DIY Marquee Letters

Hey guys! So, if you were familiar with our blog before we got started on YouTube, you probably remember our DIY Marquee Letters tutorial of yore (here’s part 1, part 2, and part 3). We built them for our wedding and they were actually the first DIY project we ever started. I say “started” because we didn’t complete them until months later, but still – I count them as the first!

We still get comments and questions about these letters, so we thought doing a video tutorial would help show how we made them. Plus, since this is our second time around and we have a few years of DIY experience under our belts, we came up with some ideas to make a couple tricky parts easier. So check out the video above to see the tutorial! And if you wanna see a budget breakdown, scroll to the end.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn

[Before we keep going, I want to pause and say if you have a second it would mean SO much to us if you’d like our video or subscribe to our channel. Since we’re brand new to YouTube, every view, like, and subscription makes a huge difference for us. Click here to see the whole channel. Thank youuuuu! We’re doing a big goofy happy dance right now!]

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn

So if this looks like something you want to tackle, here are the steps in the video broken down. You can also look at the old 3-part tutorial linked to above, but this version has the updates we made and is a little more succinct (since we did it in a weekend instead of over a 6-month period haha)

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn

Materials

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn

Tools

Step 1: Making guides

This step is a tiny bit of up front work that is going to make things way easier later in the project. We’re going to make a few wooden blocks to use as guides. We didn’t do this the first time we made these DIY marquee letters, but they helped so much this time around.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn First, we cut four 2-5/8″ long blocks out of some scrap 2x4s. These will hold up the letters to the correct height for nailing in the metal flashing later. We used our miter saw, but a jig saw works too, just cut slowly (and maybe use a clamped-on straight edge to guide you).

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Next we’re going to make a height guide to help us nail in the right location. We cut another piece of scrap wood to be 3-3/8″ long and drew a line at 2-5/8″. This will show us where the plywood is from the outside of the flashing.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Both of these measurements are based on using 3/4″ plywood. These guides will make more sense once we get further along in the project, but trust us, you’ll want to have them!

Step 2: Making the letters

We made printable templates for every letter (you can download them here). These are PDFs that will print out on several pages and be the right size to cut out a 2-foot tall letter. We taped together the template, which is easier said than done, at least when you have a cat.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Then we cut out the outline of the letters, taped them onto our plywood, and traced around them using a yardstick as a straight edge.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Before removing the paper, you’ll want to use the hole center guide we included in the template download to mark where to drill each hole.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn NOTE: The lights we used are a pack of 25. Our E and K had 25 total holes. If the letters you chose have more than 25 holes, you might need reduce the amount of holes and eyeball how to space them out OR look for a bigger set of lights.

Line up the center template with each circle on the letters, then either use a center punch or tap a nail a few times into the center mark.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn When you remove the paper templates, you’ll be left with tiny starter holes to show you where you need to drill.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn We drilled through these using a 13/16″ spade bit, but you could also use a forstner bit or hole saw. We’d recommend double checking the diameter of the socket part of your lights before doing this. You want it to be a snug fit.

Sometimes drilling all the way through in one go can cause a little tear-out. It’s not a huge deal because the back of the letters will never be seen anyway, just make sure you’re drilling into the front of the letters. Or you can play it safe like we did by drilling halfway through the letters from the front, then flipping them over and drilling the rest of the way through.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Next we cut around the outlines of the letters with a jig saw. This is easiest to do if you have a couple clamps to hold the wood still, but we made the first set without any. Carefully guide the jig saw around the outline of your letters.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn There might be a couple places where you need to turn a corner and can’t, like the inside cuts of our E. Just drill a hole along the line you need to cut, then place the jigsaw blade in that hole and start cutting along that line.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Woohoo, at this point things are starting to take shape!

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn

Step 3: Sanding and staining

Before staining them, we’re going to give the edges a quick sand. For the outside edges of the letters, we used a 220 grit sanding sponge because it’s easy, flexible, and can contour to the edges a bit.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn We used little scraps of 220 grit sandpaper to sand inside the holes we drilled.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Then we applied one coat of Minwax stain in dark walnut. To keep the coat of stain even, Evan applied it and I wiped off excess as he went. This prevents it from pooling or soaking in too much in some areas and coming out splotchy. It’s not 100% necessary to do it this way, but we think it helps. Don’t worry about staining the edges or inside the holes, they won’t be visible when you’re done.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn

