How to Make Wooden Signs and How to Stencil on Wood

How to Make Wooden Signs and How to Stencil on Wood: featured image of completed project

By Carole West

Gardening with flair begins by expressing our creativity. In my new book, Startle Garden, I have an entire chapter dedicated to adding garden flair, and it was probably the most fun to write because it’s where inspiration comes to life! Don’t get me wrong; I love establishing a garden, planting and caring for a space, but when the garden is resting between the seasons, I also enjoy looking at something that lifts my soul during those dreary days. Think about it, an empty or resting raised bed is kind of depressing. In this article, I’m going to show you how to make wooden signs, including how to stencil on wood, so your planting spaces inspire even when they’re resting.

Bare planters without before how to make wooden signs and how to stencil on wood project is started.

On our farm, we have a fenced-in cozy backyard; I call it the animal-free zone. A few years back I made these trio planters from reclaimed wood. This project was so easy to build and I loved that it came together using leftover wood from previous projects. Those building instructions can be found here.

After a couple years, these planters needed a little pick up. With spring here and summer around the corner, the rose is reaching out with new growth, the pansies are blooming for joy because they made it through winter, and the scabiosis is just excited because it loves spring in Texas. With this activity, each box offers promise for natural beauty to blossom. But those planters were missing something, so I decided to give them a little “startle.” I did this by making a couple wooden signs using stencils. This is an easy project and anybody can learn how to stencil on wood and how to make wooden signs for your garden space.

Cedar fence board and pine plank ready for stenciling on wood.

How to Make Wooden Signs for Your Garden: A Step-by-Step Guide

I started with scrap wood because we always have additional pieces lying around. I used a combination of cedar fence boards and pine planks. Keep in mind that any type of wood will work; just keep it simple. The following list of supplies can be purchased online or at any craft store like Hobby Lobby or Michaels.

Collect Your Stencil Supplies

  • Black chalk paint
  • Letter Stencils – Any Craft Store or Online
  • Painters Tape
  • Stencil Brush – I love Martha Stewart Brushes
  • Piece of wood – for paint pallet
  • Screws and nails for sign assembly

Board with screws on it, ready to become a wooden sign with stenciling for the garden.

Make the Sign Details

  1. Cut the wood to the desired length.
  2. Sand each board if necessary.
  3. Stencil the boards with something that inspires.
  4. Attach both boards together from the back side using screws.
  5. Continue reading because I’m going to walk you through the stencil process.

Wooden signs next to a paint brush used for stenciling.

How to Stencil on Wood

Stenciling signs is fun and is the key for how to make wooden signs; the main thing to remember is this: “Less is best!” Now let me explain how to stencil on wood in the following steps.

  1. You should begin with a small wood pallet and dab it with paint.
  2. Load your brush and then stroke off the excess paint onto the pallet.
  3. Meanwhile, secure the stencil to the wood by using painter’s tape.
  4. Lightly dot the area you want to transfer and reload the brush when necessary.
  5. Remember: Less is best. This will keep the transfer from bleeding through.
  6. When the transfer is complete, remove the stencil.
  7. I would also recommend doing a practice stencil if this is a new skill.

Recently painted stenciled letter on wooden sign.

With this project, I was using paper stencils from Waverly. These are very inexpensive and if stored correctly can be used several times. I stenciled each letter, and before I knew it, the word “Garden” was transferred correctly.

Using painter's tape while painting wooden signs with bird stencil.

On the Startle board, I stenciled the back board first. Additional tape was necessary because I wasn’t using the entire stencil and didn’t want the other parts to transfer. This is a helpful tip as sometimes stencil cuts are close together, making it easy for the brush to bleed through.

When I was finished stenciling the back board I followed through with the word “Startle” just as I did with “Garden.” Within minutes I had two signs ready to display!

Completed and stenciled wooden signs next to finishing nails and hammer.

Installing the Signs

Installation is a breeze because all we’re doing is taking three finishing nails and hammering these signs directly to the planters. I recommend starting the nail into the main board first until it’s almost through and then connecting it to the planter.

Wooden sign that has been stenciled with worde Garden and is attached to a garden planter box.

Garden Flair is Complete

Beginning with “Garden” you can see this simple sign made from scrap wood adds a level of interest that wasn’t there before. It’s like a new planter box!

Both completed stenciled wooden signs attached to planter boxes

By enhancing this quiet space with garden flair, these “Startle Garden” signs offer an element of surprise year-round. Now that you know how to make wooden signs and how to stencil on wood, you can stay inspired and be reminded that gardening always lives on.

How to Make Wooden Signs (and How to Stencil on Wood!): Startle Garden Learn More

Startle Garden is a guide to growing your best garden. It’s that one book that gets you moving forward from the foundation up, and it’s complete with workbook pages. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned gardener this book is full of advice passed down from one generation to the next.

The final completed project showing how to make wooden signs and how to stencil on wood.

About the author:
Carole West lives on a small farm in North Texas with her husband. She is a freelance writer, author of Quail Getting Started, Startle Garden and Sponges on a Vine. She shares advice about gardening, raising quail, and building projects on her blog

Fun garden decor can put a smile on your face, regardless of how much space you have! If you’re a city-dweller, be sure to check out our article on gardening tips for urban homesteading.

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