A sandblasted HDU community entrance sign with extra deep prismatic gold leafed letters and a hand carved magnolia flower.

This was a great project to work on. Not just the design but the Chair person of the Cambryar HOA  was also a pleasure to work with, I should have charged more than I did but when customers go out of their way to help me when things went awry and they did. This lady could have sat back and done nothing the only people that would have been hurt was me and the company. she went well out of her way to put things right and that was and is very much appreciated. I put an extra $560 worth of time and value into the sign. We always try to deliver more than we quote for, but this time she earned it. 

original artwork for cambryar entrance  sign











 Firstly we cut the sign blank and the magnolia flower outline on the router and created the prismatic letters. While I started to shape the flower Tom and Adrian applied the sandblast stencil and blasted the sign.

roughing out the magnolia flower320x240

For those that are not familiar with what sandblasting actually entails, we mask anything we want to feature on the sign with a rubberized mask and then bombard it with sand driven by air which eats away any part of the HDU or wood or whatever is being blasted; even stone or brick.

This effect is often referred to as having created "raised" letters" when what we should say to be technically correct is "receded background". No I'm not suggesting we rename the effect, just explaining what we do, anyway........

magnolia flower on the sandblasted sign320x240

The prismatic faced letters are sanded by hand, coated with a very hard polyester primer and again hand sanded between each coat, usually 3-4 coats is enough to build up a good layer of the protective polyester and to give us the extra smooth finish we need. 

cambryar letters ready for burnishing 220x180ish

They are then sanded one last time with 400-600 grit wet or dry before being painted with a high gloss paint if they are being gilded. When that's all fully cured they go into the gilding room to be sized. No that doesn't mean we sort them by size. Sizing is where we apply a coat of a varnish like substance that takes 12 to 24 hours to dry. Taking that long allows it to level out and give a very high gloss. Just the way paint dries, it goes from very sticky to totally dry. But because it takes so long to do so, when it reaches that perfect amount of tack we are looking for we get a much bigger window of time to apply the sheets of gold metal.

For those of you who know about gilding I know I have probably over simplified the process but I'm not teaching a class on gilding just trying to educate our customers a little.


Meanwhile the magnolia is finished and painted as is the sign body. Next the detail is painted and the parts that are going to be gilded are prepared and the gold leaf is applied. 

cambryar community entrance sign 320x240

Then we applique the individual prismatic letters and the carved flower onto the sign face, we use a commercial epoxy resin for this.They will not come off; the joint is many, many times stronger than the material, the photo above shows the depth of the prismatic gilded letters.

 When the sign is installed I will add a photo of it in place.

Cambryar almost finished by classic signs nc

If you want to see the installation instructions that I sent with this sign follow the link below. We create our signs so they can be installed by any handyman, landscaper or competent homeowner. Have a look you might be surprised!

Cambryar installation instructions

 All the nuts, bolts, washers and metal screws that were needed were supplied with the custom made posts, brackets and cross-bar. Threaded metal inserts were inserted into the back of the sign body. In this particular example the main cross-bar was epoxied to the back of the sign, the epoxy was supplied as well, touch up paint is always available.

Total cost including delivery to Fairfax VA. was approximately $4900. 00

Our design and manufacturing capabilities coupled with our technical expertise mean we are not the cheapest sign manufacturer but we always give the best value for your money, plus we give a 5-10 year warranty depending on the sign.

If this sign was created without the gold leaf, prismatic letters and it had a normall sandblasted flower. In other words a standard sandblasted and painted HDU sign the price would be about $2000.00 ( that would not include delivery).

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The making of our own dimensional sign: Classic signs

I wanted to create something that would really grab peoples attention. It had  to be a three dimensional sign that incorporated all of the things that we are good at . The big problem with this kind of chalenge is that if we did all of that with out a lot of careful thought and planning it could very easily turn out to be a monstrosity.

routed sign face for classic signs nc320x240It needed to have a Sandblasted background and on such a large area it would be very easy to have some variations in the depth and I didn't want that, so to start with I routed the faces to a depth of .25" (when I say routed, I "hogged" out the backgroundusing our CNC router) leaving the borders and letters "raised " I then hogged out the inside of the letters except for a quarter inch around the edge of each letter down to a depth of 0.375" . This effectivly left partially hollowed out letters and graphics with a small outline. (more about that in a while).

