Airbrushed cartoon and fish, with airbrushed pinstripe effect on The Rodfather.
23K gold leaf with burnished convex effect
Cut vinyl with a digital print from a photo of a fish that John had airbrushed on their previous boat. There is a thin metallic gold outline on Teaser.
Engine-turned 23K gold leaf with a sprayed translucent shadow that lets the woodgrain show through it
John at work on another airbrushed sailfish
Cut vinyl lettering with digital prints from a photo of a fish John airbrushed.
Airbrushed and hand painted graphics for a boat owned by a designer of computer motherboards
Engine-turned 23K gold leaf with a double outline
JT, John’s son, finishes installing a set of quarterboards done with RealGold Large Engine Turn Silver sign vinyl.
Engine-turned 23K gold leaf with an airbrushed fish graphic
Airbrushed lettering done with House of Kolor paints over their base coat used for candy finishes
“This is a nice clean job for a pro golfer,” says John. “I made the silhouette from a photo of him, and he liked that. The lettering is RealGold Burnished 22K gold leaf sign vinyl. I’ve done boats for several pro athletes and celebrities like Jimmy Buffett and Johnny Depp. I never meet the people, of course, but it makes things interesting.”

John Teeto

By SignCraft Magazine

Posted on Saturday, December 29th, 2018

Shop name:
Teeto Signs

Shop size: 1800 sq. ft.

Staff: 3

Age: 60

Graphics equipment:
Gerber Omega software
Gerber cutter

The first boat John Teeto lettered was a very large boat—and it was in the water, which was something he hadn’t done before. That meant working off a float that was pitched up and down by the constant waves. The customer gave him the job, paid him in full, then left for Europe. When John got on the float and started lettering, his motion sickness got the best of him. He could only do two or three letters at a time before getting off the float to throw up.

“What an experience!” he says. “I so wanted to walk away from that job but I just couldn’t. The guy had paid me, and I promised it would be done when he got back. It was the longest lettering job of my life. Thankfully, though, as you get used to it and concentrate more on your lettering, bobbing around on a float doesn’t bother you anymore. I do it all the time now.”

Stock cars to gold leaf signs Growing up back in Niagara Falls, New York, I always had the art thing going. My dad was in the used car business, and he raced dirt track stock cars. I started off lettering a few cars for my dad and his friends. As I got older and they started paying me, I figured, “Hey! This is the way to go!”

At the races I checked out all the other lettering on the cars, and I loved to see my work out there on the track. My work was nothing to brag about, but it got me started. Plus they were always wrecking the cars, so there was plenty of work. [Laughing.]

I was lucky because one of my Dad’s friends, Mike Plummer, was a sign painter at a big manufacturing plant in our area. He did some sign work from his garage, and I used to ride my bike over there to watch him letter. Eventually I started helping him out. That’s where I got my first real training.

Making a move In the ’70s, the economy in Niagara Falls started to slide. The manufacturing jobs were going away, and I decided it was time for a change. Mike had retired and moved to Florida, and was really busy with sign work there. My brother was also living in Florida. So in 1980 we made the move.

Mike started sending some accounts to me, and I went to work for Harry Bundy at Bundy Signs in Hollywood. They did everything there—from show cards to billboards and electrical signs. I met an outstanding show card writer there from up north, Lee Hill. Over the years, I’ve known some great sign people— Harry, Lee, Jerry Hancock, Jimmy Prohaska and many others. They have all been real inspirations.

Boat after boat After four years at Bundy Signs, I opened my own shop in 1985. At first I was doing a little bit of everything. Then my brother met Jerry Hancock, who specialized in boats. Jerry was a great guy and did mostly gold leaf transoms. He was getting ready to retire and gave me many of his accounts. Before long, I was specializing in boats.

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