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Overview of Wood Plaques

Fig. 1 - This picture shows the wide variety of styles of our dimensional wood wall plaques for Federal, State and city governments, the military, businesses, universities and clubs. Some plaques are carved in 3-D bas-relief, others in 2.5-D relief. Shown are African Mahogany, Cedar, Maple, Redwood, and 24K gold-leaf gilded Mahogany plaques.


Welcome to our section  describing our wood plaques, where we show over two hundred examples of various types of natural and stained wood plaques in three photo galleries. This section describes  our natural and stained wood plaques;  our painted High-Density-Urethane (HDU) plaques are described in our Artist-Painted Plaques section, and our metal-plated, gold and silver-leaf gilded,  and solid cast metal  plaques are described in our Metal Plaques  section. 

We design and fabricate thousands of beautiful  custom 3-D and 2.5-D natural wood plaques each year for  military units, police & sheriffs, universities, fraternities & sororities, clubs, corporations, government agencies, and  homes.  Each  plaque is custom crafted  by our experienced and skilled wood craftsmen and artisans. We use  several different species of wood and staining techniques to make these impressive and authentic wood plaques, which will retain their beauty over many decades. We also make wood signs that utilize other add-on features, such as 24K gold-leaf,  aluminum-cladding, carved 3-D HDU appliques, digitally-printed colored vinyl giclee photos, and engraved brass plates. We combine  our materials and technologies to make you a plaque that is beautiful yet fits within your budget.  All our wood plaques are  moisture-resistant, non-fading, graffiti-resistant and long-lasting, and can be placed outdoors as well as indoors. We spray every indoor and outdoor plaque with two coats of UV and graffiti-resistant Matthews polyurethane acrylic clear in our paint spray booth. You have a choice of satin or semi-gloss  clear-coats.

This section, along with the three photo Gallery web pages listed above horizontally under the gold masthead above, describes and shows over a hundred examples of our wood plaques. We offer  several wood species and carving techniques for our wood plaques, each with different prices:

(1) African Mahogany (Style Categories 1.3.1 & 1.3.2)

(2) Softwoods  Western Red Maple and California Redwood  (Style Categories 1.3.3 & 1.3.4)  

(3)  Domestic Hardwoods  Maple, Oak, Cherry & Walnut, (Style Categories 1.3.5 & 1.3. ).


The prices for each of these different styles for various size plaques is given on the PRICE page , listed by Style Category and plaque size. 3-D bas-relief plaques have higher prices than 2.5-D flat relief plaques because of the additional labor and time to carve and hand-sand  them. Prices also depend on plaque size, wood species (which varies depending on wood availability and lumber prices), and any special features. Prices are higher for plaques that have some areas painted with an artist brush, have 24K gold-leafed text or artwork, or have engraved brass plates. Fig. 1 above and the photos on this page   show examples of these different styles of wood  plaques.

You are  welcome to call Christie, Regina or Liz at 951-698-8484 to discuss these various options or you can email us at to get more information, to describe or discuss a plaque you want made, or to get  specific quotes.

Fig. 2 - This picture shows Mahogany, Cedar, Maple and Oak wood wall plaques . All plaques are carved in 3-D bas-relief, except for the National Park "arrow" plaque in the center, which is engraved.


Our wood  wall plaques and signs are carved from kiln-dried prime-grade Western Red Cedar, all-heart vertical grain California Redwood, or premium hardwoods such as African mahogany  or furniture-grade Red Oak, Maple, Cherry, Alder, and Black Walnut. We order our wood blanks from Forest Wood Products. a large lumber mill, which fabricates these large blanks from  kiln-dried matched  wood of the same species using  milled strips 1.5 inches thick,  2 inches wide and 4 to 8 feet long.  12 to 24   strips are edge glued together along their lengths, and put into a large machine that squeezes the strips together along their length. This process results in  integral one-piece wood boards  typically 2 to 4 ft wide , 4 to 8 feet long, and 1 to 3 inches thick.  The strips are color matched so there is minimal "striping" from different shades of the wood caused by differences in the colors of milled planks from different trees or from different parts of the same tree.   Both sides of the fabricated board are planed smooth and flat with a large planer,  resulting in a constant thickness smooth wood panel suitable for making several plaques of various sizes. We then cut and carve multiple  plaques from these boards with our CNC routers in 3-D bas-relief, 2.5-D flat-relief, or engraved relief. 