The acrylic is cut to halo the letters and graphics.

making of classic signs sign acrylic letter backers being cut on a router320x240
And the router rough cuts the HDU for us to create the prismatic letters and graphics
routing the basic shape and form for the prismatic letters 220x180ish


We then routed the outline shape of the faces and masked everywhere but the background and lightly prepared the faces with the sandblaster to create the desired texture but from a distance so no more depth was added thus keeping it very even and flat the reason for that is that when there is a variation in depth and the light source is at a certain angle the uneven depth creates shadows that complicate and confuse the eye.

The bac kground Sandblasted and happy with the texture the acrylic faces are positioned and locating holes drilled

sandblasted the halo acrylic is added320x240

If this is done  excessively it can look like there has been worms crawling all over the sign face. You get this effect when inexperienced sand blasters believe they are creating good depth by tracing around the letters and graphics it can become so distracting and busy to the eye that all you see are the variations and shadows and completely miss the message.

Have you ever seen a commercial that was so absorbing that after it had finished you didn't have a clue what was being advertised?

There was a great beer commercial some years ago that I loved to watch it was funny and there was quite a story line to follow but I had to make myself really watch it one time to remember the name of the beer. And I'm someone who is constantly studying the various trends in advertising so I actually watch commercials (not all the time). Most folks only watch at a subconscious level. Great commercial but lousy advertising!
Anyway I can't remember the commercial or the beer now but that's down to my shrinking brain and slightly advanced years I fear not the advertising world.

That's what can happen if the back ground becomes too busy. Make it striking but keep it simple.

Hey I went to the pharmacy the other day and the very sweet girl asked for my date of birth so I said 11/03/71 she walked off and a few minutes later she handed my little (expensive) bag over and I said how did you find that so quickly didn't you notice I wasn't quite accurate about my age? She looked at me smiled and said yes I heard you but I made adjustments. 

Sides were added to the faces to create the overall depth of the sign 

All the letters were wet sanded and re primed with a very hard polyester primer several times

 making of Classic signs prismatic letters primed being sanded with 600 grit wet and dry320x240making of Classic signs prismatic letters primed  320x240










As we progressed the letters were gilded and the sign was painted. The letters were gilded with 23 kt. gold leaf and with varigated leaf, Real Gold will not tarnish but metals such as copper, brass and silver will and they must be cklear coated , We use an automative gloss 2 pat clear coat and spay every letter at least 6-8 times,  a can of clear coat from Lowes will do the job for a year or so but to last 20 years it has to be "thick",

making of classic signs sign letters gilded with varigated and 23kt gold leaf 2 320x240

making of classic signs sign part of letter gilded with varigated leaf prior to clear coating320x240
















 the truth is I'm still working on this one so have faith and come back in a couple of days for the next installment











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A sign for a new handbag store (R. Riveter) leads us to a big furniture restoration.

I'm assuming you can tell which photos are before and after:)

riveter2 320x240

About 46 years ago I was restoring antique furniture for a hobby. It grew to the point where I was doing so many jobs for friends and friends of friends that I started to do it 

r riveter before restoration by classicand signblastersdotcom 320x240full time. Two of us  acquired the use of the whole stable block of our local pub. The building was originally built in 1557. and has a lot of interesting things tucked away which I will tell in future blogs, there's too much to go over today and I'm supposed to be writing about signs. The thing is from those days I know quite a bit about restoration and although these antiques are not what you would call fine furniture they were the original fittings installed in the store and were "Art-Deco" which is one of my favorite periods . 

When taking with the head designer about the sign. It was to be real hardwood and unpainted; just a clear coat. I was explaining that I had some 40 year old oak that would work great and how I would treat it, she asked me if I knew anything about the shop furniture.

