How to Start Wood Sign Making with Scrap Wood


Hi friends! Cynthia here, starting on a project that’ll end up in a really gorgeous angel wings wood carving.  Now, because of the carving on top, this may be a more advanced wooden sign, but honestly, wood sign making can actually be really easy!  

Plus, when you have lots of scrap wood, creating a wooden sign is really inexpensive …even free!  Wood signs are a great way to use up some of that extra wood lying around your garage too.  Want to know how to make an easy wood sign using scrap wood?  Keep on reading for this beginner-friendly, step by step DIY woodworking tutorial.

wood sign making

How to Start Wood Sign Making with Scrap Wood

Now, when you’re making wood signs, you have lots of choices on what you want the finished product to look like.  You can:

Bottom line though, before you put words or design onto your sign, you first need to make a backer.  That is, you need to make the main wooden sign piece on which you’ll paint or carve.

For me, using scrap wood to create a planked wooden sign backer is a great way to go.  Why?  LOTS of reasons!

Why Start a Project with a Planked Wood Sign as a Backer?

There are lots of reasons to start with a planked sign when creating a project.

First, these easy planked signs are super versatile and can be used for a number of different kinds of craft and woodworking projects. You can paint them, glue flowers onto them, carve into them with a Dremel or a CNC machine like an x-carve, or add vinyl stencils. So many different kinds of signs can be made using planked wood signs as backers!

Second, these planked wooden signs are CHEAP to make. For this project, I actually didn’t purchase any wood. I just used up the scrap boards from the heap of extras tucked into the corner of the garage.

If you didn’t have scrap wood, you can always grab some inexpensive building lumber from a lumberyard or big box store. I usually buy cheap pine from Home Depot since it’s the closest store to me.

Compared to using more expensive materials like walnut, planked wood signs made from inexpensive material like pine provide a great, budget-friendly starting point for a project.

Third, I love carving into planked wood because the planked boards give a really pretty rustic, farmhouse style feel. I’m a HUGE fan of worn, weathered, distressed decor. And when I use planked wood, I can create that look pretty easily.

How to Make a Planked Wooden Sign Step by Step

Good news: planking boards to start a project is one of the easiest things you can do! And you really don’t need that many tools to create the project backer.

For this project, I created a planked wooden sign for a carving project. The finished sign measured 15 by 17 inches. To create a similar project, you’ll first need to gather your materials.

Materials Needed

  • Wood or Scrap Wood (I used a variety of sizes, including 1×2 inch, 1×3 inch, and 1×4 inch wood)
    Wood glue
  • Saw (I used my miter saw, but you could use a hand saw as a cheaper option)
  • Brad nailer (I used this brad nailer, but you could use a nail and hammer as a cheaper option)
  • Square (I used these cool square guides from Rockler Woodworking. You can also use a ruler to line up your edges and eyeball to make sure boards are square)


Step 1: Cut Wood to Length

To start, you’re going to need to determine your measurements. I knew I wanted my sign to be 15 by 17 inches. So I knew each board needed to be 15 inches in length. If you’re using a similar-sized project, follow along. Otherwise, adjust how you’d like your sign to look!

Cut your first board to length. Then, line up that board along the other boards as a template. Mark your board lengths and cut your segments to length.

wood sign making

wood sign making

wood sign making

Step 2: Arrange Your Boards

If you’re using different sized boards, arrange them how you’d like. I put the smaller and larger boards in a random order to give variation in the project.

Make sure you’ve cut enough boards to get the overall length you want.

For my project, I wanted the planked sign to be 17 inches tall. So I cut and arranged enough boards for it to be the right overall size.

wood sign making

Step 3: Sand Your Boards (Optional)

I wanted my planked wood sign to have a weathered look to it. So I decided to sand each board to round over the edge before assembling it.

Using my Ryobi corner sander, I sanded each board individually. I then reassembled and “dry fit” my boards together how I wanted them to go.

wood sign making

Step 4: Cut Your Back Frames

This project is held together with two wooden boards on the back, running up and down each side of the sign.

Cut two boards the length of your sign. My sign was 17 inches tall so I cut my back framing boards to length.

wood sign making

Step 5: Glue and Nail Your Sign Together

To assemble your sign and connect your boards, you’ll need wood glue and a nail gun. I have this Ryobi brad nailer, which works great.

You can also use a nail and hammer, which works just the same. Only a little more muscle needed.

Put glue on the back of the two backing boards and line them up along the edges of your boards.

Make sure your boards look square (or use a square if you have one)! And, using your nailer, nail your backing boards to your planked boards.

Use enough nails to make sure your boards are secured well. I used two nails per board.

wood sign making

Step 6: Finish Your Wood Sign

This is the fun part!  Like I said at the beginning of this post, you have ALOT of options when it comes to finishing your project.  

You can:

Using existing designs as inspiration or templates for tracing is a great way to start.  You can visit the Home Beautifully resource library to grab free printables to trace and paint.  Honestly, that’s how I first started making wood signs, and I still have a number of these signs hanging in our home.  I love them!

Pop a comment or question below.  I hope this tutorial was helpful to you!  Be sure to tag me on Instagram so that I can see and share your work!

As always, lots of love from my house to yours!  ~Cynthia

wood sign making