How to make a table top sign with a story

SIGN UP A TABLE, creating memories you won't soon forget! via Funky Junk Interiors

How to make a table top sign with a story is a really easy thing to do! However this one comes with a story… literally.

Once upon a time there was a little outdoor picnic table I picked up from the thrift. I simply carried it into the house as is and left it. I fell in love with the white distressed top and deep chocolate legs and called it done.

But… I had envisioned something cool for this table for awhile now. Plain is cool, but I wanted cooler than plain. 🙂


I cleaned up the legs with a quick repaint, ran a palm sander along the edges, did a whitewash to the already distressed top.. and came up with…

… this!

Isn’t it cute?!?

Why I did it

Before I lived where I do, I use to live in Matsqui (Mat-squee) Village. It was a teeny weeny little historic town with one cool storefront in particular I’ve always loved. The front looked saloon style.  The store went through several phases.. coffee house, antiques shop, etc. It was always changing hands. So I decided to simply deem it a Mercantile shop full of wonderful old treasures once and for all which is exactly what I would have done with it if it had been mine. 🙂

Est 1927? That’s my mom’s year of birth. A small but subtle tribute to my fav gal pal whom I dream about daily.

The star? That’s my Funky Junk star.

All three symbols touch on where I’ve come from, who I am today and what I love.

How I did it

 I created some decals with my sign apparatus and did a reverse weed, meaning, removed the letters instead of the background.

( I run a sign company so I have pro equipment / Signlab software, with a Graphtex 24″ plotter)

(I’m sorry, I don’t sell the decals / stencils at this time. Files for download are in the works. I also do not give out the font names as these will be one of a kind)

 I applied the decal to the tabletop, then painted through the letters. Remove the vinyl while paint is still wet so letters come out nice and crisp.

Notice the square weathered area around the lettering? The vinyl lifts off the paint if not fully cured, leaving a very believable distressed finish. So I did the same treatment to the rest by means of sticking more vinyl on it and pulling off to even it all out.

Design Tip #1:

Take note of the letters… darker on bottom, lighter on top. Just because. 🙂

Let’s use a palm sander to distress those letters just a tad… sooo much easier than doing it by hand, gals. Put palm or orbital sander on your Christmas list this year. AFTER your cordless drill of course. 🙂 A good cordless drill MUST be #1.

distress painted lettering with a palm sander via Funky Junk Interiors

Ahhh… that’s better! The table really does look old and authentic which I love.

Design tip #2:

Now.. did you notice the funky placement of the lettering? Most would center the works because that’s how it’s normally done.

I wanted the table top to have the illusion of an old sign tucked away that was suddenly whipped up into a table top. Quirky, unexpected and rather cool all at the same time.

SIGN A TABLE, creating memories you won't soon forget! via Funky Junk Interiors

SIGN A TABLE, creating memories you won't soon forget! via Funky Junk Interiors

And the little table with it’s shiny new outfit lived happily ever after.

Other sign related projects:

Farmer’s Market Sign

crate stairs

how to make old signs

Route 66 Cupboard

Are the decals/stencils for sale?

Sorry, not at this time. However an ebook is in the works that will explain how to create these types of stencils slated for release in late 2014. Stay tuned!

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Categories: All Cool Projects, DIY, Reclaimed wood projects, Signs
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111 thoughts on “How to make a table top sign with a story

  1. Donna… I can’t stand it… I LOVE LOVE LOVE this piece… So very cool! Love the wording you chose and think it was a great idea to create it with meaning attached to it (Dan is good!). This is one of my fav’s!!!

  2. It’s really beautiful. I love that you used your mother’s birth year for the date; it’s something I’d do, too. 🙂 I love absolutely everything about.

    As for other sign options – I have homemade cupboards in my kitchen. They came with the house and honestly I hate them. They’re just made of laminated plywood and they’re not square, even, or balanced. I haven’t got the money to replace them, but I’m planning to take them apart and fix them. The one thing we did when we moved in was paint them with Kilz to clean them up. The countertop was just painted, so that, too, was coated with Kilz. I’m thinking the countertop would be a really neat sign placement – like an old barn-side sign. Maybe to mimic an old pouch tobacco sign.

    I’m definitely in the mode to go through the garage and see what I can create!

  3. Oh Donna I just love the little table. The printing on top just makes it sing! I thought your grocery sign was the bomb too! I have some sign/plaque projects rolling around in my head and you have made me want to get started asap!

  4. Do you deliver to Ontario…lol… okay this has me written all over it… you REALLY need to sell some of those stencils.

    Glad to hear you are finally going to be selling your wares. I am sure you will do well.

    Another great job Donna… love it.

    Hugs, Deb

  5. Love it!! Love it even more that there is meaning behind it! Thanks for the tips and I am eyeballing something right now that I could do that with! 🙂

  6. Love that table! Your sign added so much character! I am already thinking of the grocery store we used to shop at which no longer exists. I will make a sign with that on it, and I have a table top already in the garage!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. That table is fantastic! I would love the opportunity to buy your stencils–and would also love to know more about your machine. I know you use it professionally for stencils on your firetrucks. Can you tell us more about it?

