I’m a little too young to remember the 1950s, but that doesn’t mean I can't pine for the aesthetic of the mid-century diner. My kitchen lacks the iconic black-and-white checkered floor, but I have been pining after a hand-lettered wall sign commanding all who enter to "eat." While you can find updated versions online, these signs don’t come at 1950s prices anymore.
It seemed unreasonable to spend so much on what amounts to little more than scrap wood and a coat of paint, so I took on the challenge of making one myself.
If you’ve never used a jigsaw, fear not. They are user-friendly and quick to master. If you don't have one, consider investing or seeing if your local tool library has one. I set up a work station in the garage and clamped my scrap wood onto sawhorses, though if you recruit an assistant to hold things steady, you can cut out these letters almost anywhere.
This sign looks great against a contrasting color: orange on a black wall, or an accent color against a neutral backdrop. Design your own hand-lettered script or print out a favorite type face and trace it onto the wood. A word of warning: Jigsaws don't corner as well as you might hope, so the straighter the lines the easier the task.
How To Make An "Eat" Sign
Makes 3 letters
What You Need
8-10 fine nails
150 grit sand paper
Colored spray paint
White primer (optional)
- Prepare the wood: No need to get fancy; any scrap wood or plywood will work for creating a sign. The wood will eventually be sanded and painted and no one will know. Use whatever you have lying around, or see if the hardware store has any scraps they’ll give you for free.
- Draw out letters: These letters will be uniquely yours, so have fun with the handwriting. If you want a specific look, you can print out large letters of type and trace them onto the wood.
- Cut out letters using jigsaw: Begin by placing the blade at the edge of the first letter. Tip: Try to make as many cuts on all three letters as you can without separating one from the board. The smaller the wood gets, the harder it is to hold down while you cut.
- Sand letters: Once all three letters have been cut out, use 150 grade sandpaper to round rough edges and smooth surfaces for a polished final look.
- Spray paint letters: Choose a color that contrasts well with your paint color or supports an accent color already highlighted in your kitchen. Many spray paints contain a built-in primer and can be applied directly to the wood. To be safe, you can also paint the letters with a white base coat of primer or even regular white paint. Lay down newspaper or plastic before painting. Be sure to let one side fully dry before flipping the letters over to paint the back and sides.
- Hang letters: When the letters are painted and dried, it’s time to hang them! The easiest hanging method is to use thin nails or even picture-hanging nails. I held my letters up to the wall and marked points of contact in pencil. Then I pounded in nails and set the letters on top of them.
Et voila! Next thing you know, you’ll be building your own furniture with those power-tool skills!