Copying a Local Crab House Sign


Months ago, my sister sent me this picture of a Frank’s Crab House sign.  She had spotted it in a local salvage store.  Supposedly, it used to be for sale for hundreds of dollars but now it had a permanent home behind the check out counter.  At least, that’s the story she told me and that is why there are things in front of the sign. You know it had to be super old if crabs were only $1.50 a dozen.

She wanted to know if I could make her one…BIG, BIG, BIG…as big as I could make it.  A piece of plywood is typically 4’x8′.  That would be big enough if I could get a piece of plywood home that size.

A four foot width barely fits in my car, but the 8 foot length is out of the question. We made an agreement that if she would pick me up a piece of plywood I would make the sign.

A couple of months passed and no piece of wood.  She had been kind of busy so when I spot a piece of 1/2″ plywood next to a dumpster I know I have found my sign.  

Since it was only a mile from my house, I wrestled it into the back of my car and drove very carefully over all the bumps all the way home. It did stick out the back of the car a couple of feet but at least it didn’t fall out.


Now I was finally ready to start. Prime your wood with whatever white paint you have leftover.  I think this was a can of ceiling paint.


Even though the original sign did not have a frame, I thought it would look better with one.  Using some scrap wood, I marked a line where the frame would go and within that line, about 3 inches farther in, a second line for the green border from the original sign.


With a bottle of acrylic green paint, I painted the border.  The inside line should be as neat as you can make it but the outside line can be fairly messy…it will be covered up by the frame.


To enlarge my sign my  program of choice is Microsoft’s , Publisher.  It has a feature where you can make a sign or poster  any dimensions you like, even a sign as big as this one.  Without the green border my overall sign measured in at 69″ x 34″.  A  sign this large prints out on 28 sheets of paper.  By eliminating the border I saved myself over 15 sheets of paper and a lot of ink.

Since the ‘ST’ in steamed was missing in the original photograph I improvised just a bit by copying the ‘S’ in crabs and the ‘E’ in steamed will be a good start for a ‘T’.


After printing, trim the white edges and tape your sign back together.


Wherever there is lettering you need to transfer, scribble on the back with pencil.  The pencil will act as carbon paper when transferring the lettering to the sign.


Place the printed, taped, penciled sign over top of the painted plywood exactly where you want it to go and tape in place.

Go over the outline of each letter with pen using enough force to transfer the pencil to your sign.


Now it’s just a matter of using your best paint-by-number skills to fill in the outline of each letter.vintage-style-crab-house-sign-010

The ‘ST’ looks like it was always there.



When you’re all finished painting, attack the sign with your sander.  It should look like it’s been out in the weather for a few years.


Follow up the sanding with a vintage wax or stain.  This was a vintage wax I use for my chalk paint mixed with clear wax to lighten it up.


For the outside frame I had some long pieces of 1×4 pine that I had originally used in another project.  To get a layered paint look, I first added red and green acrylic paints.  As you can see, the red and green don’t have to be particularly neat.

The red and green were painted over entirely with black chalk paint.  The black was then sanded to re-reveal some of the red and green.

Last step was to seal the paint with some more of the vintage wax.



Frank's Crab House Vintage Style Sign diy

Frank's Crab House Vintage Style Sign diy

The sign has now found a home hanging in my sister’s dining room. I really need to get over there to take some finally I’ve found my home,  pictures. I finished it off by hanging a couple of old rusty hinges at the top as if they were originally attached to the old restaurant.

Not bad for a piece of wood that was destined for the dump!

Shared at Salvaged  Junk Projects, Talk of the Town,

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  • Claudia A. says:

    Love it!

  • Ann says:

    You made it look better than the original with the black frame.

  • Debbie O says:

    I love it and it is exactly why people need to be extra careful when they are antique and vintage hunting. It looks so good, somewhere down the line, it could be mistaken for such. My auntie was hoodwinked, on purpose or accident, I have been unable to figure out. She was at a yard sale this fall and bought what she was told was an original 40s or 50s restaurant sign, reading coffee, 5 cents with a coffee mug graphic. The mug was giveaway number one for me. That far back, I’m not sure mugs were even a thing. The second thing was the obvious sanding marks. Thankfully, it wasn’t a fortune she paid ($20 for the 12×12 sign) and it was a lovely piece to add to the area where she sat each morning with her coffee. Sorry for the novel and I hope no one believes I am insinuating you would ever misrepresent your creations. It’s just very much a buyer beware world out there.

    • Joan says:

      I think the $20 price tag would have been the giveaway. Genuine old signs cost $100’s of dollars. Even vintage sign reproductions, if they are handpainted, cost a fortune. Sorry your auntie was hoodwinked but if she liked the sign then it was a small price to pay.

  • David says:

    I’ll buy her sign for $40! Anything as labor intensive as what you have done…to perfection as always….is still worth a lot of money. It’s not different than any other piece of art. Keep inspiring Joan.

  • Gwen Moses says:

    You are an absolute genius!!! Everything you do is perfect. Oh to be so talented.

  • Sandi Allen says:

    Love, Love, Love this! You did an amazing job on the sign.

  • You truly do taking sign making to a whole new level, Joan. This is outstanding! Your patience never ceases to amaze me.

  • […] So… thanks again for being here, and loving what you see! On with the show… . Here are some highlights from our last party… DIY vintage styled Crab House sign, by Scavenger Chic […]

  • Gosh you are so talented ! I wish i lived right down the street from you, i would barter some pallets for a beautiful sign !(. Maybe since i live cross country i should give it a go because i live on the Oregon Coast and that sign would fit perfectly in my home. I’ll let you know if i get up the nerve to try it (. Thanks for great inspiration and be sure and thank your sister for me ! Have a great weekend.

  • eve says:

    1. what a generous sister you are.

    2. what a generous, creative sister you are.

    3. what a generous, creative, artsy sister you are.

    looking forward to following you and enjoying your blog.