DIY Sign Making Part Two: The Billboard


imageToday’s challenge: to scale up the Atwood Inn logo to fit on the 8′ x 16′ road sign. Our budget: the usual $0.

imageMaterials: plastic baggies, tape, hair tie and rubber band, scissors, Sharpie, recycled cardboard, duct tape. All stuff we had around the house.

imageI printed 6″ letters on paper using Publisher and WordArt. We cut up the plastic bags, taped the letters underneath them and traced the outlines with Sharpies. (hint: I printed 2 1/2 letters on every second sheet so we could use the overlap to align and space the letters correctly.)

wpid-20150929_203932.jpgMeanwhile, Dave cut up a box and taped the seams to make the projector.

imageHe cut a 7″ x 7″ window on one end to lay the transparencies over.

imageHe cut a much smaller opening at the opposite end. He and Lexi devised a phone mount using a hair tie and bobby pins. He then switched on the flashlight app and tested it by projecting the first two letters on the living room wall. It worked!

imageWith the projector mounted onto an extendable pole, we took a pack walk outside to see if we could project the letters directly onto the billboard without going through the stencil making step.

imageWe determined that while we could direct it at the billboard, that method would require waiting until dark for the image to be visible enough to trace. We didn’t want to wait that long to start the actual painting, so back inside we went.

imageDave cut a 12′ long strip from a large cardboard box. We snapped parallel chalk lines 24 inches apart, then straddled a ladder over it. Dave laid the projector over the ladder hinges, which provided the perfect distance for magnifying the letters to size.

imageWe traced the outlines onto the long piece of cardboard, scooching the board to the left as we switched from one transparency to the next.

This part didn’t take long, but cutting out the letters took a little doing. Dave’s razor knife helped, but an X-acto knife or rotary cutter would have been handy here. Serrated kitchen knives worked OK, too.

imageWe separated “ATWOOD” from “INN” and headed back outside with our giant cardboard stencils.

imageDave mounted the stencils onto the billboard with small screws.

image Dave did all the ladder work. I just kept him company.

image imageOnce he had the letters traced, he began painting them in.

image Almost there…

It was near dark and getting cold, but he made it!

imageNext, it’s over to the North side to do it again. Then we’ll add the lamp post and additional wording.

We try to do at least one thing to move the project forward every day, and for the most part, it’s working. The property really appears to be shaping up, and we’ve been getting great responses from our guests and our neighbors. When it feels particularly slow going or I start to worry about money, I remind myself how far we’ve come on so little, and in such a short time. Before & After pics help.

Did you know that Eva Mann made the original “MOTEL” and “Office” signs out of styrofoam she chiseled herself? 35 years later, those signs are still hanging. All we need to do is replace one “f” and apply fresh paint and they’ll be good as new.

Perhaps someday we’ll be able to afford vinyl letters and other luxuries. Until then, here’s to Making Do like it’s 1979.