Have a blast making signs---literally---by learning this craft to create one-of-a-kind nostalgic-looking creations. Once an art that required time and physical effort to carve out words and images at a snail's pace, today's artisan employs an array of electrically powered sandblasting chisels and routers to complete a complex sign in just a matter of hours. Learn more about the techniques and materials you'll need to add this skill to your repertoire of talents. Whether you plan to sandblast for fun or profit, having a skill that requires using your hands, intellect and artistry will always give you maximum pleasure.
Choose wood planks that suit your project, aesthetic sensibilities and sizing specs. Follow the lead of industry pros by opting for redwood, which is especially insect and weather repellent, cedar or balsa wood before you begin working with planks made from expensive woods like mahogany.
Select from any of the waterproof epoxy adhesives on the market. Glue together the planks to form the dimensions of your sign. Lavish on the glue, even if it spills out between the planks. Hold the planks in place using ¾-inch clamps and allow the glue to set overnight.
Add additional reinforcement if you're concerned about the wood holding together by inserting dowels through the planks, often called biscuits, or reinforce the backside of the sign to add more bracing. Plane and sand the surface until it's smooth. Use a lacquer sanding sealer on both sides of the sign surface.
Cover the surface that's to receive the sandblasting with masking material known in the industry as "resist." Choose from popular brands like Hartco, Anchor Continental and 3M. Go over the masking material with a heat gun to increase the bond and keep the resist from lifting or separating from the wood.
Don protective face and hand protection and begin blasting the design into the wood with your choice of tools to create thick and thin cuts. Try a variety of chisels and points to add graphic designs and complete the sign, sticking to between 3/8-inch to ½-inch depths. Peel off the resist once you're satisfied with the finished look by tugging at it from several directions to pry it off (one of the reasons you used a sealer on the wood before you put down the resist).
Use carpentry tools to shape the periphery of the sign, routing edges into curves, angles and other custom shapes. Add any combination of varnishes or clear coats to extend the life of your sign since the weather and UV light will impact both the wood and the colors. Mount the sign using installation bolts that allow some play and then stand back and admire your hard work.