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Custom name sign made with a laser cutter

How to Make a Custom Laser Cut Name Sign

I have made a couple of name signs in the past but never documented the complete process – at least, not until now. In this post, I am going to show you how I made a custom wooden name sign and walk you through all the steps starting with designing the cut file for the laser, to the final touches.

Material:

  • Plywood
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood Glue
  • Paint
  • Super Glue
  • Piece of String

Tools:

Designing the Sign

The sign I am going to make is intended as a nursery sign for a newborn baby called Leonie. As the name Leonie is derived from the Latin word “leo” which means lion, I decided that I wanted to have a sleeping lion on the sign along with the name itself.

I used Inkscape to draw all the elements and try out different color combinations. The font I used for the name is called “Cookie” (you can find it here: Free connected fonts).

Name sign desig for laser cutting made in Inkscape

Below you can download my final cut files. I did not include the name, but in one of my previous posts, I describe my technique on how to make connected text for laser cutting.

In the file, you will see that some parts of the lion are mirrored. This is to correct the fact that cutting with a laser produces a slightly angled cut on the edges. Which causes a small gap between the parts. For assembly, the mirrored parts are flipped on their backside. This way, the angled edges will cancel each other out and the gap is minimized.

Cutting and Sanding

I sanded the plywood and put masking paper on both sides before cutting all the parts on a laser cutter at my local maker space. After cutting I removed the masking paper. Sometimes this will raise a few thin wood fibers. Light sanding with 120 grit sandpaper takes care of this and gives the wood a smooth surface ready for painting.

The only part that needed a bit of extra sanding, was the circle backer. I did not want to have visible burned edges, so I sanded them off completely.

Sanding the edge of the sign background

Painting

Next, I applied a coat of linseed oil to the circle and set it aside to dry. Just make sure to get rid of all the fine dust from sanding before doing this to get a nice and even finish.

Oiling the wooden sign background

I used water based wood paints to color the other elements. Acrylic paint or spray paint will also work for this step.

Painting the clouds and stars white

The water based paints mix easily. With just white, yellow and red I was able to get different hues. I painted the surface and all the edges.

After the first coat of paint fully dried, I added a second coat for an even smoother coverage.

Gluing the Name and Other Elements on the Backer

I laid out all the individual parts on the circle backer of the sign to make sure everything fit as planned. This is especially important for the lion, as a drip of paint on the edges might prevent the parts from fitting together.

Applying glue to the parts

The parts were glued using regular wood glue. Try to not use too much glue, so that it does not squeeze out. I like to use a wooden skewer to spread the glue on small areas like the thin lines of the name. It is also a good idea to keep a damp paper towel nearby and use it to quickly remove any excess glue.

Applying glue to the parts

On the face of the lion, I let the eyes, mouth and nose protrude slightly. I think this gives the face a nice little 3D effect.

Detail view of the lion head for the sign
Dryfitting al the parts after painting

Adding a String to Hang the Name Sign

After all elements were placed on the backer and the glue had dried, I decided to add a string to the back of the sign so that it could hang on a wall or somewhere else. To make sure that my sign will hang straight, I placed a ruler below the name and then put a small pencil mark on the left and right edge of the circle.

Using a ruler to mark a straight line
Detail view of the pencil mark

Then I turned the sign over to the backside. I drew a straight line connecting the two marks. Next, I measured the length of the line and marked its middle. From the middle, I drew a second line perpendicular to the first. Finally, I placed two marks at equal distances on the left and right side of the second line. These mark the position for the string.

Marking the position for the string.

With two drops of super glue, the string is then attached to the back of the sign.

Glueing on the string on the back of the name sign

Finished – Enjoy your Laser Cut Name Sign!

I like the way this project turned out. It was fun to design and paint. I hope this post will inspire you to make your own laser cut name sign. In case you have any questions – just let me know in the comments below.

Custom name sign made with a laser cutter
Detail of the laser cut lion on the name sign
The finished laser cut name sign.

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