The Most Popular Type of CNC Carving Project

 Hands down, the most popular CNC router project group is sign making. While we use CNC routing in a wide range of applications such as home decor(which may include signs), furniture, utility & storage systems, etc. , signs remain popular among both novice and experienced CNC carvers.

What makes carving signs so popular among CNC router users? Variety & creativity.

We can make signs as simple or as complex as our imaginations can envision.  Some signs are simple square boards with a basic phrase carved in it. Others use layered carves to add depth and texture.(to see how layering with the Easel CNC software is done visit layered designs). From hobbyists to commercial woodshops, signs are an attractive project for CNC Routing.

The Hobbyist & CNC Routers

Making gifts is one of the great joys for people who are into woodworking. Creating one-of-a-kind signs for friends and family is an opportunity for making it personal and being creative in gift-giving. Woodworkers create some really amazing signs with their CNC machines, and they can get pretty creative.

Some signs are creatively simple, words on a board with carved design around. 

CNC carved sign

Stepping up on the creative shape side, some signs add design to the board. These give shape to the message.

sign outside carve with an X-Carve cnc router

Others are a bit more adventurous with the medium. The board doesn’t just have a message on it, this sign makes the shape a significant part of the message.

infinity shaped sign carve with an X-Carve and Easel cnc software

With a quality CNC router, a hobbyist can create unique and personal gifts that will be treasured. There is no end to the level of personalization when making signs, something you can never buy in a store.

CNC Routers in the Woodshop sign making

Commercial woodshops use CNC Machines for two primary applications. 1) Mass production, with consistent and reliable output, 2) Customization for special projects to add value. 

Themed signs are one of the great products commercial woodworkers make.  Holiday themes, sports teams, recreational (“Fishing”, “Golf”, “Hunting”) are just some categories on which woodshops base their sign production. To sell at scale, the last sign off the machine has to look just like the first one, they have to be high quality & produced quickly, and to do this, they require a commercial-grade CNC machine

Sign-making in mass production is a profitable business for startups as well as long-established woodshops. By creating the base design in CAD/CAM software, such as Easel Pro, the production of the signs is relatively straightforward.

To add-value, woodshops can customize the signs. Using the base sign created in the CNC software, they can add names, dates, locations, or other personalization that makes the sign distinct. While the base sign is always the same, the end product is unique.

Routing acrylic, metal & more for signs.

When discussing CNC carving, the default medium is often wood. But, you can get really creative with other materials for carving as well.  Acrylic or plastic are very popular alternatives to wood. These materials for carving come in many different colors and patterns. 

Many of our carvers also use anodized carvable metals. Like acrylic, these metals come in different colors as well.

You can get really creative in carving signs by combining materials, adding layers, or applying carved shape overlays on the signs(ie, flowers, animals, silhouettes). Let your imagination flow and you’ll be amazed at what you can carve.

How much is a CNC router?

Making signs can be fun, even profitable. But, how much will you have to pay for a CNC machine? The cost varies greatly depending on the power, size, and performance of the CNC machine you choose. Obviously, mid to large commercial applications will require a more powerful CNC solution than a hobbyist or small business. This will affect the price you should expect to pay. 

Here is a previous article about pricing for CNC machines. It provides more information on the elements of the machines and how they affect the price as well as some general guidelines or price ranges.

If you are just starting out or adding a CNC machine to your shop, make sure the core machine is high quality and powerful enough to handle your intended projects. 

Keep in mind that, while you may start off making signs, many woodworkers end up going well beyond that.

Looking for inspiration? Check out the project area for Inventables at You’ll find a lot of great sign ideas, and a whole lot more. For most of the project, you can import the design files into Easel to start carving right away. Once imported, you can change or customize the design to make it your own.

If you have any questions about CNC machines, CNC software, or the projects, drop us a line. Our customer service folks love to talk shop!


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