Rustic Wooden Signs

Introduction: Rustic Wooden Signs

About: Steward to about 20,000 trees on 40 acres.

Before technology made signage bigger, bolder and brighter, signs were more subdued and basic.  The signs from a century ago were often painted on wood.  This version is paint on wood but is routed to add texture.

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Step 1: Tools and Materials

Tape measure
Saw (table saw if possible)
1/4" straight plunge bit
Paint brushes
Eye protection
Hearing protection

1" x 6" board (new or used)
1-1/2" x 3/8" trim stock
Wire nails
Paint & cleaning materials
Exterior varnish (optional)
Picture hanging materials (optional)

Step 2: Layout Work

Determine what the sign will read and how large you want it to be and go from there.  My WREN FARM sign is 27" long (plus the frame) and 5-1/2" high.  A standard 1" x 6" board is about 5-1/2" wide.  The letters are 2" wide (W and M slightly more) and 2-1/2" high.  There is a 1/2" space between letters.  The space between the words is 2-1/2".  The spaces before and after the words are 1-1/2".  There is a 1" border (later painted blue) around the text.   

Calculate the size of your sign based on the number of letters, the overall size you want, and the space you want around the text.  

This is how to do WREN FARM on a sign.  Adapt your sign accordingly.  Work in pencil should revisions be needed.  Rectangles will first be created to show the limits of the letters.  This will help to insure proper size and spacing.  
  • Draw in the 1" edge space all around the board.  
  • Add the top and bottom lines for the letters 1/2" in from the horizontal edge lines.  
  • Draw the vertical start and end letter lines 1-1/2" from the vertical edge lines.   
  • The W and the M widths are 2-3/4".  From the left edge line, measure 2-3/4" and mark it.  
  • Measure 1/2" for the space between W and R and mark it.  
  • Measure 2" for the R and mark.  
  • Continue, being sure that the space between WREN and FARM is 2-1/2".  
  • Draw vertical lines at all the marks.
  • Once you have all the rectangles for the letters complete, start sketching the letters inside the rectangles.  Make the lines that make up the letters a uniform thickness, about 1/2".  
  • When the letters are complete, outline them using a marker.  
  • Add diagonal marker lines to designate the wood that will be removed.   This step will help avoid errors later.  
The frame pieces were ripped from a 2" 4" to 3/8" thick.  You can buy some trim stock at a lumber yard for this if you don't have a table saw.

Step 3: The Routing

There will be a lot of wood chips so pick your work area carefully.  If you are using a router to outline letters for the first time, PRACTICE on a piece of scrap wood first.  The rotation of the bit is very fast and the direction of the cut plus variations in the wood can make accurate control of the router difficult.  

Clamp the board to be routed to a solid work surface.  Set the bit depth to 1/4"- 3/8".  Set the depth at 1/4" or less for a 2-sided sign.  With eye and hearing protection in place, route the space around each letter and inside the edge lines.   There is a lot of wood to be removed so this step will take time.  Don't get too close the the lines the first time around.  Reclamp as needed to get all of the letters routed.  Do a second pass to get close to the lines and to clean up rough edges.  Take a break now and then to clear away wood chips and to plan your next cutting steps.  You may need to use a sharp knife to remove hanging chips after the routing is complete.  

Step 4: Paint, Varnish and Assemble

Select the colors you will use for each part of the sign.  I chose to leave the routed wood natural with a final exterior varnish over everything later.  If you want the routed area painted, do that color first.  

Cut the frame pieces to size.  Paint them now.  You should paint all sides so do one face and the ends and edges.  Let them dry and then do the other face.  Add a second coat, if you want.

Paint the upper surfaces of the edge (I used blue) and the letters (red).  Let the paint dry according to the manufacturer's recommendation and add a second coat if you want.  

When the paint is dry, assemble the frame using wire nails.   Sign and date your project.  

Add any hanger parts at this time.  

If your sign will exposed to the weather, give the entire thing a coat or two of exterior varnish.  

Step 5: Don't Stop Now

The WREN FARM pictures are with and without the coat of spar varnish that darkened it a bit.  

Ideas for other signs include:
  • EGGS
Make a couple for yourself and more as gifts for friends you might like this sort of thing.  

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