  8. Love love love the table!! And your sign stencils would be of interest to me that is for sure. Where would I stencil?? Where wouldn’t I? Ha!!

  9. First, I love the story behind this table. 🙂
    Second, I love the sign on the table BECAUSE it’s off-center. Symmetry makes me… nervous.
    Third, yes, please on making decals available!

  10. Have I told you lately that I love you? – Van Morrison

    Have I told you lately that I love you? – Kolein Carlson

    Oh my goosh! OK, *sigh* this is seriously gorgeous art, Sister. Seriously gorgeous. You made it.

    I’m all for extending, lengthening, growing, cultivating, nurturing stories in any way, shape or form. This form is brilliant!!!!

    I too would just love to know about the decals – especially about the part that actually cuts out the inside. Have you ever tried with an exacto knife to make your own stencil? I did and it was torture and came out horrible. I tossed the entire thing. So there are machines that actually do that for you?


  11. I LOVE this table. I am new to crafting, decorating or whatever you want to call it. True to my nature I have to have whatever I do ” mean ” something to me:) I loved reading the STORY behind the table…way cool!

  12. I would LOVE to be able to buy your stencils. I was half way thru your post and thought “I’m going to ask in the comments if she will do stencils” ….. talk about anticipating a need.

    Would like to attend a workshop even more .. but unfortunately I’m in Toronto!!!

    LOVE your blog and how you stay true to your individual, quirky style.

  13. Absolutely adorable! I think it’s great how you picked out the design and made it special and unique to you, that is what decorating is all about!

  14. I love it! I wish I lived closer I would so take the workshop. I’d want you to make things for my store! Just may have to have a custom one done. Yes… start the trial package. I bet it will be very popular!
    As always love your projects.

  15. I would really be interested in the decals/stencils. Actually, I would love to buy already completed pieces from you but I think the shipping costs from Canada to Texas might put it out of my price range. I would love for you to sell the stencils/decals and it would be great to be able to order custom so we could personalize our own. That table is the coolest thing (next to your stairs 🙂

  16. Yes, you’ve inspired me once again…this treatment is finally what I need to save the coffee table I’m soooooo bored with. I have a few other of YOUR tricks up my sleeve for the entry. Can’t wait to finish them so I can blog and link your inspiration posts!!

    Thanks for filling my tired brain with wonderful things. And I admire your meanings for what you stenciled!!!

  17. Over 50 comments already! Yes, I would love to order some stencils. I would like some to put on my own wooden boxes: Like Wilson’s Homemade RootBeer, or something historical in our family like O.C. and K.R. Wilson Ship Chandlers since 1843. We are working on our geneaology and my daughter is related to the first Sheriff of New Amsterdam. We could make up some really cool signs and act like they are old.
    I like your table a lot, and the personalization. I would love to come to a workshop. How far are you from Vancouver? Can you make stencils for cars? I would like one for my car if I could think of something. You should sell those gears. I love them. Ann

  18. Number 51 here! What a great post and an awesome project that you created! I would buy stencils and have mine read Olde Common Sense
    , or something New Englandie or Historical…Thanks! Alyssa of Boston Bee

  19. The off-centering is great because you can put a little something on the table and still see the whole design–Oh, I see you already took me up on the idea! I love that the table is round, it’s a nice change.

  20. Ok, I LOVE everything you do, but THIS is one of my favorites! It’s just perfect vintage. And with a meaning…makes it so much more special to know. I gotta try this. And, hey, I just added palm sander to my Christmas list, really.

    I sent you an email tonite about the junk I won 🙂
    Hope you got it, maybe in your spam?!? Don’t know…but I sent you one last Friday, too. Just checking to see if you get it.
    Becky C

  21. I love your table -I would love to have the option of purchasing stencils -what would I want my table to say -umm I need to think but something like waiting room or medical exams/say ahhh -I need to think a little longer 🙂

  22. Love the ‘off centredness’ and story behind the choices. I would love to take a workshop… I could make a pilgrimage over the rockies! 🙂

  23. Okay. Now you’ve done it. I’ve always wanted to someday visit your house, but now it won’t be possible. My jaw is still on the floor over your stairs and now this eye-popping, drool producing table?!? I’d just be slipping and tripping over my own body parts! Holy cow – that table is awesome!

  24. Yes, I would be interested in both the stencils and a “how-to” class. I’m in the Seattle, WA area.

    Thanks! I love your creativity. 🙂


  25. You bet I would buy stencils! Live too far to come to workshop in Canada, but sure would be ordering a how-to DVD or watching a video! Thanks for your blog.