We carve these plaques in a manner similar to that of High-Density-Urethane (HDU)  plaques with one of our six 5 x 10 feet table CNC routers.  Because wood has a higher-density, and has  grain structures (which HDU does not, because it is isotropic), wood takes longer and carves slightly  less cleanly than HDU (i.e., rougher cuts), which have to be hand-sanded.   Hardwoods with fine grain structure like Mahogany  and Cherry carve the best of the wood species; we can carve fine 3-D details on very small intricate hardwood Mahogany plaques, similar to the quality of HDU carvings,  which we cannot do with softwoods such as Cedar or Redwood.  However, the carving  quality for Cedar and Redwood is very good for larger 3-D plaques (greater than 16 inches) or 2.5-D and engraved  plaques, where less detailed and intricate carving is required. It takes about twice as long to carve hardwood plaques on our CNC routers as it does Cedar and Redwood, which take about the same time as HDU. It also takes longer to hand-sand Mahogany. Maple, Cherry and Oak than the softer woods. We can also sandblast the wood backgrounds for 3-D and 2.5-D plaques, bringing out the wood grain.

After carving on our CNC routers, sandblasting (optional) and hand sanding, we may stain the plaques to darken to wood and/or even out any color variations, or we may leave the wood its natural color.  We sometimes apply two or three coats of stain. We use MinWax Wood Finish penetrating oil stains, and can use any of  MinWax's 28 standard colors. However, we usually use Red Mahogany or Gunstock for Mahogany or Redwood, Golden Oak for Oak, and Natural or Dark Walnut for Cedar plaques. We wipe off excess stain, and we lightly sand the plaque after each coat of stain. We then  put the plaque in our heated drying room of 2 or 3 days after we apply each coat of stain. Finally we spray on two coats of Matthews polyurethane clear-coat.

Some of our wood plaques have some areas painted, with the rest of the plaque stained or left natural.  We paint these areas  with 1-Shot Sign Paint (these cost over $200/gallon), and then finish them with Matthews clear-coat, which is UV and graffiti resistance, so there is very little fading when the sign is exposed to direct sunlight if the plaque is mounted outdoors. Any graffiti can usually be cleaned off with acetone.

For some plaques, especially dark-stained Mahogany plaques with engraved V-carved text, we can gild the engraved text and/or artwork with 24K gold-leaf or pure 0.99 fine  silver leaf. These plaques have a very rich and elegant appearance. We can also mount engraved brass plates or platelets on wood plaques, or mount digitally-printed full-color vinyl appliques featuring giclee  photos. Some larger plaques, such as perpetual plaques,  have two or three of these features mounted on the wood. See the description of these features under the heading "SPECIAL FEATURES ON WOOD PLAQUES" below on this page.

Fig. 3 - This picture shows the coloring and grain structure of five of the wood species we use for our wood plaques. Shown from left to right are Western Red Cedar, California Redwood, African Mahogany, Cherry, and Red Oak. All are clear-coated, and the Mahogany and Oak are stained as well.


See Figs. 2 and 3 above for photos of the appearance of these wood species. Each of the species listed below has its photo Gallery page in this section showing dozens of examples. You can visit its Gallery page by clicking on its underlined gold text or by clicking on its name on the horizontal list under the gold masthead at the top of this page. The prices for each of these different styles for various size plaques is given on the PRICE  webpage , listed by price code and plaque size, under Style Category 1.3. 


African Mahogany. (Styles 1.3.1 and 1.3.2) This wood is our favorite for carving rich-looking, elegant plaques. It carves very well, has uniform color, and will last forever. We only use  heartwood,  which is pale reddish-brown The wood is durable and has a fine fairly regular grain; it is easy to work and season but is difficult to impregnate. It takes time to carve, and does not absorb a stain well because of its high density. It usually has to be stained at least 3 times.  The wood commands a very high price on the market, and is used above all woods for high-quality cabinet work, furniture and expensive interior finishing. Some of our best wood plaques are made from African Mahogany. It looks great when stained dark with V-carved text gilded with 24K gold leaf The desk plaque on the left is  stained African Mahogany.


