Darbin Orvar

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Darbin Orvar - Girl in a Shop

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DIY Making a Rustic Fall Theme Sign & Collab

DIY Fall Themed Sign Made w/ Milk Paint & Collab with April Wilkerson


This simple DIY project is a great example of just how easy and affordable creating your own holiday decoration can be. With a few fence boards I had lying around from last year I was able to put together a beautiful and original fall-themed sign in just a few hours.

Step 1: Assembly.

Grab some old, or new cedar fence boards. Home Depot, Lowes or your local hardware store has these type of boards year round, and they are very inexpensive. I used of 1 x 6 inch boards, but use what you have.

Cut List:

  • 4 @ 30 inches long
  • 2 @ 20 inches long

Place the four cut at 30 inches on a table and the two cut at 20 inch across the top and bottom of the boards when placed side by side. Get some exterior nails, or screws that are about 1½ inches long and attach them on an angle to draw the boards together through the 20 inch boards that make the back.

Step 2: Sanding.

Sand a little with 150 grit paper just to knock off any sharp areas.

Step 3: Making the Milk Paint.

Milk paint expires quickly so I used just enough for this project.


  • 2 cups of Milk Powder (the kind from the grocery store)
  • ¾ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon Type S Lime (Calcium Hydroxide)
  • 1 tablespoon white pigment

In a blender, or whisk and bowl, mix together all the ingredients and blend until smooth. You can then use the paint right away.

Step 4: Painting the sign.

With milk paint there is no need to use any primer so if you use a common paint brush you can paint the board white just like any latex paint. It goes on glossy and dries within 2 hours in typical conditions. If you want more coverage you can add another coat or just leave it a little rustic.

This type of water-based paint will raise the grain so you should do a light sanding before you write the letters with pencil.

Step 5: Coming up with the word design once the board is completely dry.

using paper and markers to work on the design

This is your choice. When I set about choosing words I was trying to fill the board. I first used markers and paper to get an idea of the relative size and spaces that would be needed and what words I wanted to use. I then used a pencil to sketch the letters on the sign to make it easier to paint on top of.

Step 6: Taking the base white paint and separating it into small mason jars to add pigments.

After I was through with the white paint for the base, I had four 4 ounce mason jars which I used to pour 2 ounces of paint into from the blender. In each jar I added the pigments I wanted to create the colors I would use to paint the letters. I added about 2 teaspoons of pigment to each jar and thoroughly mixed the pigments. You can paint the letters right away. Note that milk paint goes bad in just a few days so try and make just what you need. It does not store very well.

I let the paint dry and completely washed the brushes in soap and water.

Step 7: Oiling the board.

Once the paint was completely dry I applied an optional coat of raw linseed oil. You could also use polyurethane, spray lacquer or shellac to protect your project. You could also just leave it as is.

I applied the oil with a brush, it soaks in pretty quick. Give it a few hours to dry.

I plan to leave the sign outside for the holidays. Milk paint with the calcium hydroxide is pretty resistant to the weather, so it should be fine. Adding some sort of varnish will definitively protect it more. I also like to use the cedar boards so that when it comes time to store the sign in the attic or garage it is resistant to rot and insects.

I hope a lot of people try these types of projects, and I want to thank April over at Wilker Do's for participating in this collaboration. Don't forget if you would like to share your projects with us use the tag #womeninwoodworking on facebook, youtube, pinterest, twitter and tumblr.

Don't forget to check out April's beautiful DIY pumpkins.