Every now and again I get asked to make something which I don't have the tools for. Recently I had one of these times, when I was commisioned to make beautiful oak notice boards for four villages within our parish. Carved into the top of each is the name of the village.
There is a tool called a 3D Router Pantograph which allows you to cut lettering into wood. It's designed by Matthias Wandel, a engineer who develops rather wonderful machines made from wood. I used his plans and built this 3D router pantograph.
The concept is simple enough. At one end you use a stylus to trace the letters you require around a stencil, whilst at the other end a router is cutting those letters into the piece of wood for you. What's clever is that using a conical stylus and a V groove router bit, it's possible to automatically vary line thickness and therefore carve in fonts that would otherwise be extremely hard to produce.
For example, routing the following into a piece of wood using a stencil is fairly straightforward.
But a Times New Roman font requires the router bit to rise and fall according to line thickness.
It will cut whatever shape or object you use as a stencil so it's not limited to fancy writing, although with two of our friends moving house this summer, there are already more signs on the to-do list.
Here's a video of the 3D Router Pantograph making various parts of village names.