Gilding Two Signs for Tanglewood Farm

A rather unusual project presented itself a few weeks ago. Jim Green, of Tanglewood Farm near Tamworth, had purchased a large timber sign from a local cabinet-shop. It was a little over three meters long, and the letters had been routed into the panel, which consisted of a solid piece of Merbau. A smaller sign of the same construction displayed the address number of the farm – 388. Both signs had been stained in a deep brown hue, and certainly held a rustic and understated beauty. But just as Jim was about to install them at the front gate, he noticed that the lettering was not as readable as he had imagined it would be. The sign needed to catch the attention of passing motorists.

Jim tried applying gold paint to the numerals on the smaller sign, but was still unhappy with the result. He knew that the sign would need gilded text. He loaded both signs onto his truck, and drove three hours north to drop them off at our shop.

The following photo series shows the steps which we took to gild the letters on the signs:

Sign for Tanglewood Farm

Jim holds up his timber sign.

Carved Wooden Sign

On a table in our shop

Gold Painted Letters

The Gold Painted Letters: Not as Shiny as Jim had Hoped

Gold Carved Letter

Furthermore, the woodgrain looked a little rough.

Masking the Wooden Sign

We first covered the sign with stencil mask.

Carbon Paper

Then, I rubbed the surface with carbon paper, which brought out the shapes of the carved letter.

Cutting out Letters

Next, I cut each letter out of the stencil, with a razor blade.

Wooden Sign in Process

Here’s the sign, with all the letters cut out.

Sealing the Stencil Edge

Then, I sealed the stencil edge with water-based clearcoat.


A coat of primer next.

Sanding Carved Letters on Wooden Sign

Sand & repeat (three times over).

three hour size

Next came a coat of three-hour size (glue), for a smooth surface.

Lefranc's Twelve-Hour Size

Once the three–hour size was dry, I applied a coat of twelve-hour size.

Gilding a Wooden Sign

After leaving the sign overnight, I gilded it in the morning.


The Finished Piece!

The Finished Piece!

Carved & Gilded Wooden Sign

And the smaller sign, this time with gilded letters.

Sign on ute

All loaded up & bound for Tamworth!


A Sign for The National Goanna Pulling Championship

Wooli, New South Wales is a picturesque seaside resort town north of Coffs Harbour. It’s also home to a somewhat unusual annual sporting event – The National Goanna Pulling Championship. A goanna is a large monitor lizard that can be found throughout most of Australia, but ‘Goanna Pulling’ is a sport for humans, not lizards. It’s essentially a two-person tug of war, in which the neck of both contestants plays a leading role. Here’s what I mean:

This year, we were approached by the Clarence Valley Council to make a sign for the event. They wanted it rustic and maybe just a little outlandish, in keeping with the sport itself. Here are a few images of the sign being made:

Rolling Paint on a Sign Panel

Rolling Paint on the Background Sign Panel

Painting Faux Rust

Applying a Faux Rust Effect with a Sponge


Creating a Woodgrain Texture in the Paint on the Add-On Panel, Using a Broom

Painting Faux Woodgrain

Painting a Lighter Tone of Brown on Top

Faux Woodgrain

…And Rubbing Most of it Off Again!


Cutting gout the Script Lettering on a Scroll Saw


Painting the Letters


Gluing Everything Together

Gluing Letters


Wolli Goanna Pulling Sign

And finally, here it is installed & ready for next year’s big event!

Wooli Goanna Pulling Championship Sign | Danthonia Designs Blog

(image courtesy of bearomite)


The Making of a Pub Sign: Part 2

Hi again. Welcome back to Danthonia Designs, where we’re working on our sign for The Oregon Public House. Last time, as you probably remember, we ironed out the design. This time, we’ll go right into the shop and start hand-crafting the sign itself. Now this type of sign has a long tradition, which goes right back to the Northeastern American coast, old wooden sailing ships, and the quarterboards which bore the name of each ship.

The tools and techniques that we use are essentially the same as what they would have used back then. The main difference being that, in those days the signs were made out of huge planks that were quarter-sawn from gigantic trees, such as sequoia redwood or western red cedar. Nowadays, such majestic giants are protected, so we use a material called High Density Urethane. We laminate it to PVC to make a very durable panel which can actually be worked with all the same tools that you would use for a wooden sign. We can even make the sign look like wood, just by how we apply the paint with a brushed texture.

After a coat of primer and three coats of green, we stick on the stencil, which gives us the placement of the letters, the flourishes, and the outside shape of the sign.
The letters on this design are pretty large, pretty big stroke width, so we’re going to choose one of our larger chisels, and we’ll carve it at a shallower angle than we normally do, to avoid digging too deep.

For the tree logo of the Oregon Public House, we decided to chip-carve it, which gives it a ripply sort of a look. And we do that with a swan-necked gouge. It’ll look beautiful once it’s gilded.

Meanwhile, the banner is cut out of the same material, and it’ll get sculpted and painted. It’ll get all the same sort of treatment that the main sign gets, and then right at the end, we’ll attach it and it’ll be this three-dimensional element, which casts a shadow…it’ll just look beautiful.

