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Thread: Prevent warping

  1. #1

    Prevent warping

    What is the best way to minimumiz warping in a wooden sign made from quarter sawn white oak hung outdoors? I have my own ideas but am always looking for good advice. Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Sammamish, WA
    I have never tried oak, but have made many cedar signs. In fact I just passed one today, sandblasted 4’x6, that I made in 1999, still looks great except for the smaller lettering that has gotten some green moss on it. I used 2x6, biscuit joining, alternating the crown between each piece, and make sure the wood is dry and every bit is primed and painted. Without the oils that cedar has, I would use oil based products on oak, and if single sided, screw some steel like angle iron onto the back.

    Sammamish, WA

    Epilog Legend 24TT 45W, had a sign business for 17 years, now just doing laser work on the side.

    "One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop." G. Weilacher

    "The handyman's secret weapon - Duct Tape" R. Green

  3. #3
    I'm betting you won't have that much trouble unless one side is in direct sunlight or something. Anyway, at least you picked a lumber least likely to warp.

    I think a couple hefty breadboards ends if you think its necessary.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    My issue with most any wood product outside is that only for a couple of species it all comes down to maintenance. You can finish both sides, seal with CPES, to whatever you want but you will never be able to control exposure and maintenance.

    As Robert says, your material choice (other than one better suited for exterior) is pretty much at the top of the list. Well finished, equally on both sides, your at your best starting point. That said, as the exposed finish begins to degrade, if not well maintained, its all for not.

    Rodger here seems to have the best program with regards to this in that it seems most come with some sort of first round of annual maintenance. In my area that would be all they ever get until I get a call several years from now that the sign fell off the wall because the wood around the screws rotted away.

    Not to poohpooh wood exterior signs, but I think the question is more dependant on your customer, the price level of the job, and so on, than it is on the species and construction details.

    All you have to do is look on Etsy to find numerous offerings from guys with a CNC cutting pretty involved signs on home center white pine 1x10's and 1x12's with pretty involved carvings, and completely clear coated, for sub $40+shipping. There is simply no way any of those will hold up in an exposed exterior environment.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  5. #5
    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. You’ve given me some things to think about.

  6. #6
    Good points. Thanks for your comments

  7. #7
    Thanks for your worthwhile information. Gives me details to think about.

  8. #8
    Because of the way wood expands & contracts due to moisture migration, any species quarter sawn is much more stable, & hence, resistant to warping. White oak should be no different.
    That's why CHVG Redwood ( clear heart vertical grain) has always been the ideal wood for sandblasted signs, with vertical grain Western Redcedar being great as well
    With perfect vertical grain, there's no need to "reverse" your boards for glue-up..... the grain is always going the same direction. If the grain is a bit "rift", then you should pair them up & reverse those, but if under 15*, I wouldn't worry about it.
    As much as I like "natural" finishes on wood, they're almost always problematic ..... if you can see the grain, UV can penetrate the finish, & the breaking down of the wood fibres on the surface begins, eventually causing the finish to completely fail..
    That's why I paint almost everything that's going outdoors. If someone really wants a visible woodgrain, I paint that on as well. It takes some practice, but I've convinced some old-time lumbermen that a 3" thick HDU sign was Douglas Fir , until they picked it up....

  9. #9
    I watch the movie "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" for the umpteenth time the other night and I was reminded of the scene where Tuco is in the bathub and the guy finds him and gives him a big speech about how long he's been looking and how many times he's gonna shoot him.

    Then Tuco, just bring his gun up from the water and blows him away and says, "if you're gonna shoot, shoot, if your gonna talk, talk".

    If wood is going to warp, its going to warp.

    Anything short of steel hor hugely thick breadboards is not going to stop it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Central Florida
    to help "minimize" warpage, ALL exterior signs, whether they be
    HDU or Wood - should have the same number of coats of primer
    and finish coats on all sides and edges.


    -- I am a painter. That's what I do. I like to paint things --

  11. #11
    About all you can do is make the sign reversible if it isn't anyway. Assuming the sign is out in the open the sun will bake the moisture out of one side causing an imbalance in moisture content from one side to the other. Making a frame to insert the sign into would also help. Above all be sure to seal both sides when you finish.

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