How do you sign your work?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by Craftsman on the lake posted 08-09-2009 02:43 AM 3583 views 1 time favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2848 posts in 3679 days

08-09-2009 02:43 AM

Topic tags/keywords: signature plaque sign your work brass plaque brass ownership question

There is an old forum topic on this subject, but it is out of date now as some links to a product to sign work by having a medallion for inlay isn’t valid any longer. The medallion inlay idea is nice though.

I have found several places online that make small thin brass plaques. Some are self sticking, some are not. I’ve had some made and was wondering if there is a better way. I tried engraving in wood with a dremel; not good. At least mine wasn’t. I understand branding irons can be made. The plaque below is about 5”x1.25” It’s only sized for larger furniture pieces. And I don’t put them on the underside of things but I will put it on the backside of a bed footer or a visible but inconspicuous place on a chest like inside the cover for example. These cost about $5 each to have made and can be ordered in bulk. I figure if I’ve got a few hundred dollars or more in wood and lots more in sweat into a piece a $5 plaque isn’t outrageous.

What do you do?

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

29 replies so far

View lew's profile


12514 posts in 3997 days

#1 posted 08-09-2009 02:45 AM

Sign and date the piece with a Sharpie. Usually someplace where it is not obvious (depends on the piece) Signed before finishing.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View a1Jim's profile


117423 posts in 3818 days

#2 posted 08-09-2009 02:48 AM

Hey Dan
That’s real professional looking. I’ve gone the gamut from metal plaques to branding irons or punch sets.
Now I just sign and date an number it with a paint pen

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View patron's profile


13641 posts in 3582 days

#3 posted 08-09-2009 03:09 AM

i make a cresent moon over the sun plug and inlay it .
im hoping that historians will know how to read it someday .
david made this !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View r's profile


41 posts in 3497 days

#4 posted 08-09-2009 03:11 AM

I use a router with a veining bit and do it on the bottom of the piece along with the date. real shallow

-- u

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3545 days

#5 posted 08-09-2009 03:40 AM

i have a burnmaster by mastercarver, it lets me burn in a few other words when i want to be more personal with certain piece’s …...

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Durnik150's profile


647 posts in 3563 days

#6 posted 08-09-2009 03:48 AM

My wonderful wife has gifted me with three different brands to mark my work with. While the backgrounds and art are different, they all say, “Handcrafted by Charles S. Holzheimer”.

Now, if I could just figure out who this guy Charles is and why my wife wants me to brand all my work with his name, I’m all set!! Just kidding.

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

View scott shangraw's profile

scott shangraw

513 posts in 4310 days

#7 posted 08-09-2009 04:02 AM

I use a wood burning kit also and just use it like I would a pen and sign my name ,month,year and sometimes the wood species.

-- Scott NM,

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 3568 days

#8 posted 08-09-2009 07:01 AM

Custom branding iron here.

-- Don S.E. OK

View scrappy's profile


3507 posts in 3672 days

#9 posted 08-09-2009 10:19 AM

I got a rubber stamp and pad made to order. Usually stamp after first coat of finnish and sanded, before second coat. That way wood is sealed and ink doesnt bleed into it.

-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View knotscott's profile


8186 posts in 3617 days

#10 posted 08-09-2009 01:40 PM

I do the same as scrappy…custom rubber stamp that looks a lot like the oval branding iron pattern. I also add a penny or nickel from the year the piece was made.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View pvwoodcrafts's profile


244 posts in 4163 days

#11 posted 08-09-2009 02:32 PM

I sign and date cabinets and furniture in pencil. I’ve been signing my rolling pins with a sharpie before finishing them and discovered that after about a month it has all but disappeared. Any suggestions ?

-- mike & judy western md. www.

View Brian's profile


79 posts in 3953 days

#12 posted 08-09-2009 02:33 PM

Since my last name(Penning) is close to penny, I glue in a penny that has the year the item was built.


View Hix's profile


161 posts in 3519 days

#13 posted 08-09-2009 02:51 PM

I have the easiest name. I usually use a burner.

-- ---call me---- Mark

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4647 days

#14 posted 08-09-2009 03:10 PM

Important Question I think.

I’ve done it all, and I’m not really happy about any of the methods. Paper labels fall off, or don’t make it through the first refinishing process. Wood burning doesn’t work really well unless I buy a more expensive burner. Dremels are hard to get good letters that have curves to them, without turning the piece in all directions. Carving with a knife takes time, and the little letters in my name are hard to do to where they are readable. Branding irons are ok if you have the money to buy one, so I don’t have one. Brass plaques are ok, although are easily removable, which is a benefit to a refinisher that wants to save the provenance. Magic Markers fade over time into the finishes I use, or bleed in to the wood grain, or if you put the finish on after signing, the finish blurs the lettering. Native American Crafts people, historically put a “mark” they liked into every piece they made, not a name or date, unless it was made for the tourist trade.

Lately, I’ve been using a Dremel Engraving Vibrating point. Works pretty well, especially on very hard wood such as maple, or on end grain like the bottom of a wooden vessel. I’m not totally happy with the process, but that’s what I’m doing now.

I make a lot of custom knives. The standard for knife makers is to do photo paper metal etching with a little machine and kit that costs about $200. It’s a neat system, and would lend itself to making my own little metal plaques that I could attach with nails. It’s how custom knife makers put their name on a stainless steel blade with the black etched lettering.

