How To Make Sand Blasted Custom Carved Wood Signage

Creating a sand blasted sign involves 9 stages. All 9 stages will be expanded upon below, but you can also click each timestamp to be take to that part of the video.

  1. How To Make Sand Blasted Signage – 0:12
  2. File Preparation – – 0:19
  3. Plotting the blast stencil – 1:09
  4. Cutting the Wood Stencil – 5:46
  5. Preparing the blank sign – 1:59
  6. Priming the blank signage – 6:50
  7. Application of the blast stencil – 8:12
  8. Sand blasting – 9:02
  9. Finishing – 9:52

The full video is below:

Below we briefly explain each phase of the process of creating a custom sand blasted wood sign. You can view our custom crafted wooden signage page for example layouts and designs.

Sand Blasted Signage Tools, Equipment & Materials

Below is a list of tools you’ll need:

  1. utility knives
  2. wood chisels
  3. sander and jigsaw
  4. paint brushes
  5. paint rollers
  6. a palm sander

Below is a list of equipment you’ll need:

  1. computer with graphics software e.g. Illustrator, Corel Draw, Flexi Signs
  2. plotting software, e.g. Roland VersaWorks, Sign Lab
  3. a plotter
  4. a compressor
  5. a sand blaster
  6. protective wear
  7. safety glasses
  8. dust-mask

Below is a list of materials you’ll need:

  • spray balms/paint
  • pressure sensitive vinyl
  • duct tape
  • sand paper
  • red wood, cedar-blank or HDU (high density urethane substrate)
  • primer and glazing putty for fix minor cracks
  • 1 shot sign enamels
  • 40 pounds of sand blast medium e.g. silica, glass beads, aluminium oxide

File preparation

File preparation is an important phase of the design process, and generally includes laying out the design of the stencil in software like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw or Flexi Signs. From there you’ll be importing the design into plotting software which will plot out the design and get it ready for printing.

Preparing the sand blast stencil in Adobe Illustrator

Plotting the blast stencil

At this stage you’ll be using the plotter to cut the template for the sign-blank. We use a Roland plotter printer to cut the vinyl to the exact specifications of the intended design. The plotter enable us to get an accurate cut-line onto the HDU and trimming. The perimeter stencil is used temporarily and once you’re done using it on the sign-blank you can discard it.

Using the plotter cut vinyl

At this stage you’ll also want to create the inside stencil design and have it plotted as well. This stencil will be used at the final sand-blasting stage.

Preparing the blank wooden sign

This is the weeding stage which is where we remove all the excess material that we don’t need from the sign stencil. We start from the outside of the stencil and move inwards being very careful not to rip it, or the other necessary parts of the stencil, although the vinyl material is usually quite sturdy.

Applying edge stencil to wood blank

Once the excess material is removed from the stencil, we hand-balm the stencil onto the wood-blank or HDU and then trace the design using pencil, chalk or paint. In this example we dusted the stencil with spray paint because it’s much more accurate than using a pencil and saves a heap of time.

When hand-balming the vinyl, make sure to get the stencil as flat as you can and remove all air-pockets. Once you’ve traced out your lines and removed the vinyl, you’ll begin to see the wood sign edges starting to take shape.

Cutting the wood stencil

This step is where you’d get your jigsaw tool out and start cutting around the edge of your stencil. The more practice at jigsaw cutting you have the more easier it will be to be accurate, but if you take your time, you can get it right the first time.

Cutting edge of template jigsaw

Simply just cut around the edge of your stencil along the marker you created (we used spray paint).

Priming the blank signage

At this stage you’d sand and prime the surface of the template. Use low-grit sand paper to smooth the edges and surface, and then prime it and paint it. The primer gives the template a little more surface-strength and helps you identify any spots that need to be fixed or other minor imperfections.

Priming sanding template board

To fix any imperfections, you can simply apply a body filler and then sand again, and when that’s done, give it one more coat of primer. Then add your final paint job with the selected base colour. When this stage is complete you move on to applying the blast stencil.

Pro Tip: for best results, let the paint on your template sit for at least 2 weeks before moving onto the next stage in order to allow all the gases from the paint and primer to escape and allows the paint to cure properly. This also hinders any paint from peeling off the template during the blasting process.

Application of the blast stencil

In this stage you will use a sand-blast imprint-stripping material that has the inner design cut out using our plotter printer, just like in the first stage. See the section of this document above titled Preparing the blast stencil.

Applying design stencil to primed wood

Once your design-stencil is applied to the blank template, you’ll be ready to move onto the next stage where you begin to engrave the template using the actual sand-blast media.

Sand blasting

This is the sand-blasting stage where you’ll be sand-blasting your stencil with blast media which will create a recessed look to your project. This gives your sign a really nice looking effect with shadows and depth and make it look like a genuine hand-carved sign with very high accuracy.

Sand blasting final designed stencil


Once you’re finished sand-blasting your template, you can paint it to your specifications. Make sure to choose the right colours, and be as accurate as possible.

Final sand blasted sign

Your final product may not look as clean cut as this one but with time and practice you’d definitely refine your skills and be able to product a truly professional sand blasted sign just like this one. If you have any question about the process feel free to contact us. We’d love to help. Thanks for reading!

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