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What kind of wood is the best to work with for a beginning sign maker? I need to figure out what wood I can use that isn't gonna give a bunch of grief & is pretty commonly available @ a local Lowe's or Home Depot. I will be using a template for recessed routing on boards approx 5' long.
Thanx!
 

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As a rule pine will be the cheapest, but the best choice would be cedar. Fewer knots, a soft wood that routs easily, still low in cost. It doesn't get much better than that.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanx for the suggestionon the type of wood. Also ~~ when i route recessed letters what is a good way to sand & smooth the recess. I have tried it manually w/ sandpaper but that will take forever. There has to be a better way - different bit? any tool for smoothing out the recess? Any suggestions? thanx
 

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I am guessing you are making free hand letters and not using a lettering jig? Your best bet would be to do your clean out with a dish cutting bit if possible. They make these in a 5/8" diameter and they will provide a clean level surface.
 

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thanx for the response Mike. I am using a lettering jig to do recessed letter and seem to get some "burring" when going against the grain. I have found it very time consuming to try to smooth these out by hand with sandpaper. any suggestions?
 

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Use Dremel

To deburr the bottom of routed in letters or the edges of raised letters use a 100 to 120 grit diamond bit in a Dremel.
 

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Pine is prone to leaving hairy burrs. Western red cedar and redwood are usually good choices but the wide grain, second growth is harder to carve freehand than old growth and is also prone to burrs but not as bad as pine. Old growth, with tight grain is harder to find and expensive. I try to stay away from old growth because I don't want to contribute to the logging of the last few remaining old growth forests. I used to use old growth redwood extensively for freehand signs. It's a dream to route.
 

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One technique I have used to get rid of the hairy burrss when routing recessed letters into pine was to run it through a planer afterwards set for a very shallow cut. In my case I wanted the recessed letters painted a single color with the surface wood left natural (clear finish), so I used spraypaint to cover the letter area after routing, without concern for getting pain on the top. Then, when I ran the sign through my planer it got rid of the burrs and paint on the top in one stroke, leaving only the letters (including sidewalls) nicely painted. A spray-coat of poly over the finished product and it was ready to weather the Alaskan winter.
 

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Pricey?

From what I'm gathering from my research, redwood is really pricey.
I'd be curious to know the bd ft cost of redwood? I plan on starting out with approximately 2 x 3 foot signs.

I read that less costly wood that are good for signs is red cedar and cypress?

I'll be doing the first few sigs non-gratis and hope to avoid a 2nd mortgage when buying wood.
 

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From what I'm gathering from my research, redwood is really pricey.
I'd be curious to know the bd ft cost of redwood? I plan on starting out with approximately 2 x 3 foot signs.

I read that less costly wood that are good for signs is red cedar and cypress?

I'll be doing the first few sigs non-gratis and hope to avoid a 2nd mortgage when buying wood.
For sign making, watch the big box adds for 1x6x6 cedar fence boards; sometimes they are a lot less than 1" thick, but that's ok too.
I recently prices some redwood 2x4's, beautiful stuff, but $3.12 a FOOT.
Not much left at my local lumber yard; they said when its gone they probably won't be able to get any more. I remember in the '70's they used to get it by the RR car !! In those days at the local fairs the sign makers had a boatload of 1x6 and 1x8 etc. making signs while you wait !! I've put a little away for carving special trinkets for very special friends. Get it while you can, its like the price of gas, not coming down in your lifetime.
Happy sawdusting !
S
 

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For sanding the recesses, there are small with, like 1/4" stick sanders, you could also fold a piece of sandpaper over a flat bladed screwdriver....T
 

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I use redwood 2x4's and 2x6's for forest service trail signs. But for large signs I think poplar would be fine, it works easily and is about as inexpensive as you can get from lowes ar home deopt. And I second the post to route, seal, paint then use a surface planer to clean up the top.

Here's my setup:


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I use shelac to seal the letters so the black letter paint (I use rustolium black enamal) won't capillary action into the edges of the letters. The shelac dries in about an hour so makes the work go pretty fast. I use a sprayer for the shelac and color, shooting at angles to get into the edges of the letters. After planing I spray on a UV inhibiting wood preservitive which is almost transparent to let the letters show and protect the wood from the harsh weather here in central Arizona.
 

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The best Idea!

What kind of wood is the best to work with for a beginning sign maker? I need to figure out what wood I can use that isn't gonna give a bunch of grief & is pretty commonly available @ a local Lowe's or Home Depot. I will be using a template for recessed routing on boards approx 5' long.
Thanx!
If you are serious about sign making. Contact your local mill. You can also find great prices on Craigslist for lumber that people are milling in your area. The best wood in my opinion is Either Redwood, Eastern Aromatic Cedar (Cedar chest Cedar), White Cedar, Or Cypress. All of these woods are very soft and carve like butter. In addition, They hold up very well outdoors because of the natural properties that they have. Redwood is a bit pricey but the other woods I mentioned, depending on where you live are very inexpensive. I use Aromatic Cedar and I pay .75 a foot for it and the guy even delivers it to my shop! You will also need to invest in a surface planer because your local mill wood is usually "rough cut". A decent planer runs about $299.00 to $399.00 depending on the brand you buy.

Hope this helps.
 

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I use 1x6x6 cedar fence boards $1.77 each at Home Depot or redwood 1X6X10 $16.00. I use Marsh Stencil Ink it comes in different colors and Rustoleum crystal clear enamel.
 

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MDF is a good choice
MDF is great for interior signs but for exterior it's not a good idea at all, it's like a sponge, even when sealed it's life expectancy outside is less than a year. If you value word of mouth custom I'd avoid it. That being said it's excellent for kids bedroom signs or anything else indoors.

From my experience.
 

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MDF is great for interior signs but for exterior it's not a good idea at all, it's like a sponge, even when sealed it's life expectancy outside is less than a year. If you value word of mouth custom I'd avoid it. That being said it's excellent for kids bedroom signs or anything else indoors.

From my experience.
MDF is fine outdoors if sealed correctly. A lot of highway signs are made from MDO (plywood with a MDF overlay). I have a rail and stile raised panel door on a cabinet outside for my Juccuzi Chemicals, it's been in the hot Arizona sun over three years, survived the annual monsoons and still looks great! It's painted with latex and overcoated with spar urethane.
 

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Sycamore, or as you call it over there, Maple, this will not furr up in the channels and gives a good finish, I have quite a stock of Sycamore blanks and try not to use anything else.
 

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Well I'm just a rookie at sign makin', and I realize that this original post is pretty old, but my signs, all (3) made of pine. I never had an issue (so far) with the inside of my letters needing any sanding.

Just picked up a couple of cans of stencil paint and going to give it a wurl on my next sign. Maybe today.
 
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