Have you seen those adorable vintage marquee signs on Pinterest and Etsy? Well, today I’m going to tell you how to make one! This was a big learning process so bear with me through the details. If you have any ideas or suggestions on how to make this project easier, prettier or cheaper, I welcome your input!
When embarking on this project I searched the internet tirelessly for a good tutorial. Unfortunately, I could only find DIY and How-To articles for letters and symbols made of foam and cardboard. I knew I wanted something more durable, so I set out to figure out how to do it the old fashioned way: trial and error.
Luckily, I was able to recruit my boyfriend, Andrew, to help on the project and, honestly, I couldn’t have done it without him. His keep mathematical skills, well stocked toolset and patience would be vital to getting the wonderful final product that we did!
To start, I had to decide what sort of shape I wanted to take on. I easily decided on an arrow. Sticking with straight lines and a symmetrical shape seemed like a good idea for a first attempt, plus, I am a Pi Phi and so I love to decorate with arrows!
Next, I gathered all my supplies. Well, not all of them. If I’m being completely honest, this project took a good three trips to the Home Depot, one to Target and another shopping venture on Amazon.com. Here is the list of tools and supplies you’ll need to create your own vintage marquee arrow:
- 2 pieces poster board, $0.99 each at Walmart
- Pre-cut Birchwood Board, Home Depot
- Nickel Furniture Nails, Home Depot
- Frosted Globe Lights, $9.49 on sale at Target
- DAP Contact Stik 2-1/2 ft. Adhesive Repair Strips, $4.98 at Home Depot
- 4×10″ Alumnium flashing, $3.23 on Amazon.com
- Extra long ruler or straight edge, $0.69 at Home Depot
- Drill and 1/4 inch drill bit
- Circular Saw or Jigsaw
- Grinding Point Tree, $3.47 at Home Depot (optional)
1. Trace - Using your computer or free hand, create a template for your arrow. Copy it onto poster board and cut it out with scissors. Trace your shape in pencil onto the wood. I found using a long ruler to be helpful during this process.
2. Cut – Clamp the wood to your work table. Using a circular saw or jigsaw, trace the lines you just drew, cutting your arrow out of the wood. We used a circular saw so we could keep our lines straight.
3. Sand – Sand the edges of the arrow. You don’t want any splinters!
4. Draw – Using a ruler and/or your keen eyeballing skills, draw out where you want the holes for your lights to go. Be sure to measure distance between lights as well as distance from the edge to make sure things end up looking consistent. If you’re making an arrow, make sure your lights on the top and bottom are parallel. Ours ended up off a bit because we didn’t quite take our time with this step!
5. Drill – Clamp your shape to the table and using a drill bit a teeny bit bigger than the socket of your lights, drill holes where you marked them for your lights. We used a drill bit the same size as our lights, so we ended up having to buy a grinder and use the drill to widen each hole a little. Also, we learned that it’s better to drill from the front to the back. On a few of the holes, the drill splintered the wood on the back side — not something you want showing on the pretty face of your marquee!
6. Sand Again – Give your arrow a good sanding. Clean it with a wet cloth to prep it for painting.
7. Paint – Using spray paint, coat the front and sides of your arrow. You can do the back as well, but it’s not necessary since no one will really see it. Depending on your color, you might wish to add a second coat. Let the paint dry completely.
8. Edge - Starting at a less visible part of your shape (we chose the back side of the arrow), begin molding the aluminum to outline the edges. We ended up using sticky thingies that we found at Home Depot to adhere the metal to the wood before nailing them together. This helped us ensure the flashing was centered all the way around the shape. If you follow our process, you’d adhere the stickies on one edge, then go back and tack the wood aluminum together with upholstery nails, until you have gone around the entire shape.
9. Finish Edging – Using regular scissors, (we were happily surprised that the flashing cut really easily!) cut the remaining flashing off, leaving about two inches of extra. Bend the remaining flashing and tuck it under the starting point. Tack in place.
10. Light it Up! – Carefully stick the light sockets from your string lights into the back of the arrow. Screw the light bulbs into the front. (Note: you may have to remove some hanging clippy things from the lights to make sure they’ll fit through the holes.) Since we had 24 lights and only 16 holes, we started at the top of the string so we’d have extra cord to plug it in.
And there you have it! A retro-looking marquee sign that is actually brand new. I put mine above the cabinets in my new apartment. It is a total focal point in the kitchen that just about everyone comments one. It looks so nice, hardly anyone can believe that Andrew made it since it looks so professional!
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