Sign & Digital Graphics

November '17

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58 • November 2017 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL One Man, One Weekend Billboard Purposely making a sign for solo installation B Y R I C K W I L L I A M S Shop Talk indeed would be constructed over a long Saturday, and ready for the powder coating shop on Monday morning. So, keeping the items light, easy to put together with just two hands, and in small components really were important aspects of this shop-made puzzle. What I needed for the upper frame unit was an aluminum extrusion which, though it might exist, I did not have on hand or quick access to one. So, the "extrusion" was made by putting two sizes of light wall aluminum tubing together to make a picture frame extru- sion 3.75" wide with a recess 1.25" wide to set the face sections into. It was made by securing 1.25" x 1.25" x .080 wall to tubing 2.5" x 2.5" x .080 wall thickness. Short and long lengths for the rectangular shape of the frame were secured together with a number of flathead countersunk screws. Pieces of this new "extrusion" needed to be mitered very accurately so the frame would go together like a picture frame, with close fitting joints. We have a fairly good quality metal bandsaw that would make quick work of this cutting job, but it is not truly accurate for making mitered cuts that are a perfect 45 degrees, and cut true all the way through. A regular carpenter's miter is more accurate and will make good fitting joints. Fortunately, this type of wood cutting saw can also cut soft aluminum tubing using a fairly fine-tooth carbide tipped blade. That type of tool, a fairly inexpensive one, was used to good effect for this project and the joints were on the money. To hold the four frame members together I needed small brackets or fittings, cut from .090 flat stock aluminum, and larger " C-shaped" brackets that would attach the top and bottom frame mem- bers to the posts. These fittings were cut on a CNC waterjet, and some of them had to be formed in a sheet metal brake to make triangle-shaped fittings for the vertical stringers, and also to make short aluminum angle pieces as attachment fittings for the large "C-shaped" brackets. Also, several special fittings were made of steel to be used to make the two-part posts telescope easily together. The main part of each post was made from a 12' section of 4" x 4" x 3/16" steel tubing that would be set in concrete and reach approximately 9' above the ground. These two posts were made from one piece of steel tubing 24ft long. T he title of this month's Shop Talk may be a little deceiv- ing as the work shown did not exactly take place over one weekend, but the timeframe was something close to that, and the one-man aspect is truly accurate. So, let's take a look at a project that I intentionally config- ured to make it easy for one man to construct, done in compo- nents mostly of lightweight aluminum, and designed for easy step-by-step assembly in the field. The "billboard" was really just an all-metal sign that would go at the end of a football field at a nearby high school stadium. The face size was to be 6' x 12' in three sections, and the frame or construction of the sign was totally up to me. I knew that I would build it myself, and install it myself, as right now labor at the sign shop is in short supply. And it Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and documenting the sign business since 1986. Contact him at This "one-man" billboard was fabricated in lightweight components, almost no weld- ing, and intentionally easy for a one-man install crew.

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