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Custom wood sign made on Shopbot using VCarve software

Picture of Custom wood sign made on Shopbot using VCarve software
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I wanted to make some custom signs as gifts this year.   In this instructable we will touch on using VCarve as a lettering solution for signs, making a jig to simplify locating and holding the signboard, and making inexpensive wood look better.

Materials:

- VCarve Pro software
- Shopbot CNC router tool
- paint or stain, dark color
- hardwood plank - I like maple, but poplar works well also
- some scrap wood for the jig

Note that access to TechShop or a well stocked Hackerspace makes this project easier.   I used the Shopbot and VCarve program at TechShop San Jose. 


 
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Step 1: Prepare the sign blank

Picture of Prepare the sign blank
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I had some nice maple hardwood, which I cut to size and used the jointer to clean up the rough edges.

For my first attempt, I used some Rustoleum stain, "Kona" color, which is a rich dark brown.  Leaving the stain on for 10-15 minutes makes for a nice color.  For later signs, I used some IKEA black paint I found in their furniture section.  See the Outtakes section for why I switched to paint.

Make sure to get the edges as well as the top surface, as the edges will likely be visible.  I did not bother to paint the back, as I assumed it would be mounted to a wall. 

Step 2: Lay out your sign in VCarve

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Vectric software's VCarve Pro is a very accessible CNC program. 

I wanted the sign to be about 24" wide, and my maple hardwood was about 4.5" wide.  

I set up my material in VCarve, then used the text tool to write out my sign text, and chose a font I liked, Times Roman.  This typeface has nice serifs, which look good when carved. 

I moved over to the path creation section of the program and selected the tool I planned to use, a largish V-Bit.  After setting the appropriate feeds and speeds, VCarve created the shopbot toolpath file. 
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