How to make burned wood signs

Written by larry parr
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How to make burned wood signs
Wood burnt signs can be simple or colourful. (cedar wood sign prohibiting overnight stays. image by hazel proudlove from

A burnt wood sign makes a wonderfully rustic statement about you and your property. A burnt wood sign can be elegant, or it can look homemade, depending on your desired effect and how much effort you put into your sign. Advertise a business, or point out the name of your home or your family name. Include designs as well as lettering, and add paint to make your burnt wood sign colourful.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Carbon paper
  • Wood burning tool (or soldering iron)
  • Paint (optional)
  • Paint brush (optional)
  • Clear varnish

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  1. 1

    Draw your design in full size on a sheet of paper with a pencil. Use lettering guides, stencils or anything else you need in order to make your sign look exactly the way you want. If you add illustrations, make certain they have strong lines that will allow them to be outlined with a wood burner.

  2. 2

    Cut a clean, flat board to the proper size and shape for your sign. This should not be plywood or particle board, and the board should have as few knotholes as possible. Make certain that your entire design will fit onto the board.

  3. 3

    Lay one or more sheets of carbon paper on your board with the carbon side down (against the board). Lay the paper with your design on top of the carbon paper, aligning everything properly with the board, and then trace your design with your pencil, pushing down hard enough so that the carbon paper will transfer your design to the wood.

  4. 4

    Remove your drawing and the carbon paper. Your image should be clearly visible on the wood sign, outlined in carbon.

  5. 5

    Burn your design using a tip for your wood burner that will create the effect you desire, such as a curved tip for calligraphy or a universal tip for plain block letters. Experiment on a scrap piece of wood to see the effects of different tips. Follow the wood burner manufacturer's instructions for changing tips, and be careful not to touch a hot tip!

  6. 6

    Follow the outlines of your design with the wood burning tool, burning them into the surface of the wood. Go slowly enough to burn at least 1/8-inch deep into the wood. The speed you move your wood burner depends on the type and age of the wood you are using. If possible, experiment first on a scrap piece of wood.

  7. 7

    Paint the interior of your design if you desire, leaving the black, burnt outline clearly visible. An acrylic paint works best, and a small brush allows you to paint with greater skill. Allow the paint to dry.

  8. 8

    Add a coat of clear varnish to protect your sign from the elements.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear gloves and eye protection when burning the wood.
  • Never touch the tip of a wood burner or soldering iron until you are certain it is cool.

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