 Western Red Cedar.  (Styles 1.3.3 and 1.3.4). We make most  of our wood signs, and many of our wood plaques, from Western Red Cedar. Nearly all our National Park and Monument Signs are made of Western Red Cedar. Western Red Cedar is known for its extremely fine and even grain and  its flexibility and strength in proportion to its weight. We use only prime grade knot-free kiln-dried Western Red Cedar which is grown in Washington or British Columbia, Canada. Its  rich coloring, ranges from a light milky straw color in the sapwood to a chocolate in the heartwood. We try to color match the strips during the signboard fabrication,  if the plaque is left its natural color , otherwise we  stain the plaque to reduce any color striping that arises from using  different colored strips.  This striping gives it a rustic look which many clients prefer, rather than a uniform color look. Of course, if the plaque is painted, this is not an issue. Cedar is best suited for larger engraved and 2-D carved plaques where a "real wood" or rustic look is desired, and it does have beautiful variegated colors for these type of plaques. Cedar is not ideal  for intricately carved 3-D  small plaques, because it carves fairly roughly due to its wood grain and has to extensively hand-sanded.  The NPS [laque on the right is engraved Cedar.

California Redwood (Styles1.3.3 and 1.3.4).  Redwood  is one of the most dimensionally stable of the western softwoods and therefore is less damaged by weathering.   It is known for its easy maintenance and beautiful color: a deep reddish brown that darkens with age.  In our opinion, no other wood equals Redwood in natural beauty and richness, dimensional stability and low maintenance. We use only clear all-heart kiln-dried Redwood, with vertical grain and no knots.  Color matching between wood strips is excellent. It is not ideal for small detailed 3-D plaques, but it is an excellent choice for larger 2-D and engraved plaques and signs. The flying egret plaque on the right  is made of California Redwood. Our California  Redwood comes from renewable forest farms. For every Redwood plaque we sell, we donate to Arbor Day Foundation funds to plant one tree.

Red and White Oak. (Price codes WW1, WW2 and WW3). We make about a dozen plaques each year from Red and White Oak. Red Oak is America's most popular choice for wood floors and serves as the industry benchmark when rating hardness among species. It features a reddish tan color and has a distinctive glow that creates a warm feeling. The quintessential American hardwood, Red Oak has a classic look and excellent strength properties. White Oak is also an excellent choice for plaques where it is desired to have a strong grain structure, and is more yellowish in color than Red Oak. It is also much more water resistant for outdoor use, which is why wine barrels are made of White Oak.

Oak has a proud heritage dating back several thousand years, since houses, barns and ships were often constructed using oak beams. Oak is best suited for large 2,5-D and engraved plaques, although it does carve cleanly because it is a hard wood. Red oak is shown on the right side of Fig 1 and 2 above, and also on the right. Both Red and White Oak are often stained with a "Golden Oak" MinWax stain, to bring out their interesting and beautiful grain patterns. Oak stains very well because of its definitive grain patterns.

Maple. (Styles 1.3.5 and 1.3.6  ). Maple hardwood is exceptionally beautiful and durable with fine graining. Because of its classic beauty, Maple is a favorite for furniture. Its natural color is typically   creamy tan, the lightest and most even coloring of any of the wood species we use.   It is a hard wood and carves cleanly. It is an excellent choice when a light-colored  wood is desired. It does not have to be stained because it has very little color variations. A 3-D plaque carved from maple is shown on the right.

American Cherry. (Styles 1.3.5 and 1.3.6 ). We make a few plaques each year from American Cherry wood. It makes excellent small shield plaques. A long time favorite for its rich color and excellent workability, Cherry is very popular  for use in fine furniture and cabinets. The wood has  a pinkish, rosy tone when it is cut and carved,  and continues to darken over years to a deep, lustrous red.  Cherry is easily carved and sanded  and takes an excellent finish and polish. 

Black Walnut. (Styles 1.3.5 and 1.3.6  plus additional premium price for Walnut - call for price). We also make  a few smaller plaques each year  from Black Walnut. With its gorgeous chocolate tone and easy workability, it's easy to see why Black Walnut is a favorite among woodworkers. It is used extensively for fine furniture, and we use it for our finest high-end plaques.  The heartwood varies from light grayish-brown to deep chocolate brown, occasionally approaching an almost black or purplish-brown. The grain is famous for its sometimes stunning patterns. 

