Here's the finished product.
And here's how I did it:
Step 1: Prepare wood.
For this sign, I used pallet wood. Afterall, everyone else does it. And, just because everyone else jumps off a bridge, doesn't mean you should. You can buy a 8ft 1x4 at Lowes for around $2. Do it! Like, jump in your car, and go right now. Just because a pallet is free, doesn't mean you should use it. This step took FOREVER! The top left is the sawzaw I used to cut the boards off of the pallet. Then, I ran them through the table saw to get smooth edges. There's some other steps, but I did this project a couple of months ago, and I've lost my mind since then, so I'm not sure what the other pictures are in the collage.
Step 2: Paint wood and make your template.
Excuse the poor lighting. I did this project in my basement, and I was too excited to snap better pictures. Making barn boards is so easy it should be illegal. Seriously, just slap some paint on (top picture), let it dry, rough it up with sandpaper, and stain over it (bottom picture.) Voila!
While the paint was drying, I used my handy overhead projector ($10 on Craigslist!) to make a giant bracket-shaped stencil on cardboard. I taped the cardboard to the wall, traced, and then cut out the shape.
Step 3: Cut out your wood.
I laid the cardboard on the boards and traced around it with chalk. Be careful when you do this step that the stencil fits on the boards well enough that you can easily cut it with a jigsaw. I went to town with jigsaw and was ready for the next step after a good sanding.
Step 4: Prepare a back.
I cut a piece of 1/2 inch plywood to attach to the back of the boards to hold them all together. The boards are just fastened to the plywood, not to each other. If I was going to do this again, I would ran slats horizontally instead of having a full piece of plywood. I didn't take a picture of this, but I left to of the screws drawed out a little, so I could run wire between them to hang the sign. After I stretch the wire across, I tightened the screws back up. I stained the plywood then.
Step 5: Stencil your letters and paint.
I hung the sign on the wall, put my transparency back up, and traced the letters using chalk. I didn't realize my sign was a little crooked, so the final product ended up just a little slanted. I used regular latex paint, leftover from painting our house, to fill in the letters. I also painted the edges.
All in all, this project probably took close to five hours, but it would be much quicker if you used 1x4 instead of pallet boards. The options for signs like these are limitless. Enjoy!