Sign carving is a very good place to begin your carving adventure. It will teach you many of the techniques required of a good carver, and will begin to familiarize you with the feel of a good sharp tool.
Perhaps the first step in carving a business sign would be to give your proposed sign board a good double coat of oil based paint in a color you have decided to use as either the color of the letters or the background. After the paint is completely dry, begin laying out the letters and the border, tracing both on top of the painted surface. Remember: good planning: Balance, spacing, and proportion. Dont forget the border !
After the letters and border are traced onto your work area of the signboard use a sharp pencil to trace and retrace the letters so that the cut lines are very well defined.
Now the fun begins!
You will have to decide whether the letters are going to be the raised up portion of the sign, or whether the letters are going to be the cut in part of the sign with the background being the opposite. ( My choice normally is to have the letters be the raised up kind, along with the border and have the background being the lower part of the carving.) Whatever its your choice.
The best tool to begin your sign would be your trusty Chip Carving Knife. OUTLINE each letter with a slightly angled cut to a depth of approximately 3/16th of an inch. (Deeper, if you want the letter to really stand out). Make sure that your cuts follow the guide lines carefully and follow the layout, and the border cuts should also follow suit. When you have carefully outlined all of the letters and the border you will see why the cuts you have just completed are called stop cuts.
They will help prevent the future cuts to be made from errantly running into the body of the letters when you are hogging out the background wood from around the letters. For this task, you will need a good sharp gouge, or V tool, and the removal of this background goes quite quickly. Do not get carried away with the ease with which this background material is removed as is the case with most carving. easy does it. Make sure that the stop cuts surrounding the letters do their job of protecting the integrity of the letters, or you will be starting all over again. Protecting the letters is what sign carving is all about. You want the sign to be easily read.
After the background is hogged out and all of the background wood has been removed perhaps a bit of sanding is permitted. and then a few coats of a good urethane varnish to protect the background. Its O.K. to varnish over the painted letters, if you wish.
I have carved signs as small as four inches, and others as large as thirty feet. Any size is fun to carve and depending on what the sign says is what gives the real pleasure to sign carving. I have carved motto signs, famous saying signs, instructional signs almost any kind there is.. and they all give me pleasure.
The proof in the puddin. is in the eatin. And, as always, make sure youre doing it with a SHARP KNIFE!