All the processes that you’ve seen so far are just almost like second nature. We do them on every sign that we make in this shop. But on this particular sign, we’re going to use a technique that’s known as engine-turned gold. It’s something that’s normally done on smooth metal surfaces such as vehicles, but how will it look on a bit of a textured, brushed surface like we have on this sign? With a deadline looming, we don’t have a lot of time to find out.In the next video, we’ll get serious about painting and gilding, so stay with us. See you then!

Sign Design

Sign Carving

Wooden Sailing Ship




Sequoia Trees

Sign-making Tools

Sign Panel Brushed Texture

Weeding Paint Mask

Hand Router

Carved Sign Letters

Oregon Public House Sign Design

Scroll Saw

Palladium Leaf Box

Sign-Making Equipment


Applying Gold Size

Open a Can

The Making of a Pub Sign, Part One

We made this little video a while ago, but only got around to posting it here now. Hope you enjoy it!

Don: Portland is a city known for its many brewpubs, and one of the newest is The Oregon Public House. It’s also establishing a reputation as being one of the best.

Here at Danthonia Designs, we make handcrafted signs from our workshop in Inverell, Australia. We were recently commissioned by The Oregon Public House to make a classic pub sign for them. We’ve made a lot of pub signs over the years, and each one has its own unique character.

Joe: The local public house has always been a place of friendship, community and old-world hospitality, and the handcrafted pub sign over the door plays a big part, not only in the way it’s designed but in the care and craftsmanship that goes into making it. People will come back again and again to a pub where there’s good food, good atmosphere, but it’s the handcrafted pub sign that gets them through the door the first time.

Don: We started off the design process by first of all establishing the look and the feel that the folks at Oregon Public House wanted.Then, we came up with some pencil sketches. We drew our inspiration from the classic old pub signs of England and Ireland, as well as the vernacular hand-painted signs of the American Old West.

Pete, from The Oregon Public House, sent us photos of gilded flourishes off an old fire engine, which he wanted us to incorporate. After a little back and forth, we finally settled on this design, which everyone seemed happy with.

The next videos in the series will follow the sign as it makes its way through the many stages of our shop, from the pencil sketch all the way until it’s hanging. Feel free to leave a comment, sunscribe to our channel, start a conversation with us, but whatever you do, don’t miss the next videos in this series!

Beer Mug

Beer Mugs

Custom Sign Shop

Hand-Lettered Movie Title

Oregon Public House Sign

Sign Design Pencil Sketches

Engine Turned Gold Ornaments

Gilding a Sign

Gilding a Sign

Custom Sign-Making Shop

HDU sign on a scroll saw

Cutting HDU on a Scroll Saw

Designing a Custom Sign

Brush Texture Coat

Painting Accents on Engine-Turned Gold

Hanging up Apron at Custom Sign Shop

Sculpting a Crest for The Red Dragon

Here’s the post about the Red Dragon Sculpting video, as promised. First, the transcript:

There’s just something about a handmade object that’s attractive and beautiful. Everything used to be hand-made. Actually, everything used to be custom-made. It’s inspiring to think back to the times before the industrial revolution, when there was no such thing as mass-production.

Actually, these days, it seems like once again, a lot of folks are starting to wake up to this fact & realise that products need to have a bit of soul to them. They need to have a bit of a story behind them. After all, who would want something that’s mass-produced and made by a machine, when it could be hand-crafted? It’s an old way of doing things, but it’s becoming new again & I think that’s a beautiful thing.

You’re in the sign-shop of Danthonia Designs, in Inverell, Australia. Every sign in this shop is hand-crafted. Every sign is custom-made. You won’t find two signs in this shop that are the same. We feel like we’re not just making signs, we’re making the world more beautiful. We’re helping small businesses. We’re keeping old crafts alive. Of course, most importantly, we’re making people happy. There’s nothing instant, there’s nothing fast about the process of making a handcrafted sign. There’s skill involved, and there’s something very beautiful about it.

And then, just to see the finished work of art & to know that it will be hanging there for years. It’ll be out in the wind & weather. It’s going to last a long time. It might be around for longer than we are. That’s just very, very satisfying!

Very inspiring, I know, but now for the nitty-gritty:

Chisel Sharpening

Here, Geordie is sharpening one of our angled chisels, on a Japanese waterstone.


Using carbon paper, we traced the artwork onto a panel of HDU.

Drawing with a Sharpie Pen

The lines were darkened using a sharpie pen.


Cutting out the shape with a hand-held jigsaw


I guess you can tell what’s happening here, without me explaining it.

gilding brushes

Our collection of gilding size, gold leaf, and squirrel-hair brushes (No animals were harmed in the making of this film)

Peeling the stencil.

Peeling the stencil.

The finished Crest

The finished Crest!

The finished sign was shipped to St Petersburg, Florida, where it was affixed to the stern of a replica pirate ship called ‘The Red Dragon’. This vessel will make its home in Port Aransas, Texas.