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How to carve letters and

numbers with a router

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  Routed lettering, signmaking, making signs with a router   Lettering or numbers can be cut into a material for practical reasons - for example, creating a sign for your house - or it can add a personal touch to something like a box or chest. You'll only be able to do letters and numbers with a plunge router as they will not be cut from the edge of the material. You will probably need some type of clamp so you can secure the template as you rout.  

Guide bush, hand-held routing accessories


You need to make sure you select the correct size of guide bush and cutter to suit the template you use. The easiest option is to buy a cutter/bush pack which is designed to suit your specific template. You can buy a letter number cutter / bush pack with an 8mm (5/26") straight cutter and a 13mm template guide bush which is designed to work with perfectly with a standard 57mm template set of letters or numbers.


Before you begin

  Guide batten with measuring scale clamped to workpiece, using guide batten with router  

Mark your workpiece

Before you make any cuts, it’s recommended that you trace the characters in pencil onto your workpiece, or mark where they will be placed with lines, so that you can space them as desired and ensure they are even. An ideal spacing between characters is 10mm (⅜" approx.), although of course, this will vary depending upon the size of your lettering. You may wish to clamp a guide batten across the bottom of the workpiece to ensure all characters are aligned. 

  Material clamped to workbench with clamps, template clamped to workpiece  

Clamp your template

Secure the template to your material using clamps. However, you decide to position the clamps, make sure that they will not interfere with the path of the router at any point during operation. 

  Router feed direction, routing the number 1, edge of guide bush, using template to rout number 1  

Feed direction

You should rout in a clockwise direction around the inside of the template as this is against the rotation of the cutter. 

  Remove sawdust with soft brush, brush away waste material  


You should take regular breaks when completing a large routing task and check that the guide bush has not become loose. Between passes, you should also remove any waste material with a hand-held blower or soft brush to prevent any debris from misshaping the template.

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Routing the letters or numbers

  Fitting guide bush to router baseplate, installing guide bush  

Step 1 - Set up router

Fit the guide bush to the router’s base or base plate and the cutter in the collet of the router. Adjust the cutter's height to match the depth you wish to cut. For many lettering applications, routing to a depth of 2-3mm (1/16-3/32") is advised.

  Position router in relation to template, place router on template, position guide bush  

Step 2 - Position and begin routing

Place the router on the template so that the guide bush fits into the first aperture you wish to cut. Switch on the router and plunge the router bit into the surface of the material, then activate plunge lock. Move the router in a clockwise direction around the edge of the character, ensuring the guide bush spigot is always touching the inside edge of the template.

  Router removed from workpiece, plunge router sitting on workbench  

Step 3 - Finish character

When you reach the end of a character, switch off the router and wait until the bit comes to a complete stop before releasing the plunge locking mechanism and removing the router from the workpiece. 

  Adjusting number template, moving router template along  

Step 4 - Adjust template

Keeping the template butted up against the guide batten if you're using one, release the clamps holding it in place and slide it along until your next character aligns with the correct pencil marking. Then, re-tighten the clamps, switch on the router and continue cutting. 

  Wonkee Donkee, routed lettering on box, WD  

Step 5 - Finish

Once you have finished routing your characters, switch off the machine and set aside. Loosen the clamps and remove the guide batten and template to reveal your completed piece. 

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