- Get wood in the size and shape you want. If the wood is in different pieces, fasten them together to start. We recommend pine for carving and chipping because it is relatively soft.
- Get the stencil (or stencils) of the logo or design you want to make into a sign.
- Determine which paint color(s) you need. If not using spray paint, get brushes with varying sizes for different parts of the logo or design.
- Place the stencil where you want it to be on the wood. Use tape to fasten the stencil if necessary. If using multiple stencils, use the biggest one for this step as it is determining where you are going to carve on the wood.
- Use a pencil to lightly trace around the inside of the stencil design.
- Use your wood carving tools to carve the wood out of the inside of the penciled area. Carve into the wood as deeply as you want.
- When carving is finished, use sandpaper to sand the carved area. Brush off all the excess dust.
- Paint! Use the carved area as a guide to paint the first color. If other stencils are needed, wait for the previous color of paint to dry before repeating steps 4, 5, and 8.
- Spray or brush a gloss finish onto the surface of the wood. Do as many or as few coats as you like.
I started out with a slab of wood, straight off the shelves at Walmart. (Shoutout Walmart for noting the gender of that wood as “unisex.” They’re really up on their pollination and fertilization biology.) Ideally, I’d take a few different pieces of wood and fasten them together for more of a rustic, homemade look, but I already had this piece laying around the house as an unused leftover from some previous experiments, and it looks fairly rustic already.
The eventual goal for this was to make a sign as a gift for my girlfriend’s cousin who will be graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in a few weeks. With that in mind I cooked up a five layer custom stencil for the UNO Bulls logo, which is only three colors, but I wanted to go in this order: white outline/background, black, red, black for the shadow on the eye, and white for the eye, the horn and the nostrils.
First, I laid down the stencil for the logo’s white outline on the center of the piece of wood and use a pencil to trace around the inside.
Then, I used some wood carving tools to chunk out the wood on the inside of that area to give the area where the logo was going to be some depth and give the sign another dimension. This took a while. I had to sit down for a few different sessions. I’m not what you would call an experienced wood carver, so finding the right tool and strategy for the job took some time. I found the “slow and steady wins the race” approach to be the most rewarding; it actually got easier the less I tried.
When I was done with the carving, I hit the thing with a healthy dose of sandpaper and cleaned off all the resulting dust.
At this point, I just needed to lay down all the colors in the correct order. I picked up some sample size paints from Home Depot; I figured brush paint action would be more effective and precise than spray paint. Next, I channeled my inner kindergartener and simply painted inside the lines.
After the first layer of white was on the wood and dry, I lined up the next stencil over the center of the board, lightly traced the inside with a pencil again, and repeated the painting process. I simply repeated this stencil, pencil and paint process four more times until all the colors were on the way I wanted them. When they dried, I went back over and touched up some areas that looked a little messy.
The logo needed a little push to stand out from the surrounding wood. When the UNO logo was just the way I wanted it, I hit the whole thing with three or four layers of Rust-Oleum Crystal Clear Enamel to make it pop. This really made the painted part of the sign shine.
Looking to start your own stencil project? Start here. We have all the tools and tips you need to get your next idea built to the best of your ability.
We wanted to personalize this wood even more for our little graduate buddy, and since we had my Dremel fired up on Saturday for another project, we popped this UNO Bulls sign back out and got to work.
To sum it up, I burned the back and front as evenly as possible with the open flame from the Dremel. I also popped the cutting knife tool back on, and while on its last leg, allowed me to stencil a graduation cap and the year 2017 in the lower left corner to give the wood a truly personalized feel. Then, I went back over the whole thing with four or five layers of the Rust-Oleum Crystal Clear Enamel to keep it shiny and protected from the elements. Check it out!