Huge Wooden Letters





Introduction: Huge Wooden Letters

My friends were getting married and wanted to have their initials in the ceremony, so that was the gift I made for them. They wanted them to look solid (or "monolithic"), able to be stand up and heavy enough so that the wind wouldn't tackle them.

I went with 16mm MDF making a front and a back layer and 3mm mdf sheet on the perimeter, using some kerfing for the small radii curves. Since the MDF sheets sold locally were 1.22x2.44m, the most convenient size for the letters in my case was around 1.20m tall for the R and J and 80cm for the &. Thickness is about 15cm They can be done any size or thickness as long as some rules are respected.

Let's take a look and remember to check the video for better understanding!

Step 1: Choose Your Typography/design and Transfer It to the Wood

Of course you can make any design you want! I started with "Georgia" typography and modify to better fit my needs. Avoid thin traces and small radii, this will help with stability and make the construction easier. Notice how I went from the thin traces of the Georgia typography to a thick letter that won't blink if you punch it!

After that it's just a matter of fitting the letters into your wood sheets. You can use paper templates or, as in my case, use a projector to transfer the design with a pencil.

To make sure the dimensions are right introduced the letters in a square with the dimensions of the MDF sheet I would use. This way you can check for squareness and proper sizing measuring over the wall and and then transfer it.

In this process I marked the intersection points and the rough curves and then refined the shape using a bandsaw blade as kind of "physical spline". It's a good way to get smooth curves using tangents and maybe push points. In my case rulers and a heavy handplane.Worked great!

Step 2: Cut, Cut and Sand!

This step is simple. You can use a circular saw to make the big cuts and a jigsaw for refining and curves, but as long as you cut outside the line, it's fine! After that comes a lot of sanding, depending of how much you cared in the previous cuts!.

Since we need a front and back for each letter, it is a good idea to cut the 2 sheets of MDF at the same time and refine just one. After that one is completely sanded and in shape, it can be used as a template to refine the other with a flush trim bit. That will save time and help a lot with accuracy!

You should end up with 2 equal faces for each letter.

Needless to say, dust mask is mandatory, specially with MDF!

Step 3: Give Them Volume!

We need to create a recess in the inside face of each letter side to receive the MDF sheet that will cover the perimeter. I used the router to remove about the half of the thickness of the material and went 4mm deep into it, since the MDF sheets will be 3mm thick. Round inside corners will need to be straightened up with a chisel or a file.

After that we will need to provide some structure to the letters, so I cut 14cm particle board strips to act as spacers and added reinforcements in the big curvers or at any point in which a curve meets a straight line. This will not only help with stability but will make alignment of both faces much easier. Everything was glued and held in place with bradnails, and added some screws just in case.

Step 4: Dress the Letters

Now it's time to close the "box" with 3mm sheets of MDF.

The width of these strips is critical, it should be almost tight in between the recesses created in each side of the letter. Of course both sides will not be perfectly paralell so there will be some gaps and places where you will need some sanding and adjusting. You can later fill the gaps with glue and sawdust and nobody will notice!

For the small radii curves I made paralell cuts 1.5mm deep into the sheet with the tablesaw to create a kerfing that would make it easier to bend. (this is easier to see in the video). The strips are cut to lenght ant tacked in place with glue.

Tip: When a curve meets a straight line, the best way to do it is installing first the straight sheet, leaving just enough room for the curved sheet thickness (last picture of the step)

Step 5: Finishing Touches

I removed the excess material in the edges with a file or a hand plane and rounded those corners by hand. After that I ran a flush trim bit around the perimeter of both sides to elliminate the excess of each face. Finally the edge fillet is created with a round bit, giving it that "continuos-material" look

Some sanding and woodfiller will be required to leave all surfaces smooth and continuous. I added metal feet to the letters because they will sit on stones or grass.

Finally, I got my friends to help me applying a coat of primer and then another one of medium-gloss paint, and they are good to go!



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    19 Discussions

    Hello friend, a little question, What software did you use to edit the lyrics and be able to leave them to your liking?1.

    1 reply

    1 year ago

    Están muy bien! lo voy a intentar hacer :)

    Que madera es la que utilizas en los cantos? Que tiene como zurcos para poder hacer la curvas bien. Que nombre tiene?

    Un saludo

    1 reply

    Es tablero DM (densidad media) pero los surcos se los hice yo con la sierra, en el video puedes ver como :)

    Muchas gracias!! Qué buena pinta! te han quedado genial. Me alegro de que te sirviera :) Gracias por citarme!

    I need a huge wooden letters for my niece birthday and this is perfect. I was planning to buy it from some stores but too pricey for me. Thanks for this instruction, I'm making this myself....with some help, I guess.

    1 reply

    Great!! Happy to hear that :) I hope I can see the results soon!I know they are pricy but if they are handmade they probably do cost that money :P this was a ton of work and at the same time a lot of fun. I wish you a happy making! If you have any question during the process let me know! Thanks!


    2 years ago

    Great video and nice project!

    In the video you used some kind of homemade attachment to a handheld drill, what was that? I guess it was to sand the insides of the letters, but it went by pretty fast

    2 replies

    Thanks!! That was indeed a sanding "device", just sandpaper attached to a wooden disc that was mounted onto a bolt. To have the reference of the surface I added a couple of bearings to the bolt and a wood scrap, This way I would have a small flat surface perpendicular to the axis, but mostly, it helped keeping the sanding disc at the right heigth and cover the whole thickness of the mdf. I hope this clarifies it! let me know otherwise :)

    Thanks again!

    Ohh okay, smart! Nice to have a new trick up the sleeve for future projects :)

    These really are great! I get tired of seeing so many similar wedding photo props, so congrats on making something new and exciting! I love that you made the ampersand smaller, that was a great touch.

    1 reply

    Thank you!! They wanted the & smaller because it looked nicer and so they could keep it at their flat so I made it "only" 80cm :)