Dimensional Wood Sign Making as a Home Business

Robert Wade shares a guide for dimensional wood sign making as a small business, including necessary equipment, buying wood, sign framework, carving, paint, art work and lettering tips.

| November/December 1975

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    Figure 1: If sign is 2-sided, paneled background boards may be nailed horizontally, diagonally, or vertically over 2 by 4 framework. if sign is 1-sided, simple back reinforcement strips may suffice (see Figure 4).
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    A 6 foot by 10 foot wood sign with burned background and raised letters.
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    Figures 2, 3, 4, and 5: A paneled look is easily achieved by building a framework of 2 by 4's as shown in Figure 2 and covering it — on both sides, for neat appearance — with tongue-and-groove or plain-edged planks.
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    Figures 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11: Ideally — when they're used — at least two drift rods should be run through all the boards which make a laminated background (see Figure 7).
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    A 5-1/2 inch copper-rimmed cypress logo, subtly tinted with oil stains, for the Sawmill Inn Restaurant in Sarasota, Florida.
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    TOP: A large paneled background with raised letters and art. BOTTOM: An unusually mounted sign of carved cypress.
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    Figure 12: Hand-carving equipment is shown in Figure 12. If you're going to be doing a lot of roughing out and wood removal, you'll need a set of at least three socket gouges and chisels (tools with pointed shanks will split their handles much sooner than those with socket bases).
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    A 6 foot by 6 foot Sarasota restaurant sign of 4-inch-thick cypress.
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    Heavily varnished routed cypress, with decorative supports.
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I have a really nifty self-employment sign making business: carving, routing, and otherwise constructing dimensional wood signs that I'd like to tell you about. And why am I so willing to turn potential competitors on to my bread and butter? Three reasons prompt this seemingly foolish decision:

First, I'm aware that most back-to-the-landers have an urgent need to make some kind of living supplemental to their farming efforts. Failure to do so has ruined a lot of otherwise fine homesteads, and I wouldn't feel right about concealing an idea that could be the perfect answer to someone's financial problem. (I'll admit that I might not be quite so generous if it weren't for Motive No. 2: My own progress as an artist/writer is promising enough to stand a little competition in the sign making department.)

The third reason I want to share my knowledge involves aesthetics. Handsome, well-designed, carefully crafted wooden signs are an asset to the landscape or city scene and an alternative to the obtrusive plastic and neon obscenities which currently line most thoroughfares. If more folks take up my craft of wood sign making, we should soon have more beautiful signs decorating our commercial environment.

So much for my motivation. What about yours? Why should you be interested in an offbeat occupation like sign making, anyhow? Well, mainly because it's both satisfying work and a good way to earn a living. By plugging away at a reasonable pace, you can easily make $10,000 a year . . . without the hassle of working for someone else at a job that isn't distantly related to your personal destiny (or maybe even your abilities). And if you don't want to get in that deep, I'm sure a freewheeling part-time approach would do well as a supplement to a farm income.



Still, sign making isn't everyone's cup of tea . . . and you'll be better prepared to judge its potential in your own case when I've told you what goes into those creations you see in the accompanying photos.

Dimensional Wood Sign Making

Aptitude

You do need some basic abilities to excel at my craft. A good sense of design is indispensable, and a graphic arts background or knowledge of type styles very useful. (You'll learn many forms of lettering in time . . . but until you do, never sketch a layout without a type reference book at your side.)






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