  26. Love it!!! I’m too far for a workshop and too broke to buy custom made stencils, but I SO want to try my hand at an “old” sign, following your directions for the “grocery” sign (already picked out the board). It will say “gather” and live over my dining room table. I’ve been checking out standard letter stencils and can’t find anything that seems to suit. Tell us, what is this mysterious “sign maker” that you have? LOL (maybe I missed that post)

  27. I LOVE this! Will you pack it up and drop it in the mail to me?!
    You should come link this up to my Making It With Allie Link Party! I think it would make a Fabulous addition!

  28. Love this! I did a few projects along a similar idea… with names and dates that were important to me. There is a picnic table calling my name now! Thanks for the inspiration!

  29. I am in serious LOVE with this table!
    Now I’ve got all these ideas spinning in my head! I think its about time my coffee table gets a makeover!!! but I need some stencils..I hope you decide to put some up for sale!!!!

  30. Hey Donna, Yep you know I would order reverse weed vinyl from you, I have a chef’s island I want to make over to sell, I found a great crate I would love to duplicate the look of. I’m in Ontario. I might even do something similar on my huge Kijiji found coffee table. So many projects but the fulltime job keeps getting in the way! So far I don’t think you have done one project that I wouldn’t love to duplicate!!!! Jo

  31. I’d come to a workshop, only live a bit west of you 🙂 As I was reading your post I thought to myself “this girl should sell her stuff” and then voila – at the end you mentioned you are! Good for you – your talent should be out there for all to see and enjoy!

  32. This is so good! I love all of your sign!! And yes you are so right that it looks better when the sign is off centered.
    So great that this table incorporates so many personal touches. Love that.

  33. I am absolutely about to have a freakin’ runaway for those decals…Please put me on your list of the first ones you make. That table is so cute and Mr. Sweet can make the table…I need your decals to finish it off.
    I. AM. IN. LOVE.
    xo bj :))

  34. Girlfriend, you should have totally start selling decals/stencils like yesterday!

    I would totally buy them from you…

    Love the table…Thanks for sharing! xo

  35. Oh my goodness. You know I love everything you do. One of these days you’re going to convince me to make a sign. I really would want to make on to hang outside. Do you think this paint would last long enough to hang outside in the weather? If you say yes….I’m doin’ it! Lisa~

  36. I love your style and all you do…but after looking at your couch it just doesn’t look like it goes with the rest of the room. I nice slipcover in white would rock it!

  37. I love your table and would definately buy the stencil. I know you live in B.C., but are you anywhere near the Whatcom co. border? (U.S.) if so I would be thrilled to come up there for a class.
    I love that you always give instructions on how to recreate your masterpieces.

  38. super! I’m in the process of coming up with a few table ideas at my place…you have inspired me….Now I just need to get to work. {We have what we call the “bone Yard” at our business I’m hoping to find some “Junk” there that I can use.
    Thanks for sharing.

  39. I have yet to see anything that you do that doesn’t amaze me. Love, Love, LOVE the table and everything you do. If I lived closer I’d definitely be over for a workshop. And YES I am interested in your stencils.

  40. I love this table and what you’ve created it into. So very cool. Thanks for sharing your tutorial too. It has me thinking about a coffee table that I might have to tackle and try something like this on it.

  41. Did you build the hinged screen behind the table?? I love it, it’s exactly what I want for my headboard! Pls let me know if you have instructions for it on your blog.


  42. I’ve been on the internet for more years than I care to remember and today, for the first time, I signed up for a blog. Yours. A truly interesting site. I’d love to learn more about your stencils. Sorry I don’t “Face”. Too old for that.

  43. I’ve tried lettering on furniture and it was a major FAIL!! Where do you get the letters made so you can do the reverse thing and not have to wait for the book to come out?

  44. Creative idea. I was a professional sign artist in a former life (BC…before children) and occasionally still create painted signs for folks, so I would actually paint the letters by hand and not use any stencils/vinyl letters. Hand lettering is not so hard when you use an overhead projector with a transparency you’ve run thru you printer…just a thought.

  45. Love your stuff! I’ve reopened my family’s old country store..est. around 1907- in the mountains of NC…I’ll be coming back, because you have the ‘eye’ I love!!! Thanks for the ideas!

    • I know that this was from 2012, but are you selling the stencils/vinyl? I would be interested in the same one as your table (love it) and how much.


  46. I have been trying to find a stencil cutter that allows me to make various sizes of things. When I was looking at your table, which I love, it looked like you only used 2 stencils. Could you share what stencil cutter you use?

    • Hi Teri! I run a sign company so I use pro equipment, which I wouldn’t recommend for personal use only. Signlab software, with a 24″ Graphtec plotter. I’d suggest to visit a high end craft store to see what devices they’d suggest for a similar output if only for yourself.

  47. Love your creativeness. Thinking outside the box. Great ideas and love
    the stenciling. My husband & I make headboard benches and we love to
    create a stencil on them. Thanks for your ideas.

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