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Fellas, I really hate to keep bothering you with my new guy problems but I am going nuts over this one. I bought two different "sign making" kits from the tool catalogs,. You know the ones. I just cannot get them to make a simple sign for me. Biggest problem: the weight of my router invariably distorts,warps,twists,deforms the #[email protected]!%%#@ letter templates in their "cradle". Today I ground up a couple more cheap black plastic letter guides and ONE nice bushing and probably ONE nice expensive bit!!!
Any help at all? Is there such a thing as a lettering kit that actually works!!
 

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I had the same problem when I tried to make my sign. They are sitting on a shelf ever since personally I think it might be that plastic bushing that comes with it. I think that it doesn't support the router and it just bend the template letters just enough. I not sure on it but it does sound good. Let's see if we can find the answer I hope I'm right I'm getting my set of brass bushings and that's why I buying the to do up some signs for Chrismas presents this year.
 

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Sounds like we need some quick advice here...... First I have an old Sears one letter at a time system that has been around for a lot of years.

When I first got the kit I had a plain 1/4" sears router and the metal bushings for it. The trick was to keep the bit off the wood and the bushing in the plastic letter then turn it on and start the routing. If the bit was set to deep you would hit the wood before the bushing was in the template.... the router would then well you know..... You only need to have that happen once.

When I got a plunge router that problem was solved as you can be flat in position when you start the cut. At this point I should mention that you need to be using bits that are designed to plunge.... ones that have the cutter all the way to the bottom of the bit. This is not usually a problem unless you are using straight bit.

This brings us to the new sign making kit I got this spring. This is one that holds a string of letters and I think the name was signcrafter, it uses the turnlock guide bushings.... you can check the name but it is something like that. Anyway the reason I picked that one is that it has a couple of supports that keep the rails from flexing... when you are pushing against the spring in a plunge router there are some forces at work and unsupported rails will flex. Now if you don't have this system take a look at a catalog or web site to see what I'm talking about. You don't need to go and buy a new one of these but you do need to come up with some support for under the rails....

OK I've got to go but I hope this gives you some direction.......

Ed
 

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Birchwood,
I have the Signcrafter and it works ok. Not great, but ok. You have to be a little carefull not to put excessive pressure on it when routing, otherwise the depth of the letters will be different from the ends to the center, as it will flex just a little if you over do it.You dont need extra long bits with it either. I think Lowes carries them.
Good Luck!
Boardfoot
 

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I have the Craftsman $26 kit and it works ok. Take your time adjusting everything, this is the key. I may of put a bit too much side pressure on mine as I did a slight trim job on the Craftsman plastic bushing. I have since sold both my Craftsman routers and the next time I will be using a Bosch 1617 in the plunge base with brass collars. Patience is the key.
 

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My suggestion is to make a 'Router Support' that will support the router and will not be resting on the jig in use. The 'Ski Mode' is the obvious choice. Please forgive me if I do not get back to you for the next fornight as I am heading off to Cairns on Monday orning but I thought I would get my reply in early before I go.
Tom
 

