Routed Sign Making #3: Wood removal with various routing bits

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by 3DBMe posted 02-07-2012 11:08 PM 38822 reads 5 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Design, Layout and Cut letters for Routed Sign Part 3 of Routed Sign Making series no next part

Now that the letters are outlined with a stop-cut we want to ‘rough out’ the material inside the letters. I use clamps to hold down the wood so that there is no movement while routing. The clamps are repositioned as necessary for a clear work space.

01 Clamp Wood


There are several Dremel bits to be used. Two bits are for roughing out lots of wood quickly, then two more bits for clean passes leaving no burn marks and a final bit to clean the edges of the letters.

02 Bits


We will start with the Dremel mounted to the router attachment. Familiarize yourself with the depth locking mechanism on the handle as this will be your method of increasing your depth per pass.

03 Router Attachment


The first pass will be done with the 1/8” cutting bit #650. This is a very aggressive bit and should only be used for the initial one or two passes. Start by finding the surface of the wood and noting it on the guage marker below the depth lock knob. Then plunge the bit to your desired depth and lock down. As with turning or milling consider ‘Speed and Feed.’ In this case the speed/RPM’s of the variable speed bit dictates how fast you can move the router at your chosen cutting depth through the wood. Because the barn wood is aged and warped I take a very shallow cut (approx. 1/64” to 1/32”) for the first pass just to remove the aged top surface at a uniform depth.

04 Bit #650

04 Flush to Surface


The transparent base of the router allows for clear viewing of the wood being cut and let you adjust your path and rate of progress as needed. Hold onto the router firmly and make smooth cutting motions to prevent the router kicking back on knots.

05 Hand Hold


Make sure to cut well inside of the stop-cut outlines to avoid any tearing and chipping of the surface edges outside of the outlines.

06 First Pass


Because the bit rotates clockwise you want to direct the router travel in a clockwise rotation. If you’re too aggressive the bit can burn the wood surface which is OK for the first one or two passes that increase in depth by 1/32” to 3/64” for each pass depending on how soft your wood is. There may be alot of smoke generated which can occlude your view so GO SLOW and if you can’t see your path STOP and wait for the smoke to clear.

08 Complete Letter

09 Shallow Cut


To remove more ‘meat’ per cut you can switch to the 3/16” #654 bit and gradually increase the depth for more predictable results. Work closer to the edges without getting all the way to the cut lines.

10 Bit #654

10a Dirty Hog Out

10b Dirty Hog Out


As you progress downward to your desired final depth you can switch again to milling bit #115 which cleans the letter face as you remove wood. You will want to move slowly with a more uniform cutting path motion as this bit will almost leave a final surface.

11 Bit #115

11 Cleaned up


Switch again to milling bit #116 which has a slight taper to it allows you to get to the edge of the letters and do a very small undercut so the base of the letters are very clean. I do not use the entire angled edge of the bit. I also do a very shallow final pass with this bit to make the entire floor as uniform and clean as possible.

12a Bit #116

12a Under Cut Edge

12a Clean Edges


As a final step, clean the vertical walls of the letter outlines, I use one last bit #194. This lets me get into tight corners and clean the letter edges to a very clean finish.

13 Bit #194 Edge Cut


You can see that without sanding the surface of the letters are clean but may have some path marks left from one of your passes. If you want you can lower the bit a miniscule amount and go over the flat surface again until you are satisfied.

14 Final Rout


Once satisfied, you can use a variety of tools to sand areas that need some attention.
Depending on the size of your letters you can use a Sanding Pad and Disc’s. For very large letters I use a 2” pad mounted in a Drill. The ‘Wave’ is typically used for turning but works well with light pressure and various grits. For medium letters a 1” pad mounted in the Dremel without the router attachment. The Dremel Flexshaft is very useful at this point. For smaller areas I use the Micromot system ½” pad on the Dremel (made by Proxxon). The small areas require an improvised Dremel bit (like #115) with some 2 sided tape and sandpaper mounted on the bottom of the bit and trimmed to the same circumference. This is used at slow speed since the sandpaper will fly off. And of course you can use Sanding Sticks (X-Coarse, Coarse, Medium, Fine) for small specific areas that need individual attention.

