Signs have been used for as long as literacy itself has existed. With the use of simple and easy to recognize symbols, we are able to express many things. Other than streets, stores, and other commercial uses, signs can come in handy in many other scenarios.
Thanks to the invention of sign making routers, anyone can now carve up their own signs onto wooden surfaces. However, printing your own signs will require you to be familiar with how routers work.
Today, we will be looking into some of our top picks of the best router for sign making. We have also included an in-depth buying guide to help you make a sound decision.
Top Routers for Sign Making Comparison Table
DEWALT Variable Speed Router
16,000 - 27,000 RPM
Makita RT0701CX7 Compact Router Kit
10,000 - 30,000 RPM
Bosch GKF125CEN Variable-Speed Palm Router
16,000 - 35,000 RPM
Avid Power Compact Router
10,000 - 32,000 RPM
Ridgid R2401 Laminate Trim Router
20,000 - 30,000 RPM
7 Best Router for Sign Making Reviews
We have put in hours of research to narrow down a list of the best routers in the market. Let’s have a look!
1. DEWALT Router Fixed/Plunge Base Kit – Best Overall
This first router from DEWALT is the perfect companion for all your sign making projects. With super easy to use functionalities, you will get the hang of making signs in no time.
First things first, the DWP611PK comes with a LED-lit base. Sign making requires quite a bit of precision, and a little mistake can set your whole project back.
The LED lights will keep the base illuminated, giving you a clear vision to perfect all those tight corners. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, LEDs will always come to your aid. So, don’t underestimate this feature one bit.
Moreover, you will notice the speed settings on the body of the router. This allows you to customize your router speed according to your bit size.
If you’re not familiar with routers, you should know that each bit size has an optimum speed to work in. Therefore, the variable speed settings give you a wider range of options to work with.
The router comes with its very own plunge base, which is an essential tool in sign making. This base offers more precision and uniform carvings. DEWALT has coated the handles of the base with rubber to provide you with a firm grip.
- Aluminum base and motor housing increases durability
- Plunge base provides you with more control and precision
- Dual LED lights allow you to see better
- Multiple shaft lock makes it easy to install and remove bits
- 1.25 horsepower motor will carve into the toughest of objects
- The router tends to heat up quite a bit upon prolonged periods of use
2. Makita RT0701CX7 Compact Router Kit – Best Variable Speed Router
Whether it be a full-blown kit or the router itself, Makita offers you three different options to choose from. For someone who’s new to the world of sign making, you can easily opt for the standard Makita router with one base. Other than that, you can also invest in just the router itself or go for the extravagant three base variant.
Much like the DEWALT router mentioned above, this one also comes with a speed control dial. Offering you anywhere from 10,000 RPM to a high of 30,000 RPM, this router will carve on any type of wood. Also, the variable speed settings enhance the efficiency and precision of the different bits you might need.
Let’s talk about the sheer brilliance of Makita for housing the motor within an aluminum case. As we know by now, aluminum is a strong yet lightweight material.
Housing the motor in aluminum will reduce the overall weight of the router and boost its durability to a great extent. As you will be controlling the router with your hand, weight plays a key role when maneuvering.
Furthermore, the overall diameter of the router is less when compared to others. This allows for a better fit within your hands, offering you a better grip when carving. The ergonomically designed body keeps your hand stress free while giving you easy control over your outlines.
- Comes in 3 different variants with added options
- Quick-release cam lock system for accurate depth adjustment
- Electronic speed control to keep the speed constant even during heavy loads
- Weighs 3.9 pounds making the device easy to control
- Aluminum body construction for enhanced durability
- No LED lighting system, which can lead to poor finishes
3. Bosch GKF125CEN Palm Router Tool – Best Budget Wood Router
When it comes to sign-making, nothing gets as easy as using the Bosch GKF125CEN router. Featuring tons of easy to use functionalities, you will enjoy every project you do.
Weighing in at a decent 4.4 pounds, this device packs quite the power. Whether you want to use soft wood or hard, packing a 7.0 amp motor with adjustable speed settings gets the job done neatly.
