For years I have been wanting to make some Halloween mile marker signs but something always stopped me from making them. One of those things was the fact that my handwriting is atrocious and I absolutely was not going to hand write the words on there. Another reason I had not yet made them was because I didn’t want to spend a fortune paying someone else to print the words out on vinyl for me.
I own a silhouette, you know the thing that cuts vinyl out for you so you don’t have to pay someone else to do it? Yep, I own one of those, and it has sat in its box for over 4 years. It’s a crime I know. Guilty as charged. I was honestly letting my debilitating fear of having no clue how to use to stop me from just doing it. I had watched YouTube tutorials but I hadn’t taken the plunge into the deep end yet and actually started using the elusive Silhouette.
I finally decided that enough was enough. I needed to break that baby free from its prison sentence and liberate it.
It was time to learn my silhouette.
I tried it out on a few projects before I settled in to make my Halloween mile marker signs. I will admit that I was super nervous and made plenty of mistakes. I called my friend in panic a few times. Shed a few tears. Let slip a few curse words and threw multiple pieces of crumpled up, ruined vinyl across the room. It wasn’t my brightest shining moment.
But in the end I am absolutely in love with my results so it was worth all the “heart ache”.
I started by buying a 1x4x12 board at Home Depot.
I looked for one that had lots of knots, “imperfections” and wood grain because I really wanted my Halloween mile markers to look spooky and aged. This was the one time I wasn’t on the hunt for the prettiest board I could find. And man did it make board hunting so much less stressful (does anyone else stress out about finding good boards, for cheap? No just me?)
I had them cut it as close to the middle as they could just so I could fit it in our van. And home I went to start the cutting. I swear my compound miter saw has been the best purchase I have ever made. That bad boy gets used basically on the daily around here. One of the things that has stopped me from doing projects in the past, is lack of the right tools.
Thankfully my husband and Father know that the way to my heart is through power tools (there are lots of ways to my heart, chocolate, hamburgers, boiled peanuts and potato salad included, just in case you were wondering).
I cut the wood, just eyeballing it. I didn’t care so much if they were the same size. After I had my boards cut to size I trimmed the tops into points and I was ready to paint.
I used my trusty BB Frosch chalk paint powder mixed with Benjamin Moore Mink to create the perfect chalk paint brown and I got to work.
To start with I poured some paint on a plate, added a good bit of water to make it runny and brushed my color onto the wood. I gave it a second to settle in and then wiped off the paint sitting on top of the wood off with a lint free cloth.
After I was done painting all the pieces (which took less than 10 minutes TOPS) I waited a little bit for the paint to settle into the wood and dry completely. This only took about 5 minutes. Then I took my dark wax and sealed the chalk paint in. I love the rich tones that dark wax gives to a piece, it truly makes the color pop and the wood grain shine. The bottom piece of wood in this picture has been dark waxed, the others have not. I repeated this step on all the wood.
While I was waiting for it to dry I printed out my Halloween inspired mile marker names and mileage numbers. I was a bit coo coo and googled how far away some of these places are from my actual house to get as close to the real mileage as I could. Would anyone besides me know if they were right or not? Probably not… but I would know, and the slightly crazy lady in me wanted them as accurate as possible. (is it time for me to be admitted to the loony bin yet?)
Some of the places are obviously fictional, like Panem, so I just made up mileage for those. Others are real places like Salem and then some are fictional versions that are based on real places, so I used the mileage to those real places. I actually learned a little bit about some of these places during my research. Fun, crafty and knowledgable… I mean I am the total package.
When the wax was cured I was ready for my next step.
I took my little wire brush and I ran it along the wood because I wanted to create some deeper scratched in the wood for what was yet to come. I pushed down just a little to get some good grooves, but didn’t go too deep.
After I went to town scratching up my wood I white washed it.
White washing your wood is basically following the same steps as above when I created my dark stain with the chalk paint but this time I made the white chalk paint I had whipped using Valspar Bistro, a bit thicker. I brushed it on and immediately wiped it off.
I repeated this on all the wood and did it several times until I felt like I had the desired look I was going for. I made sure to wipe off the paint on the raised parts so that the brown underneath could show through more and that the white really settled into the grooves and gouges I had made with my wire brush. I also went over it with some high grit sand paper to smooth it out and bring out the wood grain a little more.
