Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Garden Gate Project - Part 9 - Carving letters and numerals

There is a New Yankee Workshop episode (Season 17 episode 12) where Norm Abram showed how to make carved wooden signs.

This was a really interesting show where Norm was showing how to cut letters and numerals in several ways:

  • By hand using carving tools
  • By CNC machine
  • By hand using a router.

The latter was most interesting to me for this project. I set to work practising a new skill by routing by hand. Essentially the bit used is a chamfer 'V' groove cutter without any bearing like this one

The old timer who demonstrated the method of how to cut the characters had a fixed base router with a powerful incandescent lamp fixed to it. I decided to use a modern LED lamp on mine.

On your computer choose a font you desire to use and type the characters into your favourite word processing program (I used Word 2010). Then change the size of the font to the desired size. The font will then need to be set so that it shows just the outline. In word you have to select the characters and then choose font. Go to Text Effects and choose No Text Fill,

Click onto Text Outline of solid line and change the colour to black (it defaults to blue otherwise).

Click OK and the resultant image looks like this:

Then it is a simple matter of printing the text out with a scale of 1:1. The paper can be then either glued to the timber to be routed using 3M spray mount or you can use carbon paper (can you still buy it?) to trace the outline directly onto the wood.

The font I choose (as did Norm) was Times New Roman as it is a serif font that produces a nice pleasing results. The timber I used was some western red cedar I had left over from a previous project. It started out life as a longish rectangular board about 19mm (3/4") thick. After the numerals were routed I used a combination of bandsaw and oscillating spindle sander to shape it. I finally finished the edges with a chamfering bit, the same one I used to engrave the numbers, in the router table.

Results straight off the router
The numerals are 90mm (3.1/2") high.
There was a little burning where the router idled for a while and I also had to clean up some parts with some light sanding. The piece will be finished by sealing it and applying polyurethane external finish. Then it will be gold leafed as per the process outlined in the video.
There will also be some more lettering to denote the house name and possibly the road name. That will also follow the same process.

The signs will be embedded within the oak so they protrude about 6mm (1/4") and I'll document that later.

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