Best type of wood for hand painted wood signs? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 10-11-2016, 03:31 PM Thread Starter
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Best type of wood for hand painted wood signs?

My wife and I are going to start making hand painted wooden signs. These signs are generally 1'x2' or 2'x4' in size (but can really be any size) and normally we will paint the entire sign white and then paint whatever words/quotes/versus/phrases/etc desired over the white onto the sign with a different color paint. From there I usually use cedar 1x2" boards & stain the wood and then cut to size to frame/wrap the edges of the painting.

My question is what is the best type of wood to use for this? In some cases we may stain the sign first instead of painting it but i think they will usually be painted. For the handful we have made so far we have used either MDF or some pine plywood I had laying around.

Thickness wise I am pretty sure 1/2" is the way to go. If I go 1/4" it gets a lot harder to trim out the edges with a frame and also hanging hardware become more difficult to attach. 3/4" is more expensive and heavier to hang and more expensive to ship if we ever get to that point.

So should I just stick with the sanded plywood I can pick up at home depot for $30 a sheet or is there a reason moving up to higher premium plywood would be worth it for this style of sign? Want these to be quality signs that will last but at the same time if these will just be painted and hung on a wall not sure it is necessary to use a premium grade plywood.

Thoughts and input appreciated.
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post #2 of 9 Old 10-11-2016, 04:58 PM
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Are the signs used interior or exterior? Either way be sure to paint both sides. Any wood including plywood tends to warp if one side is finished and the other isn't.

The materials you use a lot of times you can get cheap but takes a ton of work to make it usable. You might consider this when purchasing the wood. Sometimes spending more on materials is the cheaper route to go. I wouldn't think cedar would be a good wood for painted signs however I really don't know the product you are making.
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post #3 of 9 Old 10-11-2016, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
Are the signs used interior or exterior? Either way be sure to paint both sides. Any wood including plywood tends to warp if one side is finished and the other isn't.

The materials you use a lot of times you can get cheap but takes a ton of work to make it usable. You might consider this when purchasing the wood. Sometimes spending more on materials is the cheaper route to go. I wouldn't think cedar would be a good wood for painted signs however I really don't know the product you are making.
Thanks for the reply. The cedar is just for the frames which are being stained, not painted. If we do any painted frames I will use pine most likely.

See below as an example. This was made using half inch MDF which we painted white and then my wife painted the phrase on with the black paint. I ripped/cut the cedar to my desired thickness & stained it and then glued/brad nailed it around the edges.

My question really is what would be the ideal type of plywood (mdf, pine,birch, something else, etc) for future signs similar to this? Of course we want quality and will be advertising these as "hand made wood signs" so not sure if MDF would turn people away or not. Also not sure I want to be cutting up the MDF constantly in my garage as I do not have a good dust collection system at this point and my ventilation isn't good either. I understand the fine dust from MDF is even worse.

Your comment about painting both sides is interesting to me.. I had never heard that. Can you elaborate on that at all for this type of application? These are made to be indoor signs, either hung on a wall or leaned against the wall on a mantle, table, etc...

Quality, durability, price, weight (in case of shipping) are most important factors (and probably in that order) when selecting best material to use going forward.

Appreciate the input, hopefully the picture helps.
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post #4 of 9 Old 10-11-2016, 05:58 PM
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That is a nicely made sign.

I really don't think anyone would care what material the sign is made out of except for perhaps the weight. If you used 1/2" or 3/4" MDF you might run into an issue of one of them coming off the wall and hurting someone.

If it were me making those signs I would use 1/8" standard hardboard and dado it into the frame. A larger sign you may have to put a couple thin pieces of wood behind the masonite to stiffen it. You could also use 1/4" MDF and do the same thing. It wouldn't need re-enforcement. The thinner material would make the signs much lighter.

About painting both sides, think of wood like a kitchen sponge. If you wet one side it will curl up. It comes down to moisture being absorbed into only one side. This is what would happen if you paint one side and not the other. The other side being raw wood would be able to absorb moisture in the air and would swell up causing that side to swell. If you used masonite though it would take more than humidity to make it swell up.
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post #5 of 9 Old 10-11-2016, 07:15 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the compliment. I do not have experience with dado's but I am familiar with the practice. My concern here is that we want to be fast and efficient as possible and I also want my wife to eventually be comfortable making these.

If you weren't going to go the dado route what would be your next idea? Again, really appreciate the insight.
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post #6 of 9 Old 10-11-2016, 08:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ketnar View Post
Thanks for the compliment. I do not have experience with dado's but I am familiar with the practice. My concern here is that we want to be fast and efficient as possible and I also want my wife to eventually be comfortable making these.

If you weren't going to go the dado route what would be your next idea? Again, really appreciate the insight.
You might use picture frame molding and insert the sign from the back. You could use something like this to hold the signs in. http://www.framing4yourself.com/page...ontents-frame/
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post #7 of 9 Old 10-12-2016, 10:35 AM
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Your questions about what material, size, paint, etc. to use may be answered with what is the buyers needs. Consider asking a professional sign maker your concerns, as they may offer you tips, ideas, prices, and thoughts for your "business". Also do a "test run" of material with paint, and assembly to see the end results BEFORE you go into production. Don't need any extra surprises! Be safe.
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post #8 of 9 Old 10-12-2016, 07:20 PM Thread Starter
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Your questions about what material, size, paint, etc. to use may be answered with what is the buyers needs. Consider asking a professional sign maker your concerns, as they may offer you tips, ideas, prices, and thoughts for your "business". Also do a "test run" of material with paint, and assembly to see the end results BEFORE you go into production. Don't need any extra surprises! Be safe.
Thanks for the tips... Not intended to be an all out business. My wife stays home with our kids but is pretty talented at a number of things (craft/DIY related). We live in a master planned community (these are fairly normal around the Houston area) which offers us very easy access to 10's of thousands of people in addition to all of our friends and family who have already expressed interest. This is the initial target market..

Objective is really just to bring in a little bit of money on the side while my wife is staying home with our kids. We have done many test runs and everything is fine. But just looking for ways I could improve and/or cut costs.

Ideally I would prefer if I could use 1/4" or 1/8" plywood to reduce cost/weight but frame it as shown in the picture above so that the frame is flush with the top of the sign but has a slight (1/2" or so) overhang on the backside. This would allow someone to insert a nail into the wall and just use the overhang of the frame on the backside to attach to the wall. The dado idea is probably the best but I am wondering if there is another way instead.

Otherwise I will just continue to use 1/2" ply and glue/nail the edging as I have done so far. The only thing here is if it is really necessary to paint the backside of the frames as well, should the edges also be painted before installing the trim?

Also, perhaps I need to move to the finishing section - but what would be the most efficient way to paint (10-20 signs at a time - front & back). Set up a spray booth or a large roller or what?
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post #9 of 9 Old 05-08-2018, 03:16 AM
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If these signs will be mounted outdoors, they will last 1 or 2 years at most. No MDO or plywood sign will last outdoors, they will warp, crack and rot. The ONLY substrate materials that will hold up under moisture, rain , snow and UV are aluminum or alumalite signs for flat signs, and High-Density-Urethane or PVC (inferior) dimensional carved signs. HDU costs $350/sheet compared to $30/sheet for plywood, but it is worth every penny and we use it exclusively for painted dimensional outdoor signs. Paul Williamson, President/Owner, www.artsignworks.com
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