How to make a stencil kit in software for a wooden 3-foot long bathroom pass for San Jose schools

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A neighbor just landed a job teaching at the San Jose Union School District (yes, in the bad side of town), where she asked me if I could help her with a "bathroom pass" intended to be send a message.
https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5581/15206009895_d1e78b112e_z.jpg
That pic is the raw material for the 3' by 3" by 3/4" bathroom pass, which she asked me to label with her room number & the words: ROOM B201 BATHROOM PASS
I bought a 3" yellow cardboard stencil kit to spray on the letters, but the professional stencils are a tad too big to fit all the words.
I have a router, and some bits, which I haven't ever used (they were a gift when I was in college, and college was many decades ago); but I don't have a router table (so, it would likely be a disaster).
I guess I'm asking for suggestions.
One thing that might be nice would be Windows or Linux freeware to create the characters in a size that I can print, experiment with, and then, when I get the size right, I can then cut them out and lay them on the board and spray paint on the letters.
Do you know of such stencil-kit freeware to size the letters?
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No but search sites do... https://duckduckgo.com/?q=software+for+letter+stencil
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dadiOH wrote this copyrighted missive and expects royalties:

https://lmddgtfy.net/ <chuckle>
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dadiOH wrote, on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 05:33:47 -0400:

Hi DadiOH,
I was hoping for some ideas on how to make the wooden pass, e.g., since I have a router, and bits, but no table, maybe folks can help give me ideas on how to router the letters in?
As for the stenciling, I did search, and what I currently came up with is that I downloaded the stencil true-type fonts here: http://www.1001fonts.com/stenciled-fonts.html
I unzipped the "Octin Stencil Regular" & "Octin Stencil Prison" fonts; doubleclicked on them in Linux, up popped a KDE Font Viewer which had an "Install" button.
Clicking on the Install button made the font available to all my programs, particularly LibreOffice, where I typed up it up and set the size to 150, which I have printed, and will test out on the board for size.
https://c4.staticflickr.com/4/3880/15019621160_7bc33faf8c_b.jpg
But I was also hoping for ideas on the router.
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On 09/11/2014 5:17 AM, Danny D. wrote:

<http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?pI305&cat=1,43000> Rockler and others as well may be slightly less expensive...
You can, of course, freehand them but if you've no experience you'll definitely want to practice some to see if you've got the dexterity needed.
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Chris Ahlstrom wrote, on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 06:02:37 -0400:

Hi Chris,
I appreciate your attempt at sarcasm, but what I'm asking for is advice from someone who actually has experience in routing letters on wood using stencils.
Here is a picture of my router equipment, for example:
https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5578/15019674919_ec6457fec7_b.jpg
And, here are the bits that I own:
https://c4.staticflickr.com/4/3884/15019779920_136bb1f16b_b.jpg
Bearing in mind that I have not routed anything in 40 years, and keeping in mind that I don't have a router table, how exactly do you think LMGTFY is going to help me choose the correct bit, and stencil pattern, based on your specific wood routing experience?
BTW, do you know of a specific site *better* than a.h.r. for the wood routing ideas, or better than the linux ng for the stencil ideas to go with the router?
Or, are you intimating that this is such a common question, that my previous searches (which found the fonts) should have also found how to match the wood router to the fonts?
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On 09/11/2014 5:35 AM, Danny D. wrote:

As shown in the other link, you're using the wrong technique/search--you don't use stencils for the purpose of routing...stencils are for fill-in painting and the like.

rec.woodworking (and take out all the computer-related groups; it's off-topic for them. I cut distribution down again on followup...)
You don't need/want a router table for the purpose and it's certainly possible to do freehand altho it does take familiarity/practice to do a decent job; not something one is likely to do well if haven't used a router extensively.
...
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Ok, I'll have a go at answering this.
Routing letters is normally done with a (TCT - Tungsten Carbide Tip) 'v' bit. The router is fitted with a bush which follows the inside of the template. Different sized bushes change the offset so that the cut is either closer to, or further away from the edge. I would suggest a bush which centres the cutter in the template & you control the width of the letter using the depth of cut.
Then you need a flat surface for the router to ride on. One method is to build a frame around the workpiece so that the frame is level with the template when it is placed on top of the work. The frame is sized to hold the workpiece without it moving. If oversize the workpiece can be shimmed or wedged to hold it in place.
The framework may also need a rebate around the top inside edge to accommodate the letter templates if they are larger than the workpiece. If smaller then some way of preventing them moving - thin double sided tape perhaps?
So that leaves you with the problem of sourcing the templates & a suitable guide bush (which may also need shortening for use with thin templates).
You would probably be much better off asking in a woodworking forum. Also it's a lot of work (& expense) for a one off job.
HTH
Regards wasbit
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wrote:

I hope she stores this in a bucket of bleach!
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wasbit wrote, on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 13:06:22 +0100:

