This is an alternative space from my website. I plan to share behind the scene images of a working sign shop, detailed stages of production, techniques & processes, how things work, or how I've made them work for me anyway. I design and build signs, it's commercial art, each is an art project. I strive to keep them unique and different. This keeps it interesting and challenging for me and gives the client a unique project. Hopefully you find this interesting and perhaps educational. There may be wonderful mishaps, paint spills, or some whacked effects gone awry. Stuff happens, art happens, I occasionally step back and just smile (and grab a camera). Often the garbage generated is art in itself. I have archives of photos and will randomly choose some to share. They may, or may not be current work. Enjoy. - Brad

Friday, February 1, 2013

Team Oregon

This sign measures 4' high x 6' wide and hangs on a wall behind the reception area. It was completed in the spring of 2012. I was given just the logo in black and white. After much design exploration to come up with a panel to hold it all together, this juxtaposition of oval and rectangle was agreed upon. The sign is a stacked 'open faced sandwich' of 5 layers. The far background is black enameled birch plywood. The 2nd layer is the same birch ply with a water based aniline dye in red mahogany, sealed in oil based clear. The 3rd layer is 'Formica' countertop laminate. The 4th is 1/2" thick 'Plexiglass' black acrylic. The top layer and pinstripe is stainless steel.

This yellow vinyl is normally used for a paint mask. It has a low tack adhesive and I'm using it for registration of parts. It's been cut on my plotter and the unwanted parts 'weeded' or stripped away. I'm in the process of covering it with a clear transfer tape which holds all the individual pieces of vinyl together once the backing is removed. New modern vinyl sign shop 101.

Plastic laminate parts, cut out with a cnc laser.

1/2" thick black acrylic, cut out with the same cnc laser.

The letter F above is half on and half off the rectangle panel. The letters that follow need a laminate layer as well, as a spacer, so that the surface of the black acrylic letters are on the same plane.

These black acrylic letters for 'TEAM' are spacers as well. They will get covered with stainless letters.

I stock a very aggressive double stick tape called 'Mactack'. It comes in 18" x 24" sheets. With one side of the release liner removed, the letters are stuck, then hand trimmed.

Crap! I'm missing 2 parts. The sample swatch laying around was just big enough. I ran it over to my cnc router guy and he cut these out pretty quick. The edges were quite rough and needed sanding. The rest that were laser cut were smooth and required no prep work.

I was careful not to remove the yellow registration mask around the G until it was caught up with the rest. A 1/10th inch outline around the letters and graphics makes for easy removal.


The base layer is screwed to the wall with all screws finding studs. The top layer then hangs on the 4 aluminum 'French cleat' style hangers; similar to kitchen cabinet type hangers.

I use a pencil rubbing on butcher paper to pattern the location of the 4 hangers. They were aligned and attached in the shop, before the final installation. 

The thick black acrylic has a gloss finish coming right off of the cnc laser; what I call a 'wet ice cube' look.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NuScale Power

This project involved sandblasting & painting 4 pieces of glass. The glass was 1/2" thick and  22" high x 66" wide. 6 holes, 1/2" in diameter, were drilled by a glass specialty fabrication shop. The edges were polished clear and had very slight bevels. I did this work in August of 2012.

All of the artwork is done on the backside of the glass. A rubber sandblast mask has been cut in reverse on my plotter and applied. It protects the glass from being frosted during the blasting process.

The border is to remain clear. I cut strips of mask and applied a bit more than enough for the border, and wrapped around the sides and onto the front face (remember, I'm working on the back side). Next I hand cut the exact border distance with an x-acto knife and a strait edge. The dense rubber is a great precaution against accidentally chipping or plinking an edge during all the handling and transport while in production.

My friend Vance Galliher in Eugene (Springfield) has a very similar shop as my own. However, he has a great setup for sandblasting glass at this size, and even a bit larger. Here he is in his blasting booth. Vance is truly a fine looking gentleman. It's too bad my best shot of him is with a bag over his head.

I'm back at my shop and removing the sandblast mask. The right side of the image has the mask peeled part way back, exposing the logo.

Aluminum oxide was used to 'cut' the surface of the glass. You can see the residue that got through the pre-drilled hole and stuck to the sticky side of the mask.

