The Blue Whale is a classic staple in Dark Shadows and the sign is iconic!
Total Project Time: 4 hours (active time)
For a while, I have wanted to recreate the wall sign of the blue whale from the Dark Shadows television show. And making it as a gift made the whole process extra special! After it was put on the wish list, I looked around and was surprised that I couldn’t find a single place that sold the Blue Whale sign. And if I can’t buy something, I make it! This project was bigger than I anticipated but it turned out beautifully.
For this one, I gathered the following supplies:
- 2 wooden planks
- 4 metal mending plate
- 4 wooden dowels
- Jigsaw / Sanding / Drilling equipment
- 2 Nails
- Wood filer
- Priming Paint
- Paint (white, dark blue, light blue, black)
- Construction paper
- Hanging wire and corresponding hooks
There was a lot going on in this project so, of course, it took a lot of materials to get everything just right!
Creating the Base
The most important part of this process is right at the beginning: creating the shape of the sign. In the original sign, there is a line where the two planks came together, and I used that line as my guide to help recreate the shape. I started making the outline with a pen first. Having some guide to cut along is one of the most important things when it comes to recreating a shape. Once I was satisfied with my lines, I began to cut. Slowly. So slowly. I tend to err on leaving more room than less because it’s always easier to take away then it is to add.
After doing some research, I discovered that the fin on the Blue Whale sign is raised. Or, at least, I’m pretty confident it is. I used some of the wood that was effectively scrap from the base and cut out the fin shape.
Putting the Piece Together
Before I sanded the project, I wanted to connect the two pieces of wood that made the base. To make this portion extremely sturdy, I added two types of locking mechanisms. First, I did an internal lock. This consisted of drilling matching hole on each plank and placing wooden dowels between them. Like Ikea furniture.
I didn’t have the screw locking mechanism that normally goes with the wooden dowels, so I instead used mending plates along the back of the sign. For these, I lined up one side of the mending plate on each piece of wood before attaching the screws. This made the project super strong. Some irrational part of me was constantly worrying about the sign breaking so I really went to every effort to make sure that didn’t happen.
Finishing the Details
With the wood now aligned, it was time to sand the whole project. I sanded the fin separately from the base but tried to make everything a smooth as possible. This is where some of the defined edges really came to life! With everything in its place, I screwed the fin into place to make the sign looked finished.
And then it dawned on me that I wasn’t done with this step. Who wants to see exposed nails on the front of your sign? I sure don’t and neither did whoever created the original because screws (or nails) are no where to be seen. Which means it’s time to use wood filler to fill in all of my mistakes. And there were a couple more than I like to admit but wood filler does an amazing job at hiding the scuffs and dents. After the wood filler was finished drying, I did one more quick sand before taking the sign inside to paint.
Like with all my painted wood projects, I started with a primer on the wood. This allows the wood to take the color better and really hide the wood grain underneath. And that was the desired result for this project. Now, at this point, you might be thinking: how do you know what color the sign is if the show was in black and white?!? And, I can’t say I do know.
The gradation of color is apparent in the show (with whatever very quick glances we get to see the sign). And, considering the nautical theme, going from blue to white seems like a pretty safe bet. I think this is also what the movie chose to do but I’m not sure because I have not seen the film, just other fan art around the internet.
To get that proper gradation, I did a dot approach. This is where I dotted the surface with the colors, I wanted the finished piece to be. Then I took a large paint brush and did a large sweeping stroke – starting at the top and then slowing moving down. These gradations generally do well go from the dark to the light and I really wanted the top to be dark to accommodate the white lettering.
One of the hardest parts of making this sign was adding the words. Words are generally hard to do, and this project was no exception. Especially because I had no idea which font this was. There were a couple that matched closely but I have a feeling that this font was a bit freer form giving the time the sign was created. I created a stencil to get the words matching as closely as possible.
But even with a stencil, I had to carefully paint in the lines. Paint like to creep, and it can get under the stencil or sticker you’re using if you go too fast. Hoping to avoid having to do extra work, I tried to go slow and steady. Well… as slow as I can go… which probably isn’t very slow but I’m trying!
This project turned out absolutely gorgeous. I love the way the gradation turned out. Although the project was difficult, this is a pretty good reproduction of the original if I do say so myself. And the recipient of the sign was extremely excited upon receiving it. This was probably one of my largest projects that I’ve done in a while, but it was well worth the effort.
Knowing Where to Drill
Putting the pins into the project was a bit difficult especially because I had to drill the corresponding holes on each side. A good way to identify where to drill involves using a dab of paint or a spreadable/liquid marker. I like to put the dots where I want to drill on one side and then place the two sides together. This should leave markings on both side that can be correlated. If you have screws (or dowels) already placed on one side, you can use tape as well! Place the tape over the area and push down to make holes in the space with the dowels or screws. This will show you the spacing between each piece if nothing else.
Blue Whale Replica Sign
- 1 Jigsaw
- 1 Drill
- 1 Sander I used an orbital sander
- 2 Wooden Planks
- 4 Metal Mending Plates & Screws
- 4 Wooden Dowels
- 2 Nails about 1 ½ inch long
- Wood Filler
- Priming Paint
- Color Paint White, Light Blue, Dark Blue, Black
- Construction Paper
- Hanging Wire and Corresponding Hooks & Screws
- Use a pen or pencil to trace the image outline. Using a jigsaw (or other cutting apparatus), cut out the shape(s) required for the project.
- Drill corresponding holes and use dowel to attach wood pieces together. Attach metal mending plate to provide additional support.
- Sand all cut edges. Use screws to connect any remaining unattached pieces.
- Use a wood filler to fill or smooth any area that are chipped or missing wood.
- Paint entire project in a primer. Using the white, light blue, and dark blue paint, make lines of dots to help create a gradation on the piece.
- Create a stencil using the construction paper (as needed). Use white and black pain to create Lettering and symbols.
- Using hanging wire and hooks to support mounting.