Create the design: 1 hour The customer wanted an urban/ rustic look and we determined her budget. She left the rest up to me, and liked the design I came up with.
Laminate background panel: 1 hour The background panel was four rough-sawn planks, drilled and through-bolted with four pieces of threaded rod. Once assembled, the edges were squared.
Mortise posts: 1.5 hours With a router and a template, I mortised the posts to accept the panel.
Assemble posts and panel: 1.5 hours I screwed through the posts and into the panel with 10-in. long Timberlok wood screws.
Prep the faces: 1.5 hours Using a grinder, I cleaned up the edges of the 3/8-in. steel faces the fabricator had distressed with the torch. The faces are 3-by-7-ft.
Rust the faces: 1 hour I created a coat of rust on the panels using rock salt and vinegar then sprayed them with PPG gloss clear coat.
Mount graphics to faces: 2 hours I used silicone adhesive to bond the graphics to the steel panels. I followed that with a coat of PPG matte clear over everything, then applied the vinyl film to the surfaces.
Mount face and install: 2 hours I fastened the steel faces to the wood background using lags and stainless steel spacers. We brought the completed sign to the site, lifted it off the trailer with a Gradall excavator and dropped it in the post holes.

What does it cost to produce this freestanding sign?

Rusted steel and rough sawn wood deliver an urban/rustic look

By Braun Bleamer

Posted on Thursday, April 20th, 2017

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Planks and posts: $200
Two 30-by-84-by-3/8-in. steel faces: $300
PVC letters: $150
Total materials: $650

Design and prep file: 1 hour
Laminate panel: 1 hour
Assemble sign structure: 4 hours
Rust and clear coat steel faces: 1 hour
Mount graphics: 2 hours
Install: 2 hours
Total time: 11 hours
The Little Gap Kitchen & Bar is just down the road from my shop. The owner said she wanted a new sign with an Urban/Rustic look. She had no logo, so I was able to come up with one for the sign. I did the design knowing that if price became an issue I could drop some of the features, like the rusty steel faces, to get the price down. As it was she liked the whole concept, which was great.

There was a delay in getting the final approval and deposit, so by the time I had that, the grand opening was just around the corner. I had to get creative to push it through the shop in time.

The faces were salvaged steel that came from the metalworking company next door. They were the side panels of the cab from a crane in an old steel mill that they were taking apart. I had him torch the edges so they were a little ragged then I ground them and sandblasted everything to the bare metal.

I needed to rust the steel in a hurry. I wet them down, coated them with rock salt and wrapped them in plastic. Two days later they were good and rusty. I unwrapped them, hosed them off and let them dry. I clear coated them with gloss clear, then scuff sanded them. The 1/4-in. black PVC graphics were bonded to the face with clear silicone adhesive. Then I applied the white vinyl film to the letter faces and a vinyl film with a parchment print on the rest of the graphics.

Another of my clients owns a sawmill, so I got the rough sawn timbers of local pine from them. I laminated the face from four 4-by12-in. timbers, then mortised the 12-ft.-long 6-by-6-in. posts to accept the face. I put eight long Timberlok lag screws through each post and into the wood slab. The steel faces were then attached with lags that went through 2-in. standoffs cut from stainless steel tubing.

This wasn’t the type of job that typically goes through the shop in five days, but in this case it really had to. I work best under pressure anyway!

Braun Bleamer’s shop, Jet Signs Inc., is in Palmerton, Pennsylvania.

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