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What tools should be on my bucket list?

Discussion in 'Hand Made Signs' started by SignMakeHer, May 18, 2019.

  1. SignMakeHer

    SignMakeHer New Member

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    What tools should be on my bucket list?

    I'd like to get further into hand carved signs. I'm currently using cheap carving tools that don't hold an edge so I'm interested in high quality carving tools. I'm currently carving wood and foam, and sizes range from 12"h 22"w to 4'h-12'w- painted, stained, and gold leaf.

    What other tools (hand & power) do you use or recommend to produce high quality- high end signs? Which brands do you prefer? And which tool do you use most often?

    Thank you!
     
  2. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    Carving is the easy part. Your cheap tools should be fine if you haven't drawn the temper out of them by sharpening on a high speed grinder. They should be properly cared for and sharpened on a slow wheel and stones by hand. I use oriel Swiss Made tools I get from WoodCraft supply (see link for nice starter set, you might want to buy singly if you know what you need).

    The bigger issue is painting. Hobbyists will hand paint their carved wood signs, but the expectation is that a professionally produced sign will be painted with acrylic polyurethane for a quality smooth, low maintenance finish. You can achieve reasonably good results with brushes and rollers, but it will require much more labor and the customer needs to be told the sign will need to be repainted every five years or so, which can be expensive when it is hanging or high on a wall.

    Installing a paint booth can be as simple as hanging plastic tarps, but if you live in a city and/or care about your health, you will want a professional booth installed with the proper ventilation and air replacement (check your city code first). Matthews makes a great mixing station, and their paints are considered industry standards. This type of equipment doesn't come cheap, but it will be neccessary for durable, professional results.

    Of course, if you are only doing 4-5 carved wood signs a month, it will be hard to justify the expense of a paint booth and mixing station. Most dimensional sign producers will invest in a router table that makes quick work of the carving and allows for much more volume, enabling the sign maker to be more competitive and profitable.

    If your business cannot support the volume needed to purchase and maintain a router table, paint booth, extra space, employees, etc, then your best option may be to investigate the many wholesalers who do this type of work for the industry, allowing a small shop to sell dimensional signs competitively and without making a huge capital investment.

    https://www.woodcraft.com/products/...288b69702d20ec000b2e,5763293f69702d31fb000995
     
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  3. rjssigns

    rjssigns Major Contributor

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    Check out the Samurai Carpenter videos on YouTube. He uses Japanese chisels and saws. Turns out incredible joinery and carvings.
     
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  4. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    I've watched this guy's videos. He is a talented woodworker and artist. I have a few traditional japanese woodworking tools, but I don't do enough to justify their expense (and they are expensive!). I like how he combines traditional Japanese methods with modern machine methods to streamline his workflow and produce amazing results.
     
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  5. SignMakeHer

    SignMakeHer New Member

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    Thank you all for your feedback. I'll look into the Pfeil carving tools and when I need something routed I'll try and find a wholesaler.

    Going to checkout the Samurai Carpenter tonight. I love watching and learning different carving styles. I'm always curious to someone's most used tool and why and I'm hoping to expand my toolset. My cheap ones are about done - and extremely old. Pfeil seems to be the most respected carving tools brand - is there another one worth looking at for carving letters?

    Thank you!
     
  6. d fleming

    d fleming Very Active Member

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    Not a carver by any means but I keep telling myself I might by a nice starter set just to play with. Lay out a pattern on plotter, pounce and wail away, lol. I love woodworking. Kudos to the op for wanting to get into craft and then maybe volume. Great way to start.
     
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  7. James Burke

    James Burke Being a grandpa is more fun than working

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    Make sure you get nice cordless SDS drill for installing your signs.


    JB
     
  8. spectrum maine

    spectrum maine Member

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    before i got my router tablle hand carved most of my signs. most of my rough out work was done with a hand held router, Be prepared for a mess! I used a plastic zoot suit with hood.goggled & respirator & faceshield. You can carve very accurately with a bright light & patience. I once received a permit for 3 carved signs on a friday. (1) 4 by 6, (1) 30" by 10' & (1) 4' by 5' & decided to do them myself (instead of my wholesale router at the time). had all 3 carved by monday & saved about $750. what a mess though!. Thank god i have a router now. Get some foam & practice on some samples. Ps. matthews can be brushed.
     
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  9. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    I use mostly pfiel tools and find them amply sufficient. Probably more important than the carving tools, though, are the sharpening tools. I like traditional Japanese water stones, but other stones are available that also work well, including Arkansas stones and diamond stones. I would stay away from anything with a motor, at least at first.
     