Step 4: Adding metal flashing

This next part, adding the flashing, was definitely the hardest step the first time we did this project. But because we made those scrap wood guides earlier, it’s gonna be a lot easier this time. Go ahead and place your first letter on the 2-5/8″ scrap wood blocks to raise it up off your work surface.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn First we sketched out our letters and measured all the sides, writing the measurements down on our sketch. We planned for the flashing to start at the middle of the bottom of each letter, so the first measurement is just a partial length and we allowed for some overlap at the end.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn We start our flashing at the bottom of each letter and plan for a little overlap We used those measurements to pre-bend the metal flashing. We’ve found the easiest way to do this is to grab a hammer and a sturdy (thick) putty knife, and find yourself something cushy to work on, like carpet. Because we were working outside, we used our doormat. Having your flashing on a cushioned surface lets the putty knife sink into it when you’re hammering.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Put on some gloves (the flashing is sharp). Measure from the end of the flashing to where you need to make the first corner on the letter and draw a line at that point.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Then align the edge of the putty knife with that line, and hammer the handle so that it indents the metal.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Once you’ve given it a few whacks of the hammer, you should be able to bend it easily by keeping the putty knife edge in the crease and folding the metal against it by hand.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Every time we made a bend, we made sure to a) measure the side of the letter again just in case before bending, b) make sure we were bending in the right direction (bending inward or outward), and c) test fit the bend to make sure it fit the letter before moving onto the next bend. We caught a couple measurement mistakes on our end, so we definitely recommend playing it safe!

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Here’s what we mean by corners that bend inward toward the letter.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn And here are the corners that bend outward away from the letter.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn If you do happen to make a bend in the the wrong spot or in the wrong direction, you can undo it. Lay the metal against a hard surface and hammer the bend flat. Then you can re-bend it in the correct spot/direction.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn When you have all your bends made and everything fits, it’s time to secure the metal to the wood. This is where the guides we made are going to come in handy. The blocks we made earlier hold the letter up to the correct height so that when the flashing is wrapped around them, the plywood is centered in the flashing.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn And the 3-3/8″ block will show you, from the outside of the flashing, where the plywood is so that you can nail into it.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn The first time we did this project, we were trying to simultaneously hold the flashing centered with the plywood and hammer into it at the same time. It was not the easiest thing in the world. So trust us when we say these guides will save you!

Another thing that made the project easier this time around is having a nail gun. We haven’t used it much so we did have a slight learning curve, but once we got the hang of it it made nailing the flashing into the wood much faster. We used the outside height guide to show us what height to make the nails at, and we ended up cutting a little notch in it with our jigsaw to even use it as a place to rest the nail gun so our spacing was more consistent.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn However, this is totally 100% doable with just a hammer and finishing nails. It’ll take a little more time, but it’s not difficult. We recommend nails that are only 3/4″ or so so you’re not hammering forever. Use the height guide to line the nails up with where the plywood is and hammer them in.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Whichever method you use, it definitely helps to have one person hold the letters secure while the other nails into them.

If a nail goes through your wood don’t worry, just pull it out with pliers, sand over the rough spot where it exited the wood, touch it up with a dab of stain, and re-hammer in the nail. Just think of it as added character.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn There will be a few areas you can’t nail into because a hammer or nail gun won’t fit. We secured these with super glue. We used gorilla glue last time, but in our opinion, super glue was easier.

Some places won’t need nails or glue (like the tight corners of the K), but other places will (like inside the E).

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn We dabbed some super glue in between the metal and wood, then used scrap wood and rubber bands to hold them tightly together. You may not need to do this step at all, it all depends on your letters. You can also often bend the metal so that it’s bowing against the wood, which holds it against it. But adding a little super glue is easy in a pinch.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn And congrats! You’re done with the hardest part!

Step 5: Adding lights

The last step is adding the lights. All in all, this is pretty straight forward. Just unscrew the bulb, pop the socket through the hole, and screw the bulb back in.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn We had 25 lights and 25 holes, so we made sure that a light was used in each one. This meant we had to do a little back tracking on the legs of the letters. Where you have to backtrack, skip every other hole on and then fill the ones you skipped on your way back. See how I skipped the holes on the leg of the K? I’m going to fill those on the way back up.

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn Annnnnnnnd done!!!!

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn We are so happy to have another set of these DIY marquee letters, and this set was WAY easier to build than our first. Maybe that’s a testament to the skills we’ve learned over the past few years, or maybe it was just because while making the first set we were also trying to fix up our newly bought house and plan a wedding at the same time haha. Either way, we’re super pleased with how these came out.

They are perfect for a wedding (we might be biased) but would also be awesome for an engagement shoot, baby shower, party, or even just as home decor. We have our set that spells LOVE in our living room and they make us happy every day. Hope you enjoyed our DIY Marquee Letters tutorial!

DIY wood and metal marquee letters - Evan & Katelyn

Budget breakdown

Materials

Tools (the required ones only, we used other things just because we had them. Also, I’ve linked to both the versions we have and more budget friendly versions. We tend to invest a little more in tools because we use them all the time, but if you want to save the less expensive versions below all got good reviews)

DIY Marquee Letters - Evan & Katelyn ………………………………………………………………
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  1. These DIY Marquee Letters Are Perfect For Weddings, Parties, or Your Home! - Kaif Anli - May 20, 2017

    […] expensive than they are to make. Married DIYers Evan and Katelyn created a step-by-step video of how to re-create your own signs at home. This project was the very first DIY they ever did together, which they built for their sweet […]

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