Thursday, April 18, 2013

Faux Vintage Letter Tiles (A Wall Art Project)

I first got the idea for this project from this post I found via Pinterest.  I liked the idea of Scrabble-esque tiles as far as being able to intersect our names, but I realized that what I really wanted was old signage or letterpress letters.  I found some fantastic letters online but at $5 a pop, they quickly went out of my price range.  As the idea for the wall ruler started to come to fruition,  I decided I could just make some letters.  That way I could get the size and style I wanted and the cost would be significantly less than I had found.  Spoiler alert--it only ended up being about $.62 cents a tile!
But...whew!  This project had a hard time getting off the ground.  Seriously.  The first day I had begun to work on it, I stepped into a bed of incredibly ferocious and angry fire ants.  I happen to be mildly allergic to those so that pretty much put the kibosh on anything for the rest of the day.  Then on the day that should have been installation, A fell and I thought he might have broken his nose.  It's scary to see that much blood come out of your child's nose, but he's fine today and has no swelling or bruising, so I think we're okay now.  Once I was able to work on this, it was relatively painless and most of the work comes in the planning.
I don't know if this would work with just any combination of names.  We happen to have enough repeating letters in the right places.  You could also do this with words.  The only thing I think you really need to keep in mind are that you don't want to incidentally spell other words when joining them together.  For example, I could have put Aidan next to Colin and they could have both used the Ns in my name, but then I would have also been left with "CA", "OI", "LD" and "IA".  Clear as mud?  If you've played Scrabble, then it might make more sense and hopefully the photos will help as well.
The first thing you're going to need to do is figure out a layout.  I found that the easiest way to do that was with graph paper.  Once I found a layout that worked, I just counted the tiles I'd need and headed to Hobby Lobby.  My original thought was for 4x4 wooden tiles, but once I saw them in person I realized that would be way too big.  A 2.5x2.5 would have been perfect but they don't sell those.  Then I found these 2.5x3.5 inch rectangles.  I hemmed and hawed over them for a while, but realized that they would probably actually be the best thing to get me that old signage look.  And at $1.47 for a pack of 4, they were very reasonably priced.  I ended up buying two extra packs, just in case I messed up.  There are no craft stores in my town, so I didn't want to mess something up and have to make the trip again!
The next step was to determine exactly how I wanted the letters to look.  When I was a little girl, my great-grandpa used to take me to the co-op.  I guess nowadays we would call it a feed and seed store.  I even got a pet baby chick from there (country girl represent!).  Anyway, they used to have all kinds of handmade signs and individual letters.  So I wanted to sort of combine those two ideas.  The font needed to be really plain so I just grabbed a set of stencils from my craft supplies, but if you wanted something else, you could certainly print out the letters and draw them on like I explained here.  I just lined the stencil up and drew the letter on.
Then I colored it in using a permanent marker.  I connected the lines to make it look less like a stencil, but whatever floats your boat!
Then I let the permanent marker set up for a bit and then stained the tiles using the same Minwax Early American that I used on the wall ruler.  I brushed it on with foam brush and then wiped up the excess with a paper towel.  These were very smooth and thin so I didn't sand them.  They also sucked up the stain very quickly so your should probably plan to wax on, wax off wipe on, wipe off pretty quickly.  One coat would have been just fine but I went back and brushed a second coat on a few just to make them not look so uniform.  And here are the tiles after they'd been stained.
After letting those air out for a night, I put all the tiles in the layout that I'd decided on.  I had also picked up some wood strips while I was at Hobby Lobby.  They are essentially lattice strips cut into three foot lengths.
These were used as a sort of "skeleton" to attach the letters to the wall.  I placed them on top of each name, trying to figure out the best placement.  There was no real scientific method to this.  I really just tried to have the least amount of piecing.  Once I determined that, I cut all of the strips slightly shorter than the necessary length.  This furthers the illusion that the letters are floating on the wall and gives you a little bit of wiggle room in your placement.
At this point, I also wrote the corresponding name on each strip and drew in where the names would intersect.  I measured it both lengthwise and widthwise and found the center.  I then went to the wall and found the widthwise center and marked it.  Then I measured how far down I wanted it to start and then marked the center there too.  Once I had center marked, it was as easy as hammering each strip in with a finish nail on each end, making sure to keep it level as I went.  I have paneling under this paintable wall paper so the strips are actually really secure.  They're also really lightweight so even if one falls off the wall at some point, it should be okay.
You may notice that two words are missing here.  D fell asleep and since this is right outside her room, I decided to proceed with the next step and add those in after she woke up.  Just pretend those words are there!  HA!
Then I just started hot gluing the letters on.  Yes...I said hot glue.  Like this...
You'll notice that the letters are centered on the strip.  At this point, I might have squealed.  And possibly petted it.  I plead the 5th though.
Putting the letters on took practically no time.  In less than 15 minutes it looked like this:
And then three hours later (that girl napped a long time today!) it looked like this!

Kids love personalized things.  The boys keep walking past this and smiling.  They even showed D her name, so now she smiles when she walks past it too!  I feel like it needs something using the "R" in "Barry" to balance it out.  I'll be thinking of a word and will update if I think of something.  ;-)

  • Wooden tiles
  • Permanent markers
  • Stain
  • Foam brushes
  • Paper towels
  • Lattice strips
  • Finish nails 
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Hot glue gun and sticks
I had everything on hand except for the wooden tiles and lattice strips.  My total for this project was just about $25, but may run you slightly more depending on your finishing choices and what materials you already have.
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