That's how we came to do both jobs.r riveter before restoration 4 by classic and signblastersdotcom 320x240

They gave me a budget to work with (which always helps) and I told them what we could do for that amount; bear in mind these are shop fittings not Chipendale chairs, they needed to be polyurethaned and not "french polished".

riveter4 320x240We got the heavy brutes back to the shop and after killing all the bugs and spiders (including one of the biggest black widows I have ever seen) we got to work.

We started by cleaning everything, I have a furniture restoration book from the mid 1800's with hand written notes. one of them was a formula for cleaning furniture It consists of alcohol, linseed oil, turpentine and a couple of other things I'm not going to disclose . With some superfine steel wool we rubbed  away the dirt and exposed some very nice grain. unfortunately there were a lot of cigaret burns and cup rings etc. It needed to be taken back to the wood but that wan't in the budget so it was decided to leave them to add character. We left them, stained the pieces and clear coated them with a high gloss urethane coating. 

There were also two very long units that were used as counters one full of draws the other shelves. These were in a pretty bad way so the cheif designer  from "Village Design Group"  Brooke Hauhey had us strip them and paint them black, then coat them with a high gloss clearcoat. We didn't want to end up with a high gloss but more of a polished look with a depth to it that comes from years of polishing with a wax polish. That creates a patina that looks great and has a real sense of age. To acheive that we started with a very high gloss and then used polishing componds to knock the gloss off. That was then worked on with several more polishing compounds each finer than the last. We ended up with furniture that has a deep shine. One that will get better every time the staff use a real wax polish. But it was one that still had many imperfections as we wanted all of the pieces to look as if they had been constantly used but treated a bit better than they had been. That kind of explicit direction is wonderful from our point of veiw, when a customer explains exactly what they are looking to acheive, we know exactly whats expected of us. Thanks Brook.

We could have done a much better job had there been longer before the store is opened but we had to work with the time allowed. Actually we put in a lot more man hours more than we should, but with what we do everything is so subjective, that sometimes profit suffers at the expense of getting it right.

riveter3 320x240




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 A carved and routed ranch sign with gold leaf for a state of the art equestrian center 


silverbell on barn 2 320x240This customer knew exactly what he wanted and was great to work with. The Silver Bell Ranch is a state-of-the-art equestrian center that can stable up to 50 horses! He already had several signs but he wanted to add a high quality "v" grooved sign on the front of the main horse barn.

silverbell v grove routed hdu ranch sign 23kt gold leaf signblasters com320x240


silverbell on barn 1 320x240


We routed it from 2" thick HDU and sprayed a high build catalytic polyester primer onto it; front and back. This stableized the whole sign and gave it a very hard coating that we could sand to make it perfectly smooth (well 600 grit which is enough for our needs).

next it was given 12 coats of a modified 2 part acrylic paint specifically made for the sign industryand finished it with several coats of a clear satin clearcoat. We didn't want it too glossy just well protected from the sun. 


The gold size was applied very carefully one afternoon and then it was gilded the following day. Finally all of the 23 kt. gold leaf on the signs letters, graphics and border were burnished and that was as they say that!

 An aerial shot of the Silverbell Ranch and its facilities.

silverbell ranch aerial 320x240


Go to Horse Farm and Ranch signs page

Go to Beach and Lake House signs page

Go to House and Home signs page


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How to make new planed cedar look like it's been beaten by wind and storm for years

A few years ago A customer (another sign company) called and asked if we could create sandblasted cedar signs and make them look like they had been weathered like drift wood and bleached by the sun and wind  for several years.

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher classic signs nc 320x240I explained that wood worn and beaten by the sea looks very different to wood that's been weathered by the wind and sun he said that his customer wanted the wind and sun version. Wood, in particular "drift wood" is wet and that softens it so the wear and tear makes it rounded and smooth. depending how long it is before it's washed up decides on just how round and smooth. When it then dries out it splits and can take on some sharper edges. Wood that is weathered by wind, storm and sand will start to crack very soon then it splits and is worn away by the wind blowing sand and grit. The end grain that's exposed on the sides (if it was laminated horizontally) takes the worst beating and is eroded faster thus creating the jagged edged signs you see in many western movies.

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher hours classic signs nc 320x240The next problem was that the client wanted them natural (unpainted) Cedar, that's a problem because it might work in the dessert where there is no humidity but everywhere else the damp would very soon make them go black with mold. Black letters on a black sign are hard to read. 

