Need advice: Staining, sealing, and mounting cedar carved signs

Hi all,

I am looking for some advice on how to finish my signs. I am pretty new to woodworking and I was hired by a family member to make 3 medium size signs ranging from 11"x 18 to 16" x 22". She wants these signs outdoors to be used at the start of a “stone labyrinth” and in a garden.

So, I know that I can carve the signs just fine… but I am not sure how I should stain them, seal them and mount them. I am working with 0.75" cedar (supposed to hold up well to weather).

Here is what I want to do:

  1. I would like to paint the letters with black outdoor paint.

  2. Then I would like to stain the wood to bring out the grain a bit, and go for a slightly darker tone.

  3. Then I would like to seal the wood so that it can stand up to rain and UV weathering for at least a year at a time. I have read around about people using Spar varnish (saying it lasts about 4 years), or a sealer and re-applying it every year or so (with good maintenance, claimed to last 30+ years).

I want to provide something that will last for at least 10 years… so I am fine with providing her the seal/stain to be re-applied annually.

  1. I then want to mount the signs onto a post. 2 of the signs will be in a “stacked” formation, with a larger sign mounted above a smaller one - at the beginning of the labyrinth.

So, I’d love to get some recommendations on how to stain the wood and seal it, and then recommended ways to mount it in an aesthetically pleasing way. I know nearly nothing about staining and sealing outdoor pieces… so can I stain it first, then paint the letters, then seal it? What is the recommended order? Or should I not use a stain and then sealent because the sealant won’t absorb? Total noob here.

Also, I want to mount the signs onto a post (not too bulky). Should I mount the signs onto the post first with rust-proof fasteners? then try to fill the holes with putty, then do the staining/painting/sealing? Or is there a better way to mount them without fasteners?

Here is a picture of my first sign, one of the smaller ones… this will be on it’s own separate post placed in a garden.

Thank you for any help you might be able to offer!

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Wow! That is quite a large sign / glue up!

Ok, thank you for the great info Phil… but I am still a little bit lost on a few parts.

  1. When you say “natural stain” what does that mean? Is there a particular type I am looking for? Oil based, etc? Any specific type/brand you recommend for cedar?

  2. When you say that you use UV proof poly satin clear… is that a spar varnish or a different type of seal? Do you have a particular brand that you use? maybe a link to the product?

  3. When you mount a sign like the beautiful DCOT ACRES sign you made… how do you mount it? If it’s only 3/4" material… do you use through bolts/screws? Or do you have a technique for not showing any fasteners in the front?

Thanks for all your help Phil. You are an amazing craftsman!

Thank you Phil! Very helpful!!

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Does this protect from UV well though? Like would it last 4+ years without the wood/paint/stain fading? Looks easy :slight_smile:

This works extremely well. I use it on all my signs. One note though I do use the spray can