Happy First Anniversary Sarah and Paul!

September 12th, 2015.

I’ll always remember that day. It was a perfect day. The late Vermont summer weather was perfect and the rain held off. That day my sister Sarah married the wonderful Paul Eley in a field with friends and family encircling them. It’s now been a full year since. This little post is to celebrate that first, momentous year. The first of a long stream of life together, in which Paul and Sarah are now joined by an insufferably adorable mini-human named Orion. (http://ourlittleshire.blogspot.com/)

For their wedding I made a sign. This is the story of that sign.


When we first discussed it I thought the sign could signify their road “Horn of the Moon Road” by combining a wild-looking deer horn with a moon. I was really taken with the idea, but I had now clue how I could actually make such a thing out of wood.

What does the moon look like I wondered?  How to carve that?

The plan involved bike chains because they are fun to use.  So, perhaps they might like a tree in bike chain instead?


Finally, we get the invitation. This is really going to happen!  Awesome! But, its only February. Still, I need to get building, because I have now idea what I’m doing.

Well, let’s start by routing out the names, so that they can be in bike chain. How does that work?

So far so good!  This is going to be pretty!

I’ll just finish that up, and test the whole letter.

Oooh. Problem. That’s ugly. Let’s try something else.


The dremel work behind the hatchet didn’t quite look right. The horn was too cartoon-y. So let’s start again. Perhaps Mom can design some lettering that looks nice.  Yes, yes she can!  Perfect. 2515 Horn of the Moon Road, and the simplified horn and moon motif.  It’s coming together now. I even have the oak plank that I will use for the finished piece, and oak trim to match.


Oh, but wow, that fine lettering of Mom’s can’t fit the chain. Not even close. Let’s just start seeing what we CAN do with chain.

Oh.  Okay. Not so bad.  Simple shapes.  We can do this.  That “E” looks kinda ugly, though.

Now I need to learn how to route the moon.  This’ll be tricky.  Here it is, on the test oak.

Nice moon, a good start. Too small though. Those letters will never work, however.

The detailing on the moon is nicer when you leave areas incompletely excavated. Compare the bumpy valleys I routed in the upper craters to the empty flat floor of the lower craters.  Okay. Bumps are good. Don’t excavate everything. Good to know!

Flipping the board over, I finally have a draft of all of the lettering, including a much more proper “E”. This looks downright readable!

Fitting the chain in takes some finicky back-and-forth work with the router because the chain varies in width even when it’s straight. When you bend it, it gets worse still. You want the wood to be as tight to the chain as possible, though, so it doesn’t flop around in the groove. Tricky. I’m going to have to be much more precise for the final piece.


Speaking of which it’s mid August! A month to go! I better get cracking on the final piece. Let’s start with the moon. I can do that. We’ll use the black and white simplified excavation pattern…

Hmm. This is going to take some planning.

Need to know the center, the edge, and the “horns” of the moon. The moon has to be angled up just so for the right effect.

Now, let’s sketch in the excavation pattern.

There we go! Feeling good about this. This can work.


Now to lay out the letter chain as well. Need to make this one much more tight than previously. So I have to know exactly where each join will rest. Basically need to draw the whole chain. So be it. I can trace around them, like so:

Or, I could locate each joint, like so…

There a full layout. I still wish I knew how to best mount that chain. But I can still do the moon first.

Let’s route this baby!



Many hours of careful conservative routing and fitting, routing and fitting, routing and fitting later, we have chains that make decent letters that fit snugly in the right size AND shape grooves.  Now let’s make it official.  Poly.

A small problem presented itself: Painting inside a groove is very hard to do without leaving behind way too much poly. Not only that, but even a little too much poly can make the chain not fit.

I handled that problem.

A second coat.  This is going outside.

And here we are sans chain.  Note the chain-shaped bumps on the letters though?  That’s because it is precisely designed for a chain in an exact position.

The chain.  The chain has now been de-greased, washed, brushed, sanded and de-greased again. Then cut to length for each letter, test mounted multiple times, and cleaned a final time. (They really do have lots of grease!) Can you tell which pieces are which letter?  No?  Ha.

The final stage (before the shelac, actually) – Mount the chain!

And that’s it! 

Happy Anniversary Sarah and Paul!