DiResta-inspired sign for The Mascot Theory

I haven’t had much opportunity to work on “pretty” projects. It’s usually hard enough just to get things to work, much less look good.

Take my deck wood dump cart for example. It had to haul rocks without splintering into pieces in my yard. It didn’t need to look nice doing it.

A few viewers let me know that they noticed.

That got me thinking: It might be fun to get out of my comfort zone and work on something that had to be pretty. Like a sign? Maybe for a … I don’t know … local band that’s gaining national recognition?

Lucky for me, my friend and former journalism professor, Arthur Ranney, helps manage acoustic-folk-rock band The Mascot Theory. That’s how I know lead singer Erik Kjelland. I asked Kjelland if they’d be interested in collaborating on a sign for their new album, Trust and Bones. They were! He sent me a design, and I got to work.

The first step was research.

Prolific maker Jimmy DiResta’s sign-making videos turned out to be an excellent resource. The TV-star-turned-YouTuber has been making signs since he was a kid. I primarily reverse-engineered his Fodera and Sigmund’s signs, though he has a library of other styles available.

More knowledge came from Making It podcast episode 28: Signs. DiResta and the other hosts, Bob Clagett and David Picciuto, talked about the merits of sign making and shared tips and tricks along the way.

But those sources couldn’t answer one huge question for me: Could I cut out intricate letters without a bandsaw nor a computer-controlled router?

The answer turned out to be yes. Flip a jigsaw upside down, clamp it to something solid, and you’ve got yourself a primitive bandsaw — albeit an incredibly dusty one.

A couple of weeks later, the project was finished. Cutting out the letters was fun. Painting them was less so. But I learned a lot along the way, and it was extremely rewarding to see that I had created a shiny, nice-looking sign at the end of the road.

See the process for yourself in the video above.

REVIEW: Making a DiResta-inspired sign

Difficulty: 3 stars out of 5. Not easy, but well within reach for most people with the drive and time to try it.

Skills required: Attention to detail. Ability to hold small wooden letters steady as they pass a sharp(ish) blade. And patience! Gluing down the letters at the end can be tedious, but if you don’t have to rush, you’ll be fine.

Tools required: Computer. Printer. Glue stick. Belt sander would be nice. Sand paper. Drill, drill bits. Shaping files. Table saw, though a circular saw could work. Long clamps. Glue. Solvent-based primer for the MDF. A bandsaw would be ideal for cutting the letters. A computer-controlled router would be easier. But this is totally doable with an upside down jig saw. It’ll just take longer to cut and take longer to shape after the fact with sandpaper and files. MDF works great for the letters, but it’s horrifically dusty, so some sort of dust collection would be fantastic.

Cost: $20ish for a 4'x4' sheet of MDF, which is far more than you’ll need. Scrap wood can be jointed and glued together to make a great sign base. Paint will probably cost you the most. I’m guessing I spent about $50 on the sign all together, not including money previously invested in tools. But I have a ton of paint and MDF left over, so I can save some money on projects down the road.

Was this worth doing? Absolutely. I had a blast. And what a skills booster! Just take your time and be sure to start with a nice design from the beginning. Your work is doomed if your model is junk.