This featured project was sent in to SDG via Orange, California-based Coastal Enterprises Co., manufacturers of Precision Board Plus, a high-density urethane.
The company wanted to highlight a business, Custom Sign Center LLC in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, whose owner, Kenna McCulluh is a big fan of its products.
McCulluh wanted to make a sign for her side business, Gramma’s Bloomers, so she decided to do it using the leftover Precision Board HDU pieces she had laying around from larger projects she does for Custom Sign Center. She wanted to make a smaltz sign—one that uses colored crushed and powered glass—and decided to crush her own glass from the local recycling center.
Gramma’s Bloomers is an Etsy store that McCulluh runs where she sells unique hand-crafted items she makes from products that otherwise would have ended up in the recycling bin or the landfill.
The base for the Gramma’s Bloomers sign was a piece of PBLT-15 that is 11” x 23” and 1 ½” thick. McCulloh designed it in CorelDraw and then exported the eps file to Vectric VCarve Pro software and programmed the tooling for the sign.
Using her CAMaster Stinger 1 router, she pocketed out the 3/8” deep recess where the glass was going to be, leaving the lettering outline. The flowers and letters came from the Precision Board HDU protective cover sheet that came with a larger order from her local distributor. She used a 1/16” CNC router bit to tool the flowers because of the level of detail required.
After routing the sign, Kenna primed it with two coats of FSC-88 WB everywhere except where the glass was going. Once the primer was dry, she added at least two coats of Modern Masters metallic paints, she says.
“I love how Modern Masters paint feels when painting and how it picks up highlights and shadows,” she says, adding that she uses MasterClear protective clear topcoat to protect the paint. The flowers were domed with epoxy to give a little more height and effect.
“I’ve always loved the classic smalted signs and decided to pick up some recycled glass to try,” McCulloh says. “It’s interesting because there may still be some paper left from the labels so it’s a process to clean it out, but I also think it’s things like that which lend a certain personality to handmade items.”
She left the HDU un-primed where the glass was going so there would be good adhesion between the HDU, epoxy and glass. McCulloh says she used West System epoxy to secure the glass to the sign. “I usually would use Smith’s Cream with glass smaltz but I wanted to experiment to see how the epoxy holds up.”
McCulloh made two of the signs—one for display and another to test out in the elements. She says when she’s experimenting with new technique and materials she likes to test it out before she’ll make something similar to sell to her customers.
The entire project, she says, took about 10-12 hours.
McCulloh says she has been making the shift from mostly digital graphics to dimensional signage, and finds that Precision Board is her material of choice.
“Quality dimensional signage is far from an instant product, however, there are many clients that are more than happy to wait and pay extra because they understand the appeal and value it brings to their image,” she says. “It not only looks nicer than a printed sign but last so much longer. Besides, they are so much more fun to make and that makes for a happy sign maker!”