Also, the tiny 1.25 horsepower motor will offer you a maximum speed of 35000 RPM! This should be more than enough for all your sign making needs.
What’s more, Bosch has revolutionized the router game by bringing in their depth adjustment system. When making a sign, alternating depth creates a 3D effect that is quite appealing. As a result, this depth adjustment system will prove to be a crucial asset to you.
When it comes to investing in the best router for sign making, you want one that is flexible with all designs. This is only possible when your router supports different bit measurements. The GKF125CEN allows you to switch your bits from 1-5 to a high of 16 inches wide! If that’s not flexibility, we don’t know what is.
- Comfortable design to allow for better controlling of the unit
- Constant response circuitry to maintain speed under loads
- Soft start mechanism reduces the start-up torque
- Offers speed settings from 16000 to 35000 RPM
- Precise depth adjustment system
- Does not include a plunge in the package
4. Avid Power Compact Router with Fixed Base
This next router from Avid Power is the right addition to your entire sign-making setup. Not only does it come with a powerful router, but within the package, you get tons of other accessories. Overall, the bundle will take care of all that you need, in turn, saving extra costs.
Looking into the components of the bundle, you will receive the router itself with a basic wrench and roller guide assembly. Digging deeper into the packaging will leave you astounded.
Avid power has included five router bits with two collets to make your device compatible with the bit sizes. You also receive two carbon brushes and a tool bag to store all your accessories neatly.
A small imperfection can make your whole project go to shame—chances of that increase when you don’t work under sufficient lighting. The MW104 houses two LED lights to give you a clear look at your work. These lights also allow you to check whether you have gotten the right amount of depth in your carving.
When you pair the router’s variable speed settings with the packed set of bits, you unlock a wide range of possibilities in terms of design. The 6.5 amp motor delivers enough speed to dig through any wooden surface.
Also, you can expect a low of 10000 to a high of 32000 RPM, which should cover almost any of your requirements.
- Package includes 5 different bits along with other accessories
- Aluminum base and motor housing for increased service time
- Quick locking system for easy height adjustments
- LED lighting lets you see better
- 6 different speed settings to choose from
- Can be pretty loud
- Heats up quite easily
5. Ridgid R2401 Laminate Trim Router
This next router places comfort and precision over anything else. The R2401 from Ridgid has the right set of performance-enhancing features combined with an ergonomic design to give you a free-flowing experience.
Right off the bat, you will notice the No-mar top integrated into the body of the router. The special overmold material prevents the top from being scarred due to the wear and tear of your workspace. This keeps your router looking as good as the day you bought it.
Moreover, the top of the router has a flat surface, making it easier to replace your bits. When you want to switch from one-bit size to another, you can easily flip the router on its head and screw it on. This makes the process effortless as you can exert more force in order to unscrew the bit.
Moving on, the router doesn’t only focus on exteriors and comfort. It packs a 5.5 amp motor that gives you a variable speed from 20000 to 30000 RPM.
The combination of the electronic feedback system with the high RPM allows the motor to maintain a consistent speed level. This, in turn, results in uniform engravings on your project surface.
- LED light offers more visibility when working
- No-mar top prevents marring on the device
- Variable speed settings
- Electronic feedback maintains consistent speed and power
- Very lightweight and easy to maneuver
- Not compatible with aftermarket plunge bases
- Removing the motor is very difficult
6. PORTER-CABLE Compact Router
Power and precision are the best phrases to describe this router from PORTER-CABLE. Carrying a high powered 1.25 horsepower motor, this will let you draw up your signs almost effortlessly.
The motor is soft-starting with a full-time electronic feedback system. This allows the router to maintain constant speeds throughout your cut, no matter the surface.
In addition, the manufacturers have integrated an adjustment ring on to the base of the device. It makes adjusting your bit depth much easier. Changing your bit depth can be quite useful when you’re creating designs with a 3D look.
What’s more, the motor is shielded by an aluminum casing, enhancing the durability of the device. The base is also constructed from the same high-quality aluminum, making the device lightweight and easy to move.
Adjusting or removing bits and bases is also fairly easy on this router. The spring-loaded release tabs let you seamlessly remove the base. Featuring multiple shaft-lock detents lets you switch out your bits whenever you want.