When the paint was how I wanted it and had time to dry I added my vinyl stencil to the wood. I could have simply printed out the words in vinyl and put them on, but I really wanted to be able to sand down the words a bit and I wanted them to be able to stand up the weather in Southern Alabama in the ” October Fall” (basically still summer).
Ultimately decided I wanted to create stencils out of the vinyl and use them to paint the words on (remember my hand writing sucks).
After the vinyl was in place I mod podged it in place so that none of my paint would seep through the cracks or grooves.
Because I had taken a wire brush and sand paper to it, and because the wood wasn’t smooth to begin with, I knew that I ran the risk of having my paint find its way into those little grooves and imperfections that I had looked for in the wood. I didn’t want my paint to go outside the lines of the stencil and the mod podge insured that wouldn’t happen. It basically works as a barrier between the edges of the stencil and the wood. And because its clear, it does the seeping and filling in and won’t be noticed when I remove the vinyl. I make sure to really work the mod podge in along the lines of the stencil so it really seals in whatever it is I’m trying to paint.
After the mod podge was dry I got to work painting and filling in the stencils with some black chalk paint I made using BB Frosch and one of the black paint samples I had on hand. I ended up doing two coats of paint because I wanted the black to be vibrant and stand out so you could see the words from the road. When I pulled the vinyl off I could tell that I didn’t seal in Transylvania too well with the mod podge and that the paint had run a little (which was totally fine since I was going for creepy anyway).
After my signs were all done, I sanded them down a little, adding some clear wax to seal everything all together and I pre-drilled some holes in the wood so I could attach them to the trees without splitting the wood.
Man my Dad would be so proud of me, pre drilling really isn’t my thing, but he has been trying to get it through my thick skull how important it is. You see that Dad? You finally broke through the stubborn, cut all the corners brain of mine.
I went out and screwed them into the two big trees lining our walkway. We have 4, two on either side but I have some plans for the other trees so I settled on these two.
I also didn’t bring out a stool and refused to go back in to get one.
I blame it on the fact that I had a crying, teething baby with me outside who was fine as long as I was within 5 feet of him. He was content to play in the dirt with his car but if I dared breach the invisible barrier it was like I had abandoned him and the shrieks and water works began. So getting a stool wasn’t an option and because of that I could only put them as high as I could reach.
See that Sleepy Hollow sign back there? Probably not, because its hidden by the bushes but I couldn’t reach any higher than Elm Street and have enough traction to get the screws in the tree, it got banished to the bottom. There’s the cute baby, and I was breaching our “safety” bubble (I like living on the edge) so he was not all to happy with me at the moment.
Total side note, when we bought the house we had NO GRASS! Zip, zero, zilch. The yard was overgrown, disheveled, unkept, full of almost 2 feet deep of leaves (years and years of leaves), and roots for days. We have done so much work over the past 2 years, hundreds of hours easy. Looking at this picture I can’t help but cheer at the fact that we have grass. Yes lots of spots are still bare and several tress still need to come down, but y’all there is grass and not years of leaves all over the place any more. I never thought Id see this day.
Okay back to the signs…. because they are just so pretty.
Can a sign that’s meant to be spooky be pretty?
And that big tree in our neighbors yard that looks like something out of a Haunted House movie just completes the eerie effect. (The sweet little old lady that lives there asked us one day if we could take it down for her since we were taking down so many of ours, but since its so close to the fence and the house my husband and I and our very limited knowledge on this subject just don’t feel like we can safely do it.)
I am so happy with how they turned out and while I wish I had done them years before, I love that now that I have them and we are settled into our forever home, that the mileage numbers are actually true.
It’s the little things. My oldest asked me why I included Hogwarts on the list because “it’s not a creepy Halloween place” and I responded “Why not?” To me Harry Potter is Halloween, Christmas, School and life all rolled into one, it works for anything.
And of course Panem isn’t a Halloween movie town but my baby is named after a character from the books and it is a pretty spooky place to live so again I say, Why not?
They really were easy to make and not really even time-consuming.
The most time-consuming part was creating the vinyl stencils in my silhouette studio and you are in luck because I did all the work for you and am sharing my silhouette design FOR FREE!!!! Who doesn’t love free?
You will find the links listed below. You do have to have silhouette studio to be able to download them. There are three pages and you can tweak them or mold them however you want.
You’re welcome! (does anyone else sing that in their head every time they say it now? Thanks Moana!)
Let me know if you have any issues with downloading these through Google Docs (its a free program so you can download it if you need too) and I can send you a link to your email.