Am's Barbershop Sign

I have been going to the same barber for over 10 years, in the same barbers chair, in the same barbershop, but recently everything has changed as he now decided to move into his own premises. This meant that he had a big job on his hands, refurbishing what was once a rundown acupuncture shop into his own barber shop. As regular customers a few of us pitched in to help, and I decided to take on the brand design work etc. - this included the shop sign. So naturally, having created my first ever project during Christmas it was only right for me to move onto a bigger project… a much bigger project.

Once I had the brand design finalized, it was time to figure out how I was going to make this sign. Firstly I had to research what material to use as this sign would be for outdoor use, so needed to be weather proof. I got advice from Adam and Mark and they suggested  that the Marine Ply we had in the Labs would be perfect for this job.

When I do design work, especially logo work I use Adobe Illustrator; this came in handy as I was able to import the Illustrator file directly into Aspire and work with the ready-made logo vectors. Once I had loaded the file, it was time to scale the job. The sign needed to be approximately 150cm x 70cm which is quite a big old thing – luckily we had a big enough sheet of marine ply to use. The sheet of marine ply was as big as the machine bed so I was wary as to how the material would hold down in the centre, luckily it was very heavy so screws in the corners worked just fine.

Even though this sign is a big job, the actual tool path calculation was very simple. It consisted of a two profile tool paths to cut out the main shape and the letters. As both profile cuts were using a ¼” down-cut spiral End Mill I decided to merge the tool paths to shave  a few minutes off the total run time. Then to add a final touch of detail I calculated a VCarve tool path for the trim of the design. Once the machine had run the tool paths and I'd removed the part from the bed, I chiseled away the tabs from the letters and the main shape then began to sand and dust the ply.

Now that the part was clean, it was time to starting the finishing process. The first step was to seal the wood with a weatherproof primer. Once dry I used a few cans of Black gloss outdoor spray paint to coat the sign several times...bad move! My advice for anybody thinking of spraying any work, do not do this outdoors in England, the weather is way too unpredictable. After the applying the many coats of gloss, I wasn’t happy with the final finish. The part seemed very scruffy as specks of dust etc. had made the finish quite rough so I had to think of a Plan-B to fix this.
After some time racking my brains, I finally found a solution. My friend has a car body shop, so decided to take it over to there and use the spray gun to give the sign a final coat. Before spraying I sanded the part down again to make sure all the dust under the original paint was gone and the material was smooth. After a few coats in the body shop I finally got the finish I wanted, smooth, even and with a good sheen.

To get the part ready for it to be mounted I had a white piece of Marine ply that I glued to the back of the sign so that the letters had a white “pocketed” backdrop, which gave the design a bit more dimension and character.  Also, it allowed me to one, glue the inner parts of the letters to the back board so they look like they are floating; and two, it allowed extra material to help mount the sign to the outside of the store.

This project was a great experience which taught me many lessons, right from the design and cutting to finishing. Firstly, I found it very useful that I could merge together the toolpaths that use the same bit. Not only does it save time, but it is one less thing to forget to run. Another lesson I learnt, and learnt the hard way was spraying the sign with the black gloss paint. Although obvious now, I thought I could get away with spraying the sign outdoors. But with it being a glossy paint, the shine really brought out the bumps from the dust and grit that got blown into the paint whilst drying. 

There are always things that I would like to differently if I were to do this project again, but I feel for a first sign, and a second CNC project, I am proud of my work. It has really got my CNC juices flowing and I cannot wait to make something else. 

- Am Paneser - June 2016