Tuesday, August 15, 2017

DIY Personalized Plaques

For a short while now I've been thinking about making a new sign or plaque for the inside of our house for when my soon-to-be-wife and I get married.

The inspiration for the new sign is pictured above.  At almost the same time, my future cousin-in-law Alicia asked if I can make a wood sign - similar to what's seen below.

This plaque is for another set of future cousin-in-laws, Mike & Kim.  If the names Mike & Kim Vino sound familiar to viewers of my blog, you might remember this cool money box I made for them a while back...

(you can see that blog entry by clicking here).
So I designed a sign similar to what Alicia sent me.

I also designed a sign below for me and my fiancee.

With Alicia's approval of the design I began first by printing a full size template.  This sign printed on 2 sheets of paper and are taped together.

It's a decently sized sign or plaque and it will fit inside a long flat-rate USPS shipping box, since I'll need to mail it to New York very soon.

I was going to buy some new wood for these projects, but instead opted to use some leftover wood I had.  This piece had uneven sides, which I trimmed on the table saw.

This piece of wood also has a slight bow, or cupping shape to it, so I also cut the wood down the middle (along the wood grain), evened the cut sides, and glued the 2 halves together.

This took away most of the cupping shape, but a little still remains.  I'll deal with that once it dries.  I next moved onto the plaque for my fiancee and myself.  For this sign I taped up 4 sheets of paper to make the template and I needed to use several boards to get it to be the right size.

To join the boards I decided to use my plate joiner.

This tool creates semi-circular holes in the sides of each board... 

...that fits wood 'biscuits'.

Once all the biscuit holes were cut and biscuits inserted, I glued it all together and clamped it tightly.

While that dried I cut a few strips of wood to use as a decorative frame for the other sign.  I first glued on the 2 long sides, clamped it and let it dry.

Then I glued the short sides, clamped it, and let dry.

While that plaque was drying I traced the shape from my paper template onto the other plaque.

Then I cut out the shape on the band saw.

I purposely cut close to the line (but not on it) so that I can refine the shape better.

The rounded corners were refined by using a drum sanding bit on my drill press.

For the bottom of the sign (which is flat) I straightened the edge with a block plane on my new bench vise.

Since my new bench vise project wasn't a big one, I never made a blog entry about it.  But I'll quickly take you through what I did.  I bought 2 Harbor Freight bench clamps, but as you can see they attached to my work bench on the top.

Being on the top of my bench makes it harder for me to work on projects, since they get in the way.

So I created a simple jig whereas the claws of the vises are attached to tall pieces of wood...

...which are then attached to the side of the work bench.

The 2 vises hold long pieces strongly both horizontally, and thanks to the space between both vises, vertically as well.

Now back to the plaques.  With the bottom of the plaque straight, I trimmed the sides on the table saw, using my new miter gauges.

Again, this was another project that was too short for it's own entry.  Since a miter gauge isn't exactly hard to make (especially mine which were made from older, gutted miter gauges), I won't write much about these.

For the top of the plaque which has both straight and rounded parts, I used my files, rasps and sand paper to perfect and smooth the shape.

Then I passed the plaque through my surface planer to make everything flat and smooth.

Then I took it over to my router table...

...and used a round-over bit give the edges a nicer profile.

Then it was time for a little wood filler to fill in some holes.

While that dried I went back to the other plaque.  I trimmed up the sides with my flush cut saw.

It looks good, but you can see how the wood itself is still a little bowed.  Parts of the frame I added are both above and below the main piece of wood.

So then I ran the whole thing through the surface planer until everything was even.

Next it was time for some wood filler for this plaque.

While that dried I began sanding the plaque for myself.  First with 120 grit sandpaper on my mouse sander.

Then 220 grit sand paper on my random orbital sander.

For the rounded edges, I sanded these by hand with fine sand paper.

When the wood filler on the other plaque had dried I repeated the sanding process.

I realized that I hadn't put any sort of profile on the edges of this plaque, so I put a cove bit into my router and routed the edges of this plaque.

A cove bit chips away a rounded profile into the wood (as opposed to the round over bit I used on the other plaque which simply rounded the edges).

I then cleaned the routed edges by hand with sand paper.

After that I cleaned both plaques and prepped them for staining.

I used the same stain on both plaques (Minwax Jacobean Stain).  However, the stain definitely looks much darker on the plaque for myself and my fiancee.

The other plaque is lighter, but still looks great.

After staining both sides of both plaques, I left them for several hours to dry.

After a few hours when they were fully dry I sprayed some matte clear coat onto both to make it easier to paint on the letters.  When the clear coat was fully dry I sanded them lightly with 500 grit sandpaper and cleaned them off.

Next I brought the plaques inside and started with Mike & Kim's.  I applied charcoal to the back of the template.

Then I centered the template onto the plaque and taped it down.

Next I outlined all the text with a hard pencil.

When the tracing was complete I removed the template.

Then I took my time carefully painting in the letters with white acrylic paint.

After a few applications it was looking nice!

Next it was time for a few coats of glossy clear coat.

While I waited for each coat to dry, I began working on the plaque for myself. 

I repeated the same process of tracing the letters and shapes onto the wood board.

Due to the extra letters, the corner flourishes and the pointing finger graphics, this will take a longer time for me to do.  Thankfully I am in no rush.

When the final layer of clear coat had dried on the other plaque I nailed on a hanger to the back.

Then I hung it up on my cork board and let it air out for 24 hours.  This board is done!

The next day I packed it up and shipped it to my future cousin Alicia to give to Mike & Kim as a gift.  With this plaque complete and shipped I could focus more on the other plaque for my soon-to-be wife.  I took my time with the lettering until I felt it looked good.

Then this plaque received several layers of glossy clear coat.

Once dry, I attached the hangers on the back.

Then I hung it up in my garage for a day to fully dry.

Then I hung it up inside the house.

Of course it's near the bar.

So many stores nowadays sell similar plaques with quotes and song lyrics, but I prefer making my own.  Personalization and making things own your own - in my opinion - are so much better than store bought stuff.


  1. Great build looks amazing! I was wondering of you had plans for your dart board that you built? I would love to try it out, but I have not found a good set of plans, and yours is just what the doctor ordered. I could not seem to leave a reply on the dart board page.

    1. Hey there. I got your earlier post. All posts need to be approved by me before they show since there are a lot of spammers out there. I have a sketchup file of the dartboard and the stand. would that work?