Introduction: Making a Simple CNC Sign (CNC Project for Beginners)
I made a sign in memory of my father-in-law's brother, who passed away recently. I made the sign on my new Shapeoko XL CNC. This CNC project was a great introduction to learning the CNC, and the sign I made, while simple, was also extremely rewarding. Don't miss the video above for more details.
Also, even if you don’t have a CNC, you could make something similar with a v-chisel. There are also plenty of options for using CNCs even if you don’t own one yourself, mainly Makerspaces. The CNC is an incredible tool, and I’d highly recommend trying to learn how to use one if you have the option.
Step 1: Mill Wood & Design CAD/CAM Operations
The first step, as with any CNC project, is to design your project and then pick out the material you're going to use. I used the bundled software that came with my CNC, Carbide Create, to design the simple CAD program and then created the toolpaths, again in Carbide Create.
For the material, I decided to use a nice piece of Walnut. The Walnut I had on hand was rough sawn, so I milled it up on my jointer, planer, and table saw, and then secured it to the bed of my CNC with double-sided tape.
Step 2: Run CNC Operations & Clean Up Edges of Sign
This design was a two-step program. The first step was a v-carve operation for the lettering. I used a 90-degree Whiteside router bit, and it left me with a really nice finish. The second process was cutting the outline, and I used a ¼" end mill for that.
After the operations finished, I removed the sign from the CNC bed and cut away the excess material using a small handsaw. I then flushed up the edges using a Template Bit on the router table, then added a chamfer to all of the edges using a Chamfer Bit.
Step 3: Paint Letters on Sign
For the lettering, I spray painted the entire front of the sign white, allowed it to dry for 24 hours, and then sanded away the excess with 80 grit sandpaper. I have seen some folks add painter's tape over the entire surface of the sign before running the CNC, that way the areas that shouldn't receive paint are already taped off. That is definitely something I might try next time.
After sanding away the excess paint, I sanded the sign with 120 grit then 180 grit sandpaper. After sanding, I wiped down the surface with a damp rag to remove any dust to prep for finish.
Step 4: Drill Mounting Holes in Sign
You've got a few options here. I just drilled a few countersunk holes in the corners, but you could also use a keyhole router bit to create a nice keyhole on the back of the sign.
Step 5: Apply Finish to CNC Sign
I used a spar urethane, since this sign will be on an outdoor porch. I had some trouble with the finish pooling in the letters, and in retrospect I probably should have used a spray finish. I applied three total coats of finish, sanding with 320 grit sandpaper between coats. Once the finish is dry, the sign is done!
Step 6: Enjoy Your Sign!
This sign was a Christmas gift for my father-in-law, and it was also one of the most rewarding things I’ve made, even though it was something so simple. Being able to make something that will be cherished for years to come is one of the greatest aspects of woodworking, in my opinion. Giving this gift was bittersweet, as I know it brought up a lot of emotions related to his brother’s passing, but it was also a perfectly fitting memento in remembrance of Tim.
I hope you enjoyed this project, and if you'd like to see more of my work, check out my YouTube channel. I publish new project videos every Tuesday, so get subscribed! Thanks!