Wood Sign Routing Techniques

By Wade Shaddy
Use a template for best results when routing signs.

Wood routing is an enjoyable hobby. You can create art, or functional wooden signs. You can use standard fonts for your sign, or freehand your own custom fonts. You can go deep, or shallow, or even cut around your letters for a relief effect. You can draw and cut your letters using a stencil or a reusable template.

Freehand

Place a 1/4-inch flute bit in the router. Set the depth of cut on the router base to 1/4-inch. Draw your sign with a pencil freehand or use a stencil.

Clamp the sign to a worktable, Keep the clamps away from your sign lettering.

Hold the router with both hands. Place it directly above your penciled letters. Crouch down and focus on the point where the bit will contact the wood. Turn the router on. Push down slowly until the knife bottoms out in the wood. Push and pull the router along, sliding it gently along your pencil lines. Focus on centering down the middle of your line.

Template

Install the bushing that came with the template kit into the router base. The bit should pass directly through the center of the bushing. Set the depth of cut on the router to 1/2-inch.

Clamp the selected letters from the template onto the sign. Set the router on the template.

Grab the router with both hands. Position it over one of the letters. Turn on the router and push it down slowly until the bit cuts into the wood and the bushing is inside the template.

Push and pull the router along the template. Keep a firm downward pressure on the router, letting the bushing guide the router around the letter. When the bit has cut away the letter completely, let the router base spring back up, lifting the bit out of the wood.

Position the router over the next letter and repeat until all the letters are cut out, repositioning the template and adding letters as necessary.

Tip

For a relief effect, try routing around the outside of the letters, leaving the stenciled area raised up. It's more work, but is different and looks great. Test your depth of cut on a peice of scrap wood before routing your sign. If the router slips, try flipping it upside down and starting over on the other side. You can pick up router template kits, stencils and router bits at hobby shops or home improvement stores.

Warning

Always wear breathing and eye protection when routing.

About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.