Monday, August 29, 2016

For better or worse, back in the van I go...

I am starting to migrate my living area from the camper back into the van.    winter is coming on and it will be a lot easier to heat the van.   I will also clean up and try again to sell the camper... even if i have to take a huge loss.   Some money is better than none, and i might be able to parlay some of that cash into a new method of income. 

 Im thinking of trying my hand at selling liquidated stock.   Only problem is (well besides money) is its sold in pallets, so I'd have to squeeze it into the van...that i will soon be occupying.   Maybe i can rig the van up in such a way that i can create enough space to break a pallet down and put it inside. 

I'd really like to hit the road now that the van is running.  But im not afraid to admit im wary of doing that a now that the safety net i had last year is gone.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Carving Wood Signs for Money Part 3: Carving, Painting and Finishing

Carving, Painting, and Finishing

In Part 2 of this tutorial, you prepared your sign, then made a design to transfer onto your board.   Now we are going to get 3 dimensional and carve it out.


I realize that this part is more about seeing and doing than telling, so while I did go in further detail with pictures and text below, I decided to enclude a brief youtube video showing me carving part of the little camper.

Lay out your rubber mat, and then place the board on top in front of you.   The mat keeps the board from moving while carving.

Put your 60 degree bit in your router.   Tighten up good but don't go overboard.   Your router should have a way to adjust the depth, on the dewalt you unlock the latch, then rotate the ring around the router to make the bit go up or down.   When routing with the v groove bits, the deeper the router bit goes, the wider the line you will create gets.   Ideally you want the router bit to cut a groove in the wood slightly smaller than the line you want to carve, be it a part of a letter or part of a drawing.

Larger than the lines above. Too deep.
.You'll have to test an area of black, preferably not near the edge of a line, that you can use to dial in the depth.   Its ok to cut the black, it is typically what you want to remove unless you want outset lettering (like I do on this sign).   Ease the router bit into the spot and watch how wide a mark it makes.   If it looks wider than the lines you'll need to cut, you have to dial back the depth of the router.   

For example, I did just that onto the middle of that big black area on my little camper.  Seems much deeper than the lines Ill have to carve on the artwork, so I have to adjust it.   When I get to the text part, another adjustment will probably have to be made.

Better, just a little more and itll be good.
Remember not to go too shallow.  Though it may get easier to carve, when you sand, those details might disappear!   If it looks like you cant carve a line with the 60 degree, you may need to tilt the router so only the very tip cuts the line (requires steadier hand), or use a thinner bit like the liner bit  (SC-50).

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Carving Wood Signs for Money Part 2: Preparation and Design

Prepare and Layout Your Sign

In Part 1:  Tools and Materials, we gathered up everything we need to get started, so lets go!


Cut your wood into 12 inch lengths.  You can choose to cut around knots or include them, you can cut through knots but they can chip out (bad).  Some people like the look of knots, some don't.  Sand your board, blow off or wipe off the sawdust.  Now measure the height of the board and make a note of it.   Most lumber you get will not be exactly 6 inches by exactly 8 feet, or exactly 1 inch thick.  If you want a decorative edge such as made by a round over bit, subtract a half inch from the height and width as well.  Most of the boards I use, which are listed as six inches, I end up at 5 inch height with round over, with a little wiggle room.

I'll carve this piece of cedar.


Let me preface this by saying that I use a computer oriented layout method.   I find this is the most cost effective in the long run, and allows me to have nearly infinite variety in my designs, and more options to size and squish things onto a piece of wood.  But you can skip the computer, and use wood letters and physically lay them out and spray paint a guide onto the sign.  This limits your font and size selection. 

You can copy drawings onto your sign with carbon paper, or like the letters, get physical templates you can spray onto the sign as a guide for artwork.  Aligning and centering will take more measuring and calculating though.  If you are interested in more on this method, let me know in the comments.

Next go to the computer, and download the following free software:
Inkscape (You can use illustrator if you have it)
Posterazor: If you plan to make signs larger than 8x11 inches in any direction.

If you are an artist, thats awesome!   If not, and you want to do more than just carve text, dont worry, you don't have to draw a thing.

