Old sign restoration projects and repairs to broken signs

Occasionally we are asked to restore old signs that are in need of some loving care and attention. It is often possible to do invisible repairs to sandblasted and routed signs that have been damaged by storms, cars or vandalism as long as nobody tries to do a DIY repair.

Even the wooden signs cannot be treated like a piece of furniture when it comes to being repaired.

Many signs that could have been fixed quite inexpensivly have been ruined by well meaning maintainance people or individuals who think they can help. If you have a damaged sign take a photo and send it to me thart way you can get a price before it is ruined.

OK now that's out of the way if you have an old sign or something that means a lot to you take a couple of photos and send them to me. As I can't put my email address here use the site contact form and attach the pictures to it or just use the form to contact me and I will write straight back so you have my email address to send it to.

foye old vgroove redwood hs sign restored 320x240This is an old redwood v grooved routed sign that was in pretty bad shape. The filler they used to smooth out the carved v groove had broken up and had to be carefully carved out again to allow us to repair, repaint and then re gild with gold leaf.

 The Burrow

This is an oil painting done on a peice of ply wood, the frame around the sign had allowed the water to soak into the ply wood ad it had rotted out from the inside. When we recived this sign at least 50% of the ply gad disappeared and all that was left was the oil paint which luckily was quite thick. Once dried it was soaked in a preservative to stop any mor rot. After drying for a couple of weeks we made a box for it to slide into and then resin was poured very carefully into the emty space between the front and back when it had cured enough the box was removed and the edges were cleaned up . We didn't actually do anything to the painting itself except clean it a little.

sign restoration project old hand painted sign on rotten ply classic signs nc320x240

Hurry Back Farm

Is an old sign that had been repainted several times, our first thought was to sandblast it, but I thought it might damage the metal as it could have textured it. Some of these old signs that were made totally by hand were made of a more malleable steel so they could be worked more easily. We decided to soak it in lacquer thinner for a few days and scrape it clean. It was then primed with a 2 part polyester primer that sealed it completely and finally several coats of a good quality paint

hurry back farm metal sign in need of restoration zoom320x240

hurry back farm restored 320x240


Gibonsville town sandblasted redwood sign restoration

 gibonsville sandblasted sign restoration project before320x240

This sandblasted redwood sign had been repainted many times, the old paint had flaked and was 3/16' thick in places and non-existent elsewhere. it had to be removed with soft wire brushes so the paint disappeared but the wood grain was left intact.

The cracks were filled with a propriety filler we make in house from redwood saw dust and some very tough resins, and then it was soaked in a preservative of our design and manufacture for 3 days. After that it was dried for 2 weeks before being primed with our polyester primer and finally repainted.

The actual repainting of the sign is only a small fraction of what needs to be done to bring it back to life and thats a life with a very long expectancy. And a 5 year warranty

 gibonsville sandblasted sign restoration project 320x240









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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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 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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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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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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