Mark it with a…: Engraving Large Letters Into Wood by Hand

Times New Roman font, size 1200

Times New Roman font, size 1200

There are plenty of methods to engrave large letters into a custom wood project. A CNC router is certainly the most precise way to do it and if you are picky, you might find a local CNC router owner who can do this for you unless, of course, you want to fork out big bucks for your very own CNC router just for one or two letters. What? Not the plan you had in mind? Ok. Here’s a different way.

In the event you wish to make some dust and do it yourself, you will need a few things before you get started:

  1. A computer program that will let you print large size font on multiple sheets.
    • I used MS Publisher 2007 to print the letter, but I had to use Word 2007 to set the  Times New Roman font size to 1200 (because Publisher would only let me go to 999). I copied and pasted to a custom size layout of 16″ x 16″ for four sheets. To save on ink, I formatted the font to outline it.

      Transferring the letter to the work piece.

      Transferring the letter to the work piece.

  2. Create a transfer. Align and tape all the pages together to create the letter. Use a pencil to scribble over the lines on the back side of the printout to create the transfer (Carbon paper would also work if they still make that stuff). Align and the center the letter on your project piece and tape in place so it doesn’t move around while transferring. Use a sharpened pencil or ink pen and trace the outline to transfer the letter to your wood surface.

    Transferred letter.

    Transferred letter.

  3. Use a trim router with a ‘V’ notch bit to carve out the outline of the letter first.  Large Letter Engraving Creation 04
  4. Use straight edge guides to keep long lines neat. Move slowly around curves and don’t take you hands off the tool. Large Letter Engraving Creation 05

It’s pretty simple. I can continue with tips and tricks, but that’s not the same as a tool in hand.

If you are really into making letters, build yourself a router pantograph. You can use this contraption to make custom, handmade engraved signs. Plans can be found at http://woodgears.ca/pantograph/plans/index.html.

A Router Pantograph I built from plans by Matthias Wandell

A Router Pantograph I built from plans by Matthias Wandell

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