Making signs

One of the cool things about a CNC machine is the ease at which you can produce really good looking signs out of pretty much any material. One of my ‘commissions’ was to make a sign for a guy in Scotland who contacted me on Instagram. He had seen I’d made a house sign and asked whether I could make one to hang above his hot tub. I wasn’t intending to charge him other than the postage so in order to keep costs down I used some old pallet wood I’d reclaimed. The results came out pretty well and he loved it.

Another request came closer to hand, when Tina mentioned that one of her colleagues at work asked whether I could make two bedroom door signs for her young daughters. My usual process is to firstly go and do a Google images search to get some inspiration on what the signs could look like but in this case I went straight into designing using the Vectrix VCarve software.

But having checked with Tina, we didn’t feel they were ‘girly’ enough, so went back to Google and found a sign I thought could work. A quick design in the CNC software and I then got to work cutting the signs and the accompanying butterflies and flowers.

In the end I added some rope for hangers and gave both a coat of varnish. And the girls absolutely loved them, even to the point that the younger one Evelyn just kept walking around carrying it like a handbag not wanting it to be hung on her door.

Another request came from a difference work colleague of Tina’s, this time asking for a sign to give to her friend who had recently got engaged. Again I knocked up a mock-up, which was accepted and soon the CNC had produced the sign. Again they loved it.

One of the reasons for buying a CNC was the fact that the output is so exact, crisp and clean and so far it’s proving that way.

I’m happy just making these as for me the enjoyment is the creation and reward of seeing something produced that looks good and the recipient is pleased with. Perhaps one day when I’ve retired I can set up my own business selling these for profit but I’m really not sure I’d get the same pleasure in making them as I do at the moment.

Workshop Update

The enforced national lockdown back in March last year began just before we were about to travel to Jersey to see our daughter, so instead I had the added bonus of a week off spent in my workshop.

Having managed to get to grips with my newly purchased CNC machine by making some signs, clocks and a crib board for my dad, I was keen to explore new things to make. I’d also ordered a pallet of hardwood from eBay, which would give me plenty of material to use as well.

Firstly, I wanted to try to produce a brass stamp on the CNC which seemed quite a cool thing to try to make. I had already ordered some brass blocks from eBay and so set about designing the stamps on the Vectrix software. The plan was to make a stamp that could be used for embossing my woodwork pieces; my very own makers mark. What I didn’t realise was that cutting metal, even a soft metal like brass, isn’t as easy as you think. My first attempt caused the router bit to break but once I’d sussed out the correct feed and speeds needed I managed to produce a pretty functional stamp.

I then thought I’d have a go at making some cutting boards, again out of left over oak worktop, but this time I wanted to try engraving onto them using the CNC. I made three different sized boards and a stand and then used the CNC to produce some pretty good looking boards.

Having no use for the boards I stored them away after first sharing photos on Instagram and shortly after an ex-colleague reached out for me to see if I would make her a set. As they were not required at home, I duly posted them to her and are now regularly used in her kitchen. Another project successfully completed.

Over the next few months my CNC output increased as I grew more confident in designing and creating new things. I even managed to get a couple of commissions from a chap in Scotland having seen my photos on social media.

Firstly he asked if I could make him a sign for his newly installed hot tub and then a sign for a work colleague. He loved them, especially as I only charged him for the postage.

Ideas were coming thick and fast by the time we came out of lockdown, not before dabbling in making some keyring, nick-nack trays and boxes, more signs and BBQ trays.

As the workshop warmed up in the summer, my activity slowed as the temperatures got unbearable but I still managed to knock out some football signs for friends and family.

In my next blog post I’ll run through some other projects including making beer bottle openers, signs for the garden, a box for a baby and a clock for my dad for Fathers Day.

Making Stuff Part 3

Having got to grips with making wooden things again, I started to look around for some gifts I could make for my family and friends using some of the small off cuts of timber I had accumulated over the months.

IMG_1809Following on from the success of the key holder that I engraved I decided to have a go at making some wooden signs, which I could personalise depending on the recipient. The idea actually came from my sister-in-law who had seen a wooden sign of our favourite holiday place, Kalkan and suggested I could make her one too.

I had already bought a hand-router, and worked out that if I printed out the words I needed and stuck them to a wooden blank I could then trace through, leaving a neat finish. Painting the letters black made the them stand out and I was pleased with the final once I’d finished the sign with a coat of wax. IMG_1793

I refined the process and was soon coming up with ideas for other members of my family and even made a couple for secret Santa gifts for people at work. To finished them off I drilled some holes and threaded a piece of hemp rope which could be used to hang them from a wall.

 

I even knocked one up for Matt & Chloe’s tortoise.

IMG_1826

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst making signs was fun, it was quite fine woodworking and so I got to think about a bigger project to challenge me. 20 years ago, one of the projects I enjoyed making was a pine coffee table, a simple design but very sturdy and still in use today in Tina’s sewing room. As I had some larger planks and long lengths of oak I decided I would attempt to make another table; this time a little more refined and fancier features. I researched online and got some ideas that I could adapt.

IMG_1776Firstly I cut down two wide planks, planed and then glued them up, using biscuit joints and clamps to keep them level. I then got to work on the legs and skirts. I had liked the look of tapered legs so wanted to incorporate these in my design but wasn’t quite sure how to achieve it. After watching a few YouTube videos, I stumbled on a technique using a table saw and soon had four legs shaped in exactly the style I wanted. IMG_1778

Once the top was dry and cut to the final size, I then used a 45 degree router bit to edge it. After lots and lots of sanding and a coat of wax finish the table was complete and too be honest I was rather chuffed with the outcome, especially as it was something I’d designed from scratch.

With Christmas now looming fast and colder temperatures in the workshop, any thoughts of new projects were few and far between but knowing I had some time off over the festive period I was determined to utilise one of my new tools, namely an Erbauer plunge saw that I’d purchased from Screwfix. Cutting large sheets was always a challenge on my table saw and having some ideas on projects using MDF and plywood, I decided a dedicated circular saw would be a good tool to have.

My next blog will cover how I turned some large sheets of MDF into a shoe rack for our under-stairs cupboard.