Leave the Maker's Mark
When I was little, one of my favorite TV programs was Zorro. I was mesmerized by that black-caped swordsman and envisioned myself in each of those 82 episodes. I even took up fencing in college only to find the reality of the sport did not match my skills.
Though my professional dueler career never materialized, what did stick with me was how Zorro left his iconic mark after each heroic deed. Whip, whip, whip—the mark of a "Z." Odd as it may seem, I think there is a lesson here for woodworkers.
Most of us make projects for friends and family, and that's what motivates us. We think of that recipient during each step in the process, from concept through construction and completion. We eagerly await that look of amazement and gratitude as we hand over our labor of love. Many times, the only thing that's missing is the mark of the maker, your inner Zorro. That symbol tells a lot about an object's creator, and provides a sense of their personality and creativity.
I've been leaving my mark ever since I started creating projects, not to bolster my ego but as a way of providing a final touch to that special gift. Here are some suggestions for leaving your mark.
Simple signature.It's yours, it's unique, and it's literally a personal touch (opening photo). The solvents in some finishes may blur your signature, so use an indelible fine-point marker after the final finish coat dries.
Branding iron. I used this method early in my career, and I still brand things such as cutting boards that will be continuously oiled and washed (photos below). It's always best to practice your heated stamp timing on a scrap board because you only get one chance on the finished project.
Custom medallions.Do you have a laser engraver or know someone who does? Now that these machines have become increasingly more affordable, making personalized medallions of wood or metal and inlaying them into your work is a snap (below). Design a circular medallion that matches the diameter of a Forstner bit, and you have the perfect way to really add impact.
A "signature" piece of wood. I met a man years ago who includes a piece of purpleheart in every project he makes. It may be a plug-cut dowel, part of a lamination, or just hidden in the project somewhere.
An inlaid penny. This is my "go-to" mark (below). A 3⁄4 " Forstner bit creates a perfect-size recess for an appropriately dated penny. Drill 1⁄16 " deep to set the penny flush with the surface, then secure the coin with a dab of two-part epoxy. The copper color looks great, and it stays bright if you seat the penny before applying finish. Each year's coins usually begin to show up in late winter or early spring. I also sign the project next to the penny and sometimes write a meaningful little note.
I typically hide my penny mark in an out-of-the-way place, such as the back side of a drawer box, or at the bottom of a headboard. I like the subtlety, and think that looking for that hidden mark adds even more interest to the project.
Working in your shop creating that perfect gift is a very rewarding experience. You put your heart (and occasionally a bit of blood) into that project. Make the final touch your maker's mark. En Garde!