Now that the letters are outlined with a stop-cut we want to ‘rough out’ the material inside the letters. I use clamps to hold down the wood so that there is no movement while routing. The clamps are repositioned as necessary for a clear work space.
01 Clamp Wood
There are several Dremel bits to be used. Two bits are for roughing out lots of wood quickly, then two more bits for clean passes leaving no burn marks and a final bit to clean the edges of the letters.
We will start with the Dremel mounted to the router attachment. Familiarize yourself with the depth locking mechanism on the handle as this will be your method of increasing your depth per pass.
03 Router Attachment
The first pass will be done with the 1/8” cutting bit #650. This is a very aggressive bit and should only be used for the initial one or two passes. Start by finding the surface of the wood and noting it on the guage marker below the depth lock knob. Then plunge the bit to your desired depth and lock down. As with turning or milling consider ‘Speed and Feed.’ In this case the speed/RPM’s of the variable speed bit dictates how fast you can move the router at your chosen cutting depth through the wood. Because the barn wood is aged and warped I take a very shallow cut (approx. 1/64” to 1/32”) for the first pass just to remove the aged top surface at a uniform depth.
04 Bit #650
04 Flush to Surface
The transparent base of the router allows for clear viewing of the wood being cut and let you adjust your path and rate of progress as needed. Hold onto the router firmly and make smooth cutting motions to prevent the router kicking back on knots.
05 Hand Hold
Make sure to cut well inside of the stop-cut outlines to avoid any tearing and chipping of the surface edges outside of the outlines.
06 First Pass
Because the bit rotates clockwise you want to direct the router travel in a clockwise rotation. If you’re too aggressive the bit can burn the wood surface which is OK for the first one or two passes that increase in depth by 1/32” to 3/64” for each pass depending on how soft your wood is. There may be alot of smoke generated which can occlude your view so GO SLOW and if you can’t see your path STOP and wait for the smoke to clear.
08 Complete Letter
09 Shallow Cut
To remove more ‘meat’ per cut you can switch to the 3/16” #654 bit and gradually increase the depth for more predictable results. Work closer to the edges without getting all the way to the cut lines.
10 Bit #654
10a Dirty Hog Out
10b Dirty Hog Out
As you progress downward to your desired final depth you can switch again to milling bit #115 which cleans the letter face as you remove wood. You will want to move slowly with a more uniform cutting path motion as this bit will almost leave a final surface.
11 Bit #115
11 Cleaned up
Switch again to milling bit #116 which has a slight taper to it allows you to get to the edge of the letters and do a very small undercut so the base of the letters are very clean. I do not use the entire angled edge of the bit. I also do a very shallow final pass with this bit to make the entire floor as uniform and clean as possible.
12a Bit #116
12a Under Cut Edge
12a Clean Edges
As a final step, clean the vertical walls of the letter outlines, I use one last bit #194. This lets me get into tight corners and clean the letter edges to a very clean finish.
13 Bit #194 Edge Cut
You can see that without sanding the surface of the letters are clean but may have some path marks left from one of your passes. If you want you can lower the bit a miniscule amount and go over the flat surface again until you are satisfied.
14 Final Rout
Once satisfied, you can use a variety of tools to sand areas that need some attention.
Depending on the size of your letters you can use a Sanding Pad and Disc’s. For very large letters I use a 2” pad mounted in a Drill. The ‘Wave’ is typically used for turning but works well with light pressure and various grits. For medium letters a 1” pad mounted in the Dremel without the router attachment. The Dremel Flexshaft is very useful at this point. For smaller areas I use the Micromot system ½” pad on the Dremel (made by Proxxon). The small areas require an improvised Dremel bit (like #115) with some 2 sided tape and sandpaper mounted on the bottom of the bit and trimmed to the same circumference. This is used at slow speed since the sandpaper will fly off. And of course you can use Sanding Sticks (X-Coarse, Coarse, Medium, Fine) for small specific areas that need individual attention.
I like to finish off the letters by making them “POP” off the surface by burning the vertical edges with a Wood-burning/pyrographic pen. The burnt edge adds contrast and separates the letters from the weathered surface. Good luck and have fun. /3DbME