Needed something to call out the most important part of our kitchen; where to get the coffee!
A white oak tree was cut down in a lot near us and, with the owner's permission, I was able to get some of the thicker branches for some projects.
For this project I used the following supplies:
- Fresh cut log (approx. 6” diameter [without bark] x 18” long)
- White acrylic paint
- Small paint brush (3/16” wide tip)
- Wax paper
- Letter size paper
- Painter tape
- Hanging hardware
- Saw (chainsaw or band saw)
- Electric Sander w/ 80 grit paper
- Dremel with a carving bit
- Wood chisel
- Measuring tape
- Pencil or fine tip felt marker
- Small paint brush (3/16" wide tip)
Step 1: Prepare the Log
I used a chainsaw to cut the log in half. It was braced with some wood clamps and 2x4s so my hands were safely away from the chain. Use whatever saw you have at your disposal, and can use safely.
After cutting the log in half, I used a 1” wood chisel to take off a majority of the bark. I wanted the exposed red growth layer, so I was careful to not chisel too deeply.
To flatten out any high points in the back, I used an electric sander with 80 grit paper.
Step 2: Prepare the Back
I wanted a lighter sign to hang on the wall, so I cut a 1” deep channel in the back. I was careful to not get too close to the edges or top/bottom.
This was done with a Dremel, to outline the area and carve multiple channels, then wood chisels to take out the pieces.
A secondary benefit is this may prevent some cracking as the wood dries. Having some of the core gone could reduce the stresses that cause it to crack as different areas of the wood dry at different rates.
UPDATE: After several weeks, I have seen no cracking in my sign. The other half of the log, that has not been used, cracked in multiple places and will not be good for another sign. Guess my decision to remove some of the material from the back was a good one!
Step 3: Measure Twice
Use a word processor to select your font and print it out to size it up. Be sure to measure to find the center point from each side and top/bottom.
I taped paper just above and below where my letters would go to help with the next step and so I didn’t have to mark lines on the wood. Place marks on the paper to indicate the center of the log.
No, I didn’t flip the image. On the next step you will see why the letters are reversed.
Step 4: Transfer the Letters
An easy way to transfer letters to the wood is by printing them on wax paper with your inkjet printer. To do this, tape wax paper to a letter sheet of paper, using painters tape to hold it down.
Since you are transferring from wax paper to wood, print all your letter BACKWARDS.
Attached is the Word file I used, with the letters reversed. Since I couldn't print all the letters together, due to the paper being shorter than my word length, I had to print side by side.
CAUTION: Don’t print until you are ready to use, or the ink will be partially dry before you make the transfer.
Carefully remove the wax paper from the letter piece of paper. I suggest just cutting the wax paper away instead of trying to remove it from the tape. You'll save yourself from accidentally folding the wax paper on itself and ruining the letters.
Might help to have a second person for the next part... Align the wax with the wood and lay it straight down. Press firmly along every letter to transfer the ink to the wood. If possible, have one person hold the wax paper firmly in place while the second person presses on each letter.
If it’s too hard to see the edge of each letter on the wood, use a sharp pencil or fine point felt marker to outline the letters. You could also try printing in a contrasting color that will stand out (e.g., red for darker woods, blue/black for lighter woods).
Step 5: Cut Your Letters
Be patient with this step and take your time. Go too quick and you will cause a chunk of wood to break off.
For cutting the letters, I used a Dremel with a carving bit. Any rotary cutting tool could work, or you could use a router if you are comfortable using one on a rounded and uneven surface.
For best results, I cut the surface of each letter just enough that they were well defined. Then I went back over each letter and cut to the desired depth.
In some cases it took four or five passes, depending on how hard the wood was in a particular spot.
Step 6: Paint Letters
For my letters, I chose to paint them with a white acrylic paint from my local craft store. The white stands out against the red of the wood.
Select a brush based on the width of your letters. Keep in mind you will want the brush to get enough paint along the bottom and sides of each letter, without the hairs touching the top of the wood.
Acrylic goes on thick, so it only needed one coat. And since it doesn’t soak into the wood, if you accidentally get some on top, you can quickly wipe it off.
Step 7: Hang the Sign
Since I carved out the back, this gave me a flat spot to hang on a hook.
You could also nail/screw in a hook or other hanging hardware.
I selected a hook for the wall from the hardware store. This has a hook far enough out to hold the sign securely.
Regardless of how you choose to hang your piece, I highly recommend you go with an option that gives you the ability to slide the piece left or right. Logs aren't perfectly weight balanced, so even if you get a hook perfectly centered (by size) in the back, that may not be the center of the weight.
Enjoy your creation... and, more importantly, your coffee!!!