I believe sand blasted redwood signs started making a showing in the early 1970’s. Walter Methner was doing sand blasted signs down in the beach area of Orange County. There were also a lot of redwood signs being done with a router, but the router limited the design and the fonts that could be used.
Redwood was the wood of choice for custom wood signs because it would sand blast easily, accepted paint really well and could be glued up to make larger panels if necessary,and it was light weight. Another plus for these signs was that they could be gold leafed. 2x blanks were the common thickness.
I did my first sandblasted sign in 1972 when a friend of mine, Gary Metcalf, wanted to do one. He had seen a sandblasted wood sign and asked if I would like to try making one. We also discovered that sand blasted signs were starting to appear in Signs of the Times sign magazine especially from a group of guys in Denver called the Letterheads.
At that time we layered masking tape to act as a resist against the sandblasting and we cut the stencil by hand with the xacto knife. A labor intensive job, but it worked and we were ‘wowed’.
When my father passed in 1974 I wanted to do his headstone and learned from a guy at Whittier Monument Co., Al Privetera, about 3M 507 tape, or ‘buttercut’ as we learned to call it. Buttercut allowed intricate designs to be cut on the stencil, kind of like linoleum block cutting, using the xacto knife. The wood surface had to be sealed really good so the adhesive on the buttercut wouldn’t remove any of the wood surface.
I always hand cut my stencils. This sign was done in the pre-computer days and wielding an xacto knife was almost as good as weilding a brush. I did this sign for my sister who moved to Texas back in the 1990’s