How to Make a Rustic Ampersand That Is Bigger Than You

As promised: the tutorial for my giant wooden ampersand.


Amy said she wouldn’t read this unless it referenced bra size, so, Amy, for you, I have hidden a bra in one of the tutorial photos. Can you find it? It’s like Where’s Waldo gone wrong. No, Waldo won’t be appearing in a photo wearing a bra.

Seriously, what is happening to this blog? First stool, now tatas…I fear I’ve lost all inhibition and sense of dignity.

Let’s hurry up and get to that tutorial.

How to Make a Wooden Ampersand that is Practically Bigger Than You


  • 3.5 pine boards (I used 1”x3”x8’)
  • jigsaw
  • sandpaper (I used 30 grit, then 100 grit, then 210 grit on the edges)
  • brown craft paper
  • 1.25” drywall screws
  • skinny scrap wood
  • stain and polyurethane
  • The total cost for this project was around $20 since many of these supplies were already in our possession from other projects.

1. Create the shape template. Draw your desired shape on some sort of paper. I used the roll of 3’ wide brown craft paper and just cut and taped until it was 4’ wide. The ampersand I drew freehand.



Then, cut out the shape and hang it where you envision it living a long and happy life, just to make sure you aren’t crazy and actually want a giant & hanging on your wall. Confirm vision, ignore the mess in your bedroom, and continue with ampersand-creating process.

Picture6That desk that is sandwiched by those two fans is currently drying in the backyard from its makeover. More on that and the desk chair next week.

2. Create the pattern pieces for your shape. First, figure out how wide your wood is. The pine boards I used were 3” wide (they were extra from another project). Mark off lines every 3” on your shape template (or as many inches as the wood you are using--if your wood is 4” wide, you’ll obviously want to mark off every 4 inches). Number each piece (this was really helpful later in the process) and then cut out each shape. You now have your patterns for cutting out the wood.


3. Channel your inner Norm Abram and cut out each shape with a jigsaw. Bonus points for using Norm’s Boston accent while you do this. I traced each shape onto the wood then cut it out, and numbered it again before setting it aside.


Tip: when you’re cutting, place the “wrong” surface of the wood up. The surface that the jigsaw goes directly into gets significantly more jagged than the other side.


4. Sand the edges, assemble, and make adjustments. This is where having the pieces numbered was helpful. I didn’t have to stand there trying to figure out which piece came next; since they were numbered, I already knew. And as far as adjustments, I had to make some little tweaks for pieces that didn’t quite line up correctly, but I didn’t go too crazy. I wanted it to look rustic and imperfect, so I was okay with the edges not being 100% flush. I did sand the rough edges with 30 grit, then 100 grit, then 210 grit sandpaper to get them as smooth as possible.


If I had kids, I would totally have handed them these pieces and said, “Put together the puzzle!” and then gone off and eaten a cupcake.


5. Bring in the reinforcements. Flip the whole thing over so the “wrong” side is up, and then line up scrap wood that you’ll screw into to hold it all together. I mostly just used scraps from this project and others. Make sure each board has a screw in it and that each one is somehow connected to the board next to it. I did this before staining but forgot to take a picture.



6. Distress, stain, and seal. The part where the ampersand got abused was the one step that Rick helped with, but only because he saw me flailing around with the crowbar and wanted in on the action.


The stain is in two layers: Minwax Ebony wiped off immediately, followed by Minwax Dark Walnut wiped off between 30 seconds and a minute. I sealed it with Varathane clear satin polyurethane. (All stain and sealer was leftover from our bedroom floor refinishing saga.)


And that, my friends, is the story of how I made a giant rustic ampersand ALL by myself. I’m still examining my limbs to make sure none are missing.

We’ll hang it on the wall as soon as that desk I mentioned is ready to go. It’s surprisingly lightweight—I can carry it by myself without grumbling or pulling a muscle—but we’ll still have to be creative with how we attach it to the wall. I’m thinking we’ll suspend it from old bra straps.

Of course that’s what you’re thinking, Erin. What are you, 12?

Even my cats are hiding their heads in shame.


Have you tackled any power tool projects without the help of a related handyman? Who is making the same face my cat is? Who found the hidden bra?


  1. You should do "Where's Bra?" in every post. It could be your signature blog move. Think about it.

    I love this ampersand so very much. So very much that I think you should make it for me while practicing your Norm accent.

    1. It just occurred to me that I could have been really punny and called it "Where's Braldo."

      I'll be sure to bring my jigsaw next time I'm in Iowa. ;)

  2. I wish you had posted this tutorial back in October! Not that I would've been able to handle making my own, but that's besides the point. I was on a crazy hunt for a large ampersand (aren't we all?) for wedding photos. In the end, I had to make my own with foam board. There may not have been bra straps involved, but there was a kitchen knife. Clearly my carpentry skills are not up to par.

  3. Too funny! I seriously wouldn't have numbered the pieces and would have spent hours trying to reassemble them.

    1. Numbering them was totally a random decision. I usually don't think things through that well. ;)

  4. I agree with DecorandtheDog, the "find the bra" game was perfect for this morning. Made me laugh!

  5. best tutorial i've ever read. and i want to smush/hug your cat!

  6. Whoa, I thought you cut this out of one big piece of plywood. I'm so impressed with your much more resourceful method. Kudos.

  7. The ampersand is super cute! And I'm with Michelle on the weekly "find the bra" game!

  8. I found it!! I can't wait to see it up on your wall!! This is so cool!!

  9. I'm impressed ! It looks like kind of a lot of work, what with all that wood cutting and such. Turned out great ! ps. I spotted the bra. Thanks for the giggle.

    1. Trust me, if using the jigsaw had been hard, I wouldn't have continued all by myself. "Difficult" is not my forte. :P I did the whole thing over two days! :)

  10. Rachel7/11/2012

    I found the bra!! Wooooo

  11. I thought you had made it out of plywood and figured "cool, I could make that". But now, not so much. Don't know if my jigsaw skills are quite as good as yours. Maybe a smaller version. Well done! i love the tones of the stains. And as usual, you've given me my morning smile. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Heather! The cuts you'd have to make on the plywood are the same you'd have to make with individual boards! You can do it, really! Rick just gave me a couple tips and then I was good to go. :)

  12. Laugh! Chortle! Snort!! Freaking loved this post. The bra is hilarious, and I for one really like the idea of hanging it from old bra straps. It would really bring some elegance to such a rustic piece. ;)

    But seriously, I'm impressed! I wouldn't have guessed the process to be so involved. And you know how I feel about rusic anything. Bravo!

  13. That turned out awesome!! I would totally be the moron who tried a bajillion times to cut the whole thing out without ever thinking of piecing it together! And I'm dying over the bra!!!

  14. This is SO GREAT. I'm still laughing at the bra. Having a where's waldo-style hunt in your photos took my whole experience of reading your post to another level.

  15. don't hate me but i had to google what an ampersand was....

  16. Loved this post!! Great tutorial and I love the end result. The where's the bra game was amazing too- love your blog sooo much!


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