hand-carved wooden sign for the lake house

Add A DIY Hand-Carved Wooden Sign To Your Lake House This Summer

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Hand-carved wood signs will add a distinctive and homey touch to your lake house. Wooden signs are warm and inviting. Hand-carved signs, especially, add a personal touch. If you decide to make your hand-carved wood sign, you will first need to choose what type of wood you would like to use. Know a bit about the types of woods and what is best to use for carving before you go shopping for your sign. That way, you will be able to get precisely what you need to do your DIY project. The beauty of doing it yourself, besides the satisfaction of a job well done, is that you can personalize it. Your hand-carved wood sign can say precisely what you want it to say. Custom signs can be expensive, but doing it yourself will cost you much less.

Welcome Hand Carved Wooden Sign

Size And Shape

Making your hand-carved wood sign for your lake house gives you free rein as far as size, shape, and type of wood. There are all kinds of examples online to provide you with ideas of what would be ideal for where you would like to place your sign. Maybe it is a small sign in the kitchen or a large vertical sign that stands at the entryway to your lake house. Whatever size or shape you decide on, the wood should be about 1 inch or thicker. This will give you the needed depth to carve. When choosing the thickness of your piece, remember that wood can be heavy, and if you are going to hang this piece, consider that. It would also be great to get scraps of the wood that you are going to carve to practice on. If you have not done a DIY hand-carved wood sign before, use a scrap piece of the same type of wood to make all your mistakes. It will also give you a feel for the wood, the tools, and the process. As always, safety comes first. Take precautions against cuts and wear eye protection.

Hello Summertime Hand-carved wooden sign

Types of Wood 


If you are a beginner at hand carving, basswood is a popular choice. It is a white wood and has been used in woodworking for centuries.

This would be a good option to practice and to get the feel of DIY wood carving. Basswood is soft and has little grain. It is also inexpensive.

Carved Wood


Another white wood, Aspen is stronger than basswood, but it is still a softwood. This makes it easier to carve. Aspen is also inexpensive and readily available.

Carved Wood


A bit on the browner side than basswood or aspen, butternut has a nice grain to it.

Very similar to walnut, butternut is lighter in color and is another wood that accepts carving easily.

Butternut is also known for its wormholes, which add character to a carved sign.

Carved Sign

Black Walnut

Black walnut is going to be more expensive than the other woods that we have listed, but it’s a beautiful wood.

Rich in color and grain, black walnut is used for a wide variety of uses, including furniture.

A harder wood, this is best caved using sharp tools and a mallet.


My personal favorite, oak is a strong and sturdy wood. The grain in oak is very defined.

When carving with oak, a power carver is your best bet as oak is a hardwood.

It would be harder to get detail in an oak sign without a power tool.

A Variety of Options

Listed above are just a few of the woods that are suitable for carving. Wood needs to be malleable but sturdy to enable carving. Some woods will accept certain types of carving better than others. For instance, white pine is a softwood that is ideal for whittling. It is less ideal for chip carving where you use knives and chisels to remove small chips from the surface of a piece of wood. Mahogany is good for many different types of projects, including chip carving. Cherry wood has a pinkish-brown tint and is suitable for both chip carving and whittling. Redwood and Cedar are excellent choices for a sign hung outside. Both of these woods last a very long time. Cedar, especially, will smell great, too. Your local lumberyard will have a variety of woods to choose from. There are also online sources from which to get wood.

An example of one of the many suppliers is https://www.woodworkerssource.com.

"love the life you live" hand-carved wooden sign for the lake house

Different Styles of Hand Carved Wood Signs

There are several styles in which you can do it yourself and make a welcoming sign for your lake house.

Hand Carved Signs

Once you decide what you would like to put on your hand-carved wood sign, use a stencil or even your own free-drawn handwriting to draw the letters or design onto your piece of wood. The piece of wood should be at least an inch thick. You will need a woodcarver’s knife, called a bench knife, to trace over the letter outlines. Make the depth of the letters about ⅜ of an inch deep. Once you have traced the letter or design, use a bent spoon knife to carve out the space between the lines you made with the bench knife. The tool will look similar to the one pictured below.

Carved Sign

Being careful, as you should with any tool, hold the tip of the spoon knife at a 15-degree angle between the lines you carved with the bench knife. You will want to rock the bent spoon knife back and forth as you push it forward. The knife will curl and cut the wood as you go. If you find that it is tough going, use a small mallet to tap on the end of the bent spoon to move it forward. Make one complete pass over all the letters or design. If you want the impression to be deeper, repeat the process. As with any DIY project, if you have never done this before, plan on practicing on a spare piece of wood to get the feel of using the tools. You will also get a feel of how much pressure to apply. These tools and others like it can be purchased online. Your local home improvement store will have them, too, but it will not be a wide selection like you can get online.

Using A Router For Signs

Using a router is another way to make a custom wood carved sign for your lake house. Start again by drawing the letters or design on the piece of wood you have selected. You will want to use a ¼ inch flute bit in the router. Also, place a plunge router base attachment on the router. Here is an example of a plunge base attachment for a router.

Carved Sign

You will want to set the depth of the cut on the flute bit to ¼ inch. Putting the router on the base attachment, position the router over the letters or design. Holding on to the router, make sure that it aligns with your pattern and turn the router on. Push down on the router handles until the flute bit cuts into the wood. The bit will stop at the pre-set depth. Push and pull the router along your design until you have completed cutting out the pattern. Do this same method over the entire design. This video shows a man making a custom sign for a friend: Making Wood Signs With a Router.

Using The Relief Method Of Hand Carving

The relief method of hand carving wood signs, when using letters, makes it appear as if the letters are above the surface of the wood. Once you have drawn the letters on your piece of wood, use a marker or pencil to darken the wood surrounding the letters. In letters such as A, R, O, Q, P, and B, darken the holes in these. This process will require a rotary tool with an engraving accessory. You will use this to cut right up to the edges of the letters making sure to stop at the edge. The object is to remove as much wood from the perimeter of the letters so that they are defined against the wood. Change to a rotary steel cutter in the router and remove all the wood with the dark marks that are inside the letters. (the A, R, etc.) Cut deep with the rotary steel cutter until the letters are standing well above the wood.

In Conclusion

There are all kinds of signs for sale in the marketplace. A hand-carved wood sign for your lake house, which you have made yourself, will have more meaning than one purchased. You will have the advantage of personalizing and customizing your project, tailoring it for your own lake house. DIY projects are always more fun, and the pleasure of knowing you did it yourself lasts a long time. While we are sure you can come up with a few witty sayings of your own, here are some of the sayings people hand carved into wood signs and have used at their lake houses:

  • This Is Our Happy Place
  • Time Wasted At The Lake Is Time Well Spent
  • Relax, You’re On Lake Time
  • At The Lake, Every Hour Is Happy Hour
  • Go Jump In The Lake!
  • If You’re Lucky Enough To Be At The Lake, You’re Lucky Enough
  • Memories At The Lake Last A Lifetime
  • Lake House Rules: No schedule. No demands. No worries.