Sign Your Work

Sign Your Work

A few years ago I reworked a set of candle sticks for the local Masonic Lodge, stripping off the many layers of old paint and exposing the fine details. As I handled the hollow candle sticks I could hear something rattling around inside one of them. I finally pried off the bottom (held on with square nails) and found a note inside that provided the name of the builder along with the date….1878….123 years earlier.

Prior to this I had been signing most, but not all of my work.  My discovery inspired me to make sure I sign everything I make. Given the time that it takes to make a project and the care that goes into it, I strongly encourage you to do the same.

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I’ve asked the WWGOA Contributing Editors to provide their tools and techniques for signing their work. Check them out, choose a couple approaches that work for you, and make it a point to sign everything that you proudly make in your shop. If you’ve got a unique approach of your own for signing your work let us know, in the Comments section below, what it is.

Sign Your Work
George Vondriska

Early in my woodworking I developed a mark that incorporates the initials of my first, middle and last names. This mark goes in a discreet spot on everything I make, along with the wood used and the date. I make the mark by hand using a Sharpie fine pen. I do this while the wood is raw, allow the pen to dry, and then finish over the top of it. You have to be careful with wipe on finishes so you don’t smear the writing. Do a little experimentation.

Sign Your Work

These medallions were made by a local laser engraver. They have the Guitars For Vets logo on them and are counter bored into guitars we build for the organization.

I provided the laser company with the logo and maple boards about 1/8” thick. They burned the logo into the boards and then cut a perfect 1” circle from the boards. To install them we simply drill a 1” hole to the right depth and glue the medallion in.

Sign Your Work

David Munkittrick

Over the years I’ve run across many a maker’s mark (consumed a few as well). I often find dates and signatures when I’m repairing and/or refinishing a hand-made item. Other times, I discover a signature during demolition when the work has come to the end of its useful life. I always get a kick out of seeing the name of the person who did the original work. These discoveries have inspired me to carry on the tradition with my own work. Maybe it will bring a smile to some future woodworker.

I sign my work with a pencil or a wood burning pen, depending on the project. If it’s a cabinet job such as a built-in bookcase, kitchen or bath vanity, I’ll pencil in my name and date or a business card where only a demolition guy would find it. I save the burning pen for special work….what I think of as “signature” work. Most of my bowl or vessel turnings get this treatment. Also, any furniture commissions or show pieces. I have a long name so I only use my first initial followed by my last name, then the month and year.

Recently I found an interesting note from the maker of an antique washstand I was restoring. Besides his flowing signature, the builder made note of the weather; it was “Warm and Sunny” back in August of 1878.

Since then, I often include a note e.g., “Repaired, 02.12 by David Munkittrick”, or make note of the weather on my pencil projects. It’s fun to leave a trail.


Sign Your Work

Vern and Paul Mayer

Vern Mayer burns his company’s logo into each project, incorporating his initials V and M into a single image. The branding iron plugs into a standard 110V outlet and is ready to burn Vern’s logo into a hardwood plank after about 15 minutes of heat time. As part of the ordering process he provided his custom artwork in a computer file as specified by the vendor, and received his branding iron in about a month. At nearly $300 it was expensive, but his customers are impressed by the professional custom look that it adds to his pieces.

Paul Mayer’s branding iron features the words “Hand Crafted by Paul V. Mayer”. The vendor offers this as a semi-custom product that uses a stock formatted “Hand Crafted By” followed by letters of the customer’s choice to convey the individual or company name. The unit is electric-powered and heats up for use in about 10 minutes. This same style branding iron can be ordered as torch-heated for about $35 less.


Rockler Woodworking & Hardware Hand Crafted By Branding Iron, Item 70508 $129.99 800-279-4441

Sign Your Work

Paul Mayer’s branding iron features the words “Hand Crafted by Paul V. Mayer”. The vendor offers this as a semi-custom product that uses a stock formatted “Hand Crafted By” followed by letters of the customer’s choice to convey the individual or company name. The unit is electric-powered and heats up for use in about 10 minutes. This same style branding iron can be ordered as torch-heated for about $35 less.


Rockler Woodworking & Hardware Hand Crafted By Branding Iron, Item 70508 $129.99 800-279-4441


Sign Your Work

Seth Keller

I’ll admit, most of the time I don’t sign my work. It’s not that I don’t want to, I often just forget. It is usually when a client asks me to sign a piece that I take the time. I always carry a Sharpie ‘Twin-Tip’ for everyday use like marking rough cut in lumber, and I turn to the ultra-fine point for this task. I sign my full name, just like I have since 6th grade, and I add the year of completion to make it look more official! For small pieces like this round table, I am sure to lay it upside down on a packing blanket so the top doesn’t scratch.


Sign Your Work

David Radtke

After spending long hours on a woodworking gift, it’s a great feeling to get out the branding iron and give it your unique signature. It’s a way of saying “It’s finished” and it looks good enough to attach my name to it.

