How to Cut Letters

By Wade Shaddy

You can cut wooden letters with a variety of saws and other cutting tools designed for detailed work, including a band saw, scroll saw, jigsaw or handheld rotary tool. Typically, wooden letters are no more than 1/4-inch thick. With saws, always use a fine-tooth blade for the best control with thin material and to minimize splintering for the cleanest possible cuts. Wood letters should also be cut from plywood. It has uniform consistency and overlapping layers that allow it to remain stable even around tight curves.

List of Items Needed

  • Stencil
  • Handheld multipurpose tool
  • Hardwood/sheetmetal (carbide) bit accessory
  • Drill press
  • Forstner bit
  • Handheld rotary tool
  • 1/8-inch drill bit accessory
  • Oscillating tool with hook and loop pad accessory fitted with 120-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding supplies
  • Safety glasses or goggles
  1. Draw or trace the letters onto the plywood with a pencil, using a stencil — or freehand, if you're artistically inclined. Trace as many of the letters on the plywood in sequence as possible.

  2. Rough-cut the letters from the plywood piece so you can work with individual letters for the final cuts. Stay well outside the cutting lines.

  3. Cut out each letter along its pencil lines, using the handheld multipurpose tool with a hardwood/sheetmetal (carbide) bit accessory. Move the tool or workpiece, as applicable, slowly and steadily throughout the cuts. If a curve is too tight, then back out the letter and cut in from the opposite direction to meet the cut coming from the other side.

  4. Cut circles or starter holes in all of the letters that have interior cuts with no access points, such as with the letters O, B and D. using a drill press with applicable size Forstner bit or a handheld rotary tool fitted with a 1/8-inch drill bit accessory.

  5. File the straight edges on any interior cutouts, such as the flat sides on a B or D. Finish by lightly sanding all of the remaining edges with medium-grit sandpaper or an oscillating tool with a hook and loop pad accessory fitted with 120-grit sandpaper to smooth any rough areas and remove saw marks.

Tips and Warnings

  • Choose a font that has basic lines. Fancy fonts with many deviations will break when you attempt to cut them. It's not advisable to cut letters less than 2 inches tall on a band saw. Wood letters smaller than 2 inches will break.
  • Always wear safety glasses when working with wood and any power tool.
  • Wear a dust mask when cutting and sanding wood.

© Demand Media 2011