The Making of a Pub Sign: Part 2

Hi again. Welcome back to Danthonia Designs, where we’re working on our sign for The Oregon Public House. Last time, as you probably remember, we ironed out the design. This time, we’ll go right into the shop and start hand-crafting the sign itself. Now this type of sign has a long tradition, which goes right back to the Northeastern American coast, old wooden sailing ships, and the quarterboards which bore the name of each ship.

The tools and techniques that we use are essentially the same as what they would have used back then. The main difference being that, in those days the signs were made out of huge planks that were quarter-sawn from gigantic trees, such as sequoia redwood or western red cedar. Nowadays, such majestic giants are protected, so we use a material called High Density Urethane. We laminate it to PVC to make a very durable panel which can actually be worked with all the same tools that you would use for a wooden sign. We can even make the sign look like wood, just by how we apply the paint with a brushed texture.

After a coat of primer and three coats of green, we stick on the stencil, which gives us the placement of the letters, the flourishes, and the outside shape of the sign.
The letters on this design are pretty large, pretty big stroke width, so we’re going to choose one of our larger chisels, and we’ll carve it at a shallower angle than we normally do, to avoid digging too deep.

For the tree logo of the Oregon Public House, we decided to chip-carve it, which gives it a ripply sort of a look. And we do that with a swan-necked gouge. It’ll look beautiful once it’s gilded.

Meanwhile, the banner is cut out of the same material, and it’ll get sculpted and painted. It’ll get all the same sort of treatment that the main sign gets, and then right at the end, we’ll attach it and it’ll be this three-dimensional element, which casts a shadow…it’ll just look beautiful.

All the processes that you’ve seen so far are just almost like second nature. We do them on every sign that we make in this shop. But on this particular sign, we’re going to use a technique that’s known as engine-turned gold. It’s something that’s normally done on smooth metal surfaces such as vehicles, but how will it look on a bit of a textured, brushed surface like we have on this sign? With a deadline looming, we don’t have a lot of time to find out.In the next video, we’ll get serious about painting and gilding, so stay with us. See you then!

Sign Design

Sign Carving

Wooden Sailing Ship




Sequoia Trees

Sign-making Tools

Sign Panel Brushed Texture

Weeding Paint Mask

Hand Router

Carved Sign Letters

Oregon Public House Sign Design

Scroll Saw

Palladium Leaf Box

Sign-Making Equipment


Applying Gold Size

Open a Can

6 thoughts on “The Making of a Pub Sign: Part 2

  1. Hello Don, just a quick one, the laminating of the Hdu to PVC (plastic is this to give it strength for hanging brackets?

    Also i think your just as good at video production as you are at making signs.


  2. Thanks for all the feedback. Alan, the PVC serves three purposes: It holds hardware better than HDU, It’s more rigid and it happens to be less expensive as well. It’s also just as waterproof/durable as HDU, so we’ve found the two materials go together well.

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