How to Make an Engraved Wooden Sign with a Dremel… A Beginner’s Tutorial!
You all know how much I love my DIY woodworking projects. I look at so many of the pieces in our home, like our farmhouse style bench or our rustic hand painted signs, and remember making them with my husband in the garage or late at night after our baby fell asleep. From wood burning to furniture making, I’ve loved playing with lots of different kinds of wood working hobbies. But the one project I’d always wanted to try? Making an engraved wooden sign! So, when I stumbled upon LifeandHome.com and the opportunity to collaborate came up, I jumped at the chance to try wood engraving using a Dremel! Coincidentally, if you’re not yet familiar with LifeandHome.com, be sure to check out their gorgeous store! They’re a DIY lovers dream. From charming curated seasonal home decor to home improvement supplies, like paint and hand tools, LifeandHome.com is seriously a one-stop shop for pretty much anything you’re looking for home-wise. Curious to learn how to create an engraved wooden sign with a Dremel? Keep on reading!
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
For this project, you’re going to want to gather the following supplies:
- A Dremel rotary tool: I used a Dremel 100, which had the perfect amount of power for this job! (Click here to check out the exact product I used.)
- Engraving tips: Dremel tips are affordable, which is awesome for trying out different kinds of projects. I purchased a cool little pack of carving and engraving tips online, which was super cost efficient.
- A sign template: I created this template (using the steps shown below), but you could easily find a premade template you like and print it for free online. Or make one yourself! Keep on reading to learn how!
- Fine grit sanding paper: I used 150 grit.
- Finishing stain or paint: To finish this sign, I decided to stain it. For a while, I’d debated painting the it blue and white, but in the end, wanted it to have a more rustic and muted look. How you finish the sign is totally up to you!
Step 2: Create Your Template
To create the template to make my engraved wooden sign, I first found a vintage monogram vector I liked. This vector file came from freepic.com, a site that has a lot of awesome design elements and graphic resources. I downloaded the monogram, then opened the file up in PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint! You could easily do this step with a more robust graphic design software (like Adobe Illustrator), but I find that PowerPoint gets the job done super quickly. First you’ll want to set the dimensions of your sign so that when you print your template it fits well. My sign was 10 inches by 7 inches. You can set the dimensions on the design tab by clicking “page setup.” Easy!
For my template, I used two different monograms, including the “M” monogram and the bottom swirly bit of the “D” monogram. I copied the image so that it was duplicated, then cropped the images so I had just the parts I wanted. Then, under the picture format tab, I set black as a transparent color and changed the rest of the colors to grey so that I could see the template more easily. I added a text box with the family name, then printed it! Seriously simple. In about 10 minutes, I had the perfect template for my custom engraved wooden sign.
Step 3: Affix Your Template
Alright, in this step I’m going to tell you what NOT to do! (Hint: don’t do what I did.) I put the template on my wooden sign, then traced the image pressing down hard so that I left a visible dent in the wood. Coincidentally, this technique is perfect for other wood working projects, like painting signs or wood burning. …And, hey, in the end, this technique worked okay for this project. I ended up outlining in pencil a few places were the little indentations in the wood were a little harder to see.
But after I spent an hour tracing my outline onto the wooden sign, I discovered a much easier way. I could have printed my template, sprayed hairspray on the back, stuck in onto my wooden sign, and carved through the template. Then, once I finished making the engraved wooden sign, I could have wiped away any of the template still stuck to the wood. Um, how much easier does that sound? Yeah, live and learn.
Step 4: Make the Engraved Wooden Sign
Here’s where the fun part begins! Firing up the Dremel! I first used a very fine engraving tip to outline the template. About five minutes into the project, I’m not going to lie, I started wondering why exactly I picked such a complicated monogram to use. I mean, look at all those little frills and flourishes!
After I traced the design with a smaller engraving tip, I switched to a larger tip to begin carving. I found that the larger engraving tips are much easier to use. The larger tip glides more smoothly across the wood grain, and it’s much easier to carve with a consistent depth.
Want some beginner friendly pointers?
- Go slowly when carving your engraved wooden sign. If you rush, you end up making funny little divets in the wood. And, guys, funny divets are not cute. Go slow, take your time, and enjoy the process!
- Experiment with different tips, trying larger and smaller engraving and carving tips to get the effect you want.
- Use a light hand… and when I say light, I mean very light hand! The last thing you want is to push down too hard and end up with an indelible mark in your wood.
- Choose an easy template to begin. The one I used? Beautiful! But easy? Um… not so much. (Although I LOVE how the project turned out!)
- Play with the carving tips to smooth out lumps and bumps caused by the engraving tips.
- When in doubt, walk away and come back to your project. This ended up taking me two days, about six hours total across both days. If I tried to fit the entire project into one day, I think I would have grown impatient with the process.
Step 5: Sand and Stain …and Enjoy!
Once I’d finished carving my engraved wooden sign, I used a fine sanding paper to smooth away any of the rough edges from my Dremel carving tool. I gave the piece a light sanding, focusing on the edges of the carving that needed a little smoothing.
After that, I finished the sign with my favorite stain: Minwax provincial! Okay, let’s be honest, my husband did this part since I’m way to pregnant to be using traditional stains. And while I’ve played with other pregnancy-safe stains and have enjoyed using them (like coffee!), I wanted to finish this piece with Minwax provincial. I LOVE how it turned out! Do you?
Thank you again to the fabulous LifeandHome.com store for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own (of course!). Also, if you have any other ideas for wood carving projects, be sure to leave a comment below or pop a note on Instagram. I am officially hooked on wood carving! And if you’re loving this post, be sure to share it with your peeps.
Lots of love, from my house to yours,