One of three 5-by-16-ft. entry monuments created from Precision Board HDU laminated to aluminum plate, with prismatic carved lettering finished with Matthews acrylic polyurethane paint. The custom welded brackets and stone columns were produced in-house.
Four-inch-thick internally LED back-lit HDU lettering on a 3-by-10-ft. aluminum panel with 1-in.-thick icicles carved from acrylic and illuminated with embedded LED lighting
The graphics on this 8-by-24-ft. back-lit entry monument with custom masonry are acrylic push-through lettering laminated to textured aluminum plate.
Award-winning 2-by-10-ft. three-dimensional sign carved from HDU with PVC board overlays and purple glass smalts
PVC graphics on 3-by-4-ft. three-dimensional sign on Precisionboard HDU finished with Matthews acrylic polyurethane finishes. The faux moose antler was carved from HDU board.
Layered digital print
One of four matching 16-ft.-tall entry monuments with custom stone work and welded aluminum light fixtures that are 6-by-6-ft. square. The lettering is push-through internally illuminated LED acrylic on with textured aluminum. It’s finished with Matthews paint.
“‘We just don’t have time…’ and ‘We certainly don’t need the work…”’are two of the reasons we gave ourselves for never prioritizing the effort to market ourselves appropriately,” says Joel. “Finally, as part of a complete rebranding of our company, we set out to create a landmark sign that would really convey our passion for our craft. We wanted a largerthan-life, traffic-stopping work of art.
“Production took place over two years during our slow periods and was completed last January. It took over 1,000 man hours, stands 22 feet tall, and weighs about three tons, not including the four tons of concrete at its base.
“It was fabricated from Coastal Enterprises Precision Board HDU in multiple layers, aluminum plate, blown glass and steel. We used Matthews metallic paint finishes for all of the lettering. Modern Masters Metal Effects rust finish was used on many of the PrecisionBoard parts to make them indistinguishable from real steel.
“The response has been nothing short of amazing. I had no idea just what kind of impact a landmark sign would create. The hundreds of comments, emails and people stopping by from all over the world have generated an enormous amount of interesting, creative projects. It seems like every time we look outside, someone has pulled over to take a picture.
“I pulled up to work one afternoon to see a large family from Kansas piling out of their minivan. The dad asked if he could get some pictures of his kids next to our sign. ‘Sure,’ I said, ‘just remember to post them on Facebook!’ “I tell everyone that we have to charge money for what we do, but the real rewards that matter come from people noticing and appreciating our work.”
Aluminum composite signs with CNC carved dimensional elements on a 26-ft.-tall three-dimensional welded steel structure topped with a four-sided, custom aluminum light fixture. The structure weighed 5000 lbs. and it uses three different types of LED lighting.
Lettering is cutout acrylic laminated to a 3-by-10-ft. aluminum plate panel mounted to weathered barn wood. The routed aluminum cabinet below uplights the lettering.
“We recently converted a mobile military kitchen into a mobile food/ bar unit that can be towed behind a snow cat for Winter Park Resort,” says Joel. “It took over 400 production hours to complete. The before-and-after photos tell the story.”
The signs on this 10-by-12-ft. monument were fabricated from HDU with CNC-carved textures. The steel support structure was water-jet cut and welded in- house, then sandblasted and chemically treated to produce the rust finish.
Reverse aluminum channel letters lit with LEDs atop a 20-by-30 structure with custom stone and wood accents created in house
Joel and Janette

Joel Lunsford

Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado

By signcraft

Posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

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Shop name:
Lunsford Sign Works

Shop size: 5000 sq. ft.

Joel and Janette Lunsford

Age: 46

Graphics equipment:
Multicam 5 x 10 CNC router.
Digital printer
Graphtec plotter


In 1991, Joel Lunsford was going to college to be an art teacher when he realized that he “didn’t like the teaching part but did like the art part.” He had been doing some graphic design, and about that time he created a logo for a client who asked if he could turn it into a sign for them.

“As a starving student,” Joel says, “I said yes without having any idea how. After much research, I created my first sign. When I saw my small logo creation turned into the 4-by-10-ft. sign, I was blown away. I discovered that making signs combined my love for art, graphic design, sculpting and construction. Before then I didn’t realize that a career like that even existed. Lunsford Signs was born.”

For a while he made dimensional signs on his own, then went to work for a large electrical sign company for about six years. In that time he married Janette and in 1997, they moved back to Grand County and opened up their sign business. We’ll let him tell you the rest:

Marketing: The population of Hot Sulphur Springs is about 500 or 600, so there’s very little work right here. We work throughout Colorado and focus on marketing to the ski resort towns.

There’s quite a bit of resort-type signage within a two-hour radius of us. Much of it is in Grand County, and we’ve developed loyal relationships with clients who appreciate our type of work.

In years past, we bought Yellow Pages ads and did advertising in online directories, but now it’s all word-of-mouth. We get some work from other sources, but all the creative, wellpaying projects seem to come our way by word-of-mouth.

A team effort: Janette and I have worked together in our business for 21 years. In addition to handling our bookkeeping—which I can’t stand—she is involved with most aspects of our manufacturing. She also supervises our part-time employees.

Landmark shop sign: Our little town is sort of a crossroads, so there’s a lot of traffic. We have wanted to have a cool sign out there for ages, and finally completed it this January. It’s bringing in work from other states because people see it when they’re passing through, then they stop in or look us up online.

I’ve followed Dan Sawatzky for quite a few years. He once wrote an article on how a sign can be a landmark, and that stayed with me. It’s always been a bit of embarrassment not to have a really cool sign, since we are in the business of marketing. We decided it was finally time to make one for ourselves.

Custom metalwork: I really enjoy the metalwork projects that we do. We use it a lot in our sign work, and I also do a fair amount of architectural metalwork. We have a full metal working shop—benders, rollers, welders. We build custom lighting that uses metalwork, along with decorative metalwork railings, brackets, corbels. Designing and fabricating custom projects is very fun and challenging.

Not just a “vendor”: It’s frustrating for me when someone wants me to bid on a project, because they usually just see you as a vendor who provides a product that is readily available somewhere else. I don’t want to be a vendor—I want to work with a client who wants the kind of work we love to produce. We really appreciate our clients and like to do our best work for them. It works best that way.

Photos as a sales tool: Photographing your work is really important. When we show work on our website or show it to clients, we want it to look really good. You don’t want a beautiful dimensional sign to look flat like a digital print in the photo. If we installed it on a cloudy day, I’ll go back on a sunny day to get the photos. I don’t mind making two or three trips back to get the right lighting and the right background.

More custom work: We don’t really want to grow the company. Janette and I enjoy our time off, and we don’t want to end up working all the time. We don’t do much routine sign work—most of our work is higher-end resort type signage. Our digital printing is usually incorporated into larger projects.

A couple years ago I attended one of Dan Sawatzky’s workshops, and that really changed my mindset about what a sign can be. We’re hoping to steer our business even more in the direction of that type of sign work—creative, fun, effective and traffic-stopping.

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