Friday, August 2, 2013

old barn wood is cool...WAY COOL!

I am constantly looking for ideas for birthday gifts for my folks. They live in Florida...this creates a problem...What do they need?!?!? You can always use a hand made sign from your youngest son! YES, a dock sign to greet all their canal-traveling visitors. With this solid tidbit of knowledge, I set out to build one. 

My father-in-law, Mr. Burrous, wrangled up some terrifically aged barn boards.

I pulled two of the 4 boards that were of similar thickness, length and grain weathering. I lined up the nail holes on the left side and ripped them at about 43 inches wide (making the sign 24x43.5). I was beginning to feel quite good about the whole thing at this early stage...very rare indeed.

I ripped two thin strips to use as bracing on the back. I really liked how the back looked at this stage....also very rare.

I had to decide on a fish for the central theme. We were given this book while on vacation down in FLA a few months ago.

There were several options for the fish. Redfish...Snook....TARPON!!!!! Really there was only one option for my first barn wood sign.

I kept the finest board for the tarpon. One inch thick (this makes it kinda old! ...the modern wood sellers never give you what the labels say!). It has deep cracks, knots and numerous quality abrasions. I wanted this sign to look old as soon as I give it to them. This board sealed the deal!

I sketched it out and jigsawed the lines. Pretty straight forward. I took left over pieces and cut out fins. This was very fun to do. Very. I liked the fish just like this...that rough unfinished state often looks like you should consider it finished.

I rubbed white house paint (using an old rag from the garage) across the main body of the tarpon and on the adjoining parts of the fins...then some gray/black on their tips. I added some greenish-yellow along the top of the body and then some bluish stuff above that and around the outside edge.

Then came the anxiety. Every work of art (not that this is Art but ya get what I'm sayin') I've ever done has this phase at some point. Some are even entirely anxiety-ridden. I only had 4 boards and if I mess up carving into them, I'm up the creek! I practiced on a piece. I still was stressing. I sketched out some letters and went right in.

I tried not to be precise. Anyway, the wood would not allow the unskilled hands I possess to be precise. Things just work out some times. 

This staged photograph was to show the Dremel bit and the angle of attack. It also showed how the wood splinters A LOT! In the end, it adds to the aged look I wanted.

The THE came last as I wasn't sure how I was going to draw it. Also carving this small was scaring me more than any other aspect.

I left large spaces below the  C & O and above the C & K for lag bolts that will attach it to the dock. I still hadn't figured out the eye and face details. Like the THE, I wasn't sure how to accomplish it. My wife said that it had to be done. Four or five hours passed before I dove in. Stressful!

I roughed-in some yellow house paint (Ashley had it left over from some project. She said I should use yellow. I don't argue color much with her anymore. If I do argue color, it is really just to test my arguing skills....I hope to win but will just go with her opinion in the end).

The eyes were carved and some gill lines and such. And, well, that is that. Whimsy and old. Instant aging. Old barn wood is cool. 

I'm still figuring out what I should coat it with...exposure to saltwater and all. I definitely don't want any shine. Thompson's water seal or something. We'll see. I'll post it again when it's in place (months from now!). 


  1. That is awesome, and I think it is Art!

  2. Randy, that looks amazing! Well done, what a great gift :)

  3. Great job Randy - I'm a friend of your Bros. Looking forward to seeing sign at your Dad's house. was so impressed I had to share link.

  4. Hey! Nice lettering - well placed into the space - and your fish details really transform the barn wood!

  5. hey all....big was one of those projects that never felt like work....all new all the time!