Sandwich Board Sign

This week, I had the chance to test my woodworking skills by making a sandwich board sign for an event last night.  The Chili Cookoff is an annual event here at MCAS Beaufort and it is a ton of fun!  Each squadron chooses a theme, decorates a tent, makes some chili, a special drink, and everyone parties the night away.  Our squadron’s theme this year was a 1940s USO.  Each of the wives pitch in to make the event great, and my contribution was the sign.  

What a fun night! The tent looked great, thanks to a lot of hard work by some wonderful girls (and their husbands)!

A couple weeks ago, I saw Diana’s tutorial over at Our Vintage Home Love for this easel chalkboard.  I loved the idea, and thought it could easily be modified to make a sign for our USO Canteen party.   I did a quick sketch of my idea and made a trip to Lowes to get the wood and hardware.

I decided to paint the sign on duck fabric to give it a vintage feel.  For the graphic design inspiration, I found these images of old USO canteens. 

First, I covered a 24″x36″ foamcore board with duck fabric.  I used some adhesive squares from Staples to attach the fabric, then I secured it with a thumbtack.  You could use fabric spray adhesive to attach the fabric, too. 

Cut the corners as shown below so the fabric doesn’t overlap too much at the corners and become thick.  (You’ll see why this is important later.)

Flip it over and lightly sketch out your design in pencil.  My pencil lines showed when I was finished, but I liked the effect so I left it.  In the 1940s, the girls hosting the USO party would pull together whatever materials available to throw a party, so my sign didn’t have to be perfect and we definitely wanted it to look handmade.  After sketching out the design, I used Elmer’s paint markers (purchased at Walmart) to outline the design.

The next step is to paint in the outlined design.  The paint markers didn’t have enough “juice” to color in the whole design on fabric, so I used craft paint to finish the rest.  I suggest enlisting the help of lots of friends at this point — the painting took a while!  I took the sign to one of our Wives Club meetings and had several wonderful friends assist with painting!

 Now that the painting part was done, it was time to construct the frame.  I had to raid all the hubby’s woodworking tools to make this one happen!  I have helped him with several projects, but hadn’t actually tackled awoodworking project all on my own without his supervision.  First, I cut the 6′ 1×2 boards using the mitre saw.  The top pieces were 24″ and the side pieces were 48″. 

I decided to do a tongue and groove design so the sign would slip into a groove in the middle.  This design allows me to change out the panels so I can use it over and over for various signs.  I also made chalkboard and dry erase board options to slide in as other options.  Here’s a picture that illustrates the tongue and groove concept.

 Mine does not look that professional, of course, but the concept is the same!  The next step is to cut a 1/4″ groove down the middle of all the pieces.   I did this by running each piece down the table saw.  Since the blade is only 1/8″ wide, you have to do it twice to get the right width.  Run it one way, then flip it around and run it the other way.  Make sure to set the fence so each pass is 1/4″ from the edge.   Once all the grooves are cut down the middle, cut the tongues on the short pieces.  After each cut, check the fit in the groove of the long pieces.  This will help you get a perfect fit, which is important. 

Once all your pieces are cut, glue and clamp them together.  I glued the wood with the sign in place to ensure it fit perfectly.  Just make sure you don’t use too much glue so the sign doesn’t get glued in! 

Let it dry for at least 3 hours before moving it.  You want to make sure the glue has dried completely.  Once it was dry, I stained it for a darker, more finished look.  I used Minwax in Special Walnut because I had a can of that leftover from another project.  Wipe it on with a clean cloth.

After the stain drys overnight, attach the bottom rung using L brackets.  Using L brackets allows you to remove the bottom piece to replace the panels. 

Then attach two hinges to the top.  It is best to lay both pieces head to head when measuring where the hinges go to ensure both sides line up exactly.  Then, put an eyelet in the middle of each of the bottom rungs.  Tie a piece of rope (or the material of your choice — chain would work nicely too) between the eyelets to hold the sign at a certain angle to prevent it from falling.

For the other panel, I made a reversable chalkboard and dry erase board.  I purchased a piece of dry erase wainscoting from Lowes and had it cut to 24″x36″ and then painted the back side with chalkboard spray paint.  Before spray painting, tape off the edges of the dry erase side with painter’s tape so it doesn’t get paint on it. 

Loving the finished project!  It’s not perfect, but not bad for my first try!  I’m thinking about making a smaller chalkboard version for my little niece for Christmas.  I think it would be a cute addition to a little girl’s room.  I think I could personalize it with her name or with girly colors to match her room.  One side could be dry erase, and the other chalkboard…. oh the possibilities!