Crafting with Power Tools: How to Make Holiday Marquee Lighted Letters

If you’ve been looking at your Christmas light display and thinking it needs a little something extra, or are looking for the perfect ensemble to impress the neighbors this year, we’ve got the DIY you’re looking for. Break out the power tools and build your own holiday marquee lighted letters to top off your yard display this season.

Step 1: Choose Your Words and Draw Your Letters

You can create anything with your marquee letters. Keep it simple with a “Ho Ho Ho” or go big with a bright “Merry Christmas.” Whatever you decide, start by drawing your letters on large pieces of paper to create stencils. Your letters can be any size you like, so design them to suit your plans.

Step 2: Get Your Supplies

Once you have your stencils drawn, you will need to buy enough plywood to match. In addition to the wood for your letters, you will need wood to create your supports. You will need three pieces of wood to support each of your letters: two long pieces cut to about three-quarters of the height of your letters and a width about equal to one of the lines of your letter (i.e., for the letter D, you want the width of your vertical support to be about the same width as the upward line in your D). You will also need a support running between your vertical supports to give it stability. You don’t need to buy separate wood for your support beams if you calculate them into the size of plywood you will need for both the letter and supports. In addition to wood, you’ll need quality hinges to attach the supports to their letters and lights, as well as paint in the color you choose.

For example, if you’ve decided to create a sign reading “HO HO HO” you’ll need:

  • Wood for 6 letters
  • Wood for 12 vertical supports and 6 horizontal supports
  • 12 hinges

Step 3: Drill For Your Lights

Before you start cutting out your letters, trace your stencils onto your plywood. Next, drill the holes for your lights; this is best done before cutting out your letters as the full piece of wood will be sturdier and easier to work with. Measure out where your lights will go and draw the holes. You can put them as close together or far apart as you like as the extra cord will be hidden behind your letters. Be sure to give enough space between each hole so the strength of your letters is not compromised. Use a hole cutter with the appropriate diameter to match your lights and drill out all your holes.

Step 4: Cut Out Your Letters

You can cut the straight edges of your letters on a table saw or with a circular saw. For the rounded parts of your letters you will need to use a jigsaw. You can also cut your supports at this time.

Step 5: Sand and Paint

It will be easier to paint your letters and stands before they are assembled. Sand down any rough edges before applying your paint. You may decide to paint your stands black to make them less visible at night or you can paint them to match your lights. Let your letters dry before moving on to the next step.

Step 6: Attach Your Supports

Your support will be installed so that they fold flat against your letters and come out to prop the letters up like a sandwich board. Attach each long support to the back of your letters using the hinges. Each letter will get two supports, one on either side, that line up along the bottom with your letters and are secured about three-quarters of the way up. Next, install your width size support at the bottom of the two long supports to give it strength. Do this for all the letters.

Step 7: Install Your Lights

You can secure your lights in place using glue and keep the wires tucked away using a staple gun. Be very cautious not to staple through your wires as this will ruin your lights and can be dangerous.

Finally, it’s time for the big reveal. Plug in your letters and voila! These sturdy letters can be stored away to bring joy for years to come. Once you’ve given your marquee letters a try, you can use these same steps to create all kinds of lighted displays.