Garden House was the hardest piece of wood I have ever carved. I’m not sure what wood it is—the customer gave it to me. It was like rock!
I use a clear matte deck stain on the wood, which also comes in various tints and sheens. How long it lasts outdoors varies depending on location. In full sun, about a year is all you can realistically expect. I have some pieces in the shade that are still good after many years. I explain this to customers, and tell them that when it starts to go, to bring the sign back for refinishing—for a modest price!
Philip’s Villa and the slate/wood Phandara signs were lovely to carve, much like mahogany.
This sign was made from a piece of wood called mai yang which was cut from large branches that were trimmed from huge trees here on the island.
Sometimes real wood works for the mounting but isn’t practical for a background, so I paint it as an effect. Sabai Cafe and Drift use a cartoon-like woodgrain on painted plywood.
Fizz is one of my favorite pieces. It is made of two massive chunks of wood slotted together with the F carved into the upright slab. Fizz is one of the more successful bar/restaurants on Koh Tao.
My first attempt at the wood slat background on Drift failed miserably, as I had the strips all the same length and at 45 degrees so that it looked like a piece of lattice. Changing the lengths and the angle made it look much funkier. And funk is number one in my shop (along with soul and blues!).
I painted their logo on a bark-edge slab of mai yang.
The owner of Villas del Sol saw another wooden sign I had done and wanted something similar. He supplied the laminated wood—which he had planned to use for a table.
All three of these signs, Solana, the sun face and Eliana use carved, gilded slate framed with wood.
This sign is two pieces of wood joined together, with the joint hidden by a V-routed green line.
This is a typical mounting of mine for painted plywood signs—a wood base with a natural finish.
For directional signs, I typically use hardwood, as plywood starts to delaminate when they are small like this. And the wood just looks better!

Putting wood to work

Real wood adds real beauty to custom signage

By Rob Cooper

Posted on Thursday, October 26th, 2017

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In today’s high-tech, synthetic world, it’s easy for signs to start looking all the same. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, rectangular white printed signs make up the vast majority of what you see. Even here in Thailand.

I like to use wood to help make a sign unique. A wood slab can make a remarkable substrate for a sign. But even just adding a wooden frame or legs can make it stand out from the crowd. The beauty of wood can add a lot to a sign.

Thailand has a long history of using tropical hardwoods for many different purposes, from high-end resorts to whole villages in the north that are dedicated to carving amazing works of art. People here still appreciate a piece of wood with a beautiful grain finished with a natural clear finish that gives it a softness, yet a strong look.

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Rob Cooper’s shop is in Koh Tao, Thailand.

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