A tutorial for making wooden tags from scrap wood or inexpensive pine with three ways to finish them, as numbered tags, beverage and potluck tags, or chalkboard tags. Use them to add to your decor, help keep you organized, or gift as a unique gift.
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If you’ve spent any time looking around AOC, you might have realized that I’m always on the lookout for simple handmade gift ideas that I can recreate for a fraction of the cost. I subscribe to emails and catalogs that I very rarely if ever buy from – they’re just for inspiration and ideas for gifts or decor I can recreate.
I think homemade gifts are fun to give (and get!) because there’s a little bit of you in the gift – not only money, but time and thought as well.
Besides the two ideas above, I added another that I’m sharing along with a tutorial on making your own wooden tags from scrap wood or inexpensive pine. Of course, you can look for unfinished wood tags to buy at craft stores or online, but if you have scrap wood and a miter saw, it’s super easy to make them up for free or pennies each.
After making the plain wood tags, all that’s left is choosing one of the three ways below to finish them. Of course, you can also throw caution to the wind and try all three!
And do you think they will be anywhere near the price of $28.50 + $5 shipping for the distressed number tags on the left above? Or $15 + shipping for the beverage tags on the right? Um, not even close. In fact, I had scrap wood, black paint, garden twine, a sharpie and number stickers already, so it actually didn’t cost me anything.
OK, I guess I did have to buy the stuff at one point, didn’t I? My point is, this is a pretty inexpensive gift – a couple dollars and a nice wrapping job = a great gift. One I’d like to get – in fact, I’m even keeping some of mine!
Note: this is a bit long with four tutorials, but I’ve put the them in collage form so that you don’t have to scroll too much. If you purchase already-made wooden tags, skip to the decorating tutorials.
DIY Wood Tags Three Ways
How To Make DIY Wood Tags:
Make the tags using scrap wood or purchase lattice or lath pieces from a home store. Choose wood that are about 1-1/2″ wide x 1/4′ thick (or cut to size if using scrap wood).
- Use a miter saw – this is the one we have – (or miter box with a hand saw) to cut the wood into 3-4″ lengths (mine average 3-1/2″). TIP: have the blade running before touching the wood and then cut slowly.
- Using a shipping tag as a guide, trace the angles with a pencil.
- Set the miter saw at a 45 degree angle and cut off the corners at the marks.
- Drill a hole in the top using a large enough drill bit to put jute twine though later. (Here’s an inexpensive drill with good reviews.)
- TIP: stack 3 tags and drill through all at once.
- Sand the edges using 150 to 220 grit sandpaper (here’s a set that includes both grits).
Now that you’ve got a nice stack of wood tags, it’s time to decide how to finish them. Choose one, two, or all three options below.
Distressed Wooden Numbered Tags
I can see using these easy numbered tags so many places. In fact, I’m sharing with you just a few of the places I found to use them after the tutorial to give you some ideas.
How To Make Wood Number Tags:
- SUPPLIES: black spray paint, prepped wooden tags, and number stickers in the font of your choosing (this is a classic set of number stickers that would look nice) and jute twine (or ribbon). TIP: There are a number of ways to get this same look, actually – you could use a stencil and paint white numbers on the black wood or paint black numbers on bare wood. I chose to use stickers because it seemed the quickest way to get the muted, worn look I was after and it was what I had.
- Attach stickers to tags.
- Lightly spray two to three coats of flat, black paint, being careful to get all the edges. Spray straight down to minimize any spray paint getting under the sticker edges.
- Let dry and remove stickers.
- Sand the tags using 220 grit sandpaper.
- Spray both sides and all the edges with a clear, satin sealer, let dry and thread with jute twine.
Here are some ways to use the number tags:
- On flower pots or vases. Line up 3 or 5 in a row with the same flower for a beautiful centerpiece or porch decor.
- Hang on baskets.
- Use to label clipboards.
- Put them around mason jars used for storage.
Beverage Label Wood Tags
These Ballard catalog knockoffs would make a wonderful hostess gift, not to mention just a great way to label drinks at your own gatherings.
How To Make Wood Beverage Tags:
Transfer an ink-jet printed word onto the tags:
- Type the words into a word-processing program in the font of your choice (I used Brush script, sized to 44 and 40 for the longer words).
- Reverse or flip the image (I used Preview on my Mac to take a screen shot, flip and print with no constraints).
- Place the printed word on a tag, ink-side down, and lightly damped the paper with a cloth.
- Burnish the image with the end of a Sharpie pen, being careful not to tear the paper. Lift off. AND when that doesn’t work so well (a-hem)…
- Take the sharpie and trace over the outline. (OR simply use the sharpie in the first place, writing in your own handwriting.)
- Let them dry thoroughly and then coat the tags with Mod Podge – do not use a spray sealer – it will make the marker bleed. I’ve read that spraying the wood with hairspray before using the marker will also help with bleeding…but I didn’t do that, so I do have a bit of bleeding, even with brushed on Mod Podge.
Thread these tags with longer pieces of jute twine – about 14″ doubled over – to leave long enough ends to be able to tie around pitchers.
Wood Chalkboard Tags
How to Make Chalkboard Tags:
- Spray paint the wood tags with regular black flat spray paint. TIP: This is my DIY chalkboard secret – it’s about half the cost of specialty chalkboard spray paint, works just the same, and you’re more likely to have some on your shelf like me! I used this same flat paint on this menu board, this distressed frame chalkboard, and for these chalkboard grad party decorations and it works perfectly.
- Spray one side, let dry and then spray the other side, making sure to paint all the edges. Let dry thoroughly.
- Distress the tags, if desired, by rubbing sandpaper along the edges. Thread the holes with jute twine or ribbon.
How to use chalkboard tags:
- Package the tags with chalk for a gift. Using a mason jar to hold them is a fun reusable packaging idea.
- Or use them yourself to label pantry items, craft items, or kid’s toys.
- With either regular flat paint or chalkboard paint, the chalk writes on these easily and wipes off with a soft cloth.
So, if you’ve read this far, I’m going to assume you want to make some version of these tags, so tell me – which will you make and how will you use them? Will they be a gift for someone? Or will you keep them yourself like me?
This tutorial has been updated – it was originally published July 2012.
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