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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am very new to routers and sign making. I recently bought the Makita RT071C just for making signs and have made some crude tests using a 1/4-inch straight bit that I already had from my fathers old Sears router. The most difficult part of trying this has been the lack of enough light to see what I am doing. Flashlight in one hand, router in the other hand. This isn’t as easy as it looks. The easiest for me so far is just to sketch the letters on the wood with a pencil. Controlling the router without enough light isn’t easy. I have heard about the Rockler Interlock Sign Maker's Templates - State Park Font Kits and those look promising when I want exact letters. I’ve not seen these mentioned on this forum at all...yet. Does anyone here use them and what kind of bit works the best with these templates?
 

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add a flex LED light to the router...
 
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Theo
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Get a cute female to hold your flashlight.
 

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Other options

I have and use two Milescraft products, the Signcrafter (I think it's called) and the Pantograph.

What I don't like about the Signcrafter is that you are limited to the font that is offered, although in 2 sizes, upper & lower case, plus numbers. But it is fairly easy to use and is consistent. The Rockler version requires attaching each letter individually. I haven't used that system but it's probably very similar. The Signcrafter sets up your letters in a fixed "track".

The Pantograph is basically unlimited as to font & size but has a little more of a learning curve than the Signcrafter.

I, as well as several people I know, also make signs freehand and there is a guy named Dave (?) who has a lot of YouTube videos about freehand sign making. A light may be helpful but really is probably not necessary. Maybe a clear (v. black) baseplate on your router also helps.

While making signs these ways is kind of fun to do, the CNC has, in my opinion, largely taken over the sign making process. So this is a whole new world for making signs with skills to learn, equipment to purchase, etc.

There are several options for bits but I generally prefer the chamfer or pointed ones. Whatever you use, you don't need to go as deep as you probably think that you need to. It's a lot easier to go back over a little deeper than the other way.

Hope this gives you some directions to take a look at.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I have and use two Milescraft products, the Signcrafter (I think it's called) and the Pantograph.

What I don't like about the Signcrafter is that you are limited to the font that is offered, although in 2 sizes, upper & lower case, plus numbers. But it is fairly easy to use and is consistent. The Rockler version requires attaching each letter individually. I haven't used that system but it's probably very similar. The Signcrafter sets up your letters in a fixed "track".

There are several options for bits but I generally prefer the chamfer or pointed ones. Whatever you use, you don't need to go as deep as you probably think that you need to. It's a lot easier to go back over a little deeper than the other way.

Hope this gives you some directions to take a look at.
I found a video on the Milescraft Signcrafter. It looks like it keeps the templates quite a ways off your work piece where the Rockler keeps the letters on the wood. Seems like it would add some difficulty figuring out the depth to set your bit at.

I measured the depth I’ve been cutting the letters and it is 0.110 or about 7/64". Seems deep enough for what I’m doing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I’ve looked around the site to see if there is a place to post photos for criticism and couldn’t find such a place, so I’m going to post a couple here. Keep in mind, this is about my 5th attempt at any lettering. It is crude. I just penciled in some letters on a piece of scrap tongue and groove. Bit and depth info in first photo. Looking at the second photo, are those burs indicative of a dull bit or the type of wood? Fir in this case.
 

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Doug
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Gary,

Ain't nuthin' wrong with that sign, a good early effort.

The Rhotens actually do a good job of simplifying the sign carving process, and they provide a ton of info. I've learned a lot from them over the years.

I like to use a big router for the mass, and a baseplate with a big opening in it for visibility around the bit. I use solid carbide V bits, but you can use just about any bit. Your Fuzzing could be because the bit has an upshear, and is lifting fibers up, be a little dull, or the wood could have a higher moisture content, or just be one of those boards that doesn't like to be cut cleanly. A little sanding can fix that. Woods with closer grain work easier, because you cutting a more consistent board. Construction lumber is cheap, but the wide variation in the grain can cause the cut to suffer.

The smaller diameter the bit, the more control you will have. You can do your outlining with a very small straight bit, a 22.5 degree engraving bit, a shallow pass with a 60 degree V bit-- whatever you can control well-- and then clear out the bottom with the larger bits as they fit.



Only 2 secrets to making signs freehand--- Practice and More Practice. Soon you will be able to follow a pencil line without any trouble!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Gary,

Ain't nuthin' wrong with that sign, a good early effort.
Thank you for the feedback. :smile:

I like to use a big router for the mass, and a baseplate with a big opening in it for visibility around the bit. I use solid carbide V bits, but you can use just about any bit. Your Fuzzing could be because the bit has an upshear, and is lifting fibers up, be a little dull, or the wood could have a higher moisture content, or just be one of those boards that doesn't like to be cut cleanly. A little sanding can fix that. Woods with closer grain work easier, because you cutting a more consistent board. Construction lumber is cheap, but the wide variation in the grain can cause the cut to suffer.
I just finished another test sign. As I was trying to complete an “S” I got to the middle of the “S” when the bit just seemed to run into concrete. A little extra pressure and the bit took off in the wrong direction totally ruining the test. After I finished, I looked at the bit and it was turning black, so my testing is probably done till I get some new bits. The bit I’m using came with the old router I inherited from my father back in 1988. The bit is an old Sears 1/4-inch high speed steel straight bit.
 
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