Big wads of non-reuseable mask. Unfortunately it won't merge with our commingled recycling.

I was originally planning to screen print the black and orange graphics, but chose to mask and paint instead. I'm applying a transparent blue paint mask. I'm applying it in small sections to achieve a near-perfect spacing of the 'glow-line' between the graphics and the background. 

The mask barely sticks to the frosted area, but has great adhesion to the smooth glass. You can see the 1/10th inch 'glow-line', which makes for not much surface area.

Here's 3 of the 4 finished panels with fresh enamel paint.

One of these four pieces of glass was shipped to the east coast. I packed 1.5" of rigid pink insulation on all sides, 2x4's around the perimeter, and 3/4" plywood top & bottom. A perfect fit allowed for no wiggle room. I trust it made the trip safe and sound. Does anyone out there know otherwise?

Ready for the top sheet of ply. Looks like the ends received an extra layer of 3/4" insulation. I sent instructions to ship it standing up, laying down on it's long edge.

I made 4 paper install templates and kept them mated to each of the 4 pieces of glass. This was to insure that the drilled holes of the glass all line up with the drilled holes in the wall. The paper templates make placement and leveling much easier.

This is one of the coolest pieces of installation hardware. It's called a zip-toggle. You drill a hole large enough for the toggle end to fit through on end. There are 3 parts of the white plastic. Parts 1 & 2 are the handles, which slide and allow you to pivot the toggle perpendicular after insertion. Part 3 is the small ratcheting slider that cinches down on the toggle, like a zip-tie. Once snug, the 2 handles easily break off. The centered toggle has a threaded hole to receive the special bolt for the up-coming stand-offs.

The stand-offs are clear anodized aluminum with a 1" diameter. Both of the barrels are threaded, obviously the cap only part way. There is a thin, clear, plastic or vinyl washer between both sides of the stand-off parts and the glass. Also a length of clear vinyl 'aquarium tubing' inside the glass hole, protecting the glass from the threaded bolt. The glass never touches the hardware.


Another corner view.

This one was driven to and installed in the Portland office, behind the reception desk. I also dropped off the crated piece to be flown to the Washington DC office. The other 2 reside here at the Corvallis offices on the HP campus.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Peak Sports

This sign project took place in June and July of 2001. Here it is completed, as viewed from the rooftop.

These swooshes were all nested together in a bazaar configuration to be maximized from a 4' x 8' piece of 1.5" thick HDU (also known by brand as SignFoam, and Precision Board). They were cut out on a cnc router. I glued 2 together to end up with 3" thick pieces.

I don't hand letter much anymore, so I don't work vertically much either. My adjustable 4' x 10' easel in the background has become clogged with a hodge podge of old signs and such. My own personal museum.  In the middleground lies the proof that I'm secretly doing work for Nike.

Stacks of wet paint. Every time 8' of length fills up, I go up another layer.

Ah; the corner of my workbench where I process and mix paint. To the right is a ring stand that came out of the OSU Chemistry Dept. It's adjustable up & down and is perfect for holding a paint strainer. The whacked sculpture to the left is the result of years of stacking skins of paint which show up once a can of paint is half used. I'm doing my part to keep them out of the landfill. These skins are usually quite thin. The underside is wet enamel which provides the slow bonding. As I squish it into place, a trickle may run down the side. The skins are aligned to to outside edge. It started as 2 plywood cutouts in the shape of a guitar pick, held together with a 2" round steel pipe.

Background ovals of 1/2" MDO plywood with fresh black paint drying.

Foreground pieces of an aluminum sandwiched substrate. Two brands are 'DiBond' and 'Alupanel'. They've been CNC router cut and freshly painted black.

From all my years of playing ultimate frisbee, I've acquired a large collection of discs that hang nearby. I usually grab one when I've got lots of small bits to assemble. This keeps the small parts from becoming lost, and allows me to efficiently scoot them along. 

Under the sheet of copper is the 1/2" MDO ply, behind that is a threaded T-nut at every hole. The T-nut receives a length of threaded aluminum. The small black rubber washer separates the sharp edge of the copper tubing, which is a spacer. It hopefully keeps the clear coat from starting to peel. The plastic flange is a base to adhere the letters onto. Gooey adhesive travels through those holes and mushrooms out on the backside.

