I have been stalking the letter board sites on Instagram and Etsy like a panther stalks it’s prey. I wanted one so badly. But Geez Louise, to get a big-ish one, you’ve got to shell out nearly $200.
I don’t know what your decorating budget is, but mine laughed at me when I even considered it. The more I looked at them, though, the more I realized how incredibly easy it would be to make one myself. So I headed off to the craft store in search of supplies.
Get Creative With Your Frame
The most expensive part of making a letter board is definitely the frame. Especially if you wanted to make a large one. After walking up and down the aisle and realizing the size I wanted with a solid wood frame was nearly $50 on it’s own, I almost left and gave up on the whole idea altogether. But somehow I ended up on the clearance aisle (as we always do in Hobby Lobby) and I found this beauty.
Now the sign on it’s own, I’d never use. Not exactly my style I guess. But the size was right, the frame was perfect, and the frame board was sunken in just enough. Oh and it was under $4. YES.
Wooden Dowels Are Always Cheap
With my super cheap budget score in hand, I headed over to the unfinished wood crafting aisle. I chose the 0.187 inch wide dowels. I like the skinniness of them, and I thought they would fit into the frame without sticking out. I also picked up a quarter of a yard of black felt and some black acrylic craft paint to cover up that white background.
All in all, the frame was $4, two packs of dowels (on sale for 50% off) were $3, the felt was about $3, and the paint was $.47. Out the door for a little over ten buckaroonies.
***Full supply list at the bottom of this post***
To start the project, I measured the distance inside the frame and cut the dowels to size. They were originally 12 inches long, so I trimmed them up with a circular saw. You can also use a jig saw if that’s all you have, or even a plain Jane hand saw, but you’ll need another brave victim to help hold them still.
Cut Felt Into Strips
Now it’s time to get to cuttin’. Oh. My. Goodness. Y’all. Cutting felt is hard!
It’s super thick and scissors are definitely felt’s foe. I had originally planned to get my son to help me out, but after blistering my hand up pretty quickly, I decided he should hang back and watch some more Teen Titans while Mom destroys her mitts. I highly suggest wearing some gardening gloves while cutting your strips.
Just cut them in strips wide enough to go around the dowels. You don’t have to be extremely precise, just a rough guess will do. I cut strips for a while, then glued for a while, then cut more as needed.
Wrap The Dowels
So for this project, a high temperature hot glue gun is your secret weapon. Just run a strip of hot glue down one edge of the felt, plop the dowel on it, then run another strip down the other side, and roll it together.
Just a note, you need a LOT of glue sticks. I think I went through around 12-14 sticks. Good thing I buy them in big packs when they’re on sale and always have a bunch on hand! Just be prepared.
Also be prepared that covering the dowels takes a bit of time, too. Pop in Beauty and the Beast, set up a station in front of the TV, and glue & roll as you sing along with Belle.
Glue Dowels Onto The Frame Backing
Here’s where it starts to come together. Every time you finish covering a dowel with felt, run a strip of hot glue onto your board/frame backing. Then attach the dowel onto the board before covering the next dowel.
I have found that this is the best method because you can’t really tell exactly how many you’re going to need to cover the entire board. By doing them one at a time, you save yourself the time of possibly covering too many dowels and wasting a lot of hot glue. In a project like this, hot glue is precious.
Squeeze The Dowels In Tightly
The trick to making this work like the ones sold on Etsy is packing in the dowels really tightly. You want each dowel to be best buds with it’s surrounding dowels. Jammed in tight like a can of sardines. I’ve never actually opened a can of sardines, but it’s a common phrase so I assume they’re in there pretty close together. Correct me if I’m wrong, sardine connoisseurs. 🙂
The other trick is painting the backing black (or whatever color felt you’re using) so you can’t see it in the cracks. No matter how tightly you pack the dowels in, a white backing will show through. Not cute.
Clean Up Time!
By the time the Beast turns back into a man (spoiler alert to those who’ve lived under a rock for 40 years) you’ll have something like this! Yes, there are hot glue stringies all over the place. And yes, the edges look horrendous. Okay, go ahead and say it, this thing is a hot mess…
I introduce to you, my friend, the Lint Roller.
This rockstar can pull off all the big bad stringies in no time.
And how ’bout my other friend, the Toothpick?
This super high-tech tool can instantly pop all those felt edges under the frame and out of sight. These two make a pretty good team, I think.
Hang It Up
And ta-da! It’s gorgeous! And it looks just like those $200 pretties online.
Aside from the time it took to make it, and the burnt fingers from hot glue overages, I’d definitely recommend this to anyone on a budget. Or for all of you who love a good DIY. This was definitely a fun project, and well worth it in the end.
I picked up some letters for the board on Amazon, tried them out, hated them, then ordered more. The second set, this one, works better, but a few of them still fall out. I think it’s just because the little peg is so short. But according to reviews, every letter set available has the same problem. Lela To The Rescue! I figured out a fancy schmancy way to keep them on…
**Sidenote, that little box I have them stored in is a cheap-o $2 sewing organizer box.**
Yep, plain old clear tape. I wrapped a little Scotch tape around the peg to make it longer, trimmed it to the length it should be, and the letters are snug as a bug in a rug. No more falling out!
Here’s the finished sign! My hubby and son are big Star Wars fans, so I guess our letter board will be filled with movie quotes from now on… Oh well, I can handle that. For now.
Frame with backing, glass removed, if applicable
1 inch letters (I used these from Amazon, and I haven’t seen them for sale anywhere else yet)
Patience. Lots of it.
What do you think? Would you rather make your own Letter Board or buy one pre-made instead? I’d love to hear your opinions below. And if you try it out, leave a photo of your finished product in the Tried It section of the Pinterest Pin so I can see!
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