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It’s a Sign! It’s A DIY, Vintage, Beach Sign

Image tranfer vintage sign tutorial

UPDATE:  I’ve done a slighly more detailed tutorial on how I created this sign.  You can find it here


I learned something new!  Or, rather, I tried a different way to do something and it worked better!

OK, the backstory.

I’m not particularly good at planning.  I tend to get excited about an idea, launch into it with a  sorta half-formed concept in my head and then hope inspiration strikes.

It usually does……eventually……..

So, for instance, I wanted to find a use for the MDF scraps that result from coaster making and I wanted to see if I could make them look authentically aged and distressed.

So I stained their edges, did my wax-and-paint trick and nailed them to a piece of scrap plywood.distressed wood techniqueCool! It looked exactly like what I had in mind.


And…..that was it.

It seemed beachy.  I knew I wanted text or an image or something but couldn’t figure out what that would be.

So it sat there all stripey and distressed for, oh, about 6 months.

And then, just the other day, while in the midst of doing something else entirely I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I grabbed a graphic I like, wrote out some text and got to work with my Lenk tool (go here for a full Lenk tutorial – but then come back cause there’s an update).DIY vintage sign tutorialMy usual method for using the Lenk is to rub back and forth slowly,Lenk Tool for Image Tranfer on Wood Projects then gently peel back the paper to check my progress and then, if needed, rub a little more.Image transfer onto woodIt works well, and, although I liked the distress, I just wasn’t getting the depth of color I wanted and I was spending a LOOOONG time on each element.

But sometimes the paper doesn’t peel away and you have to rub it off with a damp cloth,image transfer using Lenk tooland I found that if, instead of lifting the paper up to check, I just let it sit there till it cooled and then, using the damp cloth method rubbed it away – I got much richer colors along with the distress.

So here is how the sign looked on the first round:DIY Vintage Sign Tutorial by Cheltenham RoadAnd here it is after I went back in and used the “leave the paper there and then rub it off” technique:Vintage Sign Tutorial by Cheltenham RoadBingo!

There is still plenty of distress but the colors are much more vibrant.

I did find I had to go back in a couple of times with the damp cloth and gently rub away a film of white, leftover paper.

When I was happy with the look I sealed it with some spray on polycrylic.

After that I added a shelf (just a piece of plywood glued on and screwed in from the back) and some hangers and had myself a fun little vintage beach sign coat hangerDIY Vintage Sign by Cheltenham RoadI’m excited about this improved technique.  It’s pretty fast, the colors are rich and the distress is exactly what I likemake a vintage sign tutorial by Cheltenham Road and the sky is the limit as far as what design to use.

Trays.  Coat Hangers.  Signs.  Pretty much anything!DIY Vintage Beach SignOK, now I have to get back to what I was actually doing before I suddenly knew what I wanted to do.

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.

15 responses »

  1. Absolutely love it!!!

    (ps. Love the blocks in the picture. I still have my blocks from when I was a kid. I let my boys play with them, and then I boxed them up. I guess they’re “vintage” now. lol)


  2. ooo! It is beautiful, and now I want one. 🙂

  3. ChrisinanRVinMN

    That turned out AWESOME! David, you ARE da bomb!

  4. That is fabulous, David! It doesn’t even look like mdf. I’ve never transferred anything, I always hand paint, but it takes a LONG time and your technique gives a look I couldn’t get with painting anyway.

  5. Ingenuity Rules!

  6. One of these days I need to try the Lenk tool again. I tried it once and didn’t have much luck, and I’ve never used it again since. But of course, trying it again would require me finding it, so I’m not sure when that will happen, but if I do find it, I’m glad you have tutorials that will show me how to use it right! 🙂

  7. The new sign looks pretty awesome David. I’m curious where you got the woman clip art from.

    • Thanks Phil. I isolated her from an old matchbook that I have – can’t recall off the top of my head what she was supposed to be advertising but it wasn’t Santa Monica.

  8. Hey my friend. I am reaching the end of my teaching career ( so ready!) and hope to begin my real, creative career. I would adore doing what you do. I want you to know what an inspiration you are and how much I appreciate your instructions, sharing and fun postings. Now, if I could just shut off the nays in my mind that hinder me. I find it amusing that I can reassure others to have confidence but I don’t believe in myself.
    I must, must learn how to transfer.

    • Thanks so much Susan – you’ve made my day. We are all plagued with those “nays” in our minds, aren’t we? A seemingly hourly barrage of them come at me. Ugh – I totally know what you mean (so I guess it’s me re-assuring you!) but I hope you will find a way past them and get to really enjoy your creative side. And, of course, if there is any help I can provide just let me know!

  9. Very nice hanger shelf display. Interesting discovery on the way to darken the graphics. By the way, is it true? I have always heard that Manhattan Beach is the best (of course, I get all my California beach information from either you or 90210…)

  10. Very cool technique and sign! Would love great in my beach-themed TV room. Pinned. Visiting from Party Junk.

  11. This is gorgeous. I actually bought a Lenk tool after I read your last tutorial and I still haven’t tried it. I really love the look you get with it!

  12. What a BEAUTIFUL sign design! I’ve never come across this tool before, totally intrigued! I wonder if transfer gel would have a similar effect? Encouraged to try!


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