- Ergonomic design allows single-handed control
- Spring-loaded tabs let you remove the base easily
- 4″ diameter sub-base is compatible with universal template guides
- Included 8-slot 1/4″ collet maximizes contact with router bit shank for a tight grip
- The device is significantly heavy when compared to other routers
- Speed setting is not adjustable
7. WEN RT6033 15-Amp Woodworking Router Kit
Whether you’re a professional or a beginner, investing in a sign-making router kit will undoubtedly save you costs in the long run. Also, having a full-on kit omits the need to go out and buy extra bits and accessories.
The RT6033 from WEN specializes in perfection and control. Its 15 amp motor pairs well with the variable speed preset to give you the finest curves and edges. Highly versatile, the router features speed settings from 8000 RPM to 23000 RPM.
Other than the router and its plunger, you will receive various accessories to allow for experimenting with your skills. Included within the packaging is a dust port adapter you can attach to a vacuum to clean up any dust on your workspace.
Storing all the components included in your kit would’ve been quite difficult if WEN didn’t provide the hard-shelled carrying case. It carries everything from the router to your collets, making it easy to carry around from one station to another.
- Hard case makes storing your router and accessories easier
- Variable speed options from 8,000-23,000 RPM
- Soft start motor enhances the longevity of the tool
- Guide fence and circle cutting pin included
- 1.5-inch collet with a 1.25-inch adapter for compatibility with a wide range of bits
- The device heats up when used for prolonged periods
- The motor can be quite noisy for some people
Before You Buy What to Look for
When looking for the right router based on your needs, you need to look into a number of factors. These will determine how well the router matches your requirements.
Before you go out to look for a router, you need to allocate a specific budget. If you’re a beginner, we would advise you to start off with affordable routers.
For those with previous experience, you can look for routers that offer extra functionalities. However, more features will increase the weight of the price tag. It is always a good idea to perfect your skills behind the router before investing in high-priced ones.
Carving your own signs requires precision, which is enhanced by the availability of LED lighting. Routers that come with this feature will light up your work to give you a clear view of your progress.
This is important as you want your sign to come out exactly how you pictured it. Upon reaching the finishing stage of your sign, the LED light is almost a blessing. It will cleanly bring out all the small areas where you may have gone wrong.
Signs come in all different shapes and sizes. If you’re willing to experiment with different designs, a router with variable speed settings is recommended. These devices are able to handle a wide range of bits, enhancing your precision and the flexibility of the router.
Each bit works at a different speed setting for optimal results. Routers with multiple speed settings will enable you to tweak your speed to your bit size. As a result, the project will have cleaner finishes and sharper details.
Essential Sign Making Tools:
This is a primary tool for making signs. The router basically uses router bits to cut and retract wood. Apart from the fundamental purpose of edging and shaping, the router is very versatile when mounted in different ways. It has various possible applications such as background highlighting, area routing, hanging of eyelet arrangements, images shaping, creation of outset letters, and many more. The actual limit of what the router can do depends solely on the user’s creativity and experience.
Trim routers can be perfect for beginners, but the mid-sized plunge router can be more applicable generally. The full-size router offers more horsepower and has more capacity; it will possibly have a half-inch router bit, as opposed to the expected quarter-inch of shank diameter for other options. The type of router to get all depends on your scale, specialty, and requirement.
There is no long introduction required for this tool. The pencil is mainly for drawing and marking out designs, letters, shapes, images, and patterns. The pencil is highly recommended for drawing initial letters or images because you can easily erase any error. Apart from actual writing or drawing, the pencil can be used to mark out point where something is to be done.
V-groove router bit
A lot of router grooves are very useful when making wood signs, but the V-groove router is pretty peculiar and very useful. The router is perfect for marking and carving wood and even other materials like plastics, aluminum, brass, stainless steel, sticky panels, fiberboards with moderate density, and others.
The V-groove type of router is usually long-lasting, and they come in different types. Sixty degrees’ router, ninety degrees’ router, and double-sided routers are the common types of V-groove router. The double-sided V-groove router can carve at both 60 degrees and 90 degrees.
