Dimensional lettering and smalt paint


3/4" thick pine letters hand cut with a bandsaw and jigsaw.

Letters rounded over with a radius bit and a sharp chisel for the corners.

This sign was a departure from what we normally do here at the workshop. We opted for hand-cut dimensional lettering and a smalted-paint background inspired by signs from the late 1800s and early 1900s. This project has all the authentic character and size of an architectural salvage piece, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. At ten feet long, this sign would look great in a home, restaurant, pub, or office lobby. 

Final sign — ten feet long. Click photos to enlarge.

Photoshop mockup. The bevel tool helped in considering the amount of roundover for the lettering.

Full-size template used to mark letter spacing.

After assembly.

Our smalt paint recipe is simply a thick coat of wet black paint with sand sifted over it. As the paint dries, the sand becomes embedded into the surface. Commercial shop smalt recipes use pigmented glass granuals or colored sand set into a thick “smalt cream” that sets up like an epoxy, permanently setting the “smalts” to make an armor-like finish. Mostly used for high-end signs paired with gilded lettering, glass smalts provide a glittery finish and are available in various granual sizes.