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How to make rustic wooden gift tags

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White distressed wood gift tags with white string and a black bead.

What if I told you that you could make these rustic wooden gift tags (with printing) using a napkin, an inkjet printer and no reverse printing to worry about? Too good to be true? Trust me; it’s not only true, but it’s also easy to do! Come with me, grasshopper, and I’ll show you how.

Hi! I’m Lisa from The Old Tree Cottage. If you’ve been making my trays, these wooden gift tags are a fun way to use up scraps of lath*. If you don’t have scrap wood, there is always an alternative; in this case, it’s paint sticks!

Supplies for rustic wooden gift tags

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase through a link.

*Lath is similar to a 1×2, but instead of being 3/4″ thick, it’s 3/8″. It’s what I use for the base in my tray tutorials. You can find lath at a building supply store. A heads up, though. It comes in 8′ lengths that you buy in a bundle. Paint sticks might be your better option if you only plan to make a few.

Let’s get to it!

1. Cut to 3 1/2″ lengths

  1. For efficiency, sand the front and back of the board and the sides using 100-150-grit sandpaper before you cut. It’s much faster than sanding individual pieces. If you’re using paint sticks, this step isn’t necessary.
  2. I cut my tags into 3 1/2″ lengths, but it’s your project, so adjust them to whatever size you prefer.
  3. Once they are cut, hand-sand any sharp edges.

2. Age the raw wood

Before painting, I always start by applying my old wood stain. It’s a black paint and water recipe, and it works every time on all types of wood. It also dries quickly. Truthfully, I generally eyeball the portions. However, the ol’ eyeball method isn’t for everyone, so check out the recipe in the photo above. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to make extra of unless you plan to use it soon. Unfortunately, it eventually gets smelly.

  1. Apply the stain all over the wooden tags. If you have room in your container, dip each piece in and then lay it to dry. It’s much faster than painting by hand.
  2. Let dry.

3. Wax, paint and sand the rustic wooden gift tags

  1. Randomly rub candle wax along the edges.
  2. Add a solid coat of white paint. Let dry.
  3. Lightly sand the edges to expose the wood tone underneath.

If you’d like a different base colour, you would do the following:

  1. Paint the base colour (in the photo above, it’s red.)
  2. Let dry.
  3. Randomly rub candle wax edges.
  4. Add a solid coat of white paint. Let dry.
  5. Lightly sand to expose the colour underneath.

4. Print on a napkin using an inkjet printer

The napkins I used were so cheap they were already a 1-ply, which meant they had texture. I decided to try it anyway. Once the napkin was glued to the wooden tag, it smoothed out the texture. Yay! I don’t have to buy more napkins!

I’ve included two free options of sayings to download in a Script or Print. I’ve also added marks so you can easily cut them to the right size. However, you may prefer to make your own to customize it with your sayings.

  1. Pull apart the layers of the napkin, and keep the bottom layer.
  2. To attach the napkin to the computer paper, either lightly spray-glue the computer paper or use a bit of two-sided tape along the edges.
  3. Set the bottom piece of the napkin over the computer paper and carefully smooth it out, making sure it’s stuck to the tape.
  4. Trim the napkin to the size of the computer paper.
  5. Insert it into your printer for printing, and remember to print on the side that has the napkin.

5. Setting the ink when printing from an inkjet printer (omit this if done with a laser printer).

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, and place the printed napkin on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes.
  2. Once it’s out of the oven, remove the napkin from the computer paper and lightly spray it with hairspray on both sides to further seal the ink. Let dry.

6. Cut the words slightly larger than the wooden tag

  1. Cut out each saying slightly larger than the wooden tag ensuring the edges of the napkin don’t show once you’re done. If you’ve downloaded the free sayings included in step 4, I’ve already allowed for extra room. As well it also includes cutting guides.

7. Lightly spray both sides of the napkin with water

The key to spraying the napkin with water is only to do this step once. Here’s what happened when I let it dry before gluing it down and had to spray it with water a second time; it caused the writing to ooze a slight green halo around the wording. Lesson learned!

  1. I will warn you; this next step may make you say, “are you crazy?” But trust me, it works! Take a spray bottle with water and lightly spray the front and back of the napkin so that the napkin becomes translucent.
  2. Place the wet napkin over the wooden tag and gently flatten it out. At this point, you can carefully remove and adjust it if needed.
  3. With the napkin still wet, gently brush on the Mod Podge, get the entire surface, and be careful not to overwork the area because it could cause the ink to run slightly.
  4. Set aside to dry.

8. Drill the hole & sand the edges of the wooden tag

I find it better to drill the hole after the napkin has been applied and it’s fully dry.

  1. Using a 1/4″ drill bit, drill the hole in the top left or centre of the left side of the tag. If you place the tag on a block of wood before drilling, there is less chance of the wood splintering underneath.
  2. Take a nail or something that will fit in the hole and twirl it around the edges of the hole to help smooth it.
  3. Lightly sand the edges and ends of the wooden gift tag in order to blend the napkin into the finish. If needed, add a thin layer of Mod Podge to any area that didn’t glue down.

8. Add the string

adding string to rustic gift tags

Cut the string 18″ long and attach it to the wooden gift tag. Include your choice of bead if you like. In the picture below, I added wooden beads that I hand-painted black.

The rustic wooden tags in this photo are painted white over the homemade stain. No secondary colour was added. The wooden beads were painted black.

Well, that’s a wrap! (Gift wrapping humour)

As always, let me know how it went in the comments. If you have any tips to share, leave a comment.

If you’re like me and always looking for another project, check out more tutorials on my website, The Old Tree Cottage.

See you again!

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