Creating an Architectural Gable with Precision Board HDU

When Shane Durnford created an architectural gable for a home, he used Precision Board HDU and hand-carved the incredible detail into it. For him it was a return to sign work & he couldn’t be happier about it. Shane talks about bringing this work of art to life through craftsmanship, skill and the use of Precision Board HDU.


Durnford was a sign writer in the 80s doing lettering and specialized in handcrafted signs. He taught himself how to carve in 1989 and it took on a life of its own from there.  Over the next 20 years Shane created thousands of premium carved and crafted signs for commercial, municipal and residential commissions.  After taking a break from carving and sign work, Shane recently had the opportunity to create an architectural gable from some PBLT-18 Precision Board HDU and jumped at the chance.

“This was my return to sign work and hand carving. It never left me. As soon as I picked up the tools, it came back to me,” Shane says. “It’s fun. I missed the craft.”

It took him about 100 hours altogether for the design and carving of the gable. He started with a flat piece that had the general shapes in it and then worked from there to carve dimension into the substrate.  “The 18 lb. Precision Board sheet was only about four inches thick, so I used shadow to give it a bigger look,” Shane says. “I start with a low point and high point for reference and then bring the picture into focus by shading with light and undercutting to give the substrate dimension,” he added.

Almost all of Shane’s work has birds in it. “They are poetically beautiful creatures.” he says.  “Almost everything I do is nature oriented and organic in shape and line. I think living in the beautiful countryside where I had my studio for years had a great influence on my work. It’s the place where my muses live.”

Because the bird’s wing on the right side of the gable was only about an inch thick, he drilled a ¼” brass rod through the bird and into the wing to give it strong support.  Durnford then used Benjamin Moore primer and latex paint with an eggshell finish.  He says, “I thought about painting the apples red, but it would visually clutter the sign and be a distraction to the entire architectural nature of the sign. More of a gable architectural feature instead of a sign.”

Pro Tip: “When carving, take it one section at a time. Pick your highest and lowest depths and establish those areas and then carve the remaining elements in relation to those two points. The detail comes at the very end, like a picture coming into focus.  Design and carve by feel and intuition and try not to over think the process. It’s like sketching. Rough it out and establish the over all composition, and then refine the detail. The learning curve is always steep and never ending. That’s what I love about it.”

Shane likes the feeling he gets when hand-carving high-density urethane.  “It’s a meditative and natural process. When I carve, I try to work intuitively. The carving pulls you inside the work and time passes effortlessly. You forget yourself and let the design find you.”

We asked him how he knows when a particular carving is finished.  “It depends on the piece. For exterior pieces I limited the detail, since it will be viewed at a distance. For more interior pieces the extra refinement adds to the intimacy and expression of the piece.”


Shane prefers to work with Precision Board HDU because there’s no grain or knots and has a nice consistent density.  He says, “no matter where you are on the material, it’s all the same consistency. It helps the carving, so you don’t have to adjust your work for the material.  I’ve used other sign materials and they don’t hold the edge like Precision Board does. The tools get along well with it.”   He adds, “I like the natural color too.  It’s a little thing, but it affects the mindset when carving.”

Durnford elaborates a bit more on his style.  “I approach the work as a designer rather than just a carver. The sign design criteria easily translates to interior architectural pieces like entranceways,  newel posts, mantels.  I think the key is to feel it when designing and carving. It makes for an authentic and honest piece that engages and connects with people.”

A great selling point for commercial signage.


Shane graduated from Toronto’s George Brown Signwriting program in 1981. With lettering quill in hand and a box of paint, he started from a humble shop in Creemore, Ontario and, within a few short years, had become a highly sought after Signcrafter. As a Registered Graphic Designer, Shane quickly became known for not only his superb hand crafting skills but also for his novel image consulting and design services, across various mediums: logos, websites, promotional/advertising material, illustration, corporate branding, and showpiece signage. His unique brand is sensory storytelling thru maximum impact, multifaceted visual imagery.

Shane’s work and articles have appeared in international trade publications. National exposure in major Canadian magazines and television. His work, as well as articles, are well respected within the industry. He has hosted design workshops, participants from as far away as Australia. He is retained as key note speaker for branding strategies by municipalities.  Shane Durnford Studios can be found on a variety of platforms, including his new Instagram account.  For more information and other social platforms, check out his website.  Design & Carving workshops are being organized for Summer 2018, more information to come. Email Shane to receive more info and pricing when it becomes available.

Coastal Enterprises offers free samples of Precision Board HDU.  You can also sign up for our monthly blog roundup, which is jam-packed with helpful blogs on people like Shane doing creative and interesting things with Precision Board.  You can also give us a call with your questions at 800-845-0745.  We’d love to hear from you!