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September 28, 2013 1:38 PM   Subscribe

How do I put text on this woodworking project

I'm making a 3D depth chart to give as a gift to my in-laws who live on a lake. Kind of like these except I'm going to use progressively darker stain instead of paint.

I'd like to put numbers on each level to denote the depth and maybe a little spot to denote where on the map the house is. I want it to be subtle so that it doesn't stick out looking at it from a distance but is clear up close. The map will be about 24"x 30" and hang on the wall and made out of thin layers of plywood. Each layer will be stained a little darker than the one above it and then finished with polyurethane. I don't want to buy a bunch of specialized tools and I want to keep it cheap. Oh and don't want the numbers to be done free hand. In a perfect world, it would be stamped and burned in but I think would take some specialized tools that I don't have.

The only ideas I've had so far are to stain the wood, then use a stencil to paint the numbers on, then poly over that. Or, I could print out what I want, glue that to the stained wood and then poly over it. Any better ideas?
posted by VTX to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
You want some wood burning stamps. A full set of letters and numbers is in the $20 range, and the iron maybe another 20.
posted by fontophilic at 1:43 PM on September 28, 2013

Or, on second thought, you could also experiment with inkjet iron on transfers, directly applying it onto the wood. You won't get perfect fidelity at a small scale, but a box of those iron on transfers is cheap.
posted by fontophilic at 1:48 PM on September 28, 2013

Google laser engraved wood Bloomington MN.
posted by Bruce H. at 1:59 PM on September 28, 2013

Get some stencils, and use glue or wax or even shellac to make the letters. When you stain the wood, the stenciled letters, numbers whatever won't take the stain.

Worth a shot eh?
posted by Max Power at 2:16 PM on September 28, 2013

Ideally you'd find a hackerspace with a laser cutter and etch the numbers on. Second bet would be to find someone with a set of number punches and use them to stamp the numbers. Or you could buy a set like these. They're probably cheaper from enco.
posted by foodgeek at 2:57 PM on September 28, 2013

Punches are also pretty cheap at Harbor Freight.

If you're stenciling, try it out on some scrap that matches your wood and whatever finish you use. Paints and inks tend to bleed on wood.
posted by hydrophonic at 4:09 PM on September 28, 2013

You can do acetone transfers onto wood, I've done it and it comes out very clear. I always just used acetone nail polish remover. The roller shown in this how-to also isn't necessary, I've used spoons and things like that. You can do this with oil of wintergreen instead of acetone, though I haven't tried that on paper and I imagine it's harder to find.
posted by sepviva at 4:20 PM on September 28, 2013

The simplest way to do this by hand is to transfer the letters onto the wood with carbon paper and use a wood burning tool by hand. Another way is to project the letters on if you have access to and LCD projector then trace and wood burn.
posted by plinth at 6:47 PM on September 28, 2013

I would, before I assembled everything, go with the punches that hydrophonic suggests. Then I'd paint the indented areas not being super careful about getting the paint outside the indent, then I'd sand the top smooth (but not sand out my paint filled punched marks). Then I'd stain things and lightly sand one more. Obviously you want to experiment with what you plan on doing before you actually try it on the real thing.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:40 PM on September 28, 2013

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