As a woodworker and content creator one thing I can tell you is I make mistakes while building a project. Yes I said it I make mistakes. Bookmark this as you might not ever hear me say it again (insert awkward laugh). When mistakes are made you wind up usually throwing the project out and starting over. Sometimes though that is something that is just disheartening. When you work so hard on a project and then something goes wrong it is so frustrating to just discard all that work. Well I decided this time that I would not go that route. I decided to just switch gears and make something else. While it was still very frustrating I didn’t want to give up.
So lets start from the beginning. I had originally wanted to make a flag for a friend. I wanted to do something a little bit different though. So instead of starting with 2x4s I started with pallet wood. Yes pallet wood and it was a decision just to try to be a bit different and some see how it would look with a sugi ban finish. I thought this would be an interesting pattern in the wood and give the flag a unique look.
First the boards needed to be cut to a rough dimension. I started by squaring them off with the miter saw before using the jointer sled and table saw to rip the boards down to a specific width. This would give the flag a larger than needed rough dimension. With the intention of using the i2R-UCCNC to cut out the flag from the finished panel this to me was going to be the easiest way to complete the flag.
After I got all of the boards to dimension I applied some masking tape to the to the bar clamps to prepare for the glue up process. I you don’t know about this technique it is pretty simple. The tape is to simply keep any glue from sticking to the inner sides of the clamp. Also I used an extra clamp to try to stop the panel from warping. I then allowed the panel to completely dry.
With the glue dry I then removed the clamps then took the panel to the i2R-UCCNC to use a 1in flattening bit to level off the panel. This was a process I have done with quite a few boards and projects now and the flattening bit from bitsbits.com with the astra coating works amazing. On this preticular panel though it was the start of the problems. The pallet boards I had used for the panel had shifted slightly during the glue up process. This along with the already slightly uneven boards caused the board to have to be thinned out more than I had wanted. While they were a bit thinner than I had expected they would still work for the flag even though I would need to change a few things up.
The next thing I wanted to do was the sugi ban burn. I was super excited about this part as this was the first time I had gotten to try this technique. Sugi ban if you are unaware is the process of charring the wood to achieve a burned look. This process makes the wood have an extremely dark color even black depending on the amount of burning you do. You can even achieve a completely black color with the burn crack if burned enough. This contrasted pattern is a look that is highly contrasted and makes the wood really unique look. I wanted this to be the dark patterns of the flag. So I started with the burn using a butane torch. I honestly do not know if there is a specific pattern in witch to do the burn. I started using straight lines slowly across the panel. This did work and started to achieve the desired look, but I was worried that the burn pattern would not be even or random enough to not be visible So I moved to doing a small circular pattern and this seemed to work really well. This made for a very discrete burn pattern that once the panel was completed it was not noticeable witch direction the burns were made in. This is were the major problems started.
As the burn was almost completed I started to notice the panel warping. I never though about the extra heat from the burn causing the wood to contract or move. That is exactly what the panel did. As more and more of the burn was completed the panel started to move on the ends. By the end of the burning process the panel had moved as much as 6 inches from the center line on the ends of the panel. This was the point at witch I had to sit back and make a decision on whether or not to abandon the project entirely and scrap the panel or to try to save it as a flag. After a lot of deliberation I decide I would shift gears completely. I decided I would turn the panel into the backdrop for a shop sign. I did not want to give up. I wanted to see how I could salvage the panel. I did not want to abandon all of that work. With that in mind and a strong sense of determination I got back to work.
The new design for the sign took some thinking through. I did not want to do anything halfway so I took the time to design it out in my head exactly how I wanted to look in the end. Not only did I want it to look awesome I wanted it to light up and be almost a back lit sign. I knew also that I had some lexan still from a previous project so I was thinking of ways to incorporate it into the design. I started by cutting out my logo on the i2R-UCCNC into some ¼ inch mdf this would be the rear board of the sign. The rear board would have the logo cut out to allow for the light from the LEDs to show through to the lexan. I also used the same ¼ inch mdf to cut out the letters that would be installed in place on the lexan to create the illusion of the letters showing as a black image over the back-lit background.
