North Little Rock, Arkansas
Posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2019
“I have a fascination with the unusual things,” says Redgie Adams. “I don’t like to do the run-of-the-mill stuff. It just doesn’t excite me. Fortunately we’ve got our own little niche, and we have customers who want our kind of work.” For close to 50 years, Redgie has been turning out creative signs and graphics from his Arkansas shop.
He’s carved out a market for his brand of unique projects by doing everything from store and restaurant interiors to displays and custom furniture. Eventually the out-of-the-ordinary became the ordinary work at his two-man shop, which sits beside his home in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
A focus on custom:
2600 sq. ft.
Redgie Adams and Jon Moore
MultiCam CNC router
Roland VersaCAMM 540i
Epilog Fusion 40 laser
Thermal Dynamics Plasma cutter
Graphtec FC4100 cutter
On Instagram as @rasigncrafter
When someone calls and says, “Hey, I need a price on a set of channel letters…” I explain that we don’t do those. I do them for my regular clients, but I don’t look for that sort of work. We turn away most of the standard rectangular signs, too. We’re really not interested in putting that work out on the street. You have to go where you like to go, where you want to go. You can’t go where others would steer you.
If they want something unique, though, we can help them. When you do something different and interesting on a sign it immediately gives that sign a huge edge over all the other signs out there.
From lettering to blasted to fabricated:
I got started in 1971. I was a sign painter and did whatever sign work I had to out of my 12-by-16 carport. Before long, a customer asked me to make some redwood signs so I learned how to do sandblasted signs. This turned into a great market for me. There was only one other sign shop here making sandblasted signs at the time, and it seemed like everybody wanted one.
Then I got to a point where I couldn’t be around redwood board without sneezing. I was allergic to it. I started looking for other ways to make 3-D signs and learned about fabricating letters.
Shop and staff:
From the carport, I moved to a 20-by-30 shop for several years before Jeannie and I bought this home, which had a building next door that I could use for a shop. We added on to that and have been here ever since. It’s a 32-by-82 shop, but I have quite a few lean-tos and storage buildings, too.
Jon Moore has worked with me for 30 years. He’s my computer guy and runs the router and the printer. He’s a genius. He knows a little about most everything. I’d rather do hands-on stuff—I’d rather make sawdust than sit behind the computer.
The market and the customers:
Most of our work is in the Little Rock and North Little Rock area. It’s not a huge market—the Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway area has a population of about 750,000. But they keep us busy, and we get to do the kind of interesting work that we like.
I listen to people, but I try to lead them in the direction that’s best for them. I depend on referral customers for that reason—they have seen my work, and they know they’re not coming to me for another plain square sign.
I can work with people’s ideas, but I’m honest and tell them what I think. I can tell them why I would do what I’m suggesting and what I’m trying to achieve. People appreciate you having confidence in your ideas. When they see your work and the signs you have coming together in the shop, they usually want that look, too.
Any and all materials:
One of the products I like to work with is 3-lb. Styrofoam. You see the 1- and 2-lb. Styrofoam in craft stores, but I prefer the more dense material. You can carve it and make it look like woodgrain then spray it with Volatile Free Hard Coat
. The coating protects the foam from any solvents.
We use a lot of HDU board, too. We like it a lot and it works great outdoors. We use a lot of PVC board, which is another great product.
We work with unusual materials, too, like making granite tombstones, using laser cut masks. The detail is incredible. The laser is a very cool deal. We do so much with it. We just did a bunch of walnut tags for a customer with this very small script lettering—probably about an eighth of an inch tall. It’s amazing.
We have a lot of metalworking capabilities. We have plasma cutters, we weld aluminum and steel, do gas welding and soldering, you name it. We make copper letters, too—I love the look of copper. I’ve got a sawmill, and I’ve milled my own walnut stock.
Jeannie and I have a project now with our daughter, called Toast Tap and Provisions. We make tap handles for commercial and home brewers, as well has handle their signs and other branding needs. Our website for that venture is www.toastprovisions.com.
Playing with paint:
I use all sorts of paints, including Matthews polyurethane
. It’s a great finish. I like antique effects and finishes a lot. They’re a great way to give a sign a different look.
I have a lot of fun with Krylon spray paint, too. You can flood a surface with clear Krylon spray then paint over that with other types of paints to get cool effects. You can even use paints that don’t go together like acrylic latex. It doesn’t want to blend, so it separates and makes this funky finish. Once dry, you clear over that, and you have a finish that’s encapsulated in clear.
I seem to run into a lot of people who want antique-looking signs—things that look like they came out of the junkyard. That’s really what I love to do most. I make them look funky and old and crummy, and I use these strange finishes.
It seems I’m always making things look rusty. I do that using the little fine beads of steel that they use for blasting steel. I get my paint wet then I throw in the steel. I push that around with a brush to get it down into the paint. Once it’s dry, I spray it with muriatic acid then rinse that off. Then I might put some more paint on or rub off some of the rusty steel.
Sometimes I sweep a little dirt off the paint room floor and shake it on there with the steel beads. Anything goes—grindings, dirt, dust. When you’re all done, you spray that with either Matthews matte or gloss, and you’ve got something really different.
When I get to doing that, I’m like a mad scientist. [Laughing.] It’s fun, and you’ve got to have fun. I agree with the idea that if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. I hope to be walking out here to make signs until I’m 80 years old—providing Jeannie lets me!