Best wood for outdoor sign

A friend asked me to make him a 18x27 poolside sign for his backyard. I think I know how I want to carve it all out on my shapeoko but looking for wood suggestions. (Outside, exposed to elements, Long Island weather)
Being 18 across my first thought was plywood of some kind. Maybe store bought but I’ve never used MDO before but open to try it (wow it’s expensive) or am I better off jointing some pine boards together, carving, painting and sealing the heck out of it.

I tried to offer him a carved/stained look but he wants it painted like the attached image.

I might pose this question on some woodworking forums but this community is always great so I thought I’d try here first.

Since it will be painted, why use wood?

My suggestion would be a PVC panel — you can get them w/ wood grained surface — which once painted should hold up very well in the weather.

If they want a natural, weathered look, then teak or cedar planks glued up — but if it’s going to be painted, why bother?

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See, that’s what I was thinking but by default I always think of making things from wood.

And the shapeoko will cut pvc the “same” way? Do they make a 1 inch thick pvc panel to work with? Does it take paint the same way?

Now you’ve got me going down the rabbit hole :thinking:

or possibly mix wood and plastics: carve a plain pocket in a large piece of wood, with no details inside the frame, fill it will blue epoxy, surface it once hardered, vcarve the white text, fill it with white epoxy, surface when hardened, vcarve the anchors, fill with black epoxy, etc…you end up with the image as shown. You could even mill away the wooden frame afterwards.

Multi-color epoxy inlays are fun and straightforward. Or maybe I just hate painting and prefer pouring epoxy, I don’t know :slight_smile:


Home Depot has PVC in 1/2" & 3/4"
Good article on painting PVC: How to Paint PVC Pipe — FORMUFIT

Epoxy done well can look very professional, however expensive.

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This little sign is ¾" PVC. It’s been outside, facing south, in Ohio for almost 3yrs. Still looks the same. Holding up better than the cheap cedar the playset is made of.


I’m going to pile on another vote for PVC panel…

@Dennis posted a nice compilation of his cool sign making to give you more ideas on the looks people achieve with it. My Collection of Signage - Gallery - Carbide 3D Community Site

Cuts quite nicely too.

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Pretty cool playset.

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I use PVC a lot. It cuts very well. I use the 1 inch which is actually 3/4. Look at home depot or lowes under Royal Building products. You can get it in boards 5.5, 7.25, 9.25, or 11.25 wide. Home Depot also has it in sheets.


I have always used wood if the sign is going to be painted, and PVC is $$$$$$$$$!
To much for my blood. Wood does well when painted well.


I do a lot of signs for conservation properties in my area (volunteer work). We have been using a lot of Colorcore which is a bit pricey but makes a nice sign. You can get smaller quantities:


MDO is just a good quality exterior plywood with a treated paper surface. It takes paint well and doesn’t check like rotary cut exterior plywood does. You do need to seal the edges, so carving it would seem to defeat it’s biggest advantage. If I were making it for myself I would joint up some wood-- but I’m CHEAP. If your doing it for money, I would go with the plastic. I have never used it so I am curious what paint and primer works best.

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yeah, again my instinct is “what’s the best wood for this” but it sounds like the PVC might be the easiest. unfortunately i’ll have to factor in the cost of plastic-approved paint as well

@neilferreri can i ask what you painted it with? (Please don’t say paint :laughing:)

Rust-Oleum rattle can.
I’ll look around the basement later to see if I can find the exact can. I use oracal oramask (I think it’s 813) to mask, V-carve, paint and peel off the mask.


I wanted a sign for on my dock space behind the boat.

This was cut out of 1/2 x 11.25" PVC. I used the smooth side up and the wood grain on the back. For paint black was rustoleum rattle can for the other colors I used some acrylic paints then sprayed a clear coat over when done. I do not have a picture it finished, I will have to get one later on.


such clean lines…that looks amazing. when are we going out on the boat? :wink:

Big fan of PVC–like many others on here. I wouldn’t consider anything else but Teak for natural wood. Cumaru is a Brazilian Teak that is relatively inexpensive and stands up to weather exceptionally well. I get Cumaru at Woodcraft store, and it’s super solid and carves well on a CNC. You could glue up a few boards.
If I were in your shoes, I would look into those two for your options.

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For my outdoor projects, I typically turn to cypress. It’s readily available at my lumber store in the Atlanta area. My wife and I have a rental house on Pensacola Beach, completed in 2006. It faces due south and takes on the sun all year. A friend and I made the fish shaped railings, shown in the picture, out of cypress, 150 of them. To prep for house repainting, I just replaced 4 of them after 16 years, including numerous storms and hurricanes. I cannot imagine what the cost would be if I used any other material.


i’lll definitely keep all these great ideas in mind. I went back to my guy and said i can make it all out of wood and seal it against the elements and i told him the price

havent heard back…i might have spooked him with the number