You have questions - We have answers!
It is pretty much a personal choice around the look of the piece, and maybe a bit about cost and how you intend to finish it.
You know wood has a grain, and looks great with a stain or just a clear coat. The natural texture and warmth come through perfect. If you want that natural look, go for wood which may cost a bit more than the MDF counterpart depending on which piece you are looking at.
MDF is wood fiber mushed up with glue and binders. It does not have a natural grain. It has a grain something like a brown paper bag. You can stain or clear coat it and it looks ok, but doesn’t have that natural warmth and pattern. If you plan to paint your work then go for MDF.
A note about finishing MDF: Don’t use water based paint/primer as the first coat. It makes the fibers swell. Prime with oil, lacquer or shellac based primer and then paint as you see fit.
Most of our artwork and models come from online resources.
If you want to look for inspiration or to make some items of your own, here are a few sites we use:
Free 3D models:
Paid 3D models:
Tons of free 2D models:
You can certainly save some money be getting pieces from us unfinished. It saves us time and we pass the savings on to you. Plus, you may want to finish it in a specific way or make it a project to spend time with someone.
For a lot of our pieces we have three main way we finish:
Clear Coat only
Certainly the easiest – well other than not finishing it at all 🙂
A clear coat lets the natural beauty and warmth of the wood show through while protecting the piece and giving it a nice finished look. Engraved letters will show up, but won’t have a super strong contrast.
We use three coats of polyurethane when we do clear coat. We like to wipe it on with a rag rather than a brush. We do 3 coats, following the dry times listed on the can. We tend to use matte or semi-gloss depending on the piece.
Stain and Clear Coat
Staining wood gives it some color while still keeping that natural pattern and texture. Staining usually makes engraved letter stand out better as the grain of the carved letters soaks up the stain faster than the smooth wood around it. It can cause a general darkening around the letters so we wipe it off pretty quickly when staining engraved letters.
There is a huge variety of stain colors available so you should certainly explore your options. Always test the color (and your technique) on a spare piece of wood before putting the stain on your carved/engraved work. It is pretty much impossible to undo stain.
After staining, you want to apply clear coat. Well, its not a rule but it seals and protects the wood so its a really good idea.
Painted Letters and Clear Coat
This one is the most work, but it makes engraved letters really stand out for a sharp looking wall hanging.
The first step is to apply 1 or 2 layers of clear coat. Now when we do this in the shop, we do it before we engrave the lettering. This makes the effect even better. But, it still works if you apply the clear coat after engraving.
After the second coat is dry (like super dry – 12 or 24 hours), take a small paint brush and a paint of your choice (we use gloss black). Brush the paint into the letters and immediately wipe off any paint that gets on the surrounding area. The clear coat keeps the paint from soaking into the wood IF you wipe it quickly. If you let it set, it will soak in. We do small sections of just a few square inches at a time.
Let the paint dry thoroughly. Then, if necessary sand off any remaining paint from the surrounding area. You have to wait for the paint to dry before sanding, otherwise the sanding dust gets down in the paint and makes it look yucky. With the surface all sanded, blow it off and then apply a top layer or two of clear coat!
What about just painting it?
Certainly an option. Most likely if you want to do this you should order your piece from us in MDF. It is VERY important that you prime the MDF with a non-water based primer. They are easy to find at the local big box store. Once primed, you can use any paint you like to finish your piece. If you want us to prime it for you, just let us know (we will ask you anyway) and we can do it since we have the primer on hand anyway.
I know what you mean. We use Amazon a lot. I mean A LOT! And we are very used to free shipping, paying online and getting our item usually within 24 hours!
But, in this case most of the things you order here are made only after you order them. And, before we make them we will reach out to ask how you plan to use them and get details on the look, feel and finish you want. Based on all of that, we will try to make suggestions that best meet your needs including balancing time, budget and the look and feel.
And don’t forget shipping. I don’t know how Amazon gives free shipping, and I wish we could, truly I do. But rather than build some generic shipping charge into the price and call it free shipping, we will explore several options for shipping your piece to find the best balance of time and cost given the size and weight of your specific piece.
In the end, there will be a final price that includes everything you need. We will send you an online invoice (via Intuit Quickbooks) which you can then pay online