I know two leather crafters that have leather stamping dies made, and I’ve wondered about cutting out small leather pads and using that method, attaching them with brass nails.

I have a friend that has a laser engraving business. We’ve been tossing around the idea of him burning some small Alder wood discs with my logo and name and website, and then leave a small place for me to use the vibrating engraver to sign and date the disc. Then, I would just use a forstener bit and drill in a small indentation for the inlaying of the disc. But, some things I make, the disc wouldn’t work at all. I might try that method one of these days. I’ve also had him engrave my logo in a piece directly. But the cost is just too high to use every time, adds about $10 and a week to everything I make. If it wasn’t for the lack of $10,000, I might enjoy having one of those small laser machines myself.

But here’s the big question…...

Does any of this “Signature” thing Matter?

I still am drawn to an “old-skool feel” that rubber stamps, and brass lettered plaques, woodburner plaques, and laser engraved discs can’t give. I’m not a factory, I make each thing I do one at a time, and so I’m sort of drawn to the notion of making it look like that is the facts, and just signing with my own hand. I just like the personal feel that it gives.

My concern is that the signature is important.

Understand, it’s Not that I’m important, but here’s the thing: Over the past 5 years, the majority of my customers have specifically asked to make sure I “sign” the piece they’ve bought. So, it not only seems important to me as the “Maker” but also to those that do the buying/collecting.

Those of us that take the time to hand make something, put everything they have into what they make. For some it’s a passion for a hobby, and for others an income source. Either way, marking and dating the work is important in my mind.

Recently, there was a Rustic Rocking Chair on the Antique Roadshow signed with the name “Zachary” and a date from the early 1990’s. The appraiser had no idea who the guy was, but gave it a good appraisal, and noted that the carved signature was a prominent feature.

I’ve done some research to figure out how other contemporary crafts people that are real Masters of their craft sign their work. George Nakashima used a Magic Marker and bold signature. The line of furniture that was factory built using his designs used a woodburned stamping process. Sam Maloof used a wood burning pen, and hand wrote the information about the serial number, date, and his signature prominently. Marc Adams doesn’t sign his work at all, but never did explain to me why that was, but it is a special point to him not to sign his work. I was humbled by his abilities and his preference for remaining anonymous. Gustav Stickley had the guys that actually built the pieces in the factory punch the “Mark” with a tool. Roycraft Factory, also used a punched “mark” tool. A Kansas Master is Mike Livingston, and he carves his name on the FRONT of the pieces just as prominently as a canvas painter signs the bottom corner of a major painting. I like Mike’s method, I just haven’t “arrived” yet to the point where I can so prominently sign my name. I mean, I know me, and I’m not that impressed. Maybe someday I can do it like Mike does.

I suppose my preference is sort of what Sam Maloof did, making the signing a “Moment.”

I just spent 500 hours this year building two rocking chairs. After the chairs were loaded in the Yukon and I was leaving to deliver them, I remembered that I hadn’t signed one of them. So, I grabbed an extension cord and the engraver and left my mark laying on my side in the back of the Yukon. I surprise myself that the signature is as important to me as it is, and then like a bonehead, I forgot to do it earlier. Ugh. Living with myself is a chore at times…...ok most of the time. Just ask my wife. But, about 15 minutes after the chairs were sitting in the customer’s house, she asked me if I had signed each one. Of course, I didn’t say that I had done it laying on my side in the back of the Yukon an hour before.

In the PBS series “Craft in America”, episode 1, there is a scene where Sam Maloof’s employees are sitting quietly around the room while Sam patiently signs and dates the bottom of a chair seat with the wood burner. You get the impression watching that scene, that the Signature for Sam was not a rushed deal. As much time and care was given to the signature as every other aspect of his work. Important lesson to the rest of us wannabe’s. It was just a cool moment to witness on video, and if you haven’t seen it, I feel that this one important scene alone would be worth ordering the series on DVD. I felt that way the first time I saw it a year ago when Sam was still living. I watched it again a couple of weeks ago, and the romance and “moment in antiquity” that the scene captures brought tears to a guy like me. But, I cry a lot at emotionally charged things, so I’m probably not the best judge of a “moment” that is incredible to everyone else.

After watching the Antique Roadshow tv series for so many years, I’ve decided that all of my work must get some sort of signature and date. I’m still working on what is the best way to do that. I’ll enjoy watching this Forum Topic for new ideas.


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4369 days

#15 posted 08-09-2009 03:54 PM


Well said – res ipsa loquitur

I acquired a very old drawknife that I use every day. It appears to have been made from an old file. The maker knew his tools and shaped it perfectly for its intended purpose. The die-stamped signature on the back of the blade reads “W F Selm” – perhaps an Amish blacksmith from Eastern Kentucky.

Although I haven’t been able to identify the maker, his signature tells me his name. The workmanship embodied in the tool tells me his skill. When my hands grasp where his once were, I feel them guiding me in my quest to work the grain of the wood with tradition. Moreover, I feel an obligation to elevate my craft to a level of skill befitting this unknown tool maker.

I sign my work with a simple stylized “rg” for my initials, using a black pen or a woodburning stylus. I see my mark as a sign of pride, not of ego. My mark says “I made this.”, whether good or bad in the eyes of the beholder.

-- 温故知新

showing 1 through 15 of 29 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics