Just Call Me The Sign Guy, Again

Vickers Ranch Condominium Plat Street SignsThere is one project on my list of workamping duties here at the ranch that I am particularly proud of.

Producing street signs for Vickers Ranch was the perfect opportunity to apply my expertise as a signmaker, brush up on my woodworking skills, and learn to operate a backhoe – all while getting a crash course in condominium plat regulations.

Being a graphics guy, I was first asked to produce a hanging sign for the Ranch’s main entrance promoting their jeep rentals and horse rides. Irony ran through my thoughts as I crafted this sign from a rough-cut plank of wood and a couple old horseshoes. This is ironic because for the past ten years or so I often struggled to educate clients on the benefits of professional signage over handmade signs.

Vickers Workampers Al and Jim with Street SignsI was happy with the job I had done, but not extremely proud – probably because I’m used to the perfect graphics we once produced with the help of a digital printer and laminator.

Fellow workamper Al had warned me not to do “too good a job” because then I’d be expected to keep up the good work. Well, I apparently did just that.

When the boss saw my work, he said “Have I got a job for you!” With the Vickers selling off their rental cabins under condominium zoning, one of the many regulations requires that access be clearly identified by named streets. The street sign project quickly became mine. And I quickly determined to do a better job than I did on my quick and dirty hanging sign. Especially considering that the stock I was to use included a couple beautiful 2″ thick black walnut hardwood boards.

Ripping the 7″ planks with a hulking 20″ circular saw was the hardest part, considering I didn’t have access to the table saw that day. (Thanks Paul!) Designing the signs was easy. I intended to rout out the letters, then paint them for easy visibility. And being that graphics guy that I am, I knew Arial Rounded, condensed about 70% would make a perfect template. I know, you may be thinking “No you didn’t!” But if you care to discuss the taboo of stretching type, you can go ask the Textwrap type guru. There I digressing again…

how To Make Wood Street Signs with RouterI printed out all the street names in 216 pt. type. That’s three inches for you non-graphic guys out there. I then applied the paper template to the wood with a thin coat of varnish. Glue would have been to messy to remove with a sander, which I used after cutting out all the letters with a router and 1/4″ flat bit.

After cutting the signs apart with a radial arm saw, and only one ugly mistake with the router, I added a beveled edge around them for detail. I sanded off the paper template and the painting began. Multiple coats of white exterior latex with a tiny brush inside all the letter channels only took a few days. A few coats of spar urethane varnish took a couple more and really brought out the beauty of the black walnut. The signs were ready for installation.

Jim Operates Backhoe to install Street Sign PostsPlanting the posts became another workamping opportunity for education. When I suggested I would dig post holes with a pick and shovel, Paul laughed at me. I soon learned how to operate the backhoe, and why they call this place the Rocky Mountains. And I would have finished installing all the posts, had I not hit a water line where there was supposedly none. (Thanks again Paul!)

With the street signs done, it was on to various other manual labor projects and learning experiences. But if you’re wondering how the Vickers came up with Street names like High Muck A Muck, Isolde, and Gnome Way; these are the names of old mining claims the family had owned or worked.

8 thoughts on “Just Call Me The Sign Guy, Again”

  1. “Mountain Dew, diet that is, and caffeine free!”

    Caffeine & Sugar Free Dew…
    What’s the point??????

    Great job on the signage the Jimminy. Better stop doing such a bang up job tho, you might end up running the place.


  2. Hah, you hit a water line where there wasn’t supposed to be one? When I worked for Chuck Ellsworth at Allpoints back in the late 1970’s, he dropped me off at the brand new Imperiale Square in Old Town, Eureka, to dig postholes for the new sign. I was almost done with the first one and gave the posthole digger one last good pop down into the hole, which then began to fill rapidly with water. I looked around in panic, but of course all the workmen were elsewhere. By now the water was out of the hole and pouring across the sidewalk into 2nd St.

    Chuck pulled up in his truck with the concrete at that point, naturally. He ran and found someone and we got the water to the building turned off. Whew. The workers managed to subtly (for them) suggest that it was all the fault of the idiot 22 year old FEMALE, but, in fact, it turned out that I’d hit an unpermitted PVC waterline that had been laid diagonally under the brick plaza and the dirt area where the sign was to go. When we removed the damaged section for splicing, we found that I’d hit the sucker dead on and that it had a perfect chevron-shaped cut in it. Shoulda kept it as a souvenir.

    You have my deepest sympathy 😉

  3. Whoa there fellow workamper Al, “… Al had warned me not to do “too good a job” because then I’d be expected to keep up the good work.” Let’s hope Al’s sentiments are not those of my mechanic, dentist, or the many other people I’ve come to rely on for positive outcomes!!!

    Just kidding Al as I’m familiar with that kind of thinking as I encountered it a few times in East Germany just before the wall fell. Oh, and in Italy as well. And there’s Australia, they don’t let that one nail stand too tall either, no sir.

    However, it’s been my experience that those who make the extraordinary effort get the extraordinary jobs. But in a canned beer drinking world what the hey, maybe that sort of thing doesn’t matter?

    Jim/Rene, I say clean those toilets so it would mystify the Swiss and leave ’em scratching their heads in disbelief.

    You go standard bearer Nelson – Eric.

  4. Great stuff and beautiful signs! Just saw a sign the other day in someone’s driveway that looked kinda like yours, was wondering how they made it. Will have to keep this post in mind for when we buy our house! 🙂


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