Signing Your Furniture Pieces

Custom furniture makers share thoughts and suggest techniques for signing pieces. December 15, 2005

How do you woodworkers sign your pieces? Do you use a branding iron, dremel or ink? I engrave using a dremel before the finish goes on. Do you number the piece and keep a log of the price and who bought it - not just for tax purposes but for a historical record?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor A:
I sign mine with a dremel. I engrave my initials in a very out of the way spot. I do keep a separate log entry on each piece. I photograph each piece and make note of any distinct construction procedures and time, woods used, how much it sold for, when and to whom.

From contributor B:
I like to hide time capsules in normally inaccessible voids within the structure instead of signing. I usually leave copies of my drafting work for the project, dates, credit for any other craftsman who had a hand in the project, and a short hand written note about anything of interest that occurred during manufacturing.

From contributor C:
My dad collected antiques and we now own a cherry corner cupboard built by Daniel Boone’s nephew. He signed the back in chalk. Dad made the point that chalk or pencil does not fade or bleed. My policy is to use pencil in an obscure place on the piece. If the piece is a prototype or part of a series I add that comment as well.

Dayville, OR
Oct. 2004
Pine Bench w/linseed oil 2x

From contributor D:
These are all good answers to an interesting problem. I have seen plenty of chalk marks in old pieces, never really paid much attention to them. I might have missed something there. The furniture maker who taught me never signed any of his work. He figured his work spoke for itself, and those who knew his work would recognize it. I must say, it was unique enough that it was unmistakable. I have signed some of my work, and left other pieces unsigned. Lately I have been milling my name and the date on bottom of furniture using a V bit. I like the idea of hiding some info somewhere on the piece.

From contributor E:
I remember during my first furniture making job, my boss cut himself. Rather than rushing to the first aid box, he smeared some of the blood on the underside of part of a cabinet we were making. He said he liked to think that there was a bit of him in the furniture he made. I would not recommend this, but it had a lasting impression on me. We have used a custom made brass name plate in the past but unless it is routed in flush, even this can look like a factory logo.

From contributor F:
I generally print my name, the date, and Philadelphia, which is where I am located. I do this over a light smear of shellac so that the ink does not blur, and it is placed is a very out of the way place, such as on the inside of the carcass, under the bottom drawer.

From contributor G:
I like the idea of signing my work. I've thought about it. I also thought about having everyone in the shop who worked on it (this would work in a small shop) sign it as well.
I figure if their name goes on it, they will take a little more care in what they do.

From contributor H:
I use a burning tool to sign and date all of my work. In 1980 I was making some Japanese influenced work for myself, and decided to sign it with cuneiform lettering which ended up becoming my logo ever since. I started signing some of my smaller works on the front by working it into the design. Now my clients would not think of letting me get away without signing my work. I guess they think that when I am dead, the value will sky rocket or something. But they don't want to give me a lot of money now to insure that it is more valuable when I am dead and gone. I use the following method - today would be 041705 – that goes on the tracking list along with wood type and description.

From contributor I:
I brand mine. That way when I'm gone, if someone wants to know for sure, they have proof. It's always in an area not normally viewed.

From contributor J:
I brand my chairs with a monogram iron I made from hard brass and silver solder.
I remember a Little House on the Prairie episode that started with a present day auction. They commented about a table with a CI monogram brand - only a few were known to exist but apparent copies of lesser quality were around. The story continued about Charles making tables he designed until a manufacturer down the street bought one, copied it, and underpriced him out of business.

A Windsor chair maker nearby signs and dates his work so as to not confuse them with older Windsor Chairs. Some of his chairs were commissioned for Independence Hall in Philadelphia. I would like to think my monogram on the right rear leg of my work will mean something in the future after I'm making chairs in God's house.

From contributor K:
The last piece that I signed was a donation to be auctioned. It was made of ash with a clear finish. Before the last coat of clear was applied I signed and dated the piece on the bottom in a not so obvious spot with a fine gold paint pen then applied the last coat of clear. The gold color was almost the color of the ash but was readable. This worked well, and the lady who won the bid on the piece recognized my name and made a point of telling me how much she enjoyed it and encouraged me to make another donation this year with a suggestion on an item that she would surely bid on.

From contributor L:
My wife makes custom ceramic tiles. I had her make a mold of one for me and if possible I try to embed one somewhere out of the way.

From contributor M:
A local trophy shop can turn out a custom sized and lettered plaque for four to six dollars - much less expensive than a sign maker's price. A branding iron would cost almost ten times that much and can't be customized for the customer or gift recipient. If it's not a special job I like to sign and date in pencil between clear coats on the left inside of the top drawer.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor N:
I ran into a client this week who, after a year, discovered my black ink signature under her cocktail table while doing yoga. The inscription goes like this; "Designed & Built for the "Doe" family celebrating the occasion of "Dick and Jane's" wedding anniversary by: "my signature", company name, city, date, and a list of the wood species and other materials like aluminum etc. She said she was moved by the note. I said I still have more of the big leaf maple for some matching end tables. I think what moved her was that it included something about her and her husband and their hopes, not my signature. Usually pieces don't have an occasion, just built for/ by.

Comment from contributor O:
I make cedar railings and headboards and nail a copper trap tag with name and address in an area not normally viewed. For $4-6 dollars you can get a hundred or so.

Comment from contributor P:
I sign my work by inlaying a penny with the current year in an unobtrusive spot. I use a forstner bit to drill the hole so the penny is flush with the surface and a bit of superglue to make sure it stays. I also stamp my initials into the penny, using steel punches, then lacquer over it.