Just download the artwork.  Mua..haa.haa.ha.. ha...ahem.

The best things to carve are silhouettes, or two tone images, as typically the wood is one color, either foreground or background, and the black paint is the other. I'm not gonna lecture you on copyright issues, but if its something you are worried about you can find free images at (i downloaded 700 images from there..) or   Vector images are best, as they scale.  Inkscape takes .svg and some .ai vector files, as well as non vector like .jpg and .png.

Other sources of free legal images are public domain works (over 75 years old), wiki commons has some of these.   You can also find old coloring book pages free online, thick line art is easy to carve!  Just search a bit.

You can also ask artists for use of artwork, you may be surprised.   I asked an embroidery company if i could use their patterns for a licensing fee, and they said i could just go ahead and use them since it wasn't for embroidery.

Or if copyright is something you could care less about, use google images.  Just don't blame me if they show up at your door. :)

For this tutorial I will be using artwork I have drawn myself, this cute little camper here:

Open Inkscape, then hit Ctrl + Shift + D to bring open the properties, and click landscape orientation.

Carving Wood Signs for Money Part 1: Tools And Materials

Tools And Materials

In my previous Introduction post, I discussed the viability of making signs, and my own personal experiences over the last 9 months.   Feel free to go go back and review if you missed it.   Otherwise lets get down to the nuts and bolts of making a sign.

In Part 1 of this tutorial I will be outlining the tools and materials you will need to begin carving wood signs for fun and a little money.

I am going to list what I use first, and then some cheaper or different alternatives as well.


Tools are the major startup costs associated with making these signs.

Dewalt DWP611 Trim Router:
A trim router is your method of carving into the wood.  Its a rotary tool like a dremel, but larger. They make larger routers than a trim router, and they make plunge varieties, but a trim router is all you need.   If all you have is a full size router already, than you can still use one of those as well.  This is your work horse, so it may be worth it to get a dewalt, its currently $112.99 on amazon. 

However, I've found a cheaper alternative at Harbor Freight for $29.99   The harbor freight option has less power, and may not last as long, but if you want to cut costs early to get in, and then upgrade later this could be an option.  Ive found one person online who claims to have had success using it. 

Carving Wood Signs for Money -- Intro

For the last 9 months or so I have been making a little bit of money on the side by carving wooden novelty signs and business signs, and selling them on etsy and in person.    There are many resources on youtube and online on how to do this, with several different methods of doing it, but I decided to go ahead and post exactly how I go about it and give my thoughts on various options.

It is a lot to cover in blog form, so I will be splitting it up into four parts:

Now, that may be a lot, and you might be wondering if this is worth wasting your time on.   I was worried about presenting this like Ive seen others, with this gleaming positive slant that you'll be quitting your job and racking in the cash doing this.  You won't.  So I'm going to let you decide based on the information I give.

Some Numbers (9 month period):

Etsy Sales:  9
Gross Revenue: $215.20
Shipping Cost (3day usps + packaging): $67.00
Material Cost (estimated):  38.50
Etsy Fees: $9.20
Net: $100.50

Facebook Sales: 5
Gross Revenue: $125.00
Shipping Cost (3day usps + packaging): $28.00
Material Cost (estimated):  27.11
Paypal Fees: $2.13
Square Fees: $1.57
Net: $66.19

In Person Sales: 3
Gross Revenue: $210.00
Material Cost (estimated):  41.15
Net: $168.85

Total Gross Revenue: $570.20
Total Net: $335.54

Most of the sales above happened in December and January, then in April thru July. with nothing in between.  Some caveats:

Monday, August 8, 2016

Well that didnt last long.

For a variety of reasons, i gave up on working for walmart.  The largest of which was a soul crushing depression i started to experience.  I just didnt have it in me to go in today, effectively firing myself.   Ive never done such a thing before, but i just couldnt muster another 2 weeks ...hell,one minute of that place.   They had me scheduled to work 6 days straight,  spread over two pay weeks so it actually doesnt pay me overtime.  Did i mention i was supposed to be part time?  Ill try to find an actual human to work for, or make money some other way.  Its just not worth my sanity.