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I have had extreamly good luck with this method of making signs,,, I just use a very small trim router with a solid carbide 1/4 "ball nose" end mill in it,,, I use that because it gives me a radius at the base of the letters or picture you are making in the sign. If you wanted a sharp corner ,,, use a flat bottom bit.
I replaced the base of the router with a piece of 1/4 inch plexiglass that is about a foot square to give it a large foot print, and drilled a hole on two opposing sides and mounted a couple of dowels for handles to guide the router. All routing is done free hand .
To get the design on the wood, there are several methods. One is to use the computer. I just go to some word program and find the type of Font that I want for my sign and then type out what I want it to say and print up what ever I end up with that pleases me. Once I have a hard copy in my hands,,, ( If I cannot get it to print up large enough out of my printer on the computer,,, I take it to a copy machnine that enlarges or take it to a copy shop like "KinKo's" and they can make it as large as you want it,
Then take your final copy and lay it on the wood and under it,, lay some carbon paper and run a pencil over your sign so the imprint will press down through the carbon paper and when you are done,,, remove your copy and carbon paper and you now should have the outline of your sign transfered to your wood and ready to start to rout out what you do not want. Either rout out the letters or rout out the surrounding spaces and leave the letters standing high,,, I like that look best myself
Another method I use, and get great results, is to use an "Opaque Projector". You just place your subject under the projector and shine it on the wood sign you are going to make and then take a pencil and outline the picture that is now being shown on your slab of wood. This is a secret of artist and sign painters that they never tell you about,,, I learned it when I took some air brush classes and was amazed when I tried it,,,,, with that projector,,, you can paint ANYTHING !!!,,,, and that also goes now for signs, now that I have tried it on wood,, It works fantastic and you are not stuck making the same kind of lettering when you have to use those letter templates.
Once you try either of these methods and see what you can now produce,,, for free !! you will probably collect all your templates and take them to the curb for the next trash day. Really.
This may sound a bit complicated but if you try it,, you will see there's nothing to it,,, and you will blow your friends minds,,, as long as you do not tell them or show them the secret of how you did it.
I have tried to send in a couple of pictures so you can see them,,, but so far,, have not had luck in getting them through,,,,
But I will be happy to answer any questions that I can.
 

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1st time lettering

I've used the signcrafter by milescraft co. Works pretty good from what I've done. Using a lot of soft/hard scrap woods (cedar the best). using the 2 1/2" letters, with 1/2" core box 1/4" shank bit, with the pc693 router. I can see rail support being important. When using up to 7 letters its ok. Whe using 8-9 or more letters in one word or multiple words, there are supports for the rails. Then I've found that the size of the router comes into play. I was thinking of using a trim router pc310, $159.00, a little more than the pc7310,$99.00 at one home depot. Although I did see the 7310 for $79.00 at one H.Depot. The trim would be smaller & lighter while resting on the rails. But I wanted to use it mainly for free handed stuff which I haven't tried yet. I also bought the router attachment for my dremel to try free hand stuff 1st (haven't tried yet either), before I bought the pc310. Has anyone have pro's/cons on the trim routers for lettering? Hope the above info is of some help.
 

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Epc, I use small Trim routers that I have bought from a company called Harbor Freight, If you live in the U.S. maybe you have heard of them ? I have bought them for as little as $14, I got a catalog this morning and I see they are going for $19 in that catalog but the prices seem go up and down like ya change socks. They work fine for me,, and are so cheap that have bought several of them and just leave different router bits in each one so I do not have to waste time changing them for the particular job that needs to be done.
All I have done to modify them for free hand routing is to make a very large base plate for each of them so they span a good distance between the letters or image that you are making on your sign.. Its so easy to do and the results are spectacular.
Try a free hand sign and you will amaze yourself with the finnished sign, and the skys the limit on the compositions of your signs then,
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Trim routers for signs

EPC asked about trim routers. I bought a P-C 7310 and then added a couple bases from Pat Warner. I still cannot SEE what I am doing. And then I had a problem getting the rought down to the surface...like the shank was too short. Finally gave it up. All the pieces are now sitting on a shelf. I'll go buy a sign.HA!The little router obviously weighs much less than my #890, and I'm sure I'l find other uses for it (hope hope!!). I think the idea of a nice BIG clear base will help and then the NEW version of the SignCrafter would work. Sure be nice if the makes of Signcrafter would ship us poor dummies who bought the original a package of the "new" improvements. Ha!
 

