How To Transfer Letters Onto Wood and Power Carve Them – Full Guide

Transferring letters on wood is very simple after you’ve done it once, from there you can leave the letters as they are, paint them, decorate them in your own way, or as we will be partly covering in the article, power carve them.

To transfer letters onto the wood you must use a permanent transferring method such as tracing carbon paper. Place the carbon paper on the wood and trace the printed letters over the carbon paper. Preferably do this twice for the carbon to be more visible on the wood.

After you have done such an outline there are a few things you can do to it. As mentioned before, we will be concentrating on power carving the letters, this is very easy even if you have never done it before, so consider trying it out for yourself by following our guide!

Step-By-Step Transfer Letters Onto Wood

In this tutorial, we will be covering transferring using carbon paper. This is only one of the many ways that you can transfer letters onto wood. For more alternative ways you can check out our guide on 9 Best Ways To Transfer A Pattern Onto Wood.

Required materials:

The computer and printer are not necessary however very much recommended to make your letters look beautiful (More on that under the next subheading). If you don’t have access to them, of course, you can also freehand the letters.

Now let’s get into every detail of the process from start to finish:

Step 1: Prepare to trace the letters

This is the first step assuming you have already printed out your letters and have them of the right size next to you. What you want to do then is to prepare to start tracing

To do that place the carbon paper on the wood and the printed out letters on the carbon paper and stick all 3 together with tape on two sides of your wood piece.

Avoid pressing on the carbon paper with your fingers. This will lead to some fingerprints on the board. While it can be fixed, it’s best to avoid it in the first place


When taping the paper to the board, try to get as much air out of under the sheets to reduce the movement as you will be tracing.

Step 2: Cut off excess paper

If you haven’t done so yet, cut off all the paper that is hanging off the side of your wood piece.

This step can be done earlier but the reason we put it second is because you don’t want to cut off too much of the printed paper right away. Cutting too much paper will result in not having area enough on the sheet to tape it to the wood piece the right way.

While you can do this step earlier, we recommend you do it after sticking the paper on the wood piece because it only takes an extra minute and removes the risk of having to restart from the very beginning.

Step 3: Trace!

You now want to slowly go over every line of your letters and have them transferred onto the wood. Unfortunately, you will not be able to see how well that transfer is going until you remove the paper. So here are a few tips on making the best job of it:

  • Have even pressure throughout tracing.
  • Too much pressure and the lines will be uneven and too little will be invisible. So try to gently but firmly press on the wood
  • Practice how your carbon paper works on a scrap piece of wood to figure out your pace and pressure before you begin the project

Step 4: Remove the paper

Everything is easy as we promised! Now you just have to remove the carbon paper without rubbing it on the wood or some of the carbon may accidentally stay on the wood.

Step 5 (optional): Power carve

Now if you are planning to make it into a beautiful 3D panel board, the next step for you is to carve it out.

Slowly carve out the lines of the traced letters with your carving tool. Try to be as even as possible and leave enough area inside the letters for them to stay grand.

Do remember that when carving you should wear your respirator!

Finally, you can clean your carving of all the wood pieces and you have the simplest form of traced and carved out letters possible. This is a very simple version of the project, you can leave it as it is, or you can add a lot of detail and volume to your carving after you completed these steps. For additional steps on making a better job out of this keep reading the article.

Making The Letters Look Beautiful On The Wood After Tracing

Unless you’ve done it right, the moment you take the carbon paper off your wood you will see a very basic and unimpressive outline of what you hoped to be an eye catching and beautiful design. This can be easily avoided if you follow the 3 rules listed below.

1. Pick the right fond

The font is basically the handwriting of your words or the style that you draw your letters in. The best way to look through a lot of different fonts is by simply experimenting with the ones that Microsoft word has and if that’s not enough you can also see 1001fonts for a great addition to what word already has to offer.

The reason that the font is very important is pretty obvious, ugly letters will make an ugly design, and finding a unique font matching your theme will make the letters on wood stand out really well.

2. Thickness of the letters

Whether you are printing out a font in a word document or drawing the letters yourself, you should pay attention to the thickness of your letters.

If some of the letters in your words have thin areas this will be very inconvenient to carve, therefore you should either avoid these fonts or work on getting each letter to the required thickness to carve.

Always pay extra attention to the letters “e”, “n”, and “i” as they often cause problems in different fonts.

To be sure that the letters are of the right size, imagine you are carving the left and right contour of the letter away, if the area in the middle is double the area of the wood you carved off, then it will look proportionally correct.

3. Trace the letters twice on wood

Carbon paper is great but not as great as a pencil. You never quite know what comes out on the other side, lines can be too light to thin or be a little curvy in places where they need to be straight.

Tracing the whole letter/word twice will make the carving process much easier as you will be clearly seeing the correct outline and won’t have to assume how it supposed to look like if the tracing sheet moved or you made a mistake that you didn’t notice at first.

Understanding how carbon paper works is pretty useful, for example, if you press on the paper with your thumb when tracing your fingermark will be left on the other side. It will be easy to erase by sanding off but such issues are better to avoid from the beginning.

To conclude, try to feel the paper that you are working on. The sheet with the pattern will inevitably move a little from the carbon paper, so it’s your job to adapt and make the best of the tracing stage to carve the wood out easier.

Adding Depth To Transferred Letters (Wood Burning)

Carving out letters on a wooden board is impressive enough, but it’s very easy to take it a step further and add another dimension to the whole project by wood burning.

Wood burning is much easier than it sounds. It is also pretty affordable even if you don’t have any of the equipment for it. We have a whole article describing in detail everything a beginner needs to know about wood burning. Check it out: Beginners Guide To Wood Burning on Carvings

If you heard of wood burning a little, then you will probably agree that adding it to your almost any wood carving is a good idea. Letters on a wooden board is not an exception! Which is why we present to you the following two ways of wood burning letters.

  • Shade letters
  • Create an igneous background and burn it

Now, you can do one, the other, or both at the same time. For shading letters check out our beginner’s guide to wood burning (Find link to it 2 paragraphs up) as for an igneous background we will explain it below.

The process of creating an igneous background is very simple. First, you burr the wood surrounding the letters with larger and smaller holes, it must look like cheese wholes or the surface of the moon. Then either continue to do the same either on the whole board, or just a selected area around the letters.

After you have prepared the surface like described above, use something like the Dremel 2200-01 Versa Flame Multi-Function Butane Torch to burn the wood into a nice black color. Try not to overburn it as if you do you will need to erase it which is not easy, be sure to look on our website how to do it if it happens though.

You can also watch how this is done at the end of the start-to-end video that we included at the end of this blog post.

Start To Finish Example Of Transfering, Carving, and Burning Letters

If you haven’t yet read the article above, it’s probably best you do it first before you watch the video, otherwise, you may miss some crucial points that are important for your work to be of high quality.

The video below will give you a visual perspective of how everything is done from start to end. Once you are already familiar with the process watching it over will help you visualize it better, so enjoy the below tutorial!

Nothing will work better for you than trying the whole process start to end for yourself! So, find a block of wood and surprise your Mother or Wife with an “I love you” message written in a beautiful fond and burned for extra volume.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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