Best Types of Wood for Sign Making (Wood vs Manufactured)

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Sign-making has evolved into a serious woodworking activity, catering to both hobbyists and professional woodworkers. The choice of wood hinges on the sign’s intended purpose and placement (whether indoor or outdoor) will affect your decision on which type of wood. The options range from natural to manufactured, each offering distinct advantages for crafting durable and visually appealing signs.

Popular choices for handmade wooden signs include cedar, maple, oak, and cherry for their natural beauty, durability, and resistance to decay. Pine, Medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and plywood are commonly used for simple signboards due to their affordability, stability, and ease of painting or carving.

Ultimately, the choice of wood depends on the specific requirements of the project and personal preferences.

Best Types of Wood for Sign Making

Wood truck sign
Wood truck sign (Image: charlyfer)

If you look carefully at signboards, you will see that they are mostly made up of two different materials. You get the base material on which you paint the sign and the material that makes up the frame. The reason is that the base has to be painted and should not soak up too much paint. However, the paint will cover up the surface of the base.

On the other hand, we do not paint the frame, thus making it visible. Hence, the base can be of cheap material, but the frame of a sign should look smart and be of good quality if not expensive wood. For this reason, we have divided the types of wood to be used for signboards into the wood to be used for the base and that for the frame.

Best Types of Wood for Sign Bases


Plywood Substrate
Plywood (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Plywood consists of boards made of layers of wood veneer glued together with their grains at 90° to each other. We consider this as a form of engineered wood and it comes in various qualities depending on the wood that makes it up. We get plywood of varying thicknesses. It can be made of softwood like pine, spruce, cedar, and Douglas fir. It can also be made of hardwoods like mahogany, beech, and oak.

For making signboard bases, you should not bother too much about the quality of the plywood. But ensure that you select a grade that takes paint quickly.

Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)

MDF (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

This is another excellent material that you can use for making signboard bases. Due to the homogenous structure of MDF, it does not have a grain. Furthermore, it has a smooth surface upon which you can apply paint easily. It is readily available and also quite economical. This material is easy to cut and work with. There are issues with the dust particles that MDF emits while cutting and machining it. Therefore, you should wear appropriate protective gear while working on this material.


Chipboard (Image:

Particleboard or chipboard is also an engineered wood like MDF. But unlike MDF, this material does not come from wood fibers. Instead, it is made of waste chips and sawdust of different types of wood. These wood chips and sawdust come as a waste product from sawmills.

The waste product is heated and compressed into boards. The material is then treated with water-resistant, fireproof, and insect-proof chemicals, which give particleboard a fair degree of resilience. This material also takes paint quite well. All of this makes particle board a cost-effective and durable option for signboard bases.


Acacia tree
Acacia tree (Image: Forest and Kim Starr)

if you are ready to spend a little bit of money on buying solid wood, you could use acacia for your signboard base because it is cost-effective and durable. The advantage of using solid wood bases for your signboards would be resistance to moisture and long-term durability.

However, you have to be careful about the type of solid wood you select. Acacia is solid wood and readily available; therefore, it is cheaper than many other types of solid wood.  We use this wood for making many different types of wooden articles like canoes, musical instruments, and furniture as well as decorative items like wooden bowls and vases. With a little bit of wood primer, you will find it easy to paint acacia for your signboard base.


Maple Wood
Maple Wood (Image: HRYMX)

There are several varieties of maple wood – approximately 128 species. Hence, you have a wide range to choose from in terms of quality and price. Maple comes in the form of sugar maple in North America and sycamore in Europe. We also know Sugar Maple as hard maple and this wood can make good signboard bases.

With solid wood, you usually have to be bothered about the grain, but if you are going to paint it this isn’t a consideration. Just ensure that you select wood that can be sanded down smoothly and that has closed enough grain not to soak up too much paint while painting it.

Best Types of Wood for Sign Frames


Pinewood (Image: decar66)

Pinewood comes under the category of softwoods. You can get this wood all over the United States and across the world.  Pinewood is surprisingly robust, although it is a softwood. It has a pleasant yellow, creamy shade and several knots and markings impart the characteristic look of this wood. Because of its light shade, a pinewood sign frame will blend into almost any background.


Cherry Wood
Cherry Wood (Image: CG Masters)

Cherry wood is one of the most popular woods in the United States for making furniture. It has a reddish-brown tint with characteristic dark markings, giving it a classy look. Cherry wood is easy to work on and has a fair degree of water resistance, which can be enhanced with a suitable sealant. This wood has the specialty that it darkens with age. Hence, over time it gives off a warm, burnished hue, which will add class to your signboard.


Walnut wood
Walnut wood (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Walnut is by far one of the most expensive and sought-after woods in the United States and indeed throughout the world. If you make a signboard frame out of walnut with the right kind of finishing, your signboard will look very smart indeed. Walnut has a deep, chocolate-brown shade with black streaks. If you want your signboard to stand out, then walnut is the wood that you want to use for its frame.


Making signboards can be a fun project, whether you are doing it as an amateur or a professional. There are many considerations that you need to take care of if you want to make signboards properly. As we mentioned earlier, there is a lot of information on the internet on how to make signboards. But you may not find much information regarding the best wood for sign making.

For this reason, we felt it necessary to provide some information on the different types of wood you can use to make signboards. We hope that this post has been useful to you and that you can use this information to make signboard making into a successful woodworking project.

Featured Image by Atlas_Hart