Router Forums banner
1 - 20 of 28 Posts

· Super Moderator
763 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
generally, after you cut out the individual letters, you ask yourself: what next? how can I "dress up" ordinary elements of a sign to give it a little extra "pop" in the final design.

here is a little something I did for a Covid Project just to keep busy and entertain my skills.
start with a design that is within your set of skills and tools on hand.
make a full size paper pattern - tweak it until you are satisfied with the over all project.
I found a photo of a design I liked online and copied it and made several changes to it to make it unique to myself.
I used PosteRazor to make a full size workable pattern on my home printer and traced the elements out with carbon paper (actually Saral Transfer Paper) onto a sheet of 3/8" thick HDU SignFoam.

then, with your tools of choice, cut out the individual letters and other elements like you normally would.
I used a Roto-Zip and Dewalt 611 modified trim router to cut them out. a scroll saw would have been much easier, but I don't have one



after everything is cut out, draw the dimensional bevels that need to be removed to give the letters body and character. slowly, carve or sand off what is needed to make the letters dimensional.


the rest is just "hand-tooling" (or CNC if you choose to go that route) and dry fitting to the pattern.


I used a piece of 1/4" PVC sheet cut to shape and heat formed to make the ribbon banner. I carved a piece of 1/4" HDU to make the word "SIGNS" and laminated that to the PVC and used Bondo to fill in the gaps.

make the main sign panel using your imagination and skills (think outside of the box).
prime and paint according to your desires. (get out of your comfort zone)

~ Continued in the next post below ~

· Super Moderator
763 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
thanks guys - I've carved a few paint brushes out of wood and often add
just a little something that most people overlook.
I have a small hole punch that I punch out thick card stock (cereal box)
for the nail heads - and a short piece of wooden toothpick for the nail shank
in the "bent over nail". I'm sure that at one time or another, you have seen
a nail come out of an old paintbrush and bent over. well, this is dedicated to that nail.


· Registered
756 Posts
John, as others have said, your work is exceptional and the detail in your post is excellent since much of what you're doing is not intuitive. I've commented about the work that those with CNC machines turn out. I'm impressed by it but that's not the kind of woodworker I am. I like the "feel" of the wood even with all of the mistakes that I make. My work is much simpler than CNC since I can't produce the detail that a machine can. Well, although that's true for me, you have certainly blown away that thought about you. Your sign is equal to and surpasses many of the works that I've seen from CNC machines. Please continue to post your work with all the details. I'll continue to be impressed.

· Super Moderator
763 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
thanks Barry (and all the others).
I was a "dimensional" sign maker for many years (way before the CNC) and I found my "niche" of adding the elements separately instead of trying to carve or make it all in one piece.
here are a few examples of "multi-element" projects I have made in the past (for paying clients - not just for fun).
of course, with today's advanced CNC machines, they can be processed by a competent CNC operator.

many tools were used in these: Roto-Zip, trim routers, flex-shafts, etc.

the background color is Cobalt Blue and Midnight Black crushed glass.
the eagle head is hand-carved HDU and the lightning bolt and ribbon is 23k gold leaf



the triangle is flat and gilded with palladium silver and the circle is flat and gilded with 23k gold leaf. the other elements are also gilded the same.

the background color is Cobalt Blue and Midnight Black crushed glass.






thanks again to all for your kind words

· Registered
3,960 Posts
of course, with today's advanced CNC machines, they can be processed by a competent CNC operator.
John don't sell yourself short! When hand carving these signs you can add a lot of depth to the design by undercutting some elements so they have great depth with the shadows they should have. Using a CNC to make these signs will produce a good sign but will never meet the detail levels hand carving can lend to the elements, the average CNC won't do undercutting. If the CNC operator would take the time to undercut some of the edges of the sign elements they could improve the quality of their signs but I'm not sure they would ever reach the level of detail of a great hand-carved sign. Remember I'm a CNC user.

· Super Moderator
763 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
thanks Mike - a lot of my sign making colleagues were strictly either vinyl sticker shops or paint by brush on plywood.
very, very few were dimensional carvers. when the ShopBot 4x4 first became affordable, a lot of them bought it.
but - they became "machine operators". they had no clue of what to do after the project was processed.
fortunately, I gained a strong reputation in my way of making signs.
I became a traveling instructor. I traveled through most of the Eastern States from Canada even down to Puerto Rico giving workshops on how to "make" signs "with" the CNC "by hand". just because you run a piece of material through the CNC doesn't mean you have to accept it. there are hundreds of ways you can embellish a project with a minimum of tools to make it unique and stand out from the herd. THAT is where the money is - it is called "Craftsmanship".
David Falkner did a project recently that was just that - hand tooling a CNC piece that was awesome.
I love dimensional art - I don't care what it is.
thank you for the kind words !!
1 - 20 of 28 Posts