I too, sand boards (that need it) before I layout any signs. But I have really taken a liking to gluing my patterns to the board and carving through the paper. I use the 3M spray glue. I apply the glue to the back of my stencil, let it dry to a "tacky" touch, then stick to the board. The I let it dry about 10 minutes before carving. Even with it being adhered to the board, it is still relatively easy to remove. I like this process because I am virtually limitless on font styles, sizes, etc. I'm thinking about getting a scroll saw. So if I do, then I will be gluing just about all of my stencils from there on out. But.....first I have to buy me a scroll saw. LOL
I still use my stencils if I'm making a sign that uses 1-1/2" or 2" tall letters. I lay them out on the board, then lightly paint them. It's the quickest and simplest form....but you are limited to the stencil fonts you have.
As for prep work.....I only use sanding sealer on my Pine boards. But I may try using it on other woods.....and in some other applications. Once I know more about what I want to do with it I will post the results.
As for painting.....if I'm working with only black paint, then I use the Rustoleum Black Primer paint.....and sand the over spray off. If I'm using colors, then I use the acrylic paints and hand paint.
For me, the price of a sign depends on the type of painting applied, how many drawings are needed, the type wood, etc. I try not to price myself out of business. But at the same time, I really don't like "giving" my work away.....unless I choose to make a gift for friends, family or a fund raiser that I believe in.
Keep up what you are doing because it is awesome!!! Garrett has a great mentor in you!
I may not know what I'm doing, but I am having fun doing it wrong!!
Happy Day Veterans!!