There are a variety of tools that can be used to create custom wooden plaques and engrave label information on wooden objects, from simple hand chisels to CNC automated routers with several options in between. Your budget and the parameters of your project will govern what type of tool will work best for you.
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Many types of woodcarving chisels are specifically shaped for engraving letters in wood. Carefully mark out your lettering on the face of the wood and use your choice of chisel shape with a deadblow hammer or wooden mallet to chisel them out. Unless you have extensive experience with carving chisels, practice the lettering on a scrap piece before committing to engraving your project piece.
Small Rotary Tools
Dremel is a brand name that has become synonymous with rotary tools in current usage. There are many makers and options of tool in this category. Wood-engraving bits are available in a variety of profiles from ultra-fine to wider cuts. These tools are light enough to be used freehand, following a drawn outline to create your lettering. This is one of the best tools for beginners.
Woodworking routers can be used to engrave lettering, as well as other decorative elements. Choose a bit with the profile design you want and adjust your depth setting to cut your letters as deep as you want them. Routers can be used freehand with a pencil outline, or with a template. Automated routers, known as CNC or point-to-point routers, can produce lettering to precise specifications. These machines work on a software-based computer system that moves the routers automatically, and can produce very intricate designs. CNC machines are out of the reach of most DIY engravers, but many cabinet shops have them and will hire out for engraving work for a fee.
Another option for hand-engraved lettering is the wood burner. This electric iron, similar to a soldering iron, has interchangeable metal tips that allow you to select the width and style of the cut. Wood burners engrave by scorching a path into the face of the wood. Much like carving, this process requires practice. The truly rustic appearance may not be suitable for many projects.
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