This is the net, as I understood most of what you described, but it seemed like a lot of work for a one-off job.
I was hoping there would be router-specific templates where we could specify the text and the size of the text, and the router bit, and it would create it for us.
Still, as you noted, the problem is keeping the router inside the lines, which, wouldn't happen with the paper I am currently printing to.
https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5588/15207129195_fbf5c19552_b.jpg
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RobertMacy wrote, on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 05:22:41 -0700:

The deed is done, at least the first (ugly) pass. I gave up on the router idea, and went with pure stenciling. However, I made far more mistakes than I had felt like making.
For one, I should have used a FONT that had a much wider space because the O's and the M's kept ripping on me:
https://c4.staticflickr.com/4/3914/15020550427_efeb9dd170_b.jpg
For another, the paper was too thin, so I had to add a swath of tape to the front, and even that was too thin, so I had to add another swath of tape to the back.
https://c4.staticflickr.com/4/3851/15184091976_63f5c8ff45_b.jpg
One thing I realized is that you really need to cut from both ends, so, it would have been nice to have a *reverse font*, which would print on both sides of the paper, so that I could cut from both sides.
https://c4.staticflickr.com/4/3841/15020341469_e8a2558b40_b.jpg
Another flaw in my process that I had to rectify midway was that the cutting board was too hard. I needed something soft, so I added a section of cardboard, which made a HUGE difference in cutting: Another bad mistake I only realized *after* I had started painting was that I didn't stretch the paper taut against the wood enough, so, it bulged out a bit:
https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5588/15207129195_fbf5c19552_b.jpg
I'm sure that will make the letters messy, but she needs it today so, it is what it is. It's 6am right now, so, I have to drive up to her house by 7 to get it to her, so I hope it dries in time:
https://c4.staticflickr.com/4/3906/15204068231_004fecefff_b.jpg
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The last time I wasnted to print sign-writing stencils I used a spreadsheet.
Inkscape can probably do better job with layout, but I've not used it for multi-page printing.
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Just cut out the letters and glue them to the wood, or use carbon paper (or similar) to trace them onto the wood and fill in the outlines with paint by hand.
laser printers and sheets of polycarbonate offer some other interesting options.
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dpb wrote, on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 08:33:23 -0500:

Ooooh. That is nice. Verrrry nice. It's too much for a one-time job, but, it's exactly how it should be done, to be done right!
I'm embarrassed to give this to the teacher, but I had to run it over at 6:30 this morning, so, the deed is done (for now):
https://c4.staticflickr.com/4/3922/15021004310_75f0088a92_c.jpg
I told her to bring it back and I'd try to repaint it or router it better over the weekend, but I'll have to figure out a way to do it without a table and without making it look even worse.
< Not my best work >
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Jasen Betts wrote, on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:56:45 +0000:

I realized, too late, that I needed a "fatter spaced" stencil, because the letters kept breaking.
What we need is a mirror-image stencil, so we can print on both sides, exactly on top of each other, and that way we can cut from both sides.
Another thing, I only learned by doing, was that the stencil font I had downloaded had far too many corners!
It was a royal pain. Next time I'm going to try to find much more blocky letters (with fewer corners to cut), as the corners were where the paper stuck, and then ripped.
Anyway, it's not my best effort, but here it is since I had to make it last night to give to her by 6:30am this morning:
https://c4.staticflickr.com/4/3922/15021004310_75f0088a92_c.jpg
If she brings it back, I'll re-do it better, as the major mistake I made was not taping down the letters tightly.
I prefer routing anyway, so, I'll keep looking for a fast and easy routing solution.
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You would have to buy or make templates for the letters, then clamp it/them to the workpiece and route around them with your router and a template guide.
Possibly - VERY possibly - someone practiced in doing so could do it freehand but I sure wouldn't try it.
One way to make a template would be to print out your letters, afix them to a piece of ply and cut out with a scroll or jig saw. If I were going to go to that much work I wouldn't bother with a template, just saw them out of the finished board. In reality, I would just go to a stationery store, buy stick on letters and stick them on.
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People that rout signs often use either a "V" groove or core box bit.
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'Danny D.[_15_ Wrote:

That's called "Experience". When you do something for the first time, you learn what to do different next time to get better results or make the job go more quickly or easily.
If you'd have tried to make this by routering wood, you'd have taken on a much more difficult challenge, and would have undoubtedly had a much more difficult time of it.
What concerns me about giving a 3 foot long by 3 inch wide "Bathroom Pass" to students in a school in a rough part of town is that it's the perfect size to be used as a weapon to whack some other student or teacher. I'm kinda thinking that what that school is doing might have equally been done by stenciling "Bathroom Pass" on baseball bats, and giving those to students. It's an irresistible invitation to whack someone or something with it.
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nestork wrote, on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:44:21 +0200:

I initially had the same concerns.
I was told, by the teacher, that some of the other teachers actually give them a bathroom plunger (the real thing!), and another gives them a long length of plastic pipe.
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Danny D. wrote:

Why try to do this in software? Measure your material, cut out a piece of paper of the same size, and draw it by hand (use a ruler). Or drill a hole on the end of a 2' piece of 2by4, and consider it done.
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