We’re ready for the reveal of our hot chocolate station with this final project – the Hot Cocoa Bar Sign! There’s nothing better in the dead of winter than a hot cup of cocoa!
Hot Cocoa Bar
Our hot cocoa bar sign has humble beginnings. Several year ago Hubs surprised me with two huge salvage neon sign letters from Barnboardstore. Unfortunately they had been tossed from the building they were removed from by workers (not associated with the store), so none of the neon survived.
You saw the ‘A’ when we posted our wooden shelf display. The other letter adorns the top of the card catalogue in my craft studio.
One day I accompanied Hubs back to the Barnboard Store. I asked the owner if there were any letters left and he remarked that there was only an ‘I’ that nobody wanted. Since we already purchased two letters previously, he offered to give me the ‘I’ for free. No upcycler worth her salt would ever pass up free!
However, just like in the store, the poor lonely letter ‘I’, sat there collecting dust.
Occasionally, I would use it as a backdrop like I did in our Fall Home Tour.
Then one day inspiration hit. The neon in this one was till intact, so it was time to test out whether or not the neon was still working. Unfortunately it wasn’t :(.
But after looking through my craft stash, I found two of these LED ribbed rope lights that we bought from the Habitat ReStore. And I knew we were going to be back on track in no time!
Remove the Neon
So out to the garage we went to strip out the guts of the neon.
Hubs had to grind a bigger hole through the back of the ‘I’ with our Dremel rotary tool in order to fit the cord.
Increase the hole large enough so that you can get a rubber grommet around the edge and still fit the widest part of the cord through. You don’t want the cord itself to be sitting up against a sharp metal edge!
Clean thoroughly inside and out. This letter was sitting on the outside of a retail building for years. Remember those? Neon gives off enough heat to produce substantial dirt buildup – especially on the inside – like this:
Hot Cocoa Bar Sign – the Stencil!
This fabulous Hot Cocoa Bar stencil from Old Sign Stencils is the jumping off point for the next step. I’m going to do something a little different with the stencil this time. Instead of using it to paint, I’m going to create a vinyl mask over the plexiglass on the front of the letter ‘I’.
I thought about using the stencil as-is for this part because it’s very close in size to the letter itself. That would be cool, and you can do that if you wish! But by using vinyl, I can still use the stencil again in the future!
Cutting the Vinyl
I’m using white Avery vinyl for this step, but you could probably get away with using shelf liner instead.
You’ll need a cutting mat on your work surface so you don’t damage your table when making the cuts.
I place the stencil onto the back side of the vinyl, backwards. That’s so the sign will read the right way on the front side. Then trace around the letters. I also measure the perimeter of the ‘I’ and transfer that measurement to the vinyl leaving extra space around the edge of the vinyl.
For any straight sections on the letters, I use a ruler to ensure a straight cut. Then I steadily freehand the rest.
Tip: The best job for cutting vinyl isn’t the typical pointy X-acto blade, like the one on the left. Use the #16 blade on the right instead. I find it gives me much better control, especially on curves!
My favourite hobby knife is one with a no slip grip feature, like is the X-Acto X 3000.
After all the letters are cut, I remove the red plexiglass from the letter. Clean it with rubbing alcohol to remove any grease or dirt that could prevent the vinyl from sticking.
Centre the original stencil onto plexiglass. Then place the vinyl over the stencil as shown to position it correctly. As you see below, there are two temporary pieces of tape over the first and last letters holding the vinyl onto the plexiglass.
Now, place two new pieces of tape on the top edge of the vinyl to create a hinge and remove the two pieces of tape holding the letters. Then you can simply flip up the vinyl so you can remove the stencil underneath. The tape will keep it in position when you lower the vinyl again.
Adhering the Vinyl
Once all the prep work is done, it’s time to adhere the vinyl to the plexiglass. This is always the tricky part for me. You really only have one shot at this, so take your time.
Fold the backing of the vinyl to expose the adhesive. Using a squeegee, burnish the vinyl to the plexiglass to avoid air bubbles. Continue pulling the backing away and squeegeeing on the vinyl to the plexiglass.
Get the vinyl right to the edge of the plexiglass by cutting it slightly bigger.
Tip: To do that, use your squeegee – or a ruler – underneath the blade as you run it along the edge. That will leave an additional buffer equal to the thickness of the edge on your tool of choice. Once cut, you’ll then be able to run the vinyl slightly underneath the edge of the plexiglass to give you a flawless look!
Insert the Rope Lights
I make use of the grommet holes that were originally holding the neon onto the metal backing. Feed the rope light cord through the hole. Then using twist ties – or plastic cable ties if you want it more permanent, secure the rope onto the metal as shown. I’m not sure if they’re still available, but the ribbed style of these ReStore finds sure do help to keep the fasteners in place.
When the first lengths is secure, you can feed the rest into the box right on top. But try to ensure that you have good coverage so the light looks even when it’s on.
I attached the two ReStore rope lights together to produce enough light for this project.
Here, we’re testing the new light box on our DIY wooden shelf display! You’ll see why we raise it onto a platform in the reveal.
Accessories for the Hot Chocolate Station
Now it’s time to gather all the hot cocoa bar decor for the hot chocolate station. The stencilled wood shelf display goes down first.
Then comes the tray, fixins, mugs and spoons. As you can see, we’re using the wooden shelf display to raise our Hot Cocoa Bar sign so we can fit mugs right underneath to maximize our counter space!!
These little Korken mason jars with lids are perfect for the hot chocolate station because they can be sealed to preserve leftovers. Like there’s going to be any 😉.
I keep them sealed until ready to use, then remove the lids.
