All of my signs are hand-painted onto good quality softwood (typically pine) with an attractive routed edge.
I use acrylic paints, which are durable and hard-wearing, as well as giving a huge choice of colours! Signs are then varnished with three coats of a ‘crystal clear’ satin exterior wood varnish, which will protect your sign in normal outdoor conditions. To ensure your sign gives you pleasure for as long as possible, I recommend positioning it somewhere fairly sheltered, and wiping it down occasionally with a damp cloth. Signs will need re-varnishing periodically – how often depends on how exposed they are to the weather. To re-varnish, your sign will need lightly sanding, before wiping clean with a damp cloth and one to two coats of varnish applied.
It is worth noting that although acrylic paints are renowned for being very colour fast, I have noticed that red shades (this includes some oranges and pinks) will gradually fade in bright sunlight – something to bear in mind when choosing text colours, particularly if you wish to position on a south-facing stable or wall. Unfortunately, this does also affect portrait stable plaques with chestnut horses!
FITTING: Signs can be ordered with holes pre-drilled for fixing, or you can attach brackets (e.g. ‘mirror’ brackets, available from any DIY store) or screw into them from behind as shown in the example of ‘Ebony’ fitted to a wooden stable wall (this creates an ‘invisible’ fixing, and is best for exposed exterior signs as it will not break the seal of the varnish on the front of the sign – however take care to measure screws accurately so they do not go all the way through to the front!!) Signs are often also light enough to be stuck on with strong tape or Velcro, which can work well for interior stables. To protect your sign, hang it away from where your horse can reach it to prevent nibbles. Also hang well away from any salt licks (even if they are sited on the reverse of the stable wall) as salt attracts moisture and this will encourage damp into your sign which will affect it’s longevity.
NB. all signs made prior to 2021 are varnished with a gloss ‘yacht varnish’, which although attractively glossy, unfortunately ‘yellows’ everything it coats. From 2021 onwards, I have sourced and use an exterior varnish that is absolutely ‘crystal clear’, making it a much better choice for painting over portraits as it will not discolour them. It is only available in a softer satin finish, not a high gloss. As it is a new varnish, I have not tested it’s longevity in extreme outdoor conditions and thus recommend a sheltered location wherever possible.