When KDF Reprographics, a wide-format printing shop in Rockleigh, N.J., first entered the market in 1995, it started as a computer company serving engineers and architects, says President Stephen Hoey. Most of KDF Reprographics’ work included printing blueprints and scanning documents until it added some digital equipment to take care of other printing needs. Eventually, KDF dropped the computer side and now focuses on custom signage for large-format printing applications.
“We really like custom signage,” Hoey says. “In many cases, we get to develop the concepts for the clients and take it from start to finish where we get to be creative on the front end and the back end, which we really like. It’s exciting for us because we can really spread out all of our skills and apply them to all the different areas.”
Recently, the shop took on a custom signage project that especially allowed Hoey and his team to get creative for the Pearl River Saloon, a restaurant and bar in Pearl River, N.Y., Hoey says. After a flood hit the area, the water damaged the inside of Pearl River Saloon’s building, and the owners wanted a new sign to complement the reconstruction.
The initial sketch and computer rendering to get the project going.
“When we first spoke to the owners, they had a very simple sign with a weathered, Western style,” Hoey says. “It had channel letters on the side of the building, and they wanted to dress it up with something very impactful that also had the flavor of the building’s interior. They’ve always had a train theme, but during the reconstruction, they upgraded that, so we made the sign to match.”
Hoey and Brian Hamilton, business development manager for KDF Reprographics, first sketched a few concepts and took them to the client for feedback. The client requested that they add railroad tracks in the background, and from there, KDF took full creative reign. The shop then converted its sketches to a 3-D model and continued to alter the design.
“We were designing throughout the whole process,” Hoey says. “Each step we went into we found it’d be cool if we added this or added that. The project kept growing, but at the 3-D stage, we realized a lot of things could be added to make it more interesting.”
To create the sign, they used a MultiCam 3000 CNC router to cut the pieces out of 30-pound and 15-pound precision board HDU. Hamilton sanded the pieces, attached them with glue and screws, and incorporated a light box and LEDs. Once it was put together, the sign was painted.
For the train, they were careful to ensure that the details were accurate, Hoey says. Rather than just sticking to foam, KDF added realistic metal elements to the train. With the area being home to many train enthusiasts, a makeshift train wouldn’t work.
Routing the train out of Dibond on the MultiCam 3000.
But they weren’t finished designing, even during the fabrication, Hamilton says. Hoey and Hamilton never turned off their creative reign and found that more could be done.
“We realized the train was going to get lost against the brick building, so we tried to come up with something creative that would give it dimension off the back of the building,” Hamilton says. “We were throwing around ideas and thought it would be cool to do a 3-D mural of the old town, which would give a nice look behind the train.”
KDF Reprographics created the mural of the town using its Océ Arizona 350 XT to print onto Dibond, Hoey says. The mural was then cut out and applied to the back side of the sign.
For this project, making sure everything looked cohesive was the biggest challenge, Hoey says. There were so many elements to consider that the sign could easily get lost if not designed correctly. During the fabrication process, Hamilton would take a moment to back off and look at the whole picture.
“The texture of everything had the same feel, so one thing wouldn’t be real glossy and shiny while something else had a matte feel to it,” Hoey says. “That was key because there were a lot of different stages and colors, and we had to bring it all together at the end. We actually did some painting on-site once it was up because we got across the street and saw we needed a little more conformity. We printed the background and made sure the colors that we used on the Dibond panels were going to match the rest of the sign when you were close and far away.”
In the end, Hoey believes the sign was a success. The client had only seen proofs halfway through the design process and was thrilled by the end result.
“We knew we had a hit right away,” Hoey says. “As we were installing it, families walking by would stop and were blown away by what we were doing. Kids were just amazed when they saw the trains, so we knew it’d be fun and something people could talk about while going inside; it really brought the whole train theme outdoors.”