This Faux Wood Precision Board HDU Sign was Hand-Carved!

Andrea Craig is the Lead Designer for JH Signs & Designs. Her client, True North Salon & Spa, wanted an outdoor woodsy feel to her sign, but without the hassle of frequent maintenance due to the harsh Minnesota weather. She decided to go with a sign that looked like wood, but would last a lot longer and require minimal upkeep. Andrea designed a faux wood sign using Precision Board HDU. She likes that she can get the wood look while avoiding issues of staining or rot. Read on to see how she achieved a faux wood look on high-density urethane with hand-carving tools and different types of paints.

faux wood

Andrea tells us, “we had some direction from the client and this was the 8th or 9th option. She really wanted the state of Minnesota to be part of it and we started with that in the background. We ended up putting it as the ampersand in the words.”  She added, “We wanted the outdoor feel without being too much outdoors and we really wanted her name to be readable.”

For Andrea, the biggest reason for using Precision Board HDU and making it look like wood was the maintenance factor.   “With real wood you have staining and longevity issues.  With HDU, you have the ‘it doesn’t rot’ factor.”  She added, “being in central Minnesota, you get a little north of us, you can get all kinds of real cool rough cut wood, but it needs maintenance.  Our client didn’t want to have to keep updating it every few years.”

Craig used PBLT-15 Precision Board high-density urethane.  She took two sheets cut to 48″ x 56″ and then glued them together. From there she used a pattern she had made to cut the top and bottom of the HDU to look like individual boards.  All the work was done by hand with a Dremel and various carving tools.

Outside of using a straight edge ruler to draw the straight lines indicating where the boards were supposedly separated, the rest of the patterns were all hand carved.  “I printed out a couple different wood patterns for reference,” she says.  “I didn’t want the ‘wood’ to look all the same.”

Andrea used Ronan Fast Dry Blockout White to prime the HDU.  She then used a mixture of 1 Shot Medium Brown, Ronan Black and Ronan White mixed to create the charcoal gray base color.  “From there I used different shades of light browns and grays to give each board a different color. I then layered different shades with a dry brush technique on each board to give depth and variation,” she added.

To finish off, she made a wash that was really thinned down to bring out the colors and enhance the wood grain.  After that, a Rustoleum Matte Clear Enamel spray was used to take the gloss off and make it more realistic with a matte texture before the metal went on.

The middle layer is actually an 1/8th inch poly metal with an Avery Supreme Wrapping Film Brushed Titanium wrap on it to make it look like metal without actually being metal.

The letters are laser cut acrylic from Gemini, stud-mounted with additional standoffs to get them off the metal a little bit more.

Total project time was about 8-10 hours to fabricate the entire sign and about two hours of hand carving time for the faux wood HDU portion of it.

Andrea has been using HDU off and on over the last thirteen years and her current boss has used it for at least 20 years.  She says, “with wood, you can have a vision, but not find what you’re looking for.  With HDU you can get the look you want.  It really opens the door to creativity.”  She says, “don’t be afraid to play with it.  You have to think outside the box. Pretty much nothing is off limits.”

faux wood


JH Signs & Designs is a small progressive company that believes that image is everything. “If your business looks good, business will be good.” They stand behind their products and have a firm belief that if you treat the customer right and have a great product, you never have to worry about having a happy customer.  They have been making and installing signs in Perham since 1999.  Trust the professional staff at JH Signs & Designs to use the best materials that will last and make your business have the professional image to guide your customers to your door.  You can visit their website or call them at (218) 346-7446.


Coastal Enterprises manufactures Precision Board HDU, a versatile, cost-effective and eco-friendly urethane sign material that is particularly effective for making professional-looking indoor and outdoor dimensional signs.  It is a closed-cell rigid substrate that does not rot, warp or crack.  You can request free samplesget a quote or sign up for periodic newsletters packed with helpful information.