Periodically we will add posts to our site that focus on the history of sign making.
Sign painting by hand
Thirty years ago if you needed a sign you had to find a sign painter. And there were lots of sign painters to choose from. Now there are very few true sign painters left but I have the privilege to work with a man who started painting signs back in the 1970s. And he has shared some interesting stories about the industry during the time we have worked together.
Sign making was very different nearly 40 years ago when Frank started his business. The smell of silk screen ink and paint filled the shop and sign makers had brushes and rulers of various sizes and easels and many other tools that are no longer needed. But there is one tool that was very common in those days that is not well known outside of the industry: the sign painter’s box.
Sign Painter’s Box
Sign painter’s box
The sign painter’s box allowed the painter to make incremental adjustments to their seating height. The key to good sign making was to get your body positioned correctly to make the lines, curves, circles, squares, etc. that were needed. Positioning your body at the correct height provided a great foundation for the work and the sign painter’s box allowed the painter to make incremental adjustments to their seating height. This allowed them to position their arms and hands at the right position for the job.
You can see the sign painter’s box in the top photograph on the right near Frank’s feet. The box allowed the painter to sit at the following heights: 6”, 12”, 20”, 22”, 24”, 26”, 28”, 30” and 32”. Besides the three dimensions of the box (6” deep, 12” wide, 20” tall) it had a
Extended sign painter box
mechanism that allowed it to increase the height (the ‘tall’ dimension) in increments of 2 inches. This allowed the sign painter to always be at the perfect height for maximum control of their brush. Some sign painters got so good at making the boxes that they went into business making the boxes for other painters.
Though we no longer offer to paint new signs for people we did repaint an old sign for a customer in late 2014. I was able to watch Frank and his wife, Debby, use the sign painter’s box. It was nice to see skilled craftsmen produce a high quality sign just like they did decades ago.
Periodically Accurate Signs will post articles of local interest to East Dallas County. Both Frank Block and Doug Barton are involved in a number of local organizations. We undestand that supporting the community and being involved is an important part of running a small business.
City Government Elections
On March 17th Doug attended the Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce http://www.eastdallaschamber.com/ luncheon that brought together the candidates for Dallas Mayor as well as the Dallas City Council District 9 council candidates. The program was moderated by Gromer Jeffers http://www.dallasnews.com/news/columnists/gromer-jeffers-jr/ of The Dallas Morning News.
Mayor Mike Rawlings
Mayor Mike Rawlings http://www.mikerawlingsfordallas.com/ was on hand along with Marcos Ronquillo who is opposing him in the upcoming mayoral race. There is one primary issue that separates these two men: the Trinity River Toll Road. Rawlings supports it and Ronquillo claims that the money for the toll road could be more effectively used in other areas of the city. By the way the two men greeted each other it is obvious that they have mutual respect and since Rawlings appears to be a lock to be re-elected Ronquillo may just be setting himself up for a run in four years.
Mike Rawlings impressed me when I saw him speak in the middle of 2014. He needed a hip replacement and because his support of the development of South Dallas is so strong he had it done at Methodist Hospital. That is walking the talk.
Dallas City Council District 9
There are a number of candidates for the seat that will be vacated by Sheffie Kadane http://sheffiekadane.com/ (he has reached his term limit) and the race seems to be open. At least I have not made up my mind and found something positive and negative about each candidate.
Darren Boruff https://about.me/dboruff was raised in East Dallas and has been a board member of the Dallas Park and Recreation as well as leadership roles in the Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce and Reddy Ice Holdings, his employer, where he is Vice President. He sees opportunities to improve Cara View, Ferguson Road, and Garland Road through economic development. Darren is especially well known for his work on East Dallas parks. However, he does not seem to have much
Mark Clayton https://www.facebook.com/markclaytonfordistrict9 lives in Casa Linda Estates neighborhood http://casalindaestates.com/ and has been in the district for 11 years. Clayton is a small business owner (All State Insurance on Gaston) and was inspired to run for the council based on his experience in helping to stop the restaurant from being built on Boy Scout Hill. He wants to build better communication between the city government and the people of the city. Clayton stands apart as the candidate who opposes the Trinity River Toll Road. Mark seemed less knowledgeable than most of the other candidates but was the most likable of all during the discussion.
Christopher Jackson https://about.me/ChristopherCJackson is on the Board of Directors of the Dallas Arboretum and has lived in old Lake Highlands for 17 years. He graduated from SMU with a law degree. A couple of years ago he spoke with Sheffie Kadane about running for the council and Kadane suggested that he get on the Cultural Affairs Commission to get more experience. Jackson sees opportunities to improve economic development through the Ferguson Road Initiative http://www.fergusonroad.org/ , Garland Road Vision http://garlandroadvision.org/ , and the Greater Casa View Area Plan http://greatercasaview.org/ . Mr. Jackson seemed to be the most knowledgeable on the issues, however, he presented a very gruff exterior which may work against him if elected and he needs to work with the rest of the city government.
Sam Merten https://twitter.com/sammerten is a former aide to Mike Rawlings, a former reporter for the Dallas Observer and current executive team member. He was a long time resident of Oak Cliff and recently moved into the Casa Linda area http://www.casalindaplaza.com/ . His biggest concern is that District 9 has the most miles of streets rated poor and unacceptable of the 14 council districts. Also, he wants to increase the tax base by bringing in new businesses and suggests the Trinity Grove development as an example of how this could be done. He has lived in the district for less than a year, however, since he has worked as an aide to Mayor Rawlings he has good insight into the workings of city politics.