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  10. petrosgraphics

    petrosgraphics Member

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    Wood Craft is a great source for carving tools. pick and choose what you can afford. i purchased chisels from them 30 years ago, still have and use them. learn good sharpening skills and they will last forever. have a 6'x12' router table but still like to bang away on my chisels.
     
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  11. SignMakeHer

    SignMakeHer New Member

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    Thank you for your response. Where do you buy your stones from and what do I look for in a stone?
     
  12. neato

    neato Very Active Member

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    Pfeil tools are indeed great tools, I use them too. I'm a learner myself, but from the research I've done, sharpening doesn't have to be as complicated as many make it. I keep a buffing wheel on the bench and use it between each letter I carve, that keeps the chisels nice and sharp. I haven't used a sharpening stone yet. Although I've notice one of my chisel edges is getting a bit of a curve to it.

    You don't need fancy chisels either. Adrian Page uses regular hardware store chisels and produces some of the best and classiest looking carved signs I've seen.

    As far as painting goes, you don't need a fancy spray system. I've sprayed mine, but honestly prefer the look of a slight orange peel personally. It's a hand made sign, market it that way. It doesn't have to look like a piece of plastic.

    I use acrylic house paints. I think you'll find they'll last more than 5 years as stated above. If the sign is properly primed/prepped, I wouldn't be shocked to see modern house paints last 10-20 years.

    Here's a few I've done
     

    Attached Files:

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  13. SignMakeHer

    SignMakeHer New Member

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    Very nice. I have several generic carving tools - v grooves and chisels and a few cheap stones that I can try and put to use.

    I too am a fan of the hand lettered hand carved look vs the manufactured look. For most of my signs I use Sherwin Williams exterior paint and it holds up beautifully.

    What kind of buffing wheel do you have or suggest?I looked them up but like everything else, there are several options.

    Thanks for your time and sharing your process with me.
     
  14. neato

    neato Very Active Member

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    I just use a yellow (firmer) and white (softer) wheel that you can get at lowes. The yellow I "charge" with Herb's Yellowstone stropping compound, it think it's a mild abrasive that polishes the steel. Then I follow up with the white for a mirror finish. Again, I'm not an expert and and old-timer might say I'm doing it wrong, but it keeps the edges sharp for me.
     
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  15. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    I guess I need to comment on my own comment. I have made well over 100 carved wood signs using nothing more than hand carving tools and hand painted. I have also made about the same amount using a plunge router by hand, finishing with chisels and painted by hand. Most of these were painted with oil based slow drying primers and bulletin enamel. About 15 years ago I began using high quality latex paints. In my climate, I found the signs would last about 5 years, then slowly the paint would start to crack and fail, requiring maintenance. If left alone, once the paint began to fail, the wood would begin to rot and after a few years it was all over (unless you were a fan of really "rustic" looking signs). About twenty years ago I experimented with the new HDU products that became available, with good results, but by that time I was deep into running a profitable electric sign shop and had no time for hand carving. As 3-axis routers became available, I started buying dimensional HDU signs from wholesale providers, and found with proper priming and painting with acrylic urethane, these signs would look new for well over 10 years. I have some that are twenty years old that still look great.

    For a production sign shop with a lot of overhead and expenses, it hardly makes sense to hand-carve and hand-paint signs when high quality results can be obtained at a fraction of the production cost using routers and commercial spray coatings. It takes years to learn how to carve, brush letter, gold leaf, and properly hand-finish a sign, and few people are willing to learn how to do it or spend resources training new employees the art and craft.

    On the other hand, smaller, craft-based shops can, and do, continue to make beautiful hand-made signs. Most of these artists have spent years learning how to do this, on their own time, with pride of their craftsmanship and the mastery of the art being the primary motivator. Sure, you can make more money jobbing these out, but the satisfaction of working with your hands and the customer's satisfaction of knowing they just received something hand-crafted by an artist has its own set of rewards.
     
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  16. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    Careful with those wheels. They are great, and I use them, but they have a tendency to "round" the corners of your chisels and gouges if used too much, requiring a blade re-shaping to get the tool back in working order. I keep a black Arkansas stone and a few shaped stones right next to my bench for quick touch ups, and use the wheels sparingly only to make the tool smoother and "slipperier".
     
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  17. neato

    neato Very Active Member

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    Agree! I think I'm going to have to end up learning how to sharpen them.
     
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  18. SignMakeHer

    SignMakeHer New Member

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    Thank you for sharing. I'm looking for a vendor for wood and HDU. Do you have any suggestions on where to source this from for hand carving? Thank you!
     
  19. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    AllWood blanks and SignFoam are available from most sign suppliers.
     
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