One of my favorite things to DIY are light-up marquee signs. We’ve certainly done our fair share of glowing signs here on ABM (from Christmas marquees and light up boxes to emoji and happy hour signs), but I’ve never had the chance to do a more traditional looking marquee with the thin raised metal edge. The best thing about making your own marquee from scratch (rather than starting with letters already cut out) is that you can make your word size and font completely custom. I love having options! I tried a few different methods to get that classic look but was having trouble finding a material that would bend without a lot of effort. Thankfully I found a tip from this DIY post to use metal flashing for the sides instead, and I was saved! Unfortunately, I’ve recently switched over to a new photo organization system, and I lost a few of my step photos in the process (D’OH!). So I’ll do my best to explain and point out what I did on the finished sign.
-3/4″ wooden board big enough to trace your desired size onto
–hole saw drill bit large enough to fit your string lights
–6″ wide roof flashing (I used two rolls)
-metal cutting shears
-gold and white paint
–globe string lights
-epoxy glue that works for wood and metal
-leather working gloves (optional)
First I decided what phrase and font I wanted to use and traced the phrase onto a wooden board at the appropriate size. I used a transparency sheet and a projector to do so, but you could also freehand draw it or print the phrase on an inexpensive blueprint print and trace it from that onto the wood.
Once it was traced, I used my jigsaw to cut out the wooden phrase. To get into spaces like the middle of the”O”, I would drill a hole big enough for the jigsaw blade to fit into so I could start from that hole and cut around.
After the wood was cut, I marked off where I wanted the holes to be drilled for the lights and used a hole saw bit at each spot. I like to have my lights picked out before I drill holes so I know just how big the hole should be.
Once all your holes are drilled, use the metal shears to cut your 6″ wide roof flashing down the center so you have two long 3″ strips. It’s possible that the strip can be a little sharp (especially on the side you cut), so you may want to use leather working gloves when handling the strips. I decided to forgo the gloves and only got a few small scratches, but it was easier to manipulate the metal without gloves.
Now comes the tedious part. Starting wherever you like on the outside of your wooden phrase, measure how far you need to go before the metal needs to turn in or out to follow the path of the letters. Make a mark and bend the metal the appropriate way. Then measure where the next bend should be and so on and so forth. While you can try to make each strip as long as possible, I would usually cut the strip off whenever the wood would move to the next letter or come together in a narrow spot and start again with a new piece. It seemed easier to work with shorter pieces and the two cut ends actually come together pretty well and look rather seamless once complete. The hardest part is making the little pieces that go inside of the “B” and “R”—that took a few tries! I marked the inside of each piece with a little description of where the piece belonged (like “top of first O”) so I would know where they went later.
Once all the pieces were bent and cut, I held each piece in place and used a staple gun to attach the metal to the wooden side (it’s helpful to have a second person help you with this part). I also made marks on the inside of each metal piece that were 1.5″ from the top edge of the metal and lined up that mark with the wood sign so all pieces were attached at a uniform spot around the sign.
I found I could attach most of the metal with the staple gun, but there were a few crevices (like between the legs of the “N” or middle of the “O”) where I couldn’t angle in the staple gun and had to use glue instead to attach them. I would attach the glue between the metal and the wood and then stick tin foil between the crevices to hold the metal against the wood until it dried. Once dry, I removed the tin foil, added two long loops of picture wire to the back of the sign for hanging purposes, and I was ready to paint the sign!
Once the paint was dry, I wove my bulb light wires across the back of my frame and installed the bulbs from the front. It’s helpful to use a few small zip ties to keep all those wires a bit more organized on the back side so they don’t stick out and become visible. I plugged my bulb lights into an extension cord so that would be what actually hung down from the light and I was ready to hang my new marquee!
As you can imagine, this was definitely not the fastest project I’ve ever completed, but it was so worth the extra time it took. The gold and white look so sharp together, and the font gives it a modern feel as well (it’s one of the italicized Function Pro bold fonts). Marquees are still one of my favorite things to make, so I’m glad to have another technique that creates a new look under my belt! xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.