Hand Carved Sign #1: Pattern, Carving, Priming

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Blog entry by MyChipCarving posted 10-04-2011 09:58 PM 11305 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Hand Carved Sign series Part 2: painted and installed »

This is my first attempt at carving a sign. I’ve wanted to try it for quite a while.
Our retreat center needed a sign by the road so this sign already has a home all picked out.

Dimensions: 36” x 12” x 2”, basswood

I know basswood isn’t the best exterior wood but seeing as it will be painted, I figured it should last many years as long as I give it proper care and maintenance.

I created the pattern on my computer. Each letter stands 3” tall. The font used is Engravers.
I applied the pattern to the wood using my Pattern Transfer Tool.

I’m using my standard chip carving knife for the carving. The letters are too big and the chips too wide and deep to remove them in one pass, so first I carved out the center of each large chip.

I’m carving on the floor where I can get my upper body over the top of my knife to get as much force as possible. This was not easy carving. Some parts of the basswood were harder than others which made it even more challenging. But by the end of the second football game, I had the sign carved. I was satisfied seeing as it was pretty tough carving.

In a sign carving book I read, the author recommended three coats of primer. I used an oil base primer. A large brush applied most of the primer and a small brush did the work in the letters to make sure there wasn’t any puddling.

Next step: apply 4-5 top coats of paint. With each coat taking 24 hours to dry, this will take awhile.

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

6 comments so far

View helluvawreck's profile


31082 posts in 2865 days

#1 posted 10-04-2011 10:02 PM

Marty, those letters look perfect. I do not understand how you cut those letters so uniformly and cleanly.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View MyChipCarving's profile


604 posts in 3124 days

#2 posted 10-04-2011 10:06 PM

I tell ya’, these letters were some of the hardest I’ve ever carved because they are so big. They’re not perfect, but the paint hides some of the imperfections :-)
Your letter carving will get better and better with practice. Keep at it!

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

View Glacier's profile


1 post in 2443 days

#3 posted 10-04-2011 10:46 PM

Amazing, Marty. Thanks for sharing.

View Woodbutcher3's profile


403 posts in 2886 days

#4 posted 10-05-2011 01:53 AM


Nice work. Large letters like that are hard to do. But you handled it well. People don’t realize they never see the cuts from a center you’ve taken out. Nice trick in chip carving or any other carving.

I like using the printer, too. I often used just the outline for the letters and carve right through the paper I’ve laid on the wood using spray adhesive. Laquer thinner or mineral spirits takes it off later.

When I put the first couple coats of primer on, I usually thin them so they soak into the wood before putting a full strength coat on. If you are using a color on top of the white, you can tint the primer coats as you put the next one on so you know where you’ve covered. All white gets hard to see where you’ve been sometimes. Just add a little more tint each time as you go toward full color.

A slight sanding on any corners helps build the coats of paint where ther might be a sharp edge, too.

If you put on more colors, let’s see the finished product, too!

-- Rod ~ There's never enough time to finish a project, but there's always time to start another one.

View MyChipCarving's profile


604 posts in 3124 days

#5 posted 10-05-2011 03:50 PM

Thanks for the good tips, Rod.
I will definitely post pics of the next steps and finished sign.

-- Marty,, 866-444-6996

View Brit's profile


7376 posts in 2842 days

#6 posted 10-05-2011 10:22 PM

Nice job Marty as usual, but it will be a bummer if you ever repaint the barn a different color. :o)

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

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