Advice on project involving names/signatures

I am working on a gift for a colleague who is retiring. I am collecting hand-written names with the goal of incorporating into a design that can be carved into a panel (~12 x 18–currently thinking oak, but open to suggestions). I will have around 60 names, imported into Easel using Image Trace, and arranged alongside some graphic elements and “native” text.

I am considering using a gel stain (perhaps thinned a bit), thinking it would allow enough color to remain in the engravings after wiping that the detail will be highlighted. Is that a workable approach? I have experience finishing oak for other woodworking projects but have never done anything like this.

Thank you for an advice you can share!

Welcome to the forum, you would likely get better results using hard maple. The grain in the oak will give you fits at least it did me. Hand written names will take a long time to carve. I have done similar staining the wood, putting the clear coat on it then use acrylic paints to fill the text then wipe the excess off before it dries.

How about an aluminum plate? Engrave, glass bead blast, sand for a brushed look and then anodize? This attached photo is not a finished plate, but you can see the difference between blasted areas (engraved) ja and sanded areas. You can then mount the plate to some nice piece of wood.

Thanks for the advice, @SteveMoloney. I think I’ll still give the oak a try, but what you describe gives me a thought: One of my favorite ways to finish oak involves applying an initial color (usually with a dye stain), followed by sealing, then applying a gel stain glaze which, in the case of furniture, gets trapped in and highlights the grain. Seems like that might actually parallel the process you describe, especially if I’m careful about how and where I apply the glaze. The benefit is that the initial steps might be all I need to get acceptable results, making the final step unnecessary.


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Nice, but a bit above my level for the foreseeable future, though it does give me some ideas…