Vintage Marquee JOY Sign

I know Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but I confess that I’m already itching to decorate for Christmas.  I’m restraining myself (officially), since I am hosting Thanksgiving… but I did pull out just a few of my Christmas decorations this week, and I came across one that I think you need to see: my DIY vintage marquee lights.  I shared it last year at Love Grows Wild, but after so many positive comments and questions during my Christmas tour last year, I thought you might want the tutorial, too.

Fabulous tutorial for DIY vintage marquee lights! via #Christmas #decor

Aren’t they fabulous?  The best part is that I’ve seen similar ones for sale for hundreds of dollars… and mine cost less than $50.  Wouldn’t you like to make some for yourself?

Vintage Marquee Lights (full fireplace lit)

Here is what you’ll need to make your own vintage marquee letters:

  • wooden letters (I got mine 40% off at Hobby Lobby, but to save even more money, you could cut them yourself from plywood using a jigsaw)
  • drill press (or drill with very large bit)
  • ribbed plastic shelf liner (I found this product at Target) – note: ribbed liner is not essential, but I love the way the ribbing looks like corrugated metal once painted and it provides a guide to keep it straight when applying it to the letters.
  • hot glue gun
  • chrome spray paint
  • globe string lights (I bought these from Target, too)
  • masking tape

To make your own vintage marquee letters:

  1. Lay your lights on your letters and decide where each bulb should go, then mark the spot with a pencil.
  2. Drill holes for your lights just large enough for the base of the light to fit through (you’ll have to unscrew the bulbs to do this).  This is where a drill press comes in handy if you have access to one… If not, a handheld drill with a large bit will do the trick, but you’ll have to be careful to keep your holes clean.
  3. Cut the shelf liner into strips wide enough to create a lip around the letter.  I used 13 ridges of the shelf liner I bought for each strip, but if you make smaller or larger letters, you may want more or less, so eyeball the material to your liking.
  4. Line up your shelf liner strip so that it has a very tiny overlap on the back of the letter (1-2 ridges only) and a significant overlap on the front.  Then hot glue the strips around the edge of the letter, using the ridges in the shelf liner to guide your placement.
  5. Place the letters face up and spray paint silver.
  6. Place the letters face down and insert all the light bases through the holes, careful to keep the cords as flat as possible on the back of the letters (so they won’t be noticeable later).
  7. Tape down excess cords with masking tape.
  8. Place letters face up and screw in light bulbs.
  9. Plug it in and enjoy it!

Here is the final state of the back.  It may not be gorgeous, but it does the job.

Fabulous tutorial for DIY vintage marquee lights!  via #Christmas #decor

But the front is stunning…

Fabulous tutorial for DIY vintage marquee lights! via #Christmas #decor

Fabulous tutorial for DIY vintage marquee lights!  via #Christmas #decor

I love the vintage, almost industrial look.  I love that they can rest on the mantel or hang on the wall because they’re really not very heavy.  I chose to do JOY for Christmas, but you could choose anything; you could even do just a Monogram and leave it up all year.  Hmmm… I may have another one to make in my future! 😉  In the meantime, I will relish these this Christmas season.

Fabulous tutorial for DIY vintage marquee lights! via #Christmas #decor

I hope your holiday is filled with JOY, as well!


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  1. Beautiful and clever job. I love the word joy for Christmas and always.

  2. Great christmas ideas! I couldn’t wait to start decorating this year either. so I already posted a sneak peek of our christmas home tour all because I was too excited to wait! 😉 All the best, Lisa

  3. This is so awesome, Rachel! I’ve really been wanting to make a marquee sign for Christmas. Might have to revisit this tutorial. Pinning and sharing!

  4. Wow, looks great! What a great Christmas statement piece. :) Julie

  5. I loveeeee marquee signs so much! This one is probably my favorite I’ve seen. I love the contrast of the white and gray! So pretty!

  6. What a wonderful idea!!! I love this!!

  7. Hi Rachel – I absolutely, positively love this! Visiting from i heart naptime party and pinning! Have a wonderful weekend and a happy Thanksgiving!

  8. This looks incredible! I have seen these at the store, and they are so cute. Thanks for such a good tutorial! I would love if you would share this at my blog party, Celebrate It! It’s all about celebrating our wonderful, everyday lives!

  9. Colette Lee says:

    These are so great!! I love your vintage marquee letters and I really want to make these this year! Thank you so much for the tutorial!! I have been talking to my boys about marquee letters since the summer and we keep coming back to needing expensive tools! This solves that issue!! You are wonderfully creative and clever and I really appreciate that you share so much!
    Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      I’m so glad to hear it, Colette! I hope you enjoy them as much as we have. And a very happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, too!

  10. I wish i would’ve seen this 2 months ago!!! Great cmas present idea!!

  11. Love how your marquee lights turned out!

  12. DLG in Mich says:

    I just finished making a set of these. I could not find the letters at my local craft stores, so I cut my own from really thin birch plywood using a jigsaw. There was a pretty steep learning curve in making the letters and quite a bit of trial and error on the process as a whole, but they turned out great for about $35. Thanks for a fun project tutorial!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      I’m so glad to hear, that, Deborah! What fun!! Cutting letters entirely from plywood is quite a task – well done. :)


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