sign.
*Note: It’s easier to paint the design on the sign before attaching the frame to the sign.
If you don’t have a nail gun
The old nail and a hammer method works! Just grab some nails, and hammer them in!
Or you can glue the frame onto the plywood. Use clamps or a ratcheting tie-down strap, wrapped all the way around the frame, to hold the frame tight when the glue is drying.
*Note: If glued on, just be sure to not lift or hang the sign from the frame.
How to Paint a Farmhouse Sign
Click here to learn how to hand-paint a farmhouse sign, even if you have bad handwriting and no stencil required!
- Cut the plywood or MDF to the desired size.
- Cut the wood frame to size. Read the notes above for measurements.
- Sand the edges of the wood to remove splinters.
- Prime / Paint the plywood or MDF with at least 3 coats of paint.
- Stain the wood frame.
- Paint the desired design onto the painted plywood or MDF.
- Nail the frame onto the plywood. Read the notes above for tips.
Get exact measurements and tips for making a farmhouse sign above this step by step guide.
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