Lighted Marquee Sign and Christmas Mantel

Friends, today I’m bringing you one of the hardest projects I’ve ever done to date: a lighted marquee sign. I know a lot of these have been floating around Pinterest and the Blogosphere, but I just had to try my hand at making my own. I just love the soft glow of the bulb lights reflecting off letters that spell out something wonderful. I knew it would be a great addition to my Christmas mantel! Thus my resolve to make one of these marquee signs was strengthened.Β  Let me tell you, this project was not a piece of cake by any means! Maybe it’s because I’m not that handy (rarely touched a powertool before I started this blog….) or maybe it really just is that hard. But the end result is so amazing that it made all of it absolutely worth it! Follow my steps below if you want to see how I did it πŸ™‚


Lighted Marquee Materials

lighted marquee

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Piece of wood (I used a scrap of thin plywood)

Cardboard letters (make sure they’re hollow!)

Spray Paint

X-acto knife or box cutter

Hot glue gun

Drill with 1/2″ flat spade bit and 1″ flat spade bit

String of globe lights

lighted marquee sign

My friend Karisa, from Petite Modern Life (that’s her above!), and I started working on this project together – each of us with our own phrase. It’s nice to have a buddy around to help you out and so you don’t go crazy! She and her hubby are awesome power tool rockstars so I was glad I could be there to absorb some of their skills and tips! I chose to go with the word ‘JOY’ because I didn’t want to be in too over my head if it ended up being hard (which it was, so I’m glad I didn’t choose a longer phrase!)

Step 1

lighted marquee signI took my letters and carefully cut off the top of each one like Karisa is doing in the photo so that I was left with a hollow letter with sides in tact. Cut as carefully and as close to the edge as possible for clean lines. Inside the letter were those zig-zaggy things you see in the photo above – those easily pull out and can be discarded (or saved for another project!)

Step 2

lighted marquee sign

I spray painted my letters with some Krylon gold metallic paint. I personally think it’s nice to choose metallic spray paint for this project so the light reflects and bounces off better. Just makes for a prettier scene! This was probably one of the easiest parts of the project. Except I had to have Karisa help me get the lid off the spray paint because for some reason I just. couldn’t. do it. Apparently I’m a wimp.

Step 3

lighted marquee sign

Next I laid out my letters on my plywood and rearranged them till they looked right and evenly spaced. To make sure they would end up in the right space I lightly traced around them with a pencil Then I just drizzled the back of each letter with hot glue and pressed them down firmly into the traced outline I had just made. Hot glue actually holds surprisingly well for this project!

Step 4

lighted marquee signTo get the spacing of the lights as evenly possible, I set beads in each letter and moved them around until I had the right amount of lights in the right spots to really make this lighted marquee sign shine. Once I was satisfied I put a little pencil mark where each bead was.

Step 5

Now comes the hard part – drilling. I drilled one hole with my biggest drill bit and *gasp* found that it wasn’t big enough for the lightbulb to go through! Gah. I managed to widen the hole so it was big enough but then when I went to screw the light bulb into the cord I found, to my dismay, that the lightbulb wasn’t long enough to go through the cardboard and the wood to screw in! Argh! Foiled! After some research I decided that I would a.) need a bigger bit so I could screw the proper size hole for the lighbulb and then b.) and even bigger flat spade bit so I could drill partially into the back so the cord socket would be able to reach the bulb. I put this part off for close to two weeks because I was a little too intimidated to do it! But one afternoon I buckled down and got a flat spade drill bit set from Home Depot and off I went!

The method I found that works best is to drill a small hole through the front where you want each light bulb, but not the full size yet, so you can see where the holes should be on the back. If you drill the full size of the light bulb hole first and then try to use the flat spade bit on the back it gets messyΒ real quick.Β So after I drilled a small marker hole I flipped the wood over and used a 1″ flat spade bit to drill through the plywood down to the cardboard, but not through it, like so:

lighted marquee signMy holes are a hot mess, don’t judge me. It was SO hard to not accidentally drill through everything. Argh. My arms were actually sore the next day from trying to control the drill so precisely! For some brilliant reason I decided to do all this drilling on the rug in my craft room (the garage was below freezing, okay?!) so I ended up with wood shards and sawdust all over the carpet, in my socks, my hair. Oops. Once I had drilled down to the cardboard on the back I flipped it back over and then drilled the hole for the lightbulb. The back of the board ended up looking like this for the ‘O’ in ‘JOY’:

lighted marquee signStep 6

lighted marquee sign

lighted marquee signI took my globe lights and unscrewed all the bulbs and set them aside so they wouldn’t break. Then one by one starting at one end of the board I stuck the cord sockets into my holes and screwed in a bulb from the other side. Make sure you screw them in really tight – as tight as they will go – to ensure that they’ll come on when you plug it in! I had to go back and tighten a few of mine when I plugged it in for the first time and some of them weren’t on!

To keep the back from getting too cray-cray, I also used some masking tape to tape down the remaining cord so it wouldn’t stick out.

PHEW. All that was left was to put the beast up! I decided to just set it on my Christmas mantel instead of hanging it, but you could totally do that by adding some hanging hardware to the back. And here she is in all her glory:

lighted marquee sign

It may not be perfect, but I’m really happy with how it turned out! I’m proud of myself for using power tools and for sticking with it even when I wanted to punch a wall. It looks great on my Christmas Mantel and brings a warm happy glow to the room!

lighted marquee sign

lighted marquee sign

lighted marquee sign

lighted marquee sign

lighted marquee sign

Christmas Mantel

Since I’m putting up my lighted marquee sign for the holidays I also wanted to take this post to share my Christmas Mantel with you! I’ve never had a mantel of my own to decorate, so I’m new at this! A lot of my Christmas decor is more mis-matched and old-fashioned because most of it is a compilation of my things and my husband’s things from when we were children with a few newer things thrown in. It may not be magazine-worthy, but each of these things makes me nostalgic and reminds me of Christmases past and the magic of this holiday as I experienced it as a child. It’s all special to me!

lighted marquee sign

I’ve had my koala bear stocking since I was born – I’m surprised it still looks this good for being 26 years old! My husband’s stocking was handmade by his mom when he was a child and has his name written on it in gold!

I always put up my old stocking hanger, even if I don’t hang my stocking on it anymore. That little baby in the frame is me! Aren’t I adorable. Something unique about me is that I collect nutcrackers. I get one almost every year, so I have quite the collection spread out over the house! I put up a couple of the classier ones on my Christmas mantel. Two new additions this year are a sweet printable from Craftberry Bush and I decorated my llama with a little bit of Christmas sprig for some festive fun!

I really love how my lighted marquee sign and Christmas mantel turned out. I spend all my spare time hanging out in this room basking in the golden light’s glow! It’s quickly becoming my favorite room in the house πŸ™‚ Heck, I might just leave that marquee sign up all year round since it took such effort to make. What do you think?


What are some of your most precious Christmas decorations or ornaments that make you the most nostalgic?





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