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Clear base with dowels

Visteonguy said:
I have had extreamly good luck with this method of making signs,,, I just use a very small trim router with a solid carbide 1/4 "ball nose" end mill in it,,, I use that because it gives me a radius at the base of the letters or picture you are making in the sign. If you wanted a sharp corner ,,, use a flat bottom bit.
I replaced the base of the router with a piece of 1/4 inch plexiglass that is about a foot square to give it a large foot print, and drilled a hole on two opposing sides and mounted a couple of dowels for handles to guide the router. All routing is done free hand .
To get the design on the wood, there are several methods. One is to use the computer. I just go to some word program and find the type of Font that I want for my sign and then type out what I want it to say and print up what ever I end up with that pleases me. Once I have a hard copy in my hands,,, ( If I cannot get it to print up large enough out of my printer on the computer,,, I take it to a copy machnine that enlarges or take it to a copy shop like "KinKo's" and they can make it as large as you want it,
Then take your final copy and lay it on the wood and under it,, lay some carbon paper and run a pencil over your sign so the imprint will press down through the carbon paper and when you are done,,, remove your copy and carbon paper and you now should have the outline of your sign transfered to your wood and ready to start to rout out what you do not want. Either rout out the letters or rout out the surrounding spaces and leave the letters standing high,,, I like that look best myself
Another method I use, and get great results, is to use an "Opaque Projector". You just place your subject under the projector and shine it on the wood sign you are going to make and then take a pencil and outline the picture that is now being shown on your slab of wood. This is a secret of artist and sign painters that they never tell you about,,, I learned it when I took some air brush classes and was amazed when I tried it,,,,, with that projector,,, you can paint ANYTHING !!!,,,, and that also goes now for signs, now that I have tried it on wood,, It works fantastic and you are not stuck making the same kind of lettering when you have to use those letter templates.
Once you try either of these methods and see what you can now produce,,, for free !! you will probably collect all your templates and take them to the curb for the next trash day. Really.
This may sound a bit complicated but if you try it,, you will see there's nothing to it,,, and you will blow your friends minds,,, as long as you do not tell them or show them the secret of how you did it.
I have tried to send in a couple of pictures so you can see them,,, but so far,, have not had luck in getting them through,,,,
But I will be happy to answer any questions that I can.
Hello Visteonguy,
Thanks for your info & pics, should help a lot. But how did you attach the dowels to your clear base?
EPC
 

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oh,,,, well I am actually a machine repairman for Fords,,, so I have access to a machine shop... I used a steel dowel with a threaded hole in one end of them. They are called "Pull Dowels". The threaded hole is used for attaching a puller of some kind to the dowel so you can pull it back out once you hammer it inplace,, if you need to remove it later. But I see no reason that you cannot use wood dowels in the same manner,, If using wood, I think I would go a larger diameter to give the wood enough "Meat" so it would not split in use,,, but there is not really all that much side thrust placed on those dowels as long as you stay with smaller diameter bits to do the carving,,,
I started out with the plexiglass base plate and drilled a hole just a bit larger then a 1/4 inch in diameter, then used a couter sink bit on the bottom side of the plexiglass so I could use a 1/4 flat headed screw to bolt on the dowel. Coutersink the hole deep enough so the head of the screw will not be left sticking out, proud of the surface of the plexiglass, and the bottom surface of your base plate will be smooth. I think you should be able to drill and tap a hole in a peice of wood,, although like I said before, I would use a bit larger diameter of wood then I needed to in steel. And also I think I would put some epoxi glue in the hole before you screw the bolt into the wood, to help it in strenght. I see no reason to remove the dowel once its installed in the plexiglass. And you should be ready to do some amazing signage then. Get ready for the onslaught of request for signs.

I guess I do have one picture of the bottom of one of the little routers that showes the screw heads.
 

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One thing I maybe should have said is that the dowels do not need to be even has long as what I have on my routers,,, because you are just using your thumb and forefinger on the dowels,,,
DO NOT try and hold onto just the dowels with your hands like in a "Fist" or you will not be able to control the router as carefully as you need to.
The best method I have found that works for me, is to rest the palms of both hands and even the little finger on the work peice and just use your thumb and forfinger to hold onto the dowels for control of the router. Maybe for "hoggin" out some of the sign where you are not close to any letters or images,, you might want to use your thumb and the first 2 fingers.
Plant your palms so they are stationary on the workpeice, and if its a big enough sign,, also maybe even lay your forearms on the workpeice also, so you are as rigid as possible. I use only my thumb and forefinger for the movement of the router. You just route out as much area as you can with the movement of your thumb and forefinger and then move your palms a bit to a new location and set them again and then move the router again with the use of your thumb and forefinge for more routing.
I usually leave about an 1/8 or a bit more of material from the line and route out all the sign and then come back and carefully go up to and along the line to finnish out the sign. You will be amazed at actually how much control you do have with that little router with only a 1/4 inch bit in them.
There might be some places that need to be removed that are still even smaller then what that 1/4 inch bit will do and in those spots.. I go back later with an air drivin pencil grinder and maybe a course diamond bit. With that,, you can carve away the tinyest lines.
 