Finally, before plugging in the hot cocoa bar sign, I take a moment to make myself a steamy hot cup of cocoa. After all, reward sweetens labour! And there’s no better sweet treat than holt chocolate with a sprinkle of cinnamon, dollop of whipped cream, and sprinkle of dark chocolate chips and mini marshmallows!
I’ll tease you just a bit more. The whipped cream melted before I had a chance to take pictures, so I just had to add more to top up. I’m not complaining! The larger the mug, the more whipped cream I can enjoy.
Hot Cocoa Bar
Here’s our hot chocolate station all set up and ready to go! Doesn’t it look fabulous? Don’t answer that yet – until you see the fully lit up sign below this.
Just before Hubs walks in the door, I light up the sign and greet him with a steaming cup of hot cocoa. He rarely treats himself to anything containing sugar. That’s because he gave up sugar years ago. So I swap out the large glass mugs for these smaller ones. Obviously, I’m not as stringent, as you can tell from my earlier indulgence. Shhh, don’t tell Hubs 😉. Let’s just call it ‘product testing’.
In the dark, it acts like a beacon to come and enjoy another hot cocoa! It’s like the mermaid of signs to lure you to ‘death by chocolate‘.
So what do you think of our upcycled letter ‘I’? You can chime in, but I think we’ve just put a brand new spin on the phrase an eye for an ‘I’! This is my new favourite upcyle. And there’s been many a good one if you check out our upcycling category!
If you don’t have a spare letter ‘I’ sitting around, this project is still easy enough to achieve but building a wooden box and adding a piece of red plexiglass to the front.
Funky Junk’s Old Sign Stencils
I couldn’t have done this without the (now literally) brilliant Hot Cocoa Bar stencil from Old Sign Stencils. If you have someone crafty on your list, or you want to make some special handmade gifts this season, be sure to check them out.
Here are the three stencils I used for this project to bring it all together:
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Pin and Comment
May your holidays be merry and bright( they can be even brighter with a Hot Cocoa Sign)! We’d love for you to pin this fun upcycle idea and leave us a comment!
Great up cycle! Most people don’t have your awesome vision! Hopefully, we will be able to have large gatherings again and you can wow your guests at a party!
Thanks so much! Yes, it will be great when that happens 🙂
Love the story behind your neon letters, Sara! Great upcycle and use for the letter i. Your hot chocolate bar is awesome.
Thanks so much Marie! We’re making good use of it in this cold blustery weather :).
This is a genius idea! love the inspiration behind the letters.
Thanks so much Maria! Sometimes it takes a while for inspiration to hit, but when it does…!
Never thought I’d need more of an incentive to yum down hot chocolate, but this does the trick. Very cool!
Thanks so much Cat!
WOW!!!!!!!!!! That hot cocoa sign is the bomb Sara. What a amazing way to rethink stencils. So very, very clever
Thanks Michelle! It’s a nice change not to break out the paints – lol!
What a fun find! I love a good hot chocolate bar, and your fun upcycled sign really sets this one apart!
Thank you Maureen! It’s a great addition to the kitchen; I’ll worry about the diet in the new year – lol!
I’m loving all your creative stencil projects, Sara! You have me thinking that I may have to try some in the new year! Enjoy that hot cocoa!
Thanks Kim! I really stalled when Covid hit, but now my craft mojo is back. I can barely keep up with all the ideas pouring out of me now – lol! You should try some stencilling in the new year! As you can tell, I’m finding it very addictive. We sure will enjoy that cocoa after all this hard work 🙂
Great DIY project for the holidays!
Thank you Youmna!
I love love your hot chocolate bar, Sara. It is amazing and beautiful. Everything good has a great story behind it💙
Thanks so much Deana! Alls well that ends well and we’re really enjoying it 🙂
Wow, wow is all I can say. You blew this project out of the water. What an awesome job you did. And that sign is stunning.
Thank you so much Anita!
Sara, what a wonderful upcycle! Perfect for the holiday. I am pinning for my next weekend craft day. Happy Christmas!
Thanks for pinning Libbie! Happy Christmas to you too 🙂
Such a great idea! I may need to make myself something for my work-at-home coffee station! And I love how you cut your vinyl by hand!
Thank you Katherine! Cutting by hand was much easier than I thought. The right blade really helps :). A work at home coffee station sounds great!
What a wonderful DIY Upcycle! You are so creative. We are hosting an outdoor social distance Christmas Eve this year and this would be perfect. Love the I for an eye reference as well. I pinned and tweeted this project.
Thank you Brooke!! So glad you got that reference – lol. The only thing I love more than my husband and upcycling is puns 🙂
I love your upcycle ideas! And your stories add so much to your blog posts. Thanks for the idea for a hot cocoa station! My family would love this.
Thanks so much Meegan; that’s SO nice to hear :).
What a fabulous makeover! Love it so much! The stencil is perfect.
Thank you Kim! It’s so ironic that the stencil happened to fit that ‘I’ perfectly. It was just meant to be!
This is a fantastic upcycle! Thank you for sharing at Party In Your PJ’s.
Thank you Ann; so glad you like it!
I’ll be featuring you!! See you next time at the To Grandma’s house we go link party – happy December!
That’s so awesome; thanks for making my day :). Happy December to you to Tarah!
This is such a fun project, Sara! That letter “I” was meant to be yours! I love those Funky Junk stencils…that was so clever to use it to make a vinyl stencil. Your hot cocoa bar looks adorable! Pinned 🙂
Thanks Rebecca! Yes, I just love projects that were ‘meant to be’. I always enjoy using stencils in our projects in a way that’s outside of the box – lol!