After mdf had been cut out I moved on to cutting out the outline of the logo in lexan. The outline of the logo would be cut out larger than the letters for the logo. This would allow for the light to be reflected inside the lexan and create the back light effect. Also by sanding the back of the lexan it would frost the color of the lexan and refract more light. This process is done by sanding the back of the lexan with at least 220 grit sand paper (though 320 grit is preferred) and an orbital sander. If you do use 220 grit make sure to fully sand the back of the lexan with light pressure. The lower grit sand paper can cause scratches using light pressure will help ensure the scratches are lighter and making multiple passes will help to hide them. Cutting the lexan on the cnc requires some specific setting on the machine. I was using a 1/8in upcut bit from bitsbits.com. The setting on the machine were set to 10,000 RPM spindle speed and a feed rate of 40 inches per minute. These speeds with this bit helped to insure that the lexan did not melt on the edges while cutting as well as cut down on chipping. After the outline of the cutout was completely finished I then used the diamond drag bit to engrave the outline of the letters of the logo on to the cutout. These would allow for the precise placement of the mdf letters later on.
cutoff wheel attachment to cut away the tabs hold the letters into place on the mdf sheet. These came out very easy after cutting the tabs away and were ready to paint after just a small amount of clean up. With some sandpaper.
I then let the paint on the letters completely dry and started to lay out the letters onto the lexan cutout. Using the engraving made by the diamond drag bit to line up the cut out letters. After test fitting all of the letters to ensure the proper fit I started to affix the letters to the . The letters are held in place using some Starbond Adhesives Ca Glue and Starbond activator. Having the engraved lines made placing the letters much easier also it ensured that as long as the letters were placed inside of its individual engraving the letters would be perfectly aligned and even with each other.
The back sign that had previously been cut would need a mounting point onto the backboard as well as would need a frame to hide the LEDs from the top. Decided to use some small scrap pieces of oak I had around the shop. I though this was fitting as the entire projects so far had been made from scrape parts and pieces. I used the Band Saw to rip down the strips that would become the floating frame. After ripping down the pieces on the Band Saw I then used the table saw to dado a groove into the top srip of the frame allowing for the ¼ inch mdf sign back to be pressed into place and this would also allow for spacing in front of and behind the sign back for the LEDs. I then used some Titebond Wood Glue and a braid nail gun to assemble the frame.
The frame would have the same sugi ban style finish as the background but with this being oak it would be a different color once the burning process was completed. This was a pleasant surprise that I had not expected once starting with the burning process. Thought I was happy with the outcome of the color. I then started to prepare to mount the hanging frame onto the background. I wanted the floating sign back and the frame to be centered on the background. To achieve this I first marked out the positioning of the sides of the floating shelf and then used masking tape to give a clear reference for mounting the frame. I then repeated this process but horizontally for the proper positioning of the frame from the top of the background.
With the frame positioning figured out it was time to mount the frame. I then glued the sign back into place and prepared to mount the floating frame into place. For this I drilled 3 pilot holes where the frame will be mounted. Then from the back mounted the frame into place using 3 short screws. The frame needed to be removable and this is one of the reasons that I did not want to glue it into place. After attaching the frame to the background I then drilled out a 5/8 inch hole into the back of the background. This would be used to install the LEDs. Also toward the bottom of the background I drilled a small hole that would be used to mount the remote sensor for the LEDs through the background.
The LEDs that I used for this project were a standard LED strip but they can be extended by soldering 4 wires onto the contact points that are located at the cut sections of LED strip. Once you cut the strips you are able to strip back the clear silicon covering the contact points and then solder the wires into place. It is best to use 4 different color wires as you will need to ensure that the wires are connected to the correct points between the strips you are extending. Take your time and test LEDs to ensure that you got the connection points correct. Once you are sure the points are correct you can then seal the contact points with liquid electrical tape or using a piece of heat shrink tubing.
Routing the LEDs will be different if you are making a similar sign just due to the layout you would like to achieve. I wanted this particular project to have a flow coming from underneath the back sign and through the lettering as well as above the floating lexan. This also was a bit of a trial and error process as I had to lay out the LEDs and and test the glow to ensure that I had achived the desired effect. After multiple attempts to achieve the proper lighting effect I finaly got the layout to a pattern that I was happy with. Before moving onto mounting the lexan.
I love how this sign came out. Not only is it something I am very proud of with the final result but it also shows that you do not have to give up on projects that do not go as planned. Sometimes you need to press on. This goes for anything in life. Sometimes things just go wrong. You can have a plan completely laid out and somewhere along the lines it goes off course. Do not give up though. You may have to completely change course and go in a different direction. That direction though may very well lead you to an amazing place and outcome.
What do you think of the shop sign? Have you ever had to go in a different direction with a project?
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