Wood Shop Sign

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by CJC716 posted 02-21-2016 02:11 AM 904 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View CJC716's profile


31 posts in 2108 days

02-21-2016 02:11 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sign expansion wood movement shop project

Hey everyone, just a quick question.

I am making a shop sign for a buddy of mine but he is down in georgia while I am up in Buffalo,NY. The sign is a 14” diameter sign mounted in an aluminum bar stock ring, secured with 1/4” screws spaced evenly around the circle.

My issue is this…

I have made similar signs for family up north and have glued up pine panels to create the circles and haven’t had any issues with expansion/contraction being an issue within the aluminum mounting ring.

Given the geographic changes would I be better off just using Plywood for the sign even though it changes the aesthetic or do you think the expansion/contraction be insignificant enough to be negligible?

Thanks in advance.

7 replies so far

View MadMark's profile


979 posts in 2262 days

#1 posted 02-21-2016 02:49 AM

Depends on the wood. Oak can move up to 5%. I would leave a little slack in the ring for expansion.


-- Madmark - [email protected]

View CJC716's profile


31 posts in 2108 days

#2 posted 02-21-2016 02:58 AM

thanks @madmark. You think backing out each screw a 1/8 to a 1/4 turn at each point will float enough room for expansion given using pine?

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1729 days

#3 posted 02-21-2016 03:13 AM


Plywood or whatever the States use to make highway signs would be a safe bet for your sign. However, I see no reason why the sign could not be made of solid wood. Greater care in design and execution would be required if solid wood is chosen.

If you could include an expansion joint in the aluminum bar stock and then mount the sign in the aluminum frames, with oversized mounting holes to allow the smooth portion of the screw shank to slide in and out of the mounting holes should be sufficient to ensure expansion can occur.

The only issue I see with these suggestions is that if the wood expands the aluminum frame, a gap between the frame and wood could result and perhaps spoil the look. The only way I can see to cover the gap is to route a dado in the perimeter of the wooded sign that then becomes a channel into which the bar stock sets. A slot cutter on the router table could accomplish this task. Depending on the depth of the dado and the thickness of the bar stock, the lip on the sign could conceal part of or the entire bar stock.

As for the aluminum expansion joint, the bar stock could be cut perhaps a 1/4” – ½” or so short so that when it completes the circle around the sign, a gap of about 1/4” – ½” exists (this distance is the allowance for expansion). The expansion bridge would be a short piece of bar stock to overlap and set on top of the bar stock encircling the sign but long enough to fasten the expansion bridge to each end of the sign encircling bar stock. Drill oversized holes (slots would be better) in the expansion bridge to line up with holes drilled and tapped in the bar stock that encircle the sign. Aluminum or stainless machine screws and washers would secure the expansion bridge to the sign encircling bar stock.

On the other hand, just build the sign as you do in Buffalo and if the sign fails in Georgia, get the sign back, try to determine why it failed and then re-make the sign; fixing the problems or re-building it with plywood. This is probably what I would do.

View CJC716's profile


31 posts in 2108 days

#4 posted 02-21-2016 03:26 AM


I am digging the expansion joint idea with a bridge. That’s a pretty slick solution. I like the build it and if it fails rebuild it suggestions also. Would probably take me less time to do it in plywood anyways. Is for a buddy also so if it cracks well that’s just one more thing he can add to his shop list of repairs I guess too! (That may cause me to “inherit” more grief though from missus though)

It is always the simplest projects that seem to give me the most grief when working outside my normal climate.

View bruc101's profile


1383 posts in 4351 days

#5 posted 02-21-2016 03:48 AM

Google the sign makers forum signs 101. It will either be answered there or you can ask the pros.

I’ve been making solid wood signs, both residential and commercial, for 40 years. I personally would never put a wood sign in a frame of any material unless it has room for expansion and contraction. And I certainly would never use plywood for a sign unless it was applied letters and the client requested it.

For outdoor signs, hand carved and routed, I’ve always used Cypress, White Cedar. Redwood and Spanish Cedar.

Good luck.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1729 days

#6 posted 02-21-2016 03:50 AM


The little women are indeed demanding task masters! I just moved the kitchen from one part of the home to another and the buildout is done. Now I have all the cabinets to build. Taking time off last fall to upgrade the shop brought me lots of grief. I gave the wife a project task list showing beginning and ending dates for various aspects of the project – and wouldn’t you know it, she is holding me to that schedule. She was patient during the shop upgrades but is now back to cracking the whip. Oh well.

View CJC716's profile


31 posts in 2108 days

#7 posted 02-21-2016 04:12 AM

Bruc 101,

Thanks for the signs 101 forum.

Given you have 10 years more in the sign business than i do breathing let me throw out this setup that I have been using and let me know if you think that is enough room for expansion/contraction. I have used MDO for painted sign before but rather the look of solid wood. These are all handpainted signs in the vein of the old service shop signs.

Start out with a glued up pine blank approx. 20” by 20”. Cut out a 14” circle using a 1/4” router bit and a circle jig. The cutout (waste) is then split in half to make a bending form for the aluminum bar. Bar is nominal at 1/8” stock from the big box (measures closer to 3/32 or a tad lighter). Using the nominal size of 1/8” That gives me an 1/8” “gap” if i get a perfect circle with no spring back. Then I space screws at 4” intervals (1/4” countersunk- so just enough to hold the outer rim to the sign) with the junction of the bar ends being brazed. I have spray lacquered and polyed signs in past depending on what I had on hand.

This has afforded me enough expansion room in Buffalo but like I said I am a creature of one climate so have no experience with wood movement elsewhere and am far from a professional where I commonly have to worry about such things.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

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