As they say on their website, “at Playtri we love triathlon and multisport, but our goal is to help you find a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.” With five locations located in the Dallas area and a new store planned for Fort Worth, Playtri has a strong presence in the area and a loyal following of customers who depend on their expertise as well as the products that they sell. But perhaps the best thing that Playtri provides to their customers is a group of dedicated coaches who will help you get the most out of your body regardless of your long term goal.
Premise sign at The Colony
Accurate Signs is proud to supply Playtri with a wide variety of signs to help them promote their business. Here are a few of the projects we have done for them over the last year.
We made the channel letter sign for the new store in the Colony. The individual letters are fabricated and then LED lights are added to the backs of each letter. At night this creates a very striking visual. The elegance of the Playtri logo works well with this design.
Directional sign to stores.
The company wanted to build interest in their stores and some of the services that they offer. For this reason we were asked to provide some 3’ by 2’ metal signs in frames to direct potential customers off of the busy streets in front of their stores to their front doors. Also, they wanted to feature some special promotions: 20% off a new pair of shoes if you donate your old shoes, a $35 special for a bicycle tune up, and a 50% off sale.
Shoe Sale Promotion
Periodically Playtri hosts events and need various signs to help participants and fans navigate the event’s course. Last year’s “America’s Triathlon” held in Los Colinas featured banner work done by Accurate Signs that identified the start and finish of the race. Athletes from throughout North, South, and Central America participated in this International event.
America’s Triathlon Start
Sign Burned by the Sun
The sun can be the worst enemy of any sign especially in Texas. The intense sun with associated heat will eventually burnt up vinyl and fade the colors of a sign. Sun damaged signs can give a bad impression for prospective customers of your business so it is a business owners best interest to redo their sign every 10 years or so. In the same way that a business owner will update their business vehicle, logoed business shirts, or any other aspect of the business that influences how a potential customer feels about the business.
Sun Damaged Signs – Example
You can see on the left hand side of the sign that the white vinyl has been burned brown and has cracked and split apart. This is an extreme case of what can happen over years with a sign that is facing south and has no shade throughout the day. In this case it took it more than a decade to get to this point. The brown spot on the left shows how the white vinyl became scarred in the heat. And the intense green color and lettering shadowing have faded significantly.
It Gets Worse with Age
A sign that already looks bad can get even worse as the years go by. It is possible in many cases to remove vinyl from a sign and replace with new material. However, if the vinyl is too far gone it will be almost impossible to remove the vinyl from the base material. This will necessitate buying a completely new sign. This is not a huge expense but can add some to the total cost of a sign.
Sun Resistant Signs
To avoid this issue a company can build a monument sign that uses metal letters or some other type of sun resistant material. Though this option looks great it can easily cost 10 times what a vinyl or direct print sign can cost. One option that can provide extended life with the value of a money back guarantee is to use Gemini letters. These letters have a life time warranty so if any fade or break then the letter is free. Installation is not covered by this warranty, however, getting the letter at no charge can save hundreds or thousands of dollars.
API Systems Group enhanced the look of their office with two reception area signs that were made by Accurate Signs. We had done a single sign for them in the past and they liked it so much that when they changed locations they added additional signs using the same design. Originally, API came to us with a very specific design idea in mind. When we provided the final design specs they loved the look and went forward with the original sign. Thanks to our in-house design team we can create an original look for our clients or, like in the case with API, bring their design to life.
Two Companies – One Look
Since we originally worked with them they merged with another company, Mutual Sprinklers, Inc., and the two companies share office space. By using the same oval pattern the two companies can display their unique brand identities in a way that makes each distinct but visually connected. The single design motif creates a consistent look even though the company brands are very different.
Execution & Installation
The signs are large, custom-cut ovals (4 foot wide) that were made for the job. Accurate Signs printed, cut, and applied the vinyl graphics to the signs. To help with the installation process we added drill marks to the design so we could more easily prepare the signs for attachment to the wall. The signs were mounted to the wall with brackets so they stand out about 3/4 of an inch. These signs are not back lit, however, we have done similar signs that have the back light option.
Reception Area Signs
These signs have created a very professional look for API/Mutual Sprinklers in their office. They have a similar sign in the primary entry hallway for the company. High quality Reception area signs are a great way reinforce your company brand with your clients as well as your employees.
One of the early ‘wraps’ done by the founder of Accurate Signs, Frank Block, was the Mr Chicken restaurant car. Frank painted all the words on the Chicken Car and the owner had a rooster head attached to the roof of the car and a tail plume on the trunk. Not only did this car promote the restaurant but it was also rented out to people who wanted a unique carriage for their special event.
Vinyl Replaces Paint
Decades ago the only way you could advertise on your vehicle was to find someone who could hand paint your message on your car. Thanks to the invention of the vinyl plotter and printer you can add any image to your vehicle. This includes any font or image that you can provide to the sign maker. For example, the Mr Chicken name could be converted to a digital image and then red and white vinyl could be cut and applied to the car to recreate the hand painted version seen above. And no skill is required other than knowing how to use computer files. Much easier than finding someone with the skills to hand paint your vehicle.
Gone But Not Missed
Though the days of paint and brush is gone most sign painters do not miss the old days. New sign making techniques are much cleaner. Also, the smells associated with paint including all the chemicals needed for clean up are gone.