Choosing the paint for the text
An exterior trim paint is good for text. That will be thicker and more durable than a paint intended to cover a whole wall. The kind I use is Advantage 900 from PPG. It is a nationwide distributor in the USA. There are others that do the same thing, but what is good about this product is that even though it cleans up with water, it can be applied over an oil finish. That makes it possible to treat the pole with deck stain prior to painting the text, as discussed below. So all the wood, even under the paint, gets the treatment. And that treatment works like a primer for the text, creating a smoother and less absorbent finish for the text paint.
Trim paint is available in quarts in many colors, but I used Ultra Deep Base Advantage 900 mixed to Onyx Black color for most of my peace poles.
Preserving the wood
Wood needs to be protected from the sun. UV rays from the sun break down wood just like they break down your skin. Deck treatments work like a suntan lotion to prevent the sun from breaking down the cells in the wood. And, like a normal suntan lotion, they need to be reapplied every so often. A coat or two of deck treatment goes on before the text is painted, and then every couple of years after that another coat of some kind of deck treatment should be rubbed on with a rag or brush to continue protecting it from the sun. If you have a deck, the schedule could be to rub on the peace pole a coat of whatever you use on your deck whenever you treat your deck. It will last a long time without that, but it will last longer with it.
PPG makes a deck treatment that can be used on cedar, redwood, pressure treated wood and untreated wood. It's called FloodDeck. It is a stain and a preservative. I was working on cedar and used the color they call "Natural" which gives it a slightly darker color that people like.
It might be that many deck treatments other than PPG's would do the job. It has been years since I tested them. They were oil based when I tested them and now some states prohibit oil and require them to carry a formula that is not oil based. They tell me it will work the same. You can comment here to let everyone know what your results are. For now, after you prepare the wood, doing whatever sanding, cutting and template outlining you are going to do, use some deck treatment on it first and then paint the text on last.
I'm not a big fan of varnish or urethane because of how bad those finishes look when they start to deteriorate, and how much work they are to clean up when they start to deteriorate. But deck treatment just wipes on and doesn't become unsightly when it eventually is gone. After it is, it merely needs to be wiped on again, right over the text, which it will help to protect.
Author - Joel