In this Instructable, I will show you how I made this sign for Strange Kids Club. While you probably won't be making a sign for SKC, hopefully you can find some of these techniques useful for making something of your own.
This project was made using 1/4" MDF cut on the X-carve CNC from Inventables. If you do not have access to a CNC machine or laser, don't feel discouraged! You can achieve great results with a scroll saw!
Step 1: Cutting Those Pieces!
I used the X-Carve CNC to cut the letters and the two surrounding pieces for the sign. I also used a cold beer to keep myself occupied while said pieces were cutting.
Step 2: Sanding and Sealing the Edges of Those Pieces.
Sanding. Everyone's favorite part of any project!
MDF is garbage, so you have to put in a little elbow grease to make it good, so treat yourself to a cartoon while you're working!
A spindle sander is a great way to remove most of the tool marks from the edges of your piece, unfortunately it will not get in the nooks and crannies and that's where good ole sandpaper comes in to play. I usually start with 100 grit paper and skip right to 150 on MDF making sure to remove all the fuzz from the cutting process.
Since MDF does have wood pulp in it, the edges of your piece will soak up primer like no one's business, so I pretreat the edges after sanding. Using a 50/50 mixture of wood glue and water, coat the edges with a brush. Once this is dry lightly sand with 220 grit. This will ensure the edges are sealed and they will paint out just like the face of your material.
Step 3: Primer and Base Coat.
Just brush that stuff on, dude!
Step 4: Finish Coat.
Now, you can finally have some fun!
I used a vinyl stencil to mask off the details of the design. Once the stencil is in place, I hit the whole thing again with a coat of primer for a nice, blank slate for my top coat.
I use thick acrylic paints that can be found at the craft store. Nothing fancy, just nice and opaque.
Once you are sure that top coat is good to go, remove the stencil nice and easy (not like me) and touch up any spots under the stencil that may have pulled up.
Now that the paint is nice and dry, I like to use a #0000 steel wool to lightly smooth the surface and dull down the sheen from the paint. It also helps to reduce the brush strokes from painting.
Step 5: Placing the Letters to the Substrate.
Now that the painting is finished, go wash your dirty hands!
Are they clean? Cool. Let's move on!
Whenever I am making a sign with odd spacing or orientation, I like to save the piece the letters were cut from to help line everything up. I start by placing the letters where I think they should go, then setting the off cut around them. Once you have everything in place, glue the letters down, one at a time to the substrate with CA glue (super glue). I recommend the Bob Smith Industries stuff, it has a very strong bond.
Step 6: Lights and Stuff.
For this build I wanted a cool, green light to shoot out from behind the sign. I used a couple of 3/8" spacers between my two pieces. If you were making a sign that didn't have a sandwich like the one I made, you could use these spacers to mount some hardware to hang it from the wall.
I used two chunks of green LED light strips linked together with some low voltage wire. The LED strips have an adhesive backing but I also use hot glue to hold them down.
Once everything is in place, turn that dude on and bask in the glow!
Step 7: Display That Thang!
Now that you are all finished making the sign, you can move on to more important tasks like: gathering up your best toys and creating a killer shrine to all of your hard work!