Years ago I ordered a fire-heated branding iron to sign my projects. The open flame is reminiscent of another era and seemed appropriate for signing projects in the age-old craft of woodworking. But if you’re a bit more well-footed into the twenty-first century than I, you’ll be happy to know there are electric models available as well. Here’s a few tips I’ve found that’ll help to get the best results.

Sign Your Work

Before ordering your branding iron, consider the type of work you’ll be branding. Order an iron that is size appropriate. If you’re making a bunch of smaller projects you’ll want an iron that’ll fit nicely onto a discrete area without overpowering it. And if you build large projects as well, you may want to buy a larger one as well. When shopping for branding irons, you’ll find a wide variety of stock designs that you can add your name onto.

Go to online retailers such as, or even If you have a specially designed logo, you can send the logo to they’ll make it to your specs (they also carry a wide variety of stock designs). While creating your own is more expensive than stock designs, it’s definitely personal.

Sign Your Work

When you get your branding iron, practice with heating it to the right temperature and then experimenting with contact time. Too-hot an iron will smoke the wood and char the imprint making it difficult to read. As for contact time to the wood, you’ll rarely need more than two to three seconds with a hot iron. Always try the heated iron out on a new species of wood you’re working with. Results on cedar will be much different than results on hard maple. When working with dark woods like black walnut or ebony, you’ll discover that the brand will be almost impossible to see. I’ve overcome this with inlaying a piece of wood with a lighter color to the underside of these dark wood projects and then branding onto that. For a simple inlay, you can buy 1/4-in. thick light-colored wood plugs up to 1-1/2 in. diameter. To order, go to Kinzel Wood Products LLC.

Sign Your Work

For best results, brand onto raw unfinished wood. A varnish finish will scorch and you could get gummy hard-to-read results. I have found however, that a light oil finish can be branded because it doesn’t have the resin build like a varnish.

As you brand your raw wood, you may get some yellowing of the wood around the brand as shown in the photo at the left. You can sharpen the detail by sanding over the entire imprint with 150-grit sandpaper and the gradually sand to lighter grits. Then apply your finish.


Sign Your Work

Sign Your Work

Bruce Keiffer

I use an engraver’s tool when I want a special look to my maker’s mark. It’s not the easiest tool to use on wood because its tip likes to follow the grain of the wood, so practice using the tool to sign your name on scrap wood to get a feel for how it works.


Dremel 290-01 Engraver Amazon (800) 344-6657

Sign Your Work

A.J. Moses

We’ve all taken pride in the woodworking creations coming from our shops – and like dutiful artists, we sign our work as a way to express that pride. Well, I tend to throw projects that turn out badly in the scrap bin. I could just as easily sign someone else’s name.

I use an indelible marker on many projects – a very common practice. In addition to that method, many of my lathe products – especially bowls – get a quarter embedded.

After turning and finishing the bottom of the bowl, I simply drill a shallow cavity with an official quarter-size drill bit.

Sign Your Work

It’s best to roughen the underside of the coin with 100 grit sandpaper. Apply CA glue to the roughened surface and press the coin into the cavity. I use the tailstock to clamp the coin in place until the glue cures.

I often pick a quarter for some reason – the state where the piece is going or the year the item was turned, for instance. Use your imagination!

I picked up the quarter size drill bit at Rockler. Most woodworking stores carry these bits.

Sign Your Work

Sign Your Work

My other method for ‘signing’ work is a branding iron – also from Rockler. It takes a few minutes to heat this iron, so it usually involves saving up several items to brand in a session. In addition to furniture, sandwich boards and other larger items, I use it to mark hive bodies for my honeybee colonies.

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11 Responses to “Sign Your Work”

  1. Tom

    Do you have a way to create a brand from a picture? I have a logo I designed as a kid that I want to use to "sign" my woodworking projects.

  2. Phyllis

    My husband turns wood. Mainly smaller items, I.e., vases, bowls, candle sticks. I would like a brand made for him. I have a design but not sure how to send it to you.

  3. Bonnie Adams

    I purchased a mantel with an emblem stamped on it. Is there a place where I can find who made the mantel and put their mark on it?

  4. john

    want to brand inside of violin repaired or built by, and date, which will change

  5. Travis

    <strong> Ticket 21517 What about duck calls what is a good way to sign your name on one?

  6. Ed Lenheim

    I want branding iron that has" PROPERTY of Edward H. Lenheim "

  7. William Haight

    How much $$ for a signature electric branding iron?

  8. JAMES

    What about the clear type that you soak in water and it slides off , on to your work ? If you are familiar with this i would like to know a good source .. I want a branding iron but i also want to attached my contact info ..

  9. Abby

    What about a paper maker's mark label? What would be the best way to adhere it?

  10. Brent Knutson

    I would like to order a branding iron for my wood working projects. What is the size of the oval with the words enclosed in the shape from Rockler.