DIY Light-Up Café Sign

Make this fun light-up café sign for less than $25!Hi, guys! Mandi here. Ranking among my favorite decor trends this year is definitely the light-up kitchen sign. I adore the neon lights and vintage beer clocks, but something that most of us can afford and appreciate is a light-up café sign. And who knew? They're pretty easy to make too!

My inspiration for this project came from this light-up frame found on Handmade Charlotte, and after searching the Internet to see if anyone else had made something similar, I found this great project from Vintage Revivals. I wanted to make something much smaller, though, and also wanted to use as many pre-assembled and inexpensive supplies as possible. So check it out, kids! Here's my small shadow box café sign project that's really easy to make in a single afternoon!

Make this fun light-up café sign for less than $25!Supplies:
-small but deep shadow box (I bought mine in the wood crafts department at a local craft store and had hanging hardware attached): $6
-wood stain (I used leftover from many previous projects)
-2 pieces of 1/4x1x24 basswood: $4.50
-stencil plastic: $1
-contact paper (I used leftover pieces from previous projects)
-spray paint: $4
-small LED string lights (I ended up using these tiny lights, not the ones shown above:) $6.25
-printed clip art template available here

Total cost of supplies: $21.75

Tools:
-paint brush or rag for applying stain

-miter box saw (like this inexpensive one), or electric miter chop saw, or a small craft saw as shown (I bought a small craft saw for $3, but it was difficult to get accurate cuts. I suggest as least getting the miter box saw for this project.)
-craft blade
-hot glue gun

Make this fun light-up café sign for less than $25!Step One: Cover the rough side of your stencil plastic with contact paper. Trace around the shadow box onto the contact paper to create the parameters of your coffee cup icon.

Step Two: Lay the stencil plastic over the top of the coffee cup icon (printable from here) and trace the image, making sure it's centered inside the border you drew in step one. Be sure to draw on the contact paper, not the stencil plastic.

Make this fun light-up café sign for less than $25!Step Three: Cut out four frame pieces using a miter box saw or carefully using a handsaw. Your goal is to cut out four pieces the exact same size with the same 45-degree angle ends. Lay the pieces over the top of the shadow box to make sure they make a square. Trim angles as needed if they don't meet up tightly at the corners.

Step Four: After you know your frame pieces are cut accurately, you can stain them along with the shadow box. You may choose to sand them down after staining with some steel wool for a nice, silky finish.

Make this fun light-up café sign for less than $25!Step Five: As your stain is drying, trim the stencil plastic a bit smaller than the size of the border you drew in step one. Cut out the shape of the clip art from the contact paper, being careful to press very, very lightly with the craft blade, or you will accidentally cut out the plastic stencil as well. The goal is just to cut the contact paper, but not the stencil material behind it. After you cut around the edges of the clip art shape, peel away the background of the image, leaving contact paper only where the steam lines, cup, and saucer are. 

Step Six: Spray a few light and even layers of spray paint over the masked image and onto the rough side of the stencil.

Make this fun light-up café sign for less than $25!Step Seven: After the paint has dried, very gently peel away the contact paper from the stencil plastic, revealing the shape of steam, cup, and saucer. Protect the painted surface of the stencil with a fresh layer of clear contact paper.

Step Eight: Use a hot glue gun to attach the stencil to the front of the shadow box. Then use glue to attach the frame to the front of the stencil.

IMG_8705Step Nine: Using hot glue or adhesive-backed cup hooks (as I did), place your string lights* into the back of the box, trying to arrange the grouping of lights as evenly as possible. I ended up putting a cup hook on the middle of each wall of the shadow box and stringing the lights every which way around them. The lights I bought are strung along wire, so they bend nicely and stay in place really well!

*For safety reasons, make sure the lights you put inside the box do not put out any heat. LED lights are the best option for this project. Also, never leave lights turned on when leaving your house or going to bed at night.

Make this fun light-up café sign for less than $25!To display the light, you can use the pre-attached hanging hardware on the shadow box or use wall-mounting adhesive, as I ended up doing on my brick wall. I'm glad I bought a set of tiny string lights for a nice, even glow inside the box, and the battery-powered function hides any ugly wires. I don't have to use this light near an outlet! Victory!

Make this fun light-up café sign for less than $25!Make this fun light-up café sign for less than $25!Turn on the light for a cozy glow in the kitchen, and make a pot of coffee to enhance the atmosphere! Not a fan of coffee? You could browse the Internet for other free clip art shapes, like martini glasses, wine glasses, or even fruit or animal shapes! –Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Spring and Valentine of the Signature Collection.