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Free hand router sign

12938 Views 17 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  AxlMyk
Finished this sign for an old friend of mine,, he wanted to give it as a gift to one of his grandsons to be placed at new home they bought. The backround is routed away to a depth of 3/8's inch and the wood used was white oak. stained and painted then covered with a couple of coats of spar varnish for some shine and weather proofing of sorts.


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Beautiful work, Terry. I must say.... you have steady hands and a keen eye.

Thanks for sharing.
Visteonguy said:
Finished this sign for an old friend of mine,, he wanted to give it as a gift to one of his grandsons to be placed at new home they bought. The backround is routed away to a depth of 3/8's inch and the wood used was white oak. stained and painted then covered with a couple of coats of spar varnish for some shine and weather proofing of sorts.
WOW Terry great work sir.
"Free hand router sign"

So, it's free? Do I give you my shipping address? :D

Haha, just joking. Really nice work, well done.
Very nice sign Terry, I'll bet they are very pleased with it.
Very well made Terry. How do you get such nice looking letters freehand?
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 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.


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Thanks Terry for the info. Are those pull dowels you are using for the handles on your base plate? If they are, are you a skilled tradesman by chance? Most people don't know about these type dowels.

Dittoing Dr. Zook on the big thanks for the information and process you used to accomplish this.

I have many times wanted to make a routed sign, but always shyed away not knowing how to approach the process. After reviewing your post, I may try my hand a one. You have took some of the mystery out of it for us. I love the idea on the enlarged base and pull dowles. Perhaps you could enlighten us more on them if you have a chance.

Thanks again......
Good eye, Dr Zook, and Bob,, yes they are pull dowels,, but I just used them because they were handy,,, and yes I am a machine repairman by trade for the auto companys. Not a great place to be in our world today.... oh well,, what is,,is..

You could just as easily use wooden dowels that have a drilled hole in one end, I used the orgional base plate that came with the router,, and just use some tape and tape it to a piece of 1/4 inch thick plexiglass about 9 to 12 inches square. I then, (careful to make sure that the little base plate is stuck down so it does NOT move around), drill down through the mounting holes so I can then use the screws to mount that new big base plate to your little router. ALso while the orgional base plate is stuck to the big base plate,, scribe the middle circle and then drill it out before you mount the thing to your router, I counter bore the holes on the bottom side of the new base plate so the mounting screws will not stick below the surface of the plate. At this time, I also drill a hole on opisite sides to mount the little handles you will use, I use a counter sink to make a beveled hole and use flat head screws to mount the handles. Thats about all there is to that. Now you are a sign maker.. You will be able to put about any image you can think of and any design of letters on a sign,,, and not be stuck with just making those blocky, squarish, letters you see made with templates,,, And the best part is,, you have practically no money laid out for the equipment,,

below are some pictures of the large sign I mentioned earlier, I also posted them quite a while ago,, but these pictures do a good job in showing the process I use to rout out the sign, I will try and post them in order so it will make sense from layout with carbon paper under the orgional image to the finished sign,


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For some reason the first picture did not make the post,,, so here it is,,, It was a sign that the guy wanted me to make,, he first had it made in a vinyl stick on sign,, and I just used that for the layout,, I layed it on top of the wooden pannel with a layer of carbon paper under it, and then just ran a pencil around all the letters and eagle image to transfer the whole sign to the wood below.

Well now I get a message that says I already posted that picture under "free Handed Router Sign",,, so I guess It will not post it again,, anyway,, you get the idea,,

Anyway,, making these signs are very easy once you do one,, and every one that sees them seem to be amazed by them,,,, so go ahead and do one,,, even if its just your house address for starters,,, you will get lots of nice comments about it,,, and you will be hooked,,, and if you bought a set of those blocky letter templates,,, you will maybe think about putting them in your next garage sale to try and recope some of your money,,,, (heheheh)
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Nice job Terry.. I made a sign for my Sister-in-law a couple weeks ago.. Instead of pencil tracing or using carbon paper, I printed the sign, then used my electric engraver to trace the lettering to the sign.. Wow, did that make it easy.. Finished it in 2 days..
Well, there ya go,,, glad to hear your idea of using a electric engraver to transfer the image you wanted, Mike, Just goes to show you that there are many ways to get to the same destination. Too bad ya did not have a picture of that sign,, I would have liked to seen it...
The sign is 250 miles north of me.. We're headed that way today.. I'll get a pic after I hang it up for her..
OK.. Got a pic of it..


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Yes,,, there ya go, Mike,,, great job,, like it,,,,, Bet you are gettin your share of compliments on that sign,,,
She was real pleased to get it..
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