Ok Gang, This is going to be a step by step with some photo gaps. 2 years ago I was asked to give an estimate to dress up the Westminster Oaks' assisted living hallways these were to include quaint signs to Identify the 4 different corridors as "Street" signs and signs for 2 different Cafeterias. Even though I have done other similar projects for them in the past. see http://www.saulssigns.com/index.cfm?cat=clients&subcat=Westminster
They were a bit taken back by the prices this time. I knew these would be stepped up design wise and be multi-paneled if not fully dimensional.
They did them in stages over several years for budgetary reasons. They never would pay for full dimensional.
Sometimes there are jobs that would be nice to do for our own reasons: Learning new medias and techniques. We have to create high end samples if we are ever going to sell them. Might as well get paid partially to do them. On the Canopy Oaks Cafe sign and on the up coming Garden View Cafe, I'll be making a smaller version of each for my own wall.
Now with the history behind us we move on. My objective was to wow them and others with what is possible. Knowing that I would be taking a financial hit in the hourly rate department I wished to used shop scraps whenever possible. Why not let past clients pay for the materials for this project.
The only materials that I would purchase would be. $8 worth of ESP foam, 2 Cans of spray paint and 4 machine screws with matching nuts.
I began by transferring the letters drawn by my plotter on to Poly-metal with a ball-point pen and carbon paper. I then laid the metal on a piece of 1 inch thick Styrofoam sheet. I then placed an 1/8 inch router bit in my plunge router and cut out the Poly-metal letters by hand. The foam sheet was just a soft material to suspend the Poly-metal on for routing. Although this worked well as Sam Staffan suggested my hand routing skills did no justice to Dave Correll's Signmaker and Stone Cutter fonts.
I then pressed a 1/8 in. layer of MagicSulpt Epoxy clay on to the letters. This 2 part clay remains workable for a couple of hours give or take depending on temperatures and humidity. I then took a tool from a ceramic sculpting set, that was nothing but a heavy duty straight pin secured in a wooden handle. with it I trimmed off the clay that was over lapping the edges of the lettering. After the trimming and some hardening of the clay I smoothed the surfaces, letter faces and edges, with my water soaked fingers. While the Clay was reasonably soft I pressed in texture with a round end wooden tool and a wet burlap sack for the Garden View letters.
I cannot tell you with enough enthusiasm the hiding benefits of adding the texture. My rough routing went away and the letters were just plain more interesting.
My next step was to join two pieces of foam together edge to edge. Because I did not know what type of adhesive to use on this fragile product I went with duct tape a seam on the front and one on the back. because of the layout I could trim the tape and remove it from between my raised letters. The foam was to be used mainly as a build up or filler for the clay. I was relying of the MagicSculpt to harden and create a durable shell. But first some depth and detail, would have to be added to my foam base with Hot-wire hobby tools.
My next step was to firm up the foam base because I would need to spread a thin layer of the dense clay on to the soft beaded cells, all without tearing it up. I had done an experiment with a local company that sprays Pick-up truck bed liners the product that they use creates a tough rubbery shell without "eating" the foam chemically. My guy when asked about spraying one for real suddenly mistook me for Donald Trump, so I fired him. He finally suggested that I try an aerosol product sold at Home depot's paint Dept. It was Rustoleum's
Black bed liner spray. Thank Heavens I did a test it DID eat the foam.
I Painted 3 heavy coats of latex primer on all surfaces before spraying on the coating. It did pock the foam even through the primer, so I kept the coats very light with a lot of curing time between about 3-4 coats. Would the Magic Sculpt or latex paint stick to this coating? I would know soon enough.
Next a layer of Clay was spread on to the coated foam in strategic areas. Before a more detailed layer of Magic Scuplt could be applied.
Here some of the components are laid together un-painted.
All of the pieces will be primed with several coats of Sherwin Williams Pro-Block Primer, tinted gray to level 4 this will help you cover the darker areas with fewer coats.
On the Oak itself I began with a very dark blue-green. I would blend the leaf masses to enhance the depths of the boughs. By adding brighter and brighter hues of grass green to the wet layer below a nice gradient was achieved. The texture of the individual leaves actually helped. Finally I spiced things up by going a bit brighter on specific leaves to make them pop. It was a matter of higher contrast here and there.
The same Blue-green was used on the tree trunks body. It had a definite organic bark texture in the clay. To finish it I used progressively whitened washes of this color, Layer upon layer between drying. I used the high spots, running my brush across just the raised root like surfaces. I finally helped nature along by adding some specific paint daubs along the raised veins.
My letters were painted with 3 coats of Modern Masters Pharaohs Gold latex paint. it is semi-transparent. Again the texture can really be your friend. If this had been a flat surface it would have taken 5-6 coats to cover. I am so impressed with the luster of this paint when dried.
Here is a MagicSculpt Custom dingbat just for this project.
It is coated with a cheap metallic gold spray paint acquired at a Family Dollar Store.
The Poly-Metal it is resting on was painted with an ugly lipstick pink color with a thin coarse brush stroking of a brownish red for antiquing both latex. It also sports a PVC trim frame sprayed with the same metallic gold paint.
Say are Y'all ready to see something cool? here they are on my Mark Fair Presidential Tilt Lettering Bench.
Now in the Sunshine!
The oval was coated with the gold spray paint then painted with Burnt Sienna artist tube acrylics. The paint is scrumpled off with a plastic grocery bag allowing some of the metallic gold to show through. Then the same process is repeated with Burnt Umber artist tube acrylics. If this sounds familiar to you..That's because it is Mark Fair's recipe for faux wood graining. Minus the last step of removing the burnt Umber with a graining tool. I did coat this with a satin polyurethane for protection and depth.
Thanks for taking time to follow this project. I'll let you know what they think soon. Oh by the way, that good looking man is standing beside the smaller sample piece.
letterville.com The Letterhead Website