Farm sign DIY in ten simple steps

So Sheri’s birthday is this week and what do you get the woman who gives you the best living situation possible for you a dog and a pony?? Fun t-shirts and C4 belts and other little things were just not cutting it. But I’m a poor. Who has a shopping issue, which is totally besides the point!

I may be low on the gift giving funds however I did graduate from art school and I have access to a lot of tools. So making an official farm sign it is. If you are like me and are OCD about DOING THINGS THE RIGHT WAY DAMNIT NO MATTER THE TIME INVOLVED then by all means read on. If you are someone who is sane and would rather (smartly I might add) just buy what you want then feel free to just tell me I’m a raging lunatic. You’re not wrong.


A dad who builds custom cabinetry for a living (this one is most important)

3/4 inch MDO in the size desired (Medium Density Overlay plywood, which is going to be your most cost effective option for exterior grade wood signage material. Otherwise you are looking at cedar as your best bet)

Panel saw (you could also use a plain table saw, but since I have my dad at my disposal along with his entire woodshop, we went with the panel saw)

Band saw (could also use a jigsaw, or if you are smart and the shape you choose is rectangle you can stick with the table saw)

Stationary belt sander (regular sandpaper works just as well, but you know, its less noisy and slower)

Slow set epoxy

Exterior grade oil based primer

Exterior grade latex paint (oil based is better if you can find it, but you won’t have issues putting a latex paint over an oil primer)

4 conduit straps for attaching said sign to the gate

Various brushes, mini rollers, a design in mind


Step one:

Dad at the panel saw making my sign nice and square. This is only about 1/4 of his shop. Too big to photograph.

After you have your materials and the size/shape of the sign chosen, have Dad trim the edges with the panel saw to make sure it is truly square. This is because in any woodworking if your wood isn’t actually square it throws everything off. Doesn’t matter that you aren’t actually constructing anything. Perfection is the only way we roll. Now draw on and cut the arch with the bandsaw, it won’t be perfectly smooth but that’s ok.

Step two:

Using the belt sander smooth out any imperfections on the arch. Be sure to do this several times and continually stand back and discuss areas that aren’t perfect. Fix them.

Step three:

Take the epoxy and some sponge brushes and thoroughly coat the exposed edge of the plywood. Like three or 4 coats thoroughly. This is just to provide a little extra protection against the elements. It may make no difference at all in the life of the sign, but still. Do it anyways.

Step four:

Oil based primer stinks, so try not to get high off it ok?

Now you can take the sign home from the shop and get to the fun stuff. But first, lightly sand off the epoxied edge to remove any dust or dog hair that got stuck on it as it dried. Then use the oil based primer (a much better sealant then a latex primer) and proceed to put on no less then three coats. We want this sign to last!

Step five:

FINALLY you can start to put paint on. I picked white for my base color, so I just used a mini roller (no brush strokes for Megan) and would do a light sanding between coats (no dust or other rough spots for Megan). Again, put on about three to four thin coats.

Step six:

Pencil on the backside

I just typed up the lettering in the fonts I wanted in Word, then printed them out and taped it together. Because only the weak use stencils ok? There are no weaklings here. Flip your taped together “sign” over and use a pencil to color on all the backside.

Step seven:

I know, I said use painters tape when I very clearly used scotch tape. It worked. No paint was ruined.

Mark your center point on the paper and use a T-square to line it up perfectly on the sign. Make sure it is centered and square, then use painters tape to tape it down. Now you can trace the letters using a good amount of pressure on the pencil. Once you take the paper away, voila! Your design has now been transferred. So easy right?

Step eight:

The He-Man blanket was an important supply I did not list. I’m certain it helped me make clean lines. You need one.

Get your other paint color (went with a navy blue) and a decent quality paintbrush. I prefer a smaller size brush with long bristles. The nicer the brush the cleaner your lines will be, because the bristles will stay together much better. Now you can go ahead and carefully paint on your design. Be sure to rinse your brush a lot, latex paint will ruin them if left on too long, and it will make the brush all clumpy so you end up with much crappier edges. Don’t worry too much if you make a little mistake, you can always take white paint and clean it up later.

Step nine:

Sunny judging me from the couch. She’s pissed I was painting PAST OUR BEDTIME.

Add some more words and some more stuff. In this case I went with grape vines and a horseshoe. Because winos live here. Consider doing a border but then remember that you suck at long straight lines so just paint the edge blue to give a similar effect.

Step ten:

Be sure to put this up at 10:30pm with a questionable drill and probably the wrong size conduit straps. Try not to worry about it because the important part is having it on the gate for the birthday morning surprise and you can always secure it better later. That is if it doesn’t fall and break overnight. We’ll find out soon enough.

Just for fun, use a spray clear coat because you can just never be too protected from the rainy Seattle weather. Then to affix on the gate, measure the poles and buy the appropriate size conduit straps. Grab a second person to make sure you are centered and straight, then drill the straps in place with 1/2 inch screws. Don’t get longer screws guys, remember your MDO is only 3/4 inch thick. Screws pointing out the other side is not a good look.


And now you are done! Admire your handiwork and give yourself a pat on the back. An easy peasy ten step project complete.



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