wood sign question

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Forum topic by MrsN posted 05-07-2011 05:23 AM 4238 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MrsN's profile


988 posts in 4579 days

05-07-2011 05:23 AM

a friend of mine is going to make a big wood sign to hang over the driveway. He has a big piece of white oak and is going to router the letters. After the letters are cut, he wants to color the letters to make them stand out. He was thinking of burning the letters with a torch, I thought painting them would be easier. Any thoughts on what he should do?

11 replies so far

View HerbC's profile


1820 posts in 3913 days

#1 posted 05-07-2011 05:42 AM


I’d say use a torch to burn/darken the recessed letters. Then use a ROS to clean up the main surface before coating with final finish.

BTW, have him try it on a test piece first…

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3973 days

#2 posted 05-07-2011 12:24 PM

Hi, MsN!
The burning sounds like it will be nice. However, make sure he uses a UV finish on it when it is done. I made a sign for a friend of mine for over his workshop. The backboard was Walnut and the lettering was Maple. After a couple of years it was so bleached by the sun that the wood was almost the same color. I renovated it about a year ago by recutting the lettering and resanding the Walnut backboard and using a polyurethane with UV protectors in it. I don’t know much about finishes, but hopefully this will work better. Just a suggestion. :)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3910 days

#3 posted 05-07-2011 12:30 PM

I’m with Sheila, fading is a major problem

You could sandblast to get the grain effect then use “1SHOT” sign painters
lettering enamal. It is a nice dense colourfast paint


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3896 days

#4 posted 05-07-2011 01:10 PM

Route the letters.
Paint the letters.
Allow the paint to dry completely, at least over night.
Sand with an orbital sander, taking all the paint off the flat wood around the letters, leaving the paint in the routed letters untouched. This idea came from a suggestion book that came along with a Milescraft sign making kit. It isn’t my idea, but it does work great.


View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 4114 days

#5 posted 05-07-2011 04:49 PM

We did that in our wood finishing class

Use a blow torch and wire brush and scrub on redwood.
Blow torch again and scrub.
Then top coat it with any marine finish.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 4037 days

#6 posted 05-07-2011 08:04 PM

What I have done in the past was to use India ink to color the letters and then use a good UV protection Polyurethane to seal with.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 4104 days

#7 posted 05-07-2011 09:08 PM

I guess it depends on the look you’re going for? In my opinion, the torch and resand method would look the most rustic, while the painted enamel and sanding would possibly be a slightly cleaner, more modern look, if that can possibly exist.

I would personally use the torch, but I don’t know what the ultimate goal is? Either way, I also vote for the UV protected finish coat.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2172 posts in 3904 days

#8 posted 05-08-2011 04:03 AM

How big is big?

I’m seeing even the UV urethane cracking and blistering and requiring major rework. I’d like you to consider an exterior stain instead. you might have to renew it every couple years, but you won’t have to take down the sign and scrape and sand.

Ever seen any professionally routed exterior signs with gloss finish? Not in my neighborhood, anyhow.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Grandpa's profile


3264 posts in 3729 days

#9 posted 05-08-2011 04:08 AM

I think I would vote with Lee. Stain that is made for exterior siding and fences stands up better. Yes it has to be renewed every few years but I think everything else will have to be renewed sooner. The sun is tough on finishes. Even the torched letters will fade out.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3744 days

#10 posted 05-08-2011 05:21 AM

Olympic deck stain has held up on my deck better than anything I tried previously. I think the stain name is a misnomer as it seems more like a paint to me. It has an 8 year warranty on vertical surfaces and a 5 year on horizontal surfaces. Im pretty sure it comes from Lowes but could be Home depot.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View chadb's profile


13 posts in 4383 days

#11 posted 05-11-2011 05:49 AM

I would use a latex solid body stain….its similar to paint but is self priming on bare wood (most brands require 2 coats) One shot sign painters enamel is good too but as with enamels they get brittle over time and tend to crack. Exterior clears dont usually have any pigment in them therefore you dont get much UV protection and if you dont keep up with the maintenence they can be a real headache. Teak oil might be another option it penetrates into the wood therefore you wont get peeling, it will more or less just weather away and is easy to maintain and touch up.
Hope this helps :)

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