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Distressed Wooden Letter Tutorial

This week has been crazy!

So many orders to fill!  I’ve been going like sixty from 5AM till 11PM (I think, technically, I may be running a sweat shop.  I should probably report myself to someone.  Or just keep humming “It’s a Hard Knock Life.”)

Thanks for all the good thoughts about Rose Bowl!  It was a hit this time!

The weather was perfect and although the crowd was slow to show up, once they got there they purchased.  So coasters flew away, my French Label Tables sold as did the secretary along with a few other miscellaneous smalls.

I also had the pleasure of meeting one of my blog followers – the totally charming Suzanne and her magician husband (no really, he’s a real, honest-to-god, working magician – he turned some of my one dollar bills into one hundred dollar bills!  It was amazing!  And then he changed them back which was…..less awesome.)

I also got to hang out for a fraction of a minute with Niki Huard from Nicki Huard Creations (who STILL doesn’t have a website even though her husband promised she would….  just wanted to point that out publically).  Her booth, as always, looked terrific and she asked me to share my technique for making my distressed letters.

I’m totally on board with this plan.  My only hesitation is that it’s so easy it’s a little embarrassing.

You will need:

A wooden letter – I make mine cause I don’t like the fonts they use for the ones from craft stores

Paint – I used spray paint cause I was in a hurry but it works great with flat latex

A Candle – any old candle will do

Sander – I use my power one but you could do it by hand.  I also use old sanding discs and I’ll explain why in a sec.

Step One

Paint the letter in the base color of your choosing and let dry.  Don’t worry about sanding the letter beforehand or priming it – the rougher the better actually.  And set your candle in the sun or a warm place just to soften it a little (makes life easier)

Step Two

After the first layer has thoroughly dried rub your candle along the edges and anywhere else you want the first layer of paint to show through.  Rub hard in some places and more gently in others.  Now top coat with your second color of paint and set it aside to dry very thoroughly.  The wax will slow down the drying process so overnight is great if you can spare the time.

Step Three

After the top coat has dried you’re ready to sand.  There may be a couple of sticky spots where the wax is still soft but that’s ok.

Now, just sand, gently at first, using your power sander.  I use old sanding discs because the wax will, fairly quickly, gum them up.  Start off gently to gauge how much you want to take off – depending on the power of your sander and the coarseness of your disk you may end up doing a lot of sanding or just a tiny bit.

And you’re done!

I think I have overdone it a bit with this J – because I was in a bit of a rush (I also clearly forgot to sand the sides before I snapped the pic) – I think these came out better but it’s the same technique I swear!

I’ve found that often the sanding tends to spread a thin layer of wax around so I end up with a nice seal coat.  If this isn’t the case for you then you could seal them with a spray sealer just to make things nice and tidy.

Hope that was helpful.

If you have any questions or if I’ve left some key step out please don’t hesitate to ask.  I read every comment (and totally look forward to getting them) and will answer there.

Have a great weekend everyone!


The Missing Links!


About cheltenhamroad

I’ve been surrounded by amazingly creative people my whole life. My mom can, and does, make anything. The family has on occasion speculated that she just whipped up my dad one day when she discovered some left over fabric and stuffing. My three sisters have mad skills ranging from needlework to cooking to out and out ART. My father’s desk when I was growing up had a model train set going around it, oh, and he made that desk-from scratch. I’m the youngest and, as you can imagine, it’s a hard series of acts to follow. Truth be told, I’ve spent many, many years suppressing the creative instincts I learned at home. But I realized (rather late in life) that few things bring me more joy than making and creating. For the longest time when I went to stores I didn’t think, “I want that” I thought, “I can make that.” And, with a deep breath and a leap, I’ve started on a very new, kinda scary path. I’ve given up my steady, dependable (dull!) corporate life to spend my days happily humming away in my garage designing, creating, painting, decoupaging and sawing and, since this blog will be an honest take on things, there is also a fair amount of tripping, spilling and swearing. Through this blog I hope to share with you the struggles and (hopefully) triumphs of a very non-businessy business person. I also hope to make this blog a resource for people who like to work with their hands and who are, like me, always looking at things and thinking “I could make that!” I’ve lived many places since I left Cheltenham Road; I currently live in Los Angeles California. So, with this preamble- Welcome to Cheltenham Road! Please come on over and make yourself comfortable – the place is always open.

14 responses »

  1. Hi David,
    First off I love your blog and your wonderful sense of humor. Second I want to make letters, are you using a scroll saw to make them? Is it easy to use?


    • Hi Linda,
      Thanks very much!
      I do use a scroll saw to make my letters. There is a learning curve that’s for sure but it’s not a particularly steep one. You could probably use a jigsaw to similar effect if you didn’t want to invest in a full-on scroll saw. With either option just take your time and know that (if you’re like me) there will be some post-sawing sanding to be done to make everything look good. Hope that helps!

  2. Hi David,
    Paul and I were so excited to meet you at the Rose Bowl!! It was definitely the highlight of a wonderful day. Your booth looked super and I must admit that I was envious of the people who bought the secretary, but I know that they will give it a good home. Pictures do not tell the whole story…up close your creations are even BETTER (if that is possible)!! Can’t wait to see your next creation! Your talent, sense of humor, excellent workmanship and willingness to share your techniques through tutorials make everything come together perfectly!!!! Can you tell that I am a fan!?!?LOL

    Looking forward to your next post,

  3. You are so kind to share with us! As always your stuff looks great. I am happy that your items are selling. I took on a booth last month here in my hometown of Chickasha, OK. I sell a few antique things, some repurposed stuff and some crafty stuff. It is alot of fun and I can see that it becomes an obsession quite easily. I have a full time job that is now interfering with my fun job;) Garage sales and estate sales have now become business opportunities and Hobby Lobby is a tax write off. woohoooo.

    Thanks again!


  4. Hi David,
    Thanks again for sharing the “wax on, wax off” technique. Can’t wait to try it. And about your sweatshop comment…let me know when you figure out who to report to so I can turn myself in also. I figure when all is said and done I make about 50 cents an hour 😉
    FYI~the website is there I just have not had time to post anything yet. But your nudge has been duly noted.

  5. What an awesome idea! Thanks so much for the tutorial! I need to get my husband to cut out letters for me!

    Thanks for linking to the party.


  6. David
    First of all, anyone who’s mom created their dad with stuffing obviously comes from some creative genes!

    Love this wax on wax off technique (I’m feeling very Karate Kid)!

    Glad you are selling like a banshee!

    Of course, I’m pinning this!

    So glad you joined our Cinch party!

    Do you have any other follow options – RSS or Linky? Please let me know since I’d love to follow along but things often get lost in my email!

  7. This looks amazing … and thanks for the tutorial.

    Thanks so much for linking it up at our “It’s a Cinch” party!

  8. These came out so great, thank you for sharing them at the party. I could never cut my lines that straight to make my own out of wood. :/

  9. Thank you so much for sharing! The tutorial worked so well on the distressed signs we made for our wedding:

    • You’ve totally made my day!!!! The signs look great and, if I may say so, you look gorgeous on your big day (or will since, I gather those are pre Big-Day-photos). Congratulations!!!!! and thank you so much.

  10. Love this letters! I have wooden letters that spell my daughter’s name and I haven’t done anything with them, I’m going to try this technique I think they will look good with our rustic style. I want to paint vintage letters on a crate that my husband make for me, do you have any suggestions on how can I paint them? Thanks for sharing! Awesome work!


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