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A Lakehouse Sign

A computer controlled (CNC) router is ideal for many things, but sign-making is one of it's best uses.

A picture of a sign hanging from two chains
Finished Sign

I've created a sign for our lakehouse that embodies our love for quadrupeds with the spirit of relaxation that the lake life allows. Here are the steps I used.

1. Design

The first step is always the design. My brother is an amazing designer and graphic artist and my sister is a writer and artist and my Mom is a artist so it runs in the family. I enjoy drawing and design, but I am much better at mechanical design than graphic design. I decided this is a skill I wanted to work on. I bought a book called Guide to CNC sign Making. It showed how to use design elements like the cutout corners and recess paw print to make the design more interesting. It also taught me common design principles such as avoiding too many fonts. I adopted the text from a vinyl sign my wife had made for our pontoon boat. Here was my first attempt as a design...

Welcome to Legend Lake and always remember to Paws and Enjoy
Lousy Design

...not very appealing. This was before I bought the book.

2. Routing

The sign's maximum size was dictated by the size of the CNC machine that I own. I have a Shapeoko 3, which has a maximum working area of roughly 16"x14". Despite it's limited capacity, this is quite a capable machine for $1,300.

Shapeoko 3 producing a wooden sign
Shapeoko 3 in Action

I wanted to have crisp black paint on the paw print, so I attempted to paint that area before cutting. That kind of worked, but I had some sanding to do, to get rid of the extra paint outside of the circle. This was critical step because masking this off after it was cut would have been impossible.

The wood I used was oak left over from another project. This ended up working fine, but I'm not sure it's was the ideas choice. We'll have to see how it looks after a couple seasons.

3. Finishing

Next was the finish. The lettering doesn't stand out from the sign, so I had to paint the whole sign black and sand off the surface of the sign. I masked off the paw print and the recessed area, then spray painted the entire face. This is where the choice of of using oak may have been a disaster. Oak has such deep and open grain that it was unclear if I was going to be able to sand off enough of the paint.

Routed sign with indistinct lettering
Routed Sign - Indistinct Lettering

I couldn't sand it all off, but the black left over helps accentuate the grain, so it all worked out. I finished the surface with about 5 coats of polyurethane. It held up well through the first winter, so that's encouraging.

Signed finished with paint and poly
Finished Sign

4. Mounting

This step was harder than I expected. I had the perfect place to mount it. My father in law (owner of the lakehouse) is a avid train buff. He has a railroad switch stand mounted out in from the the house along the road. This is a huge chunk of steel that must weigh about 600 lbs.

Sign with mounting bracket
Mounting Hardware

I bought an aluminum mounting bracket from Amazon and the plan was to reuse holes already drilled in the vertical upright the attached the aluminum signal flag to a switch stand.

Sign mounted to railway switch stand
Sign Mounted

The aluminum plate of the mounting bracket took a while to drill through, but eventually a got it.

If you would like to have your own custom lakehouse sign, please let me know! I have ideas for how to make it light up at night too.



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