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January 4, 2021

Glowforge Project Tutorial: Custom Front Door Sign

My next laser cutting project is to create a custom front door sign. The idea was given to me by our neighbor, who found the design on Etsy.

These neighbors are the ones who live right next to our property. We both have about 2.4 acres of land with lots of pine trees. The door sign design reminded us of our properties.

The Etsy product is Door sign SVG laser cut files for Glowforge. DXF laser cut files. Home decor SVG. Multi-layer file. The shop name is KisoMiso.

KisoMiso is another well-known site for SVG design files that work with the Glowforge laser cutter. She has a recent five-star review from Etsy: "Buyers are raving! This shop got multiple 5-star reviews in the past seven days."

This laser cutting design included six different SVG files. The first file had all the other layers together in one file. The remaining five files each included only one vector image for each of the five different layers.

A couple of things make this project different for me. The first is that multiple layers are glued together for the end product. Secondly, color is involved.

Materials Used in this Laser Project

Each of the design layers was just under eleven inches in diameter. The bed size of the Glowforge allows a maximum material size of 12-inches high by 20-inches wide.

Calculating the simple math meant that I would need five sheets of material for this project. I'd recently purchase two 4-foot by 8-foot sheets of RevolutionPly 5mm Poplar Plywood from our local Lowes. They cut it down in size to 15 pieces of 12-inch by 19-inch project panels for free. 

The result was a nice stack of project plywood with a cost of only about a dollar per piece. Plywood is not as attractive as real hardwood, but it is much more affordable and would work fine for this project, mainly since the final finish will be a colored stain.

RevolutionPly 5mm Poplar Plywood

Colored Stains Used in this Laser Project

I've used the Minwax Polycrylic protective finish for my cherry hardwood projects to protect the final product. Several light coats of spray were all that was needed.

Since I like the Minwax brand, I decided to stick with it for this project. My memories of staining, though, were with their oil-based products. It was a mess and difficult to clean up.

Their newer line of water-based stains is easy to use. They also have a wide range of color options to choose from—more than enough options I needed these for this wood sign project.

What I did not realize, however, is that Minwax has solid-colored stains, and they have semi-transparent colored stains. Both result in different colors. On top of this, you need either the pure white tint base or the clear tint base. The one you need depends on the color you want.

The display charts in the store were easy to understand the difference between solid-colored stains and semi-transparent. But even the paint desk did not know which tint base was needed until they mixed it.

Minwax Statin wide range of color options

I only wanted five different colors, but we started at our local Menards and ended up at Lowes. Menards only had a few cans of tint-base on their shelf, as did Lowes. Both said that the Minwax water-based stains had been trendy products.

I also picked up a can of the Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner. For the letters on the project, I used a small can of the store-brand white interior paint. A little can of Kilz interior primer worked fine with this.

I spent more on this than I wanted to but now had plenty left over for future projects. We were also delighted with the final result.

Minwax Colored Stains for Custom Front Door Sign

Glowforge Materials Purchased and the Staining Begins

I needed to cut out five layers for this design on the laser. However, I also needed the letters cut out, making a total of six sheets of plywood required.

For this project, I decided to paint the panels first. I did this since I wanted my laser cuts to be clean, and I tend to be messy with staining and painting.

However, you could also cut the layers first then stain them before gluing them together. Since a large part of each layer is covered over with the layer in front of it, you would not have as much staining required.

I found a "Just Ask Bruce" Minwax video to see how to apply the stain. I like his short and to-the-point videos.

Four of the plywood sheets needed staining. One of them required painting with white paint. The sixth sheet is only required to be pre-conditioned, as I would use its natural color for one of the layers.

Pre Stain Conditioned Plywood panels for Custom Front Door Sign

Following the directions, I applied the stain and painted the plywood panels quickly and easily.

 I used the same brush for each panel, so the most challenging part was washing it out between colors. You will need an adequate supply of rags or stain sponges available. One for each color, as you need to wipe off the extra stain after a minute or two.

Colored Stained Panel for Custom Front Door Sign

My colored plywood panels were now ready for the Glowforge laser.

Colored plywood panels ready for the Glowforge laser

Laser Cutting the Multi-Layer Design

Starting with the Letters for the Custom Front Door Sign

I started by cutting the letters out first. As mentioned earlier, due to each layer's diameter size, I had no room for error when cutting.

