I love learning new things about woodworking, and it seems that every day I learn something new. I especially love it when I find people who are doing things that are outside of what we normally expect, and wooden sign making is one of those areas.These are the kinds of people I like to highlight because they work hard and give freely of their information and knowledge.
For years I have assumed that really the only way to carve signs of any quality was to use a CNC machine, connected to a computer running special software, that can take quite a while to learn how to use. Some time ago I was shown that, with a little bit of practice, some fairly common tools and little bit of instruction, it is possible to makes some outstanding wooden signs.
Eric and Dave Rhoten, the father and son team, have spent many successful decades in the wooden sign making industry and are now showing how everyone how they can make their own wooden signs on their website davesigns.com and their YouTube Channel oldave100.
It seems like they have made about every kind of wooden sign that anyone has dreamed up because between them they have an enormous wealth of information. They are frequently releasing new videos that answer viewers questions on sign making and give tips, ideas and suggestions on the best way to make wooden signs. (and scroll down for direct links to their 2 videos on making the woodworkweb sign) ...
The equipment needed is fairly modest, a couple of small routers such as a trim router and one of the small foot-print full size model, a couple of router bits (that you can purchase from them if you want) and some other optional items and in no time you can making your own wooden signs.
The woodworkweb sign that they made was basically copied from a small logo I sent them. It was enlarged and printed off on a large vinyl printer which produces an enlarged vinyl print with peel-n-stick surface on one side. This is then attached to the wood the sign will be cut from. For people who do not have access to the vinyl version, apparently an enlarged paper version works well to and can be easily attached to the wood using one of the spray adhesives commonly available.
The wood that they prefer to use is laminated red cedar that is commercially made by Perfect Blank Co. in Oroville, California. Other woods are also available, all with their own unique characteristics and pros and cons. The cedar is nice because it is light, finishes well, is easy to carve and if the sign is to be outside, cedar is a perfect wood to help withstand the weather elements.
Using one of he special bits, the outline of the lettering and logo were carved out, then slightly enlarged for what Eric calls a "buffer zone" which helps to prevent any slight mishaps of the bit nicking the letters when the final background routing is performed.
Both Dave and Eric are adamant that spray paint is not the best filler for signs for a couple of reasons, sometimes it penetrates the wood too deeply which makes it difficult or even impossible to do a final sanding that looks good because the paint has bled through the the letters, but also, paint quickly clogs up the belt sander making the belts only good for a couple of signs or so when they could easily to dozens ... but all this info is available on their websites and on their YouTube Channel.
Dave and Eric have completely changed who I think of wooden sign making. I can see now that I can make wooden signs without having to invest in a CNC machine if all I want to do is make a few simple signs. I love this kind of innovation, it's what woodworking is all about ... new ideas and sharing them with one another ...
Copyright Colin Knecht