Sign & Digital Graphics

March '20

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2 0 • M A R C H 2 0 2 0 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S Making a long-lasting sign that fits the customer's needs Wood and Metal Hybrid Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and documenting the sign business since 1986. Contact him at Rick SignCo@aol.com. S everal weeks ago a client came into the shop from Tyler, Texas, a city about 45 minutes away, and told me that I was recommended as the sign maker to see about making a replace- ment sign for the entry to the housing addition where he lived. I was a bit puzzled by that, since I know there are plenty of sign companies in Tyler, any of which would be closer to him than us. But, he was encouraged to see me about making a new sand- blasted sign to replace the original sign, which was now about 25 years old and in bad shape. Actually, our sign company hasn't made many sandblasted signs, and I had not made one in years. Even getting good lumber locally is tough. We talked for a while, and I was thinking about a way to make a similar sign, a very long-lasting sign, using the equipment and materials we most often work with. What I suggested was to construct a cedar sign of two-inch- thick lumber, and mate it with a set of powder coated aluminum letters and border, which would be raised because they would be ¼" thick. We would blast the wood to bring out the grain, and provide him a new "hybrid" sign that would look great, last longer than either one of us would need to worry about, and still look similar to the sign we were replacing. It didn't take long for him or his homeowner's board to get back with me. They decided to give that a try, and I had a project to make. After designing the sign, more or less like the original, the next step was to go to my local lumber yard and get some lumber. There really wasn't much to choose from. There were no #1 cedar boards with any type of consistent grain, only typical construction grade boards to choose from. But I selected four fairly decent ones, extra long, and headed to the shop. Actually, I merely delivered the lumber to the sign shop, then set up the cut file for the metal parts, and went to the shop across the street where I could get my hands on a waterjet. Using a sheet of ¼" thick 5052 aluminum plate, 4' x 8' in size, I cut the decorative border in one piece and all the lettering as well. Some of the letters I had digitized to be closer to the original, since no font I had seemed to match the original lettering. After waterjet cutting, these aluminum components were drilled on the back side on a drill press, without going all the way through, and tapped with a 3/16" bottom-out tap using our "Flexarm" tapping tool. This special tool holds an air powered reversable drill motor perfectly vertical, and can be controlled carefully so taps are not broken by regulating the amount of air pressure provided to the machine. Back at the sign shop, the boards, or sections of them, were selected and rough cut a bit oversize. The final width of the sign would require trimming down four boards 6" wide, each to a width a little over 4½" to get a dimension of 18½" in width, Shop Talk B Y R I C K W I L L I A M S Our client's old sign was past time for replacing. The top left corner had rotted out and someone tried to repair it with Bondo and paint. Even though we were replacing a sandblasted cedar sign, our start- ing point was making raised aluminum letters and border to be used in our "hybrid version" of this custom sign project.

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