Each sheet of copper was textured with a coarse grit sanding disc on my mini-grinder. The sheet was taped down to my work table. I ran 2 tape measures down the length off my work table and taped them in place; one at the top and one at the bottom. Then, in a perpendicular direction, clamped a straight edge every 2" for a guide and methodically sanded the copper. The vertical stripes appear wavy & corrugated. The light that is reflected dances as your viewing angle changes, creating a wonderful effect. The copper then received a coat of clear to keep it from oxidizing.

The dancing light from the copper is enhanced with shadow play and depth from the raised foreground graphics.

Part of designing the sign is also designing the bracket. I had all the steel bracket parts laser cut and supplied Larry Desaulniers a kit with plans, ready to weld. Larry is the general manager at Peak Sports and is a pretty dang good jack of many trades. This saved Peak on costs. I picked up the bracket and trucked it out to Tim Luke at Willamette Powder Fab to have it coated in black. The two halves of the sign are bolted together through the bracket. These bolts are hidden under the floating outer oval of the logo.

Designing the fab files for this project took some focus. The lighter of the two blue swooshes, both at the top of each sign face, are back to back. So the two faces are mirrored; the outer perimeter paths anyway. The logo reads left to right on both sides, so it is not mirrored. The black plywood panels outline the blue swooshes by a 1/2". Where the two swooshes come together the plywood has sharp indents. It is not a symmetrical oval. At this same place, the floating inside panel has points (outdents). It is not symmetrical either. All of the fastening holes were part of the cnc fab files. Keeping track of left and right, top and bottom, front and back, kept me on my toes. Also the bolting pattern through the steel frame was asymmetrical to dodge the logo. Every subtle design change meant extensive reworks & alignments of fastening holes. It was puzzling to keep track of top and bottom parts during production, and again front and back parts during assembly. Dizzy yet?

Who dressed the guy on the left!? On the right is Michael Butler from Sprick Roofing, assisting with the crane operations.

Jason Smoker used to work at Peak and remains part of the Peak family. This is his forklift. He is a legend in the local mt. bike community and rides with my friend Trevor Norland. Trevor wins  regional sanctioned pro class mt. bike races, one after another. I don't know much about Jason, I just hear these crazy stories.

Up, up, and away.

Deja vu: fish out of water. Back when Keiko, the famous killer whale from the movie 'Free Willy', was moved to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, I did a rush job, lettering the large main boom on the crane that hoisted Keiko. The company was Continental Crane. They knew the images of their crane would be broadcast world wide in news stories. It was a massive crane and the letters were much larger than one would think. When finished, the client gave me a stuffed orca as a perk for meeting the tight deadline.

A man's a fool without the right tool. Ron Dickinson is a foreman at Sprick Roofing and he should have a stool. He is certified to operate their crane and has magic fingers. Here he is, working hard.

Mike and I are maneuvering the beast into place.

Dave Barton used to wrench in Peak's bike shop and ride big downhill mt bikes. Now he prefers motorized dirt bikes. This install happened during his transition into self employment. He is now a licensed contractor. Note the lack of adequate railing on the board he's surfing. Long ago when we did this job, OSHA didn't yet exist.

My close friend Nathan Potter could not miss out on the fun. In classic Nathan style, I was bumped off the podium, relinquished to direct from the sidelines.

The lower bolts went in this crawl space up in the attic. Dave, working from the outside, followed the holes in the bracket and drilled through the bricks on each side of the building corner. Larry was in this space communicating to me, up on the roof, with a 2-way radio. There were two large rectangular backing plates, of 1/4" steel plate, which he had to place the bolts through. These plates spread the load out over a larger area of multiple bricks. The plates and bolts were sized and specified from an engineer. Approval of the sign permit for this project required stamped engineering. This photo was taken for preliminary design work and consultation.

The upper bolts came through the parapet up on the roof. Each backing plate had an eye bolt with cable that joined together to anchor into this short section of exposed beam. This was not specified by the engineer, but presented itself as easy additional work. It adds a huge safety net, since the upper bolts endure the most force.

Here's Nathan again, with his big long monkey arms holding the dummy end of the bolts for me.