Family Name Subway Sign

13 April 2015

Genealogy nerds enthusiasts, get your paints out.  I have a project for you!

I have wanted one of those cool subway-style signs in our house for a while.  But we are not really modern, sleek black subway sign kind of people, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what I wanted to put on it (old street names...we don't have good ones, cities we are from..., the 'burbs don't score high on the cool points, etc.).  But then, the family history nerd enthusiast in me came up with an idea.  I realized that we know the surnames of all of our great great grandparents (3x great grandparents to our kiddos), and I thought they would make neat pairings for the sign.

After looking up dozens of tutorials and Pinterest photos for examples, I settled on tearing up an old palette (thank you awesome neighbors), and using carbon paper to copy the lettering that I wanted.  This meant hand painting all of the names.  If it sounds tedious, it absolutely was.  I have a knack for finding the most convoluted ways to do easy projects.

I highly recommend looking up a tutorial on Pinterest, they are a dime a dozen on there.  But in case you have a lot of time to kill, and want to match the size, fonts, and colors to your exact specifications, then here is how I made this sign...

I am not going to lie, it does help to have a handy guy who likes to tinker.  Ripping apart palettes is not as easy as Pinterest would have you believe.  My better half did the whole tearing apart the palette and figuring out how to latch the good boards together again part.  But I am not sharing him, unless you bring me brownies.

I painted on the base coat of gray (Benjamin Moore's Kendall Charcoal), since stark black doesn't really fit our house.

After we had the dimensions of the wooden boards when latched together, I used MS Publisher to layout a poster the size of the boards.  I typed in the names, found the font I liked, and fit the text to fill the frame.

Because you needed to see this step, right?
I printed the sign off on multiple sheets of paper, then trimmed and taped them together.  After laying down sheets of carbon paper across the top of the boards, I taped down the names and started to trace the outlines.

After the tracing was done, I lifted the sheets up (carefully so I could double check that everything did get transferred), and began to paint in the letters using a tiny craft paint brush and some off-white 'oops' paint I got for a dollar at the paint store (yay!).  Y'all, I told you this wasn't the quick way to do it.  Make your beverage of choice, put on some good tunes, and get comfy.  It takes a while to fill in every letter.

After the white paint was finished, I went back through with my tiny brush and the gray background paint to clean up any letters that looked less-than-acceptable.  At the time, we were trying to teach my perfectionist daughter that things don't always have to be perfect.  She admonished me saying, "Mom, it just needs to be good enough, not perfect."  Touché baby girl, touché.  Nevertheless, each letter got a little touch up.

We hung the sign at the bottom of the stair landing using washers behind the screws to help it look intentional, and I have to say that I love it!  I love to see the history of our family every day.  I love that my kids will feel familiar with these names and hopefully hearing stories about where we come from will not be so abstract.

A contender for worst photography award.  It is a dark corner and we have had cloudy skies.  I tried, y'all.
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