Rustic Kitchen Sign With Light

Back in 2015, we’d been in our house almost six years. My wife, Brenda, had been wanting a light above our kitchen sink, but we weren’t sure how to accomplish it. There was no existing light or receptacle at all.

She had an idea to make a rustic looking sign with a light fixture and some sort of quote or saying. But what?

We’d been a fan of the webcomic “Sheldon” by artist Dave Kellett for years, and when we saw this t-shirt design, based on this comic strip, a light bulb went on (pun intended).

We wanted the sign to span the length of the kitchen window above the sink, so we started with three long boards, 2 1×4’s and a 1×6. To give them a weathered, rustic look, we used a combination of vinegar, tea, steel wool and rusty nails. Not a pleasant concoction, but brilliant for the task at hand. Here’s a tutorial on how to make your own homemade stain.

The three long boards were stained and attached to each other on the back by a few vertical 1×2’s (I think. It’s been three years and we don’t have many photos).

Once they were together, a light gray paint was dragged over the wood randomly to create a bit more of a weathered look.

I then reproduced the look of the lettering from the shirt in Photoshop, and Brenda used a projector to trace it onto the wood and paint them black. The lettering was then aged a bit with sanding and some of the weathering paint.

Lettering in progress

Next came the light. Brenda found a cool galvanized outdoor light at Lowe’s that matched the style perfectly. I could picture it outside a western saloon or a seaside dock. It’s meant to be hard-wired, so we bought a lamp wiring kit and wired it up to have a regular wall plug. We made sure it was plenty long enough to reach the edge of the sign and back down to the top of the kitchen counter.

I drilled a hole in the center of the sign to mount the light, making sure the wiring was secure with wire nuts and electrical tape. And for good measure, lined the wood with aluminum foil just in case of any heat build up. The wire ran along the backside of the sign to the right edge, going through short channels I’d cut into the vertical frames holding it together.

The next step was to get it on the wall. Due to the light hardware and framing protruding in the back, I decided to make a basic frame the same size as the sign. I first attached that frame to the wall into studs and made sure it was level. The sign then attached to the frame with screws. The cord for the light also passed through a shallow channel I’d cut into the right side of the frame. It basically hangs straight down and plugs into a toggle switch in the outlet below.

The finishing touch was an Edison bulb screwed into the light fixture. It puts off a good amount of light for working at the sink, and looks great in the evenings when it’s the only light on in the kitchen.

Overall this was a pretty simple project, the hardest parts being replicating the lettering and deciding on the weathering techniques. It’s very easy to go too far or not far enough. I think we got it just right.

Oh, and please don’t sue us, Dave Kellett; we’re just big fans of yours.

And coffee.