Wooden Sign Making Tips


Wooden sign making can prove to be a rewarding hobby or side business. With some basic knowledge, you can transform blocks of wood into beautiful artwork or functional crafts. You can use wooden signs to decorate a child's room, serve as an address plaque or display as a business sign. Whatever your purpose, use your imagination and attention to detail to create items with vast appeal.

Wood Selection

  • The best wood for sign making is dry lumber. It should be seasoned, unwarped and unsplit. Different woods provide different looks based on their grain and porous nature. Pine, fir and spruce are adequate for outdoor signs and withstand weather reasonably well as long as you stain them properly. If you are looking for a hardier wood select redwood, cedar or cypress.
    Excellent wood choices for indoor signs include cherry, walnut, ash and maple. These give a luxurious look to the sign and match many furniture finishes.
    Stay away from pressure-treated lumber as it warps quickly when exposed to the elements.

Seamless Background

  • The type of glue you use can mean the difference between a sign that looks to be one cohesive piece or a bunch of blocks glued randomly on a board. If you need to put background pieces together or add details carved separately, you need a strong wood glue that is workable, dries in the color of the wood and is sandable. You also want a glue that is weather resistant and can be painted or stained without showing obvious flaws.
    Urethane glues such as Gorilla Wood Glue or Titebond are excellent choices for this. They have a quick dry time and set within an hour. A glue such as WELDBOND is an excellent adhesive but does not sand. It also dries clear making it difficult to paint over.

Background and Lettering

  • You need to focus on the background before you add letters to the sign. Keep in mind the size of your sign and select the proper sized tools for the job. Narrow gauge is best suited on smaller signs with intricate details. These details get lost on larger signs.
    Before you add the letters, make a paper pattern to scale of your final desired product so you can determine if the scale actually works with the details. Once you are happy with the design, use carbon paper to transfer the lettering onto the background. V-groove routers create a surface that is easier to paint compared to carving.
    If you are making raised letters, use a sabre saw, also known as a jigsaw, which does not vibrate. Clamp it to the material to prevent the wood from splitting. If the wood does split, you can fix the issue with a mending plate that you glue across the back of the sign.

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