Routing a Sign #2: Routing the Horizontal and Vertical Parts

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Blog entry by ~Julie~ posted 09-26-2012 02:05 PM 2832 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Setting up the design Part 2 of Routing a Sign series Part 3: Finishing the sign »

>>> You can find Part 1 here on how to set up the design <<<

I have three routers, but for this job I’m using my small trim router. This router has a small square see-through base that is good for smaller signs. It takes bits with a 1/4” shank and I’m using my 3/8” round nose bit which I will leave protruding just less than 1/8” inch out of the base. Because the letters need to be quite close together to fit on this sign, the groove from the bit can’t be too wide or the letters will end up touching each other. (I tried out the bit first on some scrap wood to see how it would look)

In addition to the router, the other thing I need is some clamps and a long straight piece of wood plus a 90 degree jig. I make this jig crudely out of scraps and just screw it together. It will be used for the vertical parts of the lettering. The most important things with this are that the wood edges are straight and the jig forms a perfect 90 degrees:

Before routing I need to find out what the offset is from the edge of my router base to the center of the groove that it makes with the bit. Your router is most likely not the same as mine which was about 2 3/8”. This measurement is needed because I am going to clamp a board down to ride the router base against, to keep the horizontal parts perfectly horizontal.

When I clamp a piece of scrap wood horizontally across the board, it needs to be clamped the same distance from the middle of the letter part I’m working on, as I determined the offset to be. For example here below, to route the TOP of the E, the board is clamped this distance away from the middle of the top of the E (again for me it was 2 3/8”)

I carefully lower the router into the wood and then ride the base along the boards edge, pushing my router against it firmly (to the left and against the board) and away from me. If you let the router wander to the right, your letter will not be straight. If necessary, you can also clamp another board to the right of the base and then it has no chance to go off track.

I watch from low down (with eye protection) to see where to stop and start. I then do all the horizontal letter parts that are at the top, so the E’s the small part of the R’s and the small part of the B.

I then move my clamped board so that it is the offset distance away from the horizontal middle parts of any letters. In my case, again the E’s the R’s, and the B. I move it again for the horizontal part of the A which sits lower than the E’s. And I move the board to the top and clamp it there to do the lower horizontal letter parts, the L, the E’s, the B.

Once the horizontal parts are complete I use my 90 degree jig to line up the vertical letter parts. I put a small groove in the jig where the bit will cut when the router is riding against the vertical portion of the jig. Again, the offset is the same, but this jig can hook onto the bottom of the board (I still clamp it to keep it secure). You can see where I drew a faint line from the middle of the L and then lined up the groove from the bit. I found this easier than measuring each time, since the jig has to be moved for each letter.

Here you can see the cut made with the router for the vertical part of the L. I move the jig along to do the rest of the letters: E’s, R’s, I, and the B

Although this is quite precise, it is not perfect… but this isn’t a CNC router, it’s hand done!

Tomorrow I’ll finish the remaining parts of the letters, see Part 3 for that.

-- ~Julie~

5 comments so far

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 4078 days

#1 posted 09-26-2012 04:04 PM

This is a cool blog! I attempted to make a sign like this once, but wasn’t pleased with the results. I tried to freehand the whole thing, and it looked really wavy. I can see the big benefit of using the edge guide for the router. Thanks for sharing!

-- Robb

View degoose's profile


7238 posts in 3499 days

#2 posted 09-26-2012 08:07 PM

Nice job, but I will wait for my new CNC…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2834 days

#3 posted 09-27-2012 01:49 AM

Good blog. I KNEW there was some trick to getting those lines straight! Just didn’t know what it was. I thought you had to use a template for each letter and didn’t like that plan.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View ~Julie~'s profile


610 posts in 3179 days

#4 posted 09-27-2012 02:13 AM

Robb- As I said the torque of that bit spinning can really move the router. I usually use two hands and don’t dare try to turn it off with the router on the workpiece as it will throw the router off the lines. (Don’t ask me how I know this!)

degoose- A CNC is nice, but this is hands on

gfadvm- You can buy templates, but then you are restricted to that font and that size. This way you can be creative. My sign is basic, but once you get the hang of it, the sky’s the limit!

-- ~Julie~

View hjt's profile


900 posts in 3282 days

#5 posted 09-28-2012 02:33 AM

So how did you learn these tricks, Missie? Is this from trial and erro, and you coming up with this concept, worked with someone, or hours of research on the ol’ internet? Very good stuff – learning lots.

-- Harold

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