Wooden Letters #1: Fancy Wooden Letters

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Blog entry by Kevbo posted 03-17-2013 04:45 AM 2782 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I’ve done whole names of simpler style letters, and I am learning a lot as I go. Some of what I’ve learned is stated below. I’ve made “Charlotte” and “Oliver” letters that fit together like jig saw pieces. Both Charlotte and Oliver are 2 years old and I wanted to give them something to help them learn to spell their names. Charlotte is my daughter and it is really working! These letters are a little fancier as they are for older kids and I had limited time so I did just their initials. I also wanted to see how long they would take (Around 2:20), and take photos along the way for a friend of mine who suggested it. I’m using this project to start my LJ blog, and I hope you enjoy!

1. Drawn with pencil – you have to consider if they will stand on their own, and if any part of the letters will be too narrow and might split/break.

2. I’m cutting out the holes in the “G” first while the board is still whole.

3. I should have put another board under it and clamped them together; I had some pretty bad chip-out on the bottom-side that could have been prevented by backing it up with another piece of wood. I sanded all the chip-out so at least they were smooth and would accept the finish well, but it would have saved me a lot of time and looked nicer if I had backed it up.

4. Drilling a starter hole in the “R” – has to be at least 1/4” for my jig saw blade to fit. No need to back this up because I’m cutting it out anyway.

5. Me with my favorite tool, my bosh jig saw. A professional carpenter once told me “With a jig saw and a belt sander you can build anything.” I reach for this tool for a lot of things.

6. Here the “R” is partially cut out. Notice the non-marring boot on the face plate – sweeeeet.

7. Look how my blade bent while cutting the outside curve of the “G.” I wasn’t careful to watch out for blade flex. You can sort of angle the blade in while you move around the curve to prevent this.

8. Cutting the inside of the “G” first – you have to plan carefully the order of your cuts, so you don’t find yourself cutting a piece of wood too small to clamp, or supported by too narrow of a piece – it will bounce with the saw blade. I don’t get any chip out with the jig saw because I run the saw on full blast while cutting, use a fine tooth blade, and it’s a great tool, but if you are getting chip out, you could back this up with some cheap 1/4” or some scrap to prevent that too – that would take a lot of clamping though.

9. Progress – I’m wearing my safety gear, but I hate these glasses – my much cooler “50’s shop teacher” glasses were upstairs.

10. Lookin’ pretty good. Cutting the gentle curves on the G was really a nuisance and very unforgiving.

11. The belt sander is key for quickly sanding the edges and keeping them square. This makes quick work of squaring up the cut on the “G” where the blade bent.

12. A random orbital palm sander quickly cleans up the face and the back, and preps the surface for finish.

13. Where the belt sander and Random Orbit Sander won’t reach you have to get creative. Here I have attached a drum sanding bit to my sweet Hitachi 12V Li-Ion cordless drill. Remember all surfaces should be sanded with similar grits – this ensures the finish will be consistent. (Notice the produce price tags stuck to my shirt. Natty likes to stick these to me at the grocery store.)

14. I wrapped some sand paper around a square dowel to sand down and straighten up the inside flat surfaces on the “R” as well as inside the cog-like details.

15. My tiny little dremel router, pretty worthless for most things, really shines in this application. It’s tiny 1/8” shank bits can get into all the small details. It also makes a good trim router for applying laminate.

16. The sharp edges of the “R” before routing.

17. I think the chamfered edges really add something – this part of the project is really easy and fun, and has immediately satisfying results.

18. Finished but un-finsihed. (I don’t pun often, but when I do it’s usually accidental and always bad.)

19. Finished! No stain and a single coat of “Danish Oil” with a foam brush makes these letters look really rich and warm. The oil really seems to harden the soft pine and protects them. It is easy to apply the Danish Oil as it seems to absorb into the wood instead of pooling, so all I have to watch out for are bubbles. More coats might be prudent but so far the letters I have made are doing well with just the 1. Granted the oldest letters I have are only about 4 months old… Danish oil claims to be safe for children’s toys, and my research tells me that most finishes are safe as long as they are fully cured. I timed myself and the total labor on these puppies was around 2:20.

-- Makin' the most of the tools I have...

4 comments so far

View kepy's profile


293 posts in 2271 days

#1 posted 03-17-2013 01:53 PM

You can also prevent chip out with the spade bit by drilling part way through, then drilling from the back side to finish. The point of the bit will make a starting hole on the back.

-- Kepy

View helluvawreck's profile


31071 posts in 2864 days

#2 posted 03-17-2013 02:07 PM

A scroll saw and drill press work really well for this too. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Kevbo's profile


13 posts in 1895 days

#3 posted 03-17-2013 02:46 PM

Turning the letters over is a good idea! I thought about this at the time but was worried the holes wouldn’t perfectly line up. I could test it on some scrap.

@Helluvawreck: two tools I don’t have but would like. I might be buying a scroll saw and a spindle sander today. Seems like these tools would be perfect for my letters.

Thanks for reading and for the comments guys!

-- Makin' the most of the tools I have...

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 2188 days

#4 posted 03-17-2013 03:07 PM

great letters and nice desisns

-- Marty.Athens,AL

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