Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Custom Family Sign

For Christmas, my brother, my sister-in-law, my husband and I used to exchange presents.  Now that we both have families, we skip our gifts and just do the god-parents gifts from the boys.  It's always tough to buy a gift for a couple without it being the standard restaurant gift certificate.  This year I decided I should make them something for their home, and make it personal.  One day it dawned on me.

My brother has a tattoo on his inner bicep that says "Familia Fortitudo Mea".  It means "Family is my strength" in latin. Bingo!  I would just have to change it to say "Family is our Strength" since it would be a family gift.

Sign installed

Oh, and of course I needed to have a helping hand from my husband.  My dear hubby cut me 2 pieces of wood, and we bought a router.  He routed out the edge to create a nice detail. While I was at it, I figured my client would also enjoy a sign for her new home, and her growing family. It would be a "Thank You" gift for their home.  I really don't care for much of the signage work out there, mostly because it's mass produced and is missing that hand made, old, worn look.  I knew that these signs were going to be very distressed, much like the Beaver Dam sign I did.

What better way to start out getting a distressed old sign, then letting my 3 year old go to town on the wood and paint it for me!! Yep, Kyle helped out. He wasn't feeling the banging with the tools part, but he loved to paint.  I left it in the capable hands of my assistant and her assistant, Kyle, to get it down. If I had actually watched, my OCD probably would have smoothed out the globs of paint he put on.  And I do mean globs, they paint was so thick in some areas I was able to smooth it with a putty knife 12 hours later and it was still wet. But it created the perfect under base.

Painting in the lettering.
The boards were first primed, then base coated a deep chocolate, then a Navajo White.  I used every kind of tool to beat them up.  Then I used the computer to create the designs and projected them onto the sign. I traced them in pencil.  The names were painted in a light grey, and I sanded them down.  The quote was painted in black. I went back with a heavy grit sandpaper and really took a lot of the paint off.

I worked on both side by side, easier to do them together.

Detail of letterings being sanded. 

Next step was this fabulous crackling varnish. It gives the look of old oil canvas paintings. I sprayed the
signs first with Damar Varnish and while tacky, brushed on the Cracking Varnish.  I sped up the drying process with the hairdryer. Like a kid in the candy store, I was ecstatic to see the cracks forming. The kit comes with a antiquing black. It is rubbed into the cracks with a dry cloth.  I sealed it all with a Flat Varnish, my "old" signs can't be shiny.

Close up of crackle. Love the different sizes!

I love how the antiquing part just emphasizes the distressing.
Both my client and my brother and sister-in-law were thrilled with their gifts. I was so happy that it went well and they loved them. Now I just have to work on more to try and sell!


  1. I want one, too! Just don't know what our sign should say ...

  2. I forgot to say that you are very lucky to have a willing, helpful, resourceful, and talented husband!

  3. This is really cute! I love it. Looks like it took quite a bit of work.

  4. Thank you Vicky, it wasn't that bad, I love small projects like this!