sometimes katie gets crafty [diy wooden block letters]…

…so I get a lot of inspiration from my mother. She’s an amazing decorator, and we have very similar taste (I tend to be a little more modern and funky, and she can be a little more classic and simple). One Christmas she bought some wooden blocks from Nordstrom in the @home department, that spelled out “holiday” or “Christmas” or something (I can’t even remember now). When the Christmas season was over, she got the idea to flip the blocks over to the white back, and add some black letters to spell out “CEY FAMILY.” She put it on the mantle above the fireplace, and it’s been there since. It’s such a simple, yet bold decoration, and I’ve wanted to mimic it since.

The only problem was that Nordstrom no longer carried the product, and places like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s didn’t have exactly what I was looking for (plus, to buy 10 blocks of slightly different shapes would have cost a lot of money!)

So I went to Home Depot and headed over to the lumber area. I had my 14 year old brother with me, and together we picked a random piece of wood. There was nothing special about it, but they had to cut it in half to fit in my car. I should have measured it there, but I do know that it was 3/4″ thick. There was one piece you could buy that was pre-painted white, but I knew that when I cut it into smaller pieces, I’d have to paint it anyway.

The next step was using a table saw (this is where having a huge family, including a brother in law with every tool you could ask for!), to cut the piece of wood into smaller pieces. There was no rhyme or reason here, just random. He cut my two large pieces of wood into 19 smaller pieces.

After that, I took the wood home, and sanded the edges so they were smooth. I had to make sure that I sanded them even, so they would stand up when I was done with them. I had a few different types of sandpaper lying around, but I mainly used this:


(and let me tell ya – this was the WORST step! My hands got pretty tired. I used a block covered with the sandpaper (it’s on the bottom of the picture), but still – OW. Luckily I’ve got a hunky husband with strong hands, and he helped me a lot.

After they were smooth, the next step was to PAINT!

I found that when I used primer first, I didn’t have to use as much spraypaint. These bottles worked well:


(and thank you to my tattooed friend BreAnna for holding the cans for me)

It took about 3-4 coats of primer/paint to cover the blocks. I think I went through 2 whole cans of white. This is what I ended up with:


I lined them up in an order that I thought would look visually appealing, based on what I was going to do with them. I decided to make the blocks into my last name, Gillespie (which is still new to me, only have been married for a little over a year). Two of my sisters are married, and their last names differ by one letter (random), each 5 letters. I had the exact amount of numbers I needed to complete the project.

I thought about drawing the letters onto the blocks with black paint, because I have pretty good handwriting. But then I knew there was still room for error, and I wanted them to look sharp. I asked my mom what she did, and she said she bought some black letters from Michael’s. I wasn’t sure what that meant. One day I happened to be going through her garage looking for some of my wedding decorations, and I found the black letters. Since she had already used some, and my blocks were a little smaller than hers, I decided to buy the 3″ size:


Make sure you get the self-stick kind, otherwise it doesn’t stick (self explanatory, I know). I picked the sizes of letters I wanted for each block, and started applying them!


(it was like Wheel of Fortune!)




Once the letters were on, I sprayed them with a lacquer spray. I needed it to finish a wooden chair I had painted for my wedding (someday I’ll share it). This was the bottle:


I was excited, and thought I was done…

BUT… in the morning, all the letters were curled and not stuck to the blocks. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m guessing that next time I should use something more like a glue spray. I know there’s a lot of options out there. The lacquer was good for finishing, and they have a nice shine, but it created a huge problem that took a long time to fix.

To fix, I had to take some glue and re-apply the letters. First I tried a hot glue gun, but because the letters are SO THIN, the thickness where the hot glue was showed up through the letter. Then I tried a glue stick, and I felt like it was laughing at me because it just did NOT work. Then I tried Tacky Glue, which in the end worked best. Once I stuck the letter on, I put a heavy book over to ensure they stuck on. Doing this 19 times was not fun, but it worked.

My sisters both loved their letters, and GILLESPIE looks so good on my mantle. I’m so glad I did this project, but don’t be fooled. I didn’t do this all in one day like it seems. Between all the steps, and getting supplies, and waiting to take my pieces to get cut, I think it took me about a month. If you just did 10 letters or less, you could definitely do it in one day. I’ve thought about having some pre-cut, pre-painted pieces on hand, and making them as gifts, but again, it would take awhile :).

The black and white looks perfect in my living room, and the red fireplace really makes them pop. These could be done with any color of paint and letter, but most stores only sell black (and maybe white) letters. You could always stencil or freehand the letters yourself.



3 thoughts on “sometimes katie gets crafty [diy wooden block letters]…

  1. Pingback: sometimes katie turns gold into grey… | sometimeskatie

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