This is a safety gadget to protect your eyes from pieces of wood and dust. Even though many people don’t actually see this measure as important, the eyes are not supposed to be naked when doing woodwork.
Design template or letter
How much can you do without using stencils and templates? The question does not challenge your drawing skills or handwriting abilities; it is a challenge to how fast or efficient they can be over time. Stencils get the job done faster; all you have to do is trace the patterns on the template board.
Sanding is a process that gives you that smooth finishing you desire. Grip pads allow you to sand the interior corners of sign letterings, numbers, v-groove profiles, V-shaped flutes, beard corners, and other sign accents. Different grip pads are appropriate for various scenarios of tight angles, contours, and inner edges.
Carbon papers and other wood transfer papers are necessary for your convenience whenever you have to tract designs. Carbon paper has a see-through property that allows you to view the wood surface while the paper is still on it. That way, you can trace out images, patterns, and letters without making mistakes.
Steps for Making a Wood Sign with a Router:
Map out your plan
The first things you need to figure out are the size of patterns and the size of the board required. While considerations are made, you can make sacrifices to optimize your process, but the lettering should be a primary factor. What is the point if the letters or signs are not visible?
For the board to be optimized, the number of letters should work the dimension of each letter. While factoring in this consideration, you don’t necessarily have to make the letters too big or too small. A good way is to create a prototype design on paper first, then trace it out on the wood.
Get your board prepared
The board’s issues can be approached in two distinct ways: purchase a finished board or prepare the board into the required size that has been estimated. If you are preparing the board, you have to be careful to fix it correctly. While designing from scratch, leave out excess space that can be trimmed off later. The rough edges are to be properly sanded off to get an excellent finish.
Detail out the letters and patterns on the board
Technology is on your side; if you need perfect lettering, you can just print them out on a paper or carbon sheet. If you want a rugged or natural feel of countryside designs, you might have to manually draw the letters. If it’s a business sign, accuracy counts more.
Trace out your designs with a pen or pencil and trace them from carbon papers or see-through materials, or you might make too many mistakes. Errors can be corrected during sanding but don’t bore the wooden board too much in other to avoid prolonged standing.
Surprisingly, the routing process is one of the easy tasks in the sign-making journey. Place the workpiece on the workbench, and sure it is stable before clamping it down. You can put a rubber pad underneath it to avoid sliding. The type of finishing you desire will dictate the router bit to use, but the V-groove router, square end router, and round end routers are great.
Squared end routers can be more difficult, but it is definitely a great option. The depth should be about a third-eight inch or quarter inch when cutting the wood to avoid burn marks and extensive grinding later on. To avoid using dull bits, always test your router bit on scrap wood before actual usage. A dull bit can lead to burns and mistakes.
Use your two hands to operate the router; big routers are easier and faster. Maintain total control while plunging by making your forearms firm on the table. By doing that, you can avoid damages for the workpiece and also for yourself.
Applying the finishing touches
Sanding and painting are major processes for finishing your signs, be creative about them. You can paint out every detail or make a sloppy paint all over the board and then sand off unneeded portions.
Painting the letters’ background can be very tedious, but the time will be worth it with proper care. Paint the sign carefully to achieve the vibe you desire. Varnish or Polyurethane will be great for making your sign look new. Sun drying the work can give it some gray vintage feel, if that is what you want. You can also revisit the design any time; just be creative.
Ease of Use
Not all routers function the same; some require more time to set up while others are quite fast. In addition, changing and installing router bits can be quite troublesome in most budget routers, so make sure you look into these factors.
Moreover, being able to control your router will determine the quality of your finished product. And so, you need to choose one that can be maneuvered effortlessly. Comfort plays a key role in your level of efficiency and quality.
Making signs is not an easy task and requires you to place genuine effort towards your learning process. Investing in the best router for sign making is the first step towards learning this skill. With an emphasis on your budget and project requirements, you should be able to pick out a few options from our top picks.
We don’t usually play favorites, but the DEWALT plunge base router works great for most purposes. However, if you don’t have any budget limitations, we would suggest choosing a router kit; this would save you the trouble of buying separate accessories.
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