So we gave them a very light coating of a translucent cedar stain. Some cedar is very dark and some is almost white. Multi colored or toned backgrounds don'r work for signs because to make it readable it must have contrast.

Signs101: CCL  =  Contrast, Clarity, Legibility

If you don't have those I don't care what a wonderful work of art your sign is, it won't work as a sign.  

Back to the point, a light coat of stain helps even out the more drastic color tones and helps protect it. Then we spray several coats of clear coat and mildecide. This stops the water from getting in and stops the mold from forming.

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher main sign classic signs nc 320x240Note: This only works if you use a high quality clear coat designed for wood. With over 50 years experiance using paints of all types we use Benjamin Moore. Some years ago the local Ben Moore store closed down and so we tried Sherwin Williams, They are similar in price and I always though they were about the same quality. NO THEY ARE NOT!  We tried "Richards Paint (that's very good but they don't have the wide range of products we require) and the various Lowes offerings! I won't even go there. Suffice to say the day Short flooring opened their paint store we were there. 

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher reserved parking classic signs nc 320x240

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher max penalty 250 classic signs nc 320x240

We have to run the cedar boards through the table saw to cut off the rounded edges and then through the planner, they are cut roughly to length and laminated together using a biscuit jointer and a high quality waterproof glue when assembled they are clamped together and set aside for 24 hours. When being prepared for laminating each board is checked and inspected to make sure boards of a similar grain are placed next to each other. Have you ever noticed a sandblasted wooden sign that looks like it's got a big stripe running through it's center? that's what happens when a board with very vertical grain is put next to one with flat grain. It is a natural product and so it will never match perfectly (and we don't want it to) but we do try not to detract from the job the sign has to do. 

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher model open classic signs nc 320x240

Next day they are cut to size and sanded flat and the sandblast stencil is applied. This is a rubberized pressure sensitive material that has had the shape or letters cut into it, the part that we want to wear away is removed and the rest is then applied to the cedar boards. They are now ready to be hacked around the edges with a jig saw, this is time consuming and it has to be done properly . Nature can damage the edges in a very uneven way but we are making signs and when all is said and done it has to look authentic BUT it also has to balance. If people look at a sign that is too unbalanced it will make them feel uneasy. You don't want potential customers having negative feelings about your product if you are trying to sell them, well, anything.

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge zoom schumacher main sign classic signs nc 320x240We now have a board ready to sandblast with very jagged edges. Every sign sandblaster has his own way to sandblast a sign. As long as you end up with a sandblasted background that is nicely textured but most importantly even. Its easy to sot a sign done by an amateur you will clearly see where the sandblaster has traced around the letters and graphics in an attempt to make the process go faster . The result is a sign where the background is so uneven it looks like it has worms crawling all over it. It is very important to have the background eaten away to create the "raised " letters etc. but we must never forget that the whole purpose of the sign is to have people see it and its message or instruction, you never want the background or the border to take visual priority over the message. That doesn't mean you can't have a fancy background it mans the designer had better have something even more noticable for the message when its done.


Schumacher, Cedar sandblasted natural wooden sign,"Model Open" for construction show site.

This is part of a package of natural sandblasted cedar "new construction show homes signs" that we create for a customer. The edges are weathered to give the appearance of old drift wood. They are sealed with several coats of satin clear coat to protect from mold making the sign darken. This sign is hung up when the sales folks are there.

construction and site signs


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bottom collage Lauren 1a 364x168

Some of what we create on a regular basis

Signs we manufacture are used for but limited to: Business signs, shops signs, restaurant signs, condominium Signs, subdivision signs, golf course signs, street signs, housings development signs, salon signs, beauty parlor signs, real estate signs, commercial signs, industrial signs, house signs, farm signs, beach house signs, resort signs, traffic signs, hotel & inn signs, pub signs, vehicle signs, interior & ada signs, boat signs, truck signs, office signs professional signs, trail signs wall sign, entrance signs, lobby signs, street name signs, outdoor signs, custom signs, mall signs, retail signs , marina signs, architectural signs.

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