I like to finish off the letters by making them “POP” off the surface by burning the vertical edges with a Wood-burning/pyrographic pen. The burnt edge adds contrast and separates the letters from the weathered surface. Good luck and have fun. /3DbME

15 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4652 days

#1 posted 02-07-2012 11:12 PM

Very interesting and well photographed ,Blogs can be a lot of work ,thanks for sharing this great info.


View 3DBMe's profile


134 posts in 4759 days

#2 posted 02-07-2012 11:21 PM

Thanks Jim. It took a while but the issues are behind me! This should have been a class.

View whitedog's profile


652 posts in 4532 days

#3 posted 02-07-2012 11:45 PM

Thanks for the details and pictures it really helps. It’s looking good , I’ll be waiting for the next one.

-- Paul , Calfornia

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5236 days

#4 posted 02-11-2012 09:00 PM

I agree—great photos!!! I really appreciate being able to see the different bits being used.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View WVTODD's profile


120 posts in 3619 days

#5 posted 02-14-2012 02:51 PM

Thanks for a well done lesson on the sign, i learned a lot.

View Roger's profile


21054 posts in 3879 days

#6 posted 02-16-2012 01:35 PM

very well done how to. really appreciate all the gr8 pics and explanations. very ez to follow instructions. thnx for the lesson/s

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View IndianJoe's profile


425 posts in 3325 days

#7 posted 03-30-2012 03:38 PM

Thanks for a well done lesson on the sign, i learned a lot.

-- Nimkee** Joe

View DocSavage45's profile


9048 posts in 3917 days

#8 posted 04-15-2012 04:42 PM

Pictures do say more, if you know what you are looking at. I will be coming back as I am wanting to incorporate this skill with some basic intarsa to make a logo and sign for my shop. Bought a craftsman version of the Dremel
toolawhile back and I occassionaly serch the locall box store to see if there are jigs for sign making. But this has the character I was searching for.

Thanks for you hard work in posting the class!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Bob817's profile


679 posts in 3457 days

#9 posted 04-30-2012 02:37 PM

Thankyou very much that was very educational, can’t wait for the next one.

-- ~ Bob ~ Newton, N.H.

View bojo7364's profile


8 posts in 3359 days

#10 posted 07-02-2012 02:03 AM

Reallly cool and informative! Thanks!

-- Joe - Canton Ohio

View J's profile


48 posts in 3222 days

#11 posted 07-15-2012 01:12 AM

Fantastic tutorial, the pictures are so helpful in understanding how you achieve your results. Thank you for sharing!

View jeffwedekind's profile


146 posts in 3767 days

#12 posted 08-17-2012 05:13 PM

Great blog Bruce! can’t wait to get started, just have to clear a few projects from the list.

-- Jeff, eastern Wa

View sethwells's profile


25 posts in 3149 days

#13 posted 11-02-2012 07:46 PM

Why can’t I see any of the pictures?

View Glen Barlow's profile

Glen Barlow

6 posts in 3121 days

#14 posted 11-03-2012 02:32 PM

Fantastic info. I recently made each of my grand daughters a blanket chest. I used spruce simply because I like the way the wood looked with a satin finish on it. I’ve been trying to figure out how I was going to engrave their name on a seperate piece of wood and add it to the lid and now I know. I use my computer everyday printing pictures and other stuuf and it never ocurred to me to print out my project and then do the tracing like that. DUH….Thanks for the post.

-- Glen

View StephenSchaad's profile


201 posts in 3253 days

#15 posted 12-08-2012 04:18 AM

I’ve never even thought about routing free handed. Has anyone done this with a full sized plunge router? I’d love to make a couple signs for Christmas decorations.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics