DIY Marquee Letters
We built a set of DIY wood and metal marquee letters for our wedding a few years ago, and we love them so much we made another set for our workshop!
We learned a lot from doing them the first time, so this video incorporates all that knowledge into a little under-5-minute-package. But if written words are more your thing, keep reading below.
We have templates on our website that you can print out for each letter, so we printed those, Then we cut out the outline of the letters, taped them onto our 2ft x 4ft plywood, and traced around them using a yardstick as a straight edge.
Next we used a center hole guide (we included it in the template) to mark where we needed to drill each hole for our lights. Make sure the hole you drill is bigger than that light socket (so it will go through) but smaller than the bulb itself (so it’s held in place).
Sometimes drilling all the way through in one go can cause a little tear-out. It's not a huge deal because the back of the letters will never be seen anyway, just make sure you're drilling into the front of the letters.
Then we cut around the letters with a jig saw. This is easiest if you have a couple clamps to hold the letters in place on your worktable or saw horse. For cuts on inner parts of the letters (like the E shown above) we drilled a hole and use that hole as a place to start our jigsaw cut.
Before staining them, we're going to give the edges a quick sand. For the outside edges of the letters, we used a 220 grit sanding sponge because it's easy, flexible, and can contour to the edges a bit. We used little scraps of 220 grit sandpaper to sand inside the holes we drilled.
Then we applied one coat of Minwax stain in dark walnut. To keep the coat of stain even, Evan applied it and I wiped off excess as he went. This prevents it from pooling or soaking in too much in some areas and coming out splotchy. It's not 100% necessary to do it this way, but we think it helps. Don't worry about staining the edges or inside the holes, they won't be visible when you're done.
Adding the metal flashing is the trickiest part, but totally doable even for beginners. It just takes some patience. To help, we made some blocks to raise our letters up and make it easier to center the metal with the wood (we go over this more in the video).
First measure every side of your letter and pre-bend the metal flashing at each of those measurements.
We've found the easiest way to do this is to grab a hammer and a sturdy (thick) putty knife, and find yourself something cushy to work on, like carpet or a doormat. Having your flashing on a cushioned surface lets the putty knife sink into it when you're hammering. Once you've given it a few whacks of the hammer, you should be able to bend it easily by keeping the putty knife edge in the crease and folding the metal against it by hand. Make sure to continually test fit and double check measurements during this part.
Next, place the bent flashing over your letter, which should still be raised up on the blocks.
We used a nail gun to attach the flashing to the wood, but when we first made these letters for our wedding we just used a hammer and finishing nails and that works just fine. Either way, it helps to have one person to hold the letter and one person to add the nails.
The last step is adding the lights. All in all, this is pretty straight forward. Just unscrew the bulb, pop the socket through the hole, and screw the bulb back in. We had 25 lights and 25 holes, so we made sure that a light was used in each one. This meant we had to do a little back tracking on the legs of the letters.
We are so happy to have another set of these marquee letters, and this set was WAY easier to build than our first. These are perfect for a wedding (we might be biased) but would also be awesome for an engagement shoot, baby shower, party, or even just as home decor. We have our set that spells LOVE in our living room and they make us happy every day. Hope you enjoyed our DIY Marquee Letters tutorial!
- 2’x4’, ¾” thick plywood (Home Depot)
- 6” wide metal flashing (http://amzn.to/2pPy7MV)
- Globe string lights (http://amzn.to/2pWY7Zt)