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Clear base with dowels etc,etc

Visteonguy said:
One thing I maybe should have said is that the dowels do not need to be even has long as what I have on my routers,,, because you are just using your thumb and forefinger on the dowels,,,
DO NOT try and hold onto just the dowels with your hands like in a "Fist" or you will not be able to control the router as carefully as you need to.
The best method I have found that works for me, is to rest the palms of both hands and even the little finger on the work peice and just use your thumb and forfinger to hold onto the dowels for control of the router. Maybe for "hoggin" out some of the sign where you are not close to any letters or images,, you might want to use your thumb and the first 2 fingers.
Plant your palms so they are stationary on the workpeice, and if its a big enough sign,, also maybe even lay your forearms on the workpeice also, so you are as rigid as possible. I use only my thumb and forefinger for the movement of the router. You just route out as much area as you can with the movement of your thumb and forefinger and then move your palms a bit to a new location and set them again and then move the router again with the use of your thumb and forefinge for more routing.
I usually leave about an 1/8 or a bit more of material from the line and route out all the sign and then come back and carefully go up to and along the line to finnish out the sign. You will be amazed at actually how much control you do have with that little router with only a 1/4 inch bit in them.
There might be some places that need to be removed that are still even smaller then what that 1/4 inch bit will do and in those spots.. I go back later with an air drivin pencil grinder and maybe a course diamond bit. With that,, you can carve away the tinyest lines.
Thanks Terry for all your insight. I'll be checking into harbor freight for trim routers. Having a few on hand with there individual bits is a good idea. I've found out in the past just experimenting with v-groove,core,ball, bits can take time changing etc,etc. I still think I'll try the Dremel with the router attachment. But the trim router is a must for the workshop.
EPC
 

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Good morning EPC. I have a dremel also,, but its just the basic dremel model with no attachments,,Its been a long time since I even used it,, I cannot even remember where its at now. But I am thinking that mine only takes 1/8 inch diameter shaft bits ?

But I never thought about that,,, till now,,, I have some 1/8 diameter carbide bits that I got from,,, hahah you guessed it,,, you could use them and make some really small, intricate signs,,, for maybe a desk top .. Yeah that would be a fun project,,, You could really dazzel em with that one,,,, as it is now,, I've calculated that I will have to live exactly 341 more years to get the projects done that I have started or want to do yet! :D
 

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Hi Visteonguy...can you share with me how you make the clear base plate for the trim router? i HAVEN'T started my sign making yet...getting some advice first...please tell me if you will...step by step how you create your sign...what bits...wood....sealer...etc....any help will be appreciated...I'll be making medium sized signs for my fellow RV buddies....also how to put the lettering on the wood.....thanks much...reply by email please.....Tom
 

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FYI, speaking of Trim Routers. I had to take my dremel back to Sears and in their parts department they sell refurbished tools. Man, what a gold mine. It would have cost me more to fix my Dremel than buy a refurbished one. I saw my local one had a laminate trimmer for like $80. Trying to get my wife to buy that for birthday or Christmas. ;-) lol But definately a source of great tools plus you get a warranty with them. Beats paying full price for a tool.

Michael
 

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Tips on problems with SignCrafter. My father-in-law had the same problem with the letters being so flimsy. He took some 1/8" crafting plywood from the hobby store and used the plastic letters to mark the outline on the wood and cut them out on a scroll saw. Must stiffer. I suggested he use sander/sealer to coat them and make them even stronger. Hope that helps.

Michael
 
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