I had recently made a custom front door sign using the Glowforge laser. This one was for our neighbors. My wife liked it so much she picked out a different design from the same Etsy shop.
So it was time for me to pull out the stains and remember how to make a welcome sign.
We have lots of pines trees and see lots of deer on our property, and this would make an excellent porch sign.
Purchased Etsy Digital Download Files
The digital purchase included only two of the standard vector file format types. These types were the DXF and SVG vector formats. I only needed the SVG kind to work with the Glowforge laser cutting machine.
The welcome sign design consisted of four different layers. Each layer of this multi-layer design was about eleven inches in diameter.
The rectangular portion of the sign in the bottom half would be for personalization. As sold, the word "Welcome" was an example text. We were going to use a name instead.
The rectangle portion of the sign spanned almost twelve inches in width. Since the maximum cutting area of the Glowforge laser is about 11-inches high and 19.5-inches wide, this design would be near the maximum size.
Personalization of the Welcome Sign Design
There were not many changes needed to the design files as purchased. As you can see in the image above, the drawing was straightforward.
There were no fonts included in the digital files, as the instructions indicated. I needed to personalize it, so I opened the frame layer SVG file using Adobe Illustrator.
It was easy adding text to the design using the type tool. I wanted a font that was formal, but not too much.
The other consideration with font selection is the actual width of the letters. I didn't want them too wide, or else I would be limited in the maximum size.
I used the Lucida Bright font. Its text size allowed me to increase the font to 150 pts.
The font selection used fit within the rectangle space entirely. Some of the parts of the letters were a little bit thin. As I found out Glowforge laser when cutting on the laser, a portion of the capital "I" did break off.
After the text font is chosen and sized correctly, the text needs to convert into a vector shape. Illustrator does this by using the Create Outlines option.
Once I converted the text to vector paths, I need to unite the individual vector paths as one complete or compound path. If skipping this step, strange results can occur with the Glowforge laser cutting process.With the shape selected, the Pathfinder Unite option does the necessary edits.
The only remaining change I needed to make with the design was the stroke color of the paths. I prefer to cut from the inside out.
Since the design vector path colors are all black by default, the Glowforge software would decide which ones to cut first. If the Glowforge software cuts the outside circle first, then there is a risk that it would move when separated from the material.
Any material movement could potentially throw off the remaining laser cutting operations. Using different vector path colors allows better control of these operations in the Glowforge software.
Materials Used in the DIY Welcome Sign
For this welcome door sign, I planned on using 1/8-inch plywood. It was the same type of wood I used in an earlier custom door sign for our neighbors.
The plywood used is the 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.
While this is a low cost for material, there are some negatives. This type of plywood tends to warp a little after staining. Especially so since it is only 1/8-inch thick.
What makes it ideal for this project is that several layers are glued together, essentially removing any warping.
With all plywoods in general, the other negative is that you do not know what's inside the middle layers. There can be glues or wood by-product materials which the Glowforge laser cannot cut through.
I had to drop my speed down to 135 as I was having problems with few plywood spots not cutting all the way through. For this artwork design, the lower rate did not cause any issues.
Each layer of the welcome sign was also stained a different color. I used the Minwax colored stains, which I had purchased earlier.
The Minwax water-based stain looks very attractive and is extremely easy to clean up when finished. The background piece was a little tricky as I wanted blue sky on the top half but unfinished tabs on the bottom.
Glowforge Laser Cutting the Welcome Sign
The next step in this project is to cut out the different layers using the Glowforge laser. I started with the most straightforward layer first, the background layer.This layer had only one cutting operation with a processing time of 2-minutes and 4-seconds.
Second, from the back layer is what is called the forest layer. This layer was a bit more time consuming as the outline of the trees was cut out.This layer had two cutting operations with a total processing time of 5-minutes and 6-seconds.
The next layer for cutting was the deer layer. It featured a deer with horns and several different pine tree outlines.This layer also had two individual cutting operations with a similar processing time of 5-minutes and 58-seconds.
The final layer to print was called the frame layer. This layer was mostly a circle with the rectangular name sign in the bottom half.
For the letter themselves in the sign, I chose a score operation. The goal here was to provide the location for gluing each letter. Do this eliminates all guess-work on where the letter needs positioning.
The rectangle sign itself would be completely cut out and separated from the remaining parts of the frame layer. Completely separating this was intentional, as the background color was going to change. Technically, I could have skipped the scoring task.
This layer had four individual laser operations. The first was a score, and the remaining were cutting. The total processing time was 5-minutes and 33-seconds.
The next couple of laser cutting tasks were for smaller pieces. First of which would be laser cutting the rectangle name sign out of a different color of plywood. This time I did also require the scoring operation for the letters.
I used the same frame layer for this cut but skipped the two circular operations. Doing it this way reduced the amount of material needed.
The laser-cut processing time was two-minutes and twenty-eight seconds.
Finally, last but certainly not the least was the letter cutting. These I cut from a piece of wood with white paint that I had leftover.This laser-cutting process was 3-minutes and twenty-eight seconds.
Gluing the letters has not been done yet, but they matched perfectly where the laser scored the plywood.
Final Assembly of the Welcome Sign
All that remains to do is assembling the pieces of the sign.I started by gluing the individual letters to the rectangular sign. I let those dry completely.
Next, I glued all of the individual layers together as one operation.
I did it this way for a couple of reasons. One is because I didn't want to wait for every two layers to dry before doing the next one.
The second reason is that it's easier this way to make sure all the layers align correctly.
Once I applied glue to all the layers, I carefully applied the clamps. The first couple of clamps I did without the plywood pieces on top. This way, I could make sure the alignment stayed correct.
With the layers' alignment clamped in place, I covered the front of the sign with plywood pieces for protection. All that remained to do was add more clamps and let it dry overnight.
The next day a few coats of Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane Aerosol, Satin protective finish were applied. The welcome sign is complete! It will look great on the front porch.