With the Glowforge or any laser, I assume, you want to cut all the way through. You can't just open the lid and check it. The process will stop. Once the process has stopped, it isn't easy to correctly align the material and run it a second time.

You can cut through the remainder of the material with a sharp knife, as I've done before. But then you do not have the "burnt edge" left by a laser cut all the way through.

So my letters were a chance to practice and get the settings right on the Glowforge. I had room for error with the white-colored plywood sheet.

Adapting the Design File Layer for the Letters

I need to glue the letters on to layer four. When the design is purchased, layer four is blank; It does not come with any fonts or letters. Designing the name is something you need to do yourself.

Opening layer four with Illustrator, I drew a rectangle shape over the area where I would glue the letters. The name was added and sized using the text tool. After converting the text to outline and unifying their paths, centering in the rectangle drawn was easy.

Adobe Illustrator with Layer 4 of the Custom Door Sign Design

After creating the name shape, I made a new artboard in Illustrator. I copied the name to this new artboard. The letters would be cut out from the white plywood using this new design file.

Adobe Illustrator Custom Name Design

However, I did not remove the new name shape from the layer four design file. Instead, I changed the path stroke colors to process them differently in the Glowforge app. I describe this process in more detail in a separate article on correctly ordering the Tic Tac Toe Board's laser cutting steps.

What I would do instead is score the letters on the layer four plywood. This way, I would know precisely where to glue the letters. Otherwise, it would be challenging to finish this step.

Illustrator Vector Design for Custom Door Sign

In the Glowforge software application below, you can see how these different colors related to the laser's processing steps.

Glowforge Software Application with Custom Door Sign Design

With all the design work finished, it was now just a matter of using the laser to cut out the pieces. Cutting the letters for the name was completed first.

Glowforge Laser Cutting Custom Name Letters

Removing the masking tape from the plywood revealed clean, white letters.

Custom Door Sign Letters for Name

Cutting and scoring layer four also went smoothly. Thanks for fine-tuning the laser settings for cutting through the material using the white panel.

Glowforge Laser Cutting Layer Four of Custom Door Sign

Laser Cutting the Remaining Multi-Layer Design Panels

All that was left to do with the Glowforge was to cut the remaining layers. The background layer was the easiest.

Background Layer for Custom Door Sign

With the subsequent layers, I decided to change all of the path stroke colors in Illustrator. I wanted to cut out the inner piece before cutting the entire layer from the material. As already mentioned, the only way to ensure this happens with the Glowforge app is to change the color.

Some drawing files may have been saved as a compound image. You can do this using the Compound Path option in the Object menu. Once there, select the Release option.

Illustrator Release Compound Path Menu Option

Once done, you can then change the stroke color of the innermost shape.

Illustrator Change Path Stroke Color for Glowforge App

The second layer was the natural wood color.

Laser Cutting the Second Layer of the custom door hanger

Layer three would be the darkest, walnut-colored layer.

Layer three of the custom door sign

Layer four I did earlier when designing the name. This layer was a natural color stain, different from the stainless layer used earlier.

Layer five is a simple ring shape. Its color was a weathered-oak stain.

Layer Five of the Custom Front Door Sign

Finishing the Custom Front Door Sign

The first step with gluing all the layers together was to glue on the letters to layer four. Thanks to the score marks for the individual letters, this was an easy task.

Gluing Name Letters on Front Door Sign Design
Gluing Remaining Name Letters on Front Door Sign Design

Last but not least came the gluing together of all the individual layers. The glue I used was the Loctite GO2 Glue All Purpose Adhesive, 1.75-Fluid Ounces from Amazon. After applying glue to each layer, I did clamp them together overnight.

 I did cover the front with a 1/8-inch layer of plywood to protect the final finish from the clamps. The stain did have a few days to dry, much more than the directions suggested. However, even with the plywood protection, it did remove a few spots from the finish that required touchup.

Overall though, it turned out excellent, and the photo below is the final image before the touchup.

Pre Touchup version of custom door sign

The final image has the touchups and the final Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane Aerosol, Satin protective finish. It can either be used as a door hanger or a home décor wall hanging.

Final Version of the Laser Cut Custom Door Sign

Add a Pop of Color Without Hiding the Wood Grain | Minwax Water Based Wood Stain | Just Ask Bruce

More Laser Cutting Designs By KisoMiso

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