By SignCraft Magazine
Posted on Saturday, December 29th, 2018
Paducah, Kentucky, sits at the juncture of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, about 40 miles before the Ohio empties into the Mississippi River. It’s a growing historic river town of about 25,000 with a total of 65,000 including the surrounding county. It’s also home to secondgeneration sign maker Rob Estes.
Well-known for his mural and wall work, Rob turns out a variety of custom sign work from his one-man shop. Both his father and uncle were in the sign business, and he worked in his dad’s shop from 1984 until enlisting in the US Navy in 1989. He then opened Brushstroke Signs in 1995. SignCraft spoke with him between finishing up a large engraved plaque and planning a wall lettering project—and hoping the mid-November weather would cooperate.
Bread, butter and 3D
2400 sq. ft.
ShopBot 4×8 router
On Facebook as Brushstroke Signs
Most of my work is what I’d call breadand-butter—digitallyprinted and some routine vinyl signs. I also get a decent mix of layered dimensional work that I do with the CNC router and hand carving. Before I bought the CNC router, most of my dimensional work was sandblasted. I don’t do as much blasting as I used to, but mix the two when the job calls for it.
Overall, the dimensional work is my favorite. Seeing a project start as a onedimensional sketch and turning it in to a piece of advertising sign art for the customer is very rewarding. I enjoy all of the aspects of the process. My dad used to tell me that some jobs would call us to be an engineer, electrician, carpenter and a sign painter. In his shop we did everything from hand lettered vehicles to electric signs but I find that it is best to limit myself to certain types of work. I’ve created my own niche with the custom carved, routed, hand painted walls and signs.
Since I opened, I’ve worked alone for the most part. I have had a couple of part time employees on an as-needed basis over the years but never hired anyone full time. I’ve become comfortable wearing so many hats of the business that it makes it tough to give up the hands-on part of the workload. There have been times that it has crossed my mind to hire someone but I have always decided not to.
Taking advantage of outsourcing
Most of my customers are small businesses, and I handle those jobs in the shop. One of my larger customers is a local hospital that orders several laser engraved donor plaques throughout the year. I sub out this type of work to GeminiPlaques.com. I also outsource my digital printing too. I’ve had a couple of printers, but have found that in my situation it makes more sense for me to outsource it to someone like Signs365.com. This way I don’t have to stock all the different materials and laminates or worry about maintenance issues. I can an order before 8AM and I’ll have it the following day.