Railroad Crossing Sign
New Post from my Guest Blogger, Patrick Connelly.
Like so many kids, my son loves trains. So, for his second birthday we had a train themed birthday party. As a keystone design item, my wife wanted a railroad sign that we could put at the front door welcoming guests. The idea was to make the standard railroad crossing sign out of wood, and make it so that it could be mounted to a pole, as well as hung in my son's room as decoration.
Because this is eventually going to be hung on the wall and it is just for decoration, I knew I needed it be made out of light and cheap materials. Fortunately I had a scrap piece of 1"x4" pine in the garage. Because I wanted both sides to be level with each other I decided to do a half-lap joint in the middle of the two boards. This would set each plank of wood perpendicular to each other. I did this by running the parts over the blade on my table saw, while the blade was set to half the height of the board. This would have been easier to do with a dado blade, but it wasn't too terrible. Then the boards were glued and clamped together
Once the glue dried overnight, I removed the clamps and took the sign over to the drill press to drill the holes in the center that attach it to the post. This step could have easily been done with a regular drill, but I had a new toy and wanted an excuse to use it. Then I gave it a light sanding to remove some of the squeezed out glue as well as to make the paint adhere easier. Using a can of white spray paint, gave both sides of the sign two coats. I also took this time to paint the pole that is going to hold the sign up a yellow color. The reason yellow was chosen is it is the same color as the base of a Christmas tree stand I made and we wanted to be able to re-use the vertical post of other projects.
Now came the difficult part. In order to a make the letters as uniform as possible, I knew I wanted to use letter templates. Using a set of 3" stencils, I taped the letters together to ensure the appropriate kerning and then laid them out so they were centered on the board vertically. For the word "CROSSING" I centered it on the topmost board. Then eyeballed the spacing of "RAIL" and "ROAD" so they were equidistant from the topmost board. The problem with stencils are that you don't have complete letters, you have to have support pieces to hold them together. So, after drawing out my letters, I sketched in the missing parts of the stencil to make the entire letter with pencil. Then using a thin brush and black acrylic paint, I traced the letters and then filled them in, being very careful to stay inside the lines as well as not exposing the white paint beneath.
After letting the lettering dry completely, I applied two coats of spray on polyurethane and then used two long bolts to mount the sign to the post.