Well, Dr. Zook, When they asked me if I could help them make a sign, I told them to just use some word program on their computer with the font they wanted to use, type it out with the words they wanted to use,, and then print it out for me. In this case, I just put what they handed me under my "Opague Projector" and shined the image up on the wooden pannel I prepaired and then outlined it in pencil. Once I had all the image up on the wooden pannel,, I shut off the projector and made sure it was all there, It looked like an image on a page from a coloring book then. Then all ya do it just rout away all the wood you do not want. It does not take long. I use a little trim router that I made a special VERY large base plate for. It has a very large foot print now and can span a big area that makes it possible to rout out large areas with out tipping in and gouging your sign. Then when I get most of the wood removed,, I go back and sharpen up the letters where they need to be,,, with smaller tools, ( chisels, carving gouges, files or what ever I think will do the best job for what needs to be done) A lot of the time I use an air driven die grinder that I bought from Harbor Feight, (sells a lot of the time for $14.99 ) and use 1/8 inch diameter shanked bits of different shapes, and can get into the tighest corners and sharpen them up to as "pointy" as you want. I hold it upright as much as possible and use it like a Micro router and works great,, although it does cramp up your hand after a while,,
Once you have the pannel made up,, it only took maybe between 2 and 3 hours to cut out the actual sign,,, like most projects,, applying the finish is where you will spent most of your time.
I use the projector when the sign is a larger one,, if its a smaller one,, I some times print out the words on a sheet of paper in the font I want and the design I want and then just lay it on the wood and place some carbon paper under the printed sign,, then just outline the sign with pencil and the marks are transfered to the wood because you have the carbon paper under the printed sign,, that works well also,, but uses a lot of carbon paper if the sign is real large,, although I DID use that method in making a sign that was about 3 feet by 4 feet once,,, just had to make sure that I had enough carbon paper under the whole sign,, But a pack of carbon paper is not expensive and can be used several times.
And just a couple of words about the trim routers I use,, I have bought them from Harbor Freight for, I think about $15 at times,,, and even the one I used to make this latest sign, I bought from Homier.com and I think I only paid about $9.95 for it,, I added the big home made base plate and was ready to go,,, I use 1/4 inch solid carbide end mills instead of router bits,, to do the initial carving away of the wood near the letters, but regular router bits would work also,, I feel the spiral cutting fluts on an endmill are a bit less grabby then the straign fluts on most router bits,,, just my feeling, though.
And finally, Thank you all for the kind words on the signs. They are fun to make and I only wish I had more time to fool around with them.