This vintage inspired chalkboard train sign is made to look like it spent years in an old train depot with ever changing dates and times marking travel journeys. If you have a train lover in your life, or just adore old signs, check out step-by-step guide for making it yourself.
I hate to admit this, but this post is about a year and half in the making. It wasn’t because it was a hard project, it was just something that needed a little devoted time. As we all know, sometimes that’s just in short supply!
My step mother-in-law, Doris, has a great eye for vintage items and is a collector of antiques. After I had made my Des Moines Subway Art sign, she brought me a photo copy of a vintage train sign she had spotted and asked if I could make her one for their kitchen, which they were remodeling. This is a similar one from Ballard Designs (it appears to be discontinued).
She brought me the board already cut and painted with black chalkboard paint. And then it sat behind our couch untouched for nearly a year! Once they finished their kitchen, I knew it was time to dig in. I finally finished it over the summer. But wait, you say, it’s now Feb. As I was scrolling through my photos last weekend, I realized I never posted about this project, so here we are.
- Board (we used plywood cut 4 ft wide x 2.5 ft tall)
- Black chalk board paint
- White Paint (I used chalk paint, but acrylic will work fine)
- Paint brushes
- Painters tape
- Tape measure and ruler
First paint board front and back with black chalkboard paint. You’ll need to do at least 2 coats to make sure you have full coverage.
The planning on this was the most time consuming part of the project (aside from waiting for the paint to dry). Based on the picture I had, I did some calculations in an effort to make the spacing proportional to the design. I used my ruler and pencil to lightly mark the starting and ending points of each of my lines. Then I laid down the painters tape above and below my marks, leaving about 1/8 of an inch in between for my lines.
Because of the width of my painters tape, I could only do two lines at a time, otherwise I’d overlap some of the areas where lines needed to be. At this point I should have painted my lines in black chalk paint. This seals down the “stencil” and stops bleeding from happening. I highly recommend doing that or there are a lot of touch ups to do (luckily I realized my error after the first two lines). Here’s what you don’t want to have to clean up.
Let’s pretend I had done this right… after letting the black paint dry, then I went over it with the white paint, 2 coats, drying about 30 minutes in between.
Once my lines were all finished and dry, I laid out my word stencils, which I had designed and cut with my Silhouette Cameo. Then I painstakingly transferred the stencils to my board using transfer paper. i say painstakingly because this part is always the most nerve wracking for me, trying to ensure they’re straight and spaced properly.
Here’s an example of the sealing step on the letters using the black paint. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have used black vinyl for my stencil, as it makes it more difficult to see what you’re doing, but it’s what I had the most of on hand.
After I let the black sealing step dry, I painted the letters with the white chalk paint. Again, 2 coats, letting dry for at least 30 minutes in between.
I usually remove the stencil when the paint is dry to the touch but not completely set. This worked great with the chalk paint. If you’re using acrylic, it’s important to let it be dry enough but not so dry that it gets stuck to the stencil and your design tears. It’s best to practice this on the lines as they are less time consuming to touch up than the letters.
Finally, I did any final touch ups needed on the lines or the letters. Luckily I didn’t have too many after I remembered to do the sealing step. To get a more vintage and used feel, lightly brush over your board with the broad side of some chalk. Also write some letters and numbers in some spaced and then wipe off with a dry cloth before writing in the numbers you’d like to keep there “permanently”.
Doris was so pleased with her final sign. I haven’t seen it hung up in person yet, but she sent me a picture of it, proudly hung above a church pew in their kitchen with her antique wire baskets collection.