There 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.
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…
I 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.
Planting 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.