How to Use a Router for Wooden Signs

Lead Image
  • 2-6 hours
  • Beginner
  • 10-50
What You'll Need
Table or hand saw
Untreated lumber (pine's the cheapest and softest)
White Paper

Wooden signs are a great way to add your name, address or other information to your residential, recreational or even commercial property. Use a router to make the signs look more professional and polished. The process is simple and allows you to create a one-of-a-kind design unique to your property.

Layout Your Sign

It's important to determine what you want your wooden sign to say, the position of the words and if there will be any images before beginning any cutting to reduce the chance of wasted time and wasted wood. Take your time in this crucial planning stage. Begin by cutting out the shape of the sign on white paper then make a duplicate. You will use one to cut the shape and the other to lay out the design. On the second piece of paper, draw out the image and text in actual size and the position of each. Capital letters should be at least five inches tall and lowercase letters can be an inch or so smaller than whatever size you make your capital letters. Avoid choosing images with complicated, detailed patterns. Make sure you leave enough space around the edges if you wish to use the router to make an interesting border. Then cover the white paper with tracing paper. Draw over the lines on the tracing paper using a black felt-tipped marker.

Prepare the Wood

Position the first paper cut-out over the piece of lumber you've decided to use. If this is your first project, it's suggested to use pine because it's soft to work with and doesn't cost a lot of money. But you can choose any piece of lumber you like. Staff at your local hardware store can suggest different types of good for creating wooden signs.

Trace the shape with a pencil. Then take the wood over to your table saw and cut the shape. If using a hand saw, be sure to clamp the wood to your workbench. Place old rags under the clamp to reduce indents in the wood from the clamps. After cutting, hand sand lightly if the edges are too rough to comfortably handle the wood.

Place the tissue paper over the freshly cut wood and using a pencil draw the text and/or image right onto the wood through the tissue paper. The paper may tear a little and this is fine as long as you can transfer the design.

Begin to Router the Wood

Attach the plunge bit to the router. The type of a bit will depend on the type of wood you're working with and you can get suggestions at your local hardware store. Set the depth to be half the board's thickness. Any deeper and you could weaken the board causing it to split. Place the wood on a flat surface and clamp if necessary. Begin working on the straight edge of the letter at a slow and steady pace making sure to keep the router moving at all times to prevent burning the wood when it's exposed to a rotating bit for too long. Simply lift out the bit if you need a rest or to sweep away sawdust. Change router bits to work on the edges.