How to Make Decorative Herringbone Wood Letters

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Large scale letters lend a dramatic element to home decor, especially when used in gallery walls (as shown here). Luckily, creating your own DIY version is much easier than you may think. In this tutorial, we'll show you how to make a herringbone pattern, which adds interest to the silhouette and is surprisingly simple to make. With a few materials you can quickly have your own custom large scale letter.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Things You'll Need

  • 2-foot-by-4-foot sheet Walnut veneer (readily available online) 
  • 2-foot-by-4-foot sheet 1/4-inch Birch plywood 
  • Projector or large print of letter 
  • Pencil 
  • Razor knife
  • Metal ruler 
  • Cutting mat 
  • Wood glue 
  • Heavy books
  • Drill and 3/8-inch drill bit
  • Jig saw with extra fine blade 
  • Fine sanding block 
  • Paste wax or polyurethane 
  • Hanging materials, such as picture hanging strips, or d - rings and screws or nails 

Step 1: Draw the Letter on Plywood

Draw or trace a letter on a small piece of paper (about 6 inches by 6 inches). Place underneath the projector and draw the letter on the 1/4-inch Birch plywood with a pencil. If you don't have a projector, freehand if you're comfortable. Alternatively, print the letter large at a copy store -- an engineering print will cost just a few dollars.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Tip

  • Don't want to cut your own letter? Buy a pre-made letter at your local craft store.

Step 2: Cut Strips of Veneer

Using the razor knife, metal ruler and cutting mat cut 2-inch-by-8-inch strips of Walnut plywood. You will need approximately 23 strips to cover a 20-inch-by-17-inch letter.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Step 3: Prepare to Place the Veneer Strips

In the center of the letter, draw a right angle triangle to ensure that the pattern is straight.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Step 4: Place Adhesive on the Veneer Strips

On the back of the veneer strips, place a thin layer of wood glue.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Tip

  • Use a small piece of veneer to spread the glue out to make sure that it is evenly dispersed.

Step 5: Place the Strips in a Herringbone Pattern

Line the first strip with the right triangle in a herringbone pattern, and then follow the diagram below and place the veneer strips in a herringbone pattern.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)
(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Tip

  • The thin glue sets fast, but weigh down the strips while they dry with heavy books. Painter's tape can also be used to help hold down corners.

Step 6: Cover the Letter with Strips

Cover the entire letter with veneer. Let the glue dry for a few hours. Then, repeat Step 1 and redraw the letter on the veneer (if you purchased letter from your local craft store, skip to the next step).

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Step 7: Cut the Center Hole Out

With a 3/8-inch drill bit, drill in the center of the letter.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Place the extra fine blade (designed to leave clean edges) into the hole and cut out the center. Adjust the dial on the side of the jigsaw cut speed to 1, so it cuts slowly.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Step 8: Cut the Outside of the Letter

Using the extra fine jigsaw blade on speed 1, use the jigsaw to slowly cut out the outside of the letter.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Step 9: Sand Any Rough Edges

Using a fine sanding block, sand any rough edges. Also, sand any glue marks off the front with the same sanding block.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Step 10: Seal the Letter

Using paste wax or polyurethane, seal the front of the letter following the instructions on the label.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)
(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

Hang the letter in a gallery wall, prop against the back of a bookcase or lean on the wall behind a desk.

(Image: Sarah Dorsey)

For tips for hanging your homemade wall art, check out The 3 Best Ways to Hang Wood Letters on a Wall.

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