There are a few different ways that you can frame signs. The way you frame your sign will depend on how thick your sign backer material is. I recommend using MDF board for your signs. Here’s how to make signs with 1/4″ MDF board.
My Method For How To Make Signs With 1/4″ MDF Board
The method I’m going to teach you about today is how to frame ¼” MDF, with ¾” thick pine boards. It will make a difference if you’re not using ¾” boards. (When you buy a 1×2 board it actually measures ¾” thick by 1 ½” wide) Here’s a post on the best wood for making frame boards, and the method I use.
If you’re planning on making signs to sell them, you’ll likely need to ship them. Because shipping prices vary depending on the weight of an item, you’re going to want to make your signs as light as possible. If you’re using ½” or ¾” MDF to make your signs they’re going to be a lot heavier than a sign made with ¼” MDF.
Tools Needed- How To Make Signs With 1/4″ MDF Board
So there are a few tools you’ll need to invest in for this method of making signs. I use them every time I make a sign. Here they are…
Tools specific for framing ¼” MDF
Tools Needed For Signs no matter how you frame them
Set Up Your Router In The Table
1. Set up your router in the router table. Make sure your bit is raised ¼” above the table. ¼” makes the measurements for the rest of the sign easy. You’ll need to set up your router fence to the depth that you want it.
You can set the fence farther from the bit if you like a more shallow overhang on the frame. (So there’s less space between the front of the frame and the MDF sign backer). However, if you like a deeper overhang, set the table fence farther from the router bit.
I recommend sending a scrap piece through to make sure the groove is as deep as you need it to be, and to see how much overhang you will have.
Once you have the right distance for the fence, mark it with a pen so that you can easily find the right distance again. This will make a big difference if you’re using boards that you routered in different batches. You need your grooves to line up when framing, and they won’t if your router fence isn’t in the same spot every time.
Run The Frame Board Through TO Make A Groove
2. Once all of your safety gear is on put the widest part of your board flat to the router table (so my 1” side is flat against the table and the ¾” sides are facing out). Run your boards through the router. Use a push stick towards the end to protect your fingers.
If I am ripping down a 1×12 pine board to get my frame board, then I usually end up with about 10- 1” boards. When I have the time I’ll run all of the boards through the router. I like to do this because it saves me time later on, when all of my frame boards already have grooves in them.
Cut Out The Frame Backer
3. Cut your 1/4″ thick MDF sign backer out using a circular saw or table saw.
Cut The Frame Boards
4. Measure and cut your frame boards. Having a couple of scrap pieces of frame boards that already have a groove in them comes in handy here. However, you can do it without them.
With scrap pieces
Set the sign backer in the grooves of the scraps, on the side of the sign that will have your middle frame boards on it, each on opposite sides of the sign (across from each other). Make sure the board is sitting all of the way inside the groove on both sides. Measure the outside edge to outside edge of the scrap frame pieces.
I like to do this on both ends of the same side of the board. This measurement will be the outside frame pieces.
Make the cuts.
Dry fit the outside frame pieces. Fit the sign into the grooves all the way. Measure the distance from the inside of the frame board to the inside of the opposite frame board, for both sides. I like to cut these boards the very same length. If you have a side that’s 1/16” bigger than the other side, then go with the bigger measurement, DON’T GO WITH THE SMALLER MEASUREMENT OR YOUR BOARDS WILL BE TOO SHORT. This is so that the sign is still square rather than having one side slant in.
Dry fit the frame to make sure everything fits! Make any needed adjustments.
Without scrap pieces
Your frame board is ¾” thick. If you have made a ¼” groove into your frame board, the thickness of the section of board that doesn’t have the groove is ½”. This means your outside frame boards need to measure 1” longer than your sign backer.
Say I’m making a 10×10 inch sign, I would cut the sign backer out to be 9×9 inches, and cut the outside frame pieces to 10” long. Next I would dry fit them and measure the distance between the frame boards to get the inside measurement.
Always measure as you go– How To Make Signs With 1/4″ MDF Board
Always measure as you go. If you cut out a backer that is supposed to be 9″x9″, but it actually measures 9 1/16″x 9 1/16″, and you cut a 10” frame board, because your backer was supposed to be 9”, then your frame board will be too short. MEASURE AS YOU GO!!
Once your boards are stained, and your sign is painted and flawless (if you haven’t figured out how to do this yet, get my 3 Step Formula To Clean Paint Lines) then it’s time to frame it.
Framing- How To Make Signs With 1/4″ MDF Board
I dry fit again at this point just to be sure before I start gluing. Once everything fits and I know what sides go where, I add glue in the grooves. Keep a damp paper towel to wipe up any glue drips. Put a bead of glue down the entire groove. Add a dab at the end of the inside frame boards. Make sure the frame boards are flush with each other on all surfaces ( a small clamp can come in handy here)
Next, nail the ends of the frame together. You don’t attach the frame to the MDF sign backer with nails, only with strong glue. The nails go only into the frame boards at the ends of the frame. After, fill your groove holes with the wood putty that best matches your stain, I like to use this one. And your sign’s all done.
I don’t attach hardware to the back of these signs. You absolutely can if you want, just be sure to attach it to the frame not the sign backer because it’s so thin.
Hope this helps!!!
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