Fig. 4 - This photo shows a perpetual plaque made out of African Mahogany and lightly stained. It has 3-D carved appliques (whale and "Pacific Life") carved from High-Density-Urethane and gilded with 24K gold-leaf, and engraved brass platelets that can be updated as names are added to the plaque. The border is engraved and gilded with gold.


Gold or Silver Leaf Gilding. We can gild by hand the surfaces of some  areas of  plaques, usually engraved text but sometimes artwork or borders, with 24K gold, silver, or copper-leaves, and then burnish the gilded surface, which is a technique used by ancient Egyptians 3000 yrs ago (King Tutankhaman's artifacts were gold-leaf gilded) and used for thousands of years on architectural features and objects d'art in palaces and cathedrals. Gilding consists of applying small (3 inches x 4 inches)  extremely thin rectangular  leaves of pure gold or silver to the surface to the plaque's surface using sizing. Excess leaf is cut off, and a protective clear coat is applied over the gilded areas.This technique is available for both 3-D and 2.5-D plaques. Gold or silver leaf gilding does add to the price of the plaque, but the results are very beautiful and elegant, especially on medium stained cherry or dark stained mahogany plaques. See Fig. 4 on the right for an example.

Engraved Brass PlatesThin, small brass plates can be laser engraved and added to or replaced. These can be gold text and border on a black background, or  black text in a black background. Fig 4 on the left shows an example. These can be used for personalized plaques or large perpetual plaques, where there may be dozens or even hundreds of names.

Perpetual Plaques. Perpetual plaques are large wood wall plaques that have small name plates attached to them. These can be added to over the years, so space is left for these additional plaques.  Perpetual plaques can be used for clubs, military, businesses, sport teams or other organizations where the names can be officers, award winners, club champions, tournament winners, etc. We make dozens of large perpetual plaques each year, usually from Mahogany wood.  These can have custom 3-D brass logos, seals, insignia or text mounted on the top of the plaque. Fig 4 above left  shows an example of a perpetual plaque. Other examples  are shown  at the bottom of  the Mahogany   photo gallery page, photos WM1530 to WM1580. However, we also make perpetual plaques from Oak, Maple, Cherry and Cedar.

Aluminum Cladding . We cut out patterns of letters, borders or artwork from very thin sheets of aluminum, and mount them on wood or HDU  text or art raised with flat surfaces (plateaus) above the backgrounds, carved out by our CNC routers.  See Fig  5 below for an example.

Fig. 5 Cedar plaque with Special Walnut stain. Aluminum cladding is applied for text, borders and artwork.


The prices for each of these different styles for various size plaques is given on the PRICE  webpage (click here or on PRICE in gold masthead) , listed by price code and plaque size, under Style Category 1.3.  Or, you can fill out and submit our on-line Request a quote form. You can also call or email us for a price quote on a specific plaque.  One of our knowledgeable and helpful Customer Service Representatives, Christie, Regina, or Liz, will respond to your request promptly.  You can call us at 951-698-8484 or email us at

We will work with you to design and build the exact plaque you want. We would like to make your  plaque, and we are confident that you will be pleased with it. We take great pride in every product we make for our valued clients. We offer a 2 year warranty on all our products, and our indoor plaques will last many decades without degradation.

Fig. 6 Multi-layer Cedar plaque with different stains for different areas. .



You can go to another Section or Gallery page by clicking on an item in the pull-down menus in the gold masthead at the top of the page.  You  can search for a specific plaque type (e.g., "FBI" ) by entering the key word in the search box in the upper right of the gold masthead. You can view a list and use the navigation bar for all 24  Gallery types by viewing the silver box on the left side of the HOME  page. You can also view different types of plaques for different customer groups (e.g., State Courts or US Coast Guard) by clicking on the TYPE section in the gold masthead above.  You can view a description of all of the different plaque styles by clicking on  the plaque  STYLE section also listed in the gold masthead. 

To request information, a design, a quote, or to place an order, click on the text (e.g., "contact ", " quote", " file" or " order")  in the upper  right of the gold masthead at the top of this page.  All prices are given on the PRICE page in the gold masthead. 

For more information on design options, prices and delivery times, please call us at 951-698- 8484 or email us at