If you think it deserves it, don't forget to vote :) This was my real first commissioned "woodworking job", and I was very excited to be provided the opportunity.
I was asked to create an "Old English Pub Style Sign" for an art shop/boutique in Boerne, TX (www.copperdragonfly.net). They told me the basics of what they wanted [size, 2 different "signs" (one large, one small underneath), look, etc], but really allowed me to "create" it the way I thought would look the best. After looking at many different types of wood, I decided to make the actual sign out of Walnut, and then use Cedar for the rest (words, border, dragonfly image, etc). I also knew this would be outside, and take a lot of abuse from the sun and weather, so I had to protect it as much as I could from the elements.
Step 1: Beginning Process
Step 2: Dragonfly Creation
I also wanted to incorporate copper in the sign somehow. I knew all the hardware (chains, hooks, etc) would be copper, but I also came up with the idea to make the eyeballs of the Dragonfly copper as well.
I had 2 different techniques for the eyeballs. The first one was simple copper plumbing caps. They worked good, looked decent, but I couldn't find a way to keep the copper "new and shiny"...which was the look I wanted to go for. So, after a bit more research, I found some oval balls at Hobby Lobby that had a flat edge. I then bought some copper spray paint, and sprayed the balls (primed them first). Although you can't beat the "shine" of actual new copper, I thought in the long run, this would look the best and have little to no upkeep.
Unlike the "Copper Dragonfly" words, I actually had to make 2 of the dragonflies (1 for each side), so this took a bit of time to complete, but well worth it at the end.
Step 3: Walnut Sign/Cedar Border
The following morning, I outlined my top arch, and cut that with a jigsaw. I also wanted to border both pieces with cedar, to hopefully "pull it all together" at the end, and give it just a little more "pop" (gosh, I sound dorky, haha). I tried to steam a piece of cedar for the arch, but it ended up cracking just a bit (I steamed it for a good 45 minutes, but perhaps that just wasn't long enough). When the steam bend didn't work, I ended up cutting the cedar in quarter inch strips. This allowed the wood to bend MUCH easier, and all I had to do was glue the pieces back together and sand them down. You can barely tell that the bent cedar is made of quarter inch strips, so I was very happy with how that turned out!
After I was done with the ceder border, it was time to sand it all down, and officially glue everything to the Walnut. I started with 80 grit, went to 120, then 220, then 330, then 400. Time consuming, but what isn't in the world of woodworking!! :)
Step 4: Finish/Install
This was ANOTHER time consuming part, but something I didn't want to half ass either! I ended up putting 5 coats of exterior oil on each side of the large sign, and 4 coats on each side of the smaller sign. It seemed that by the 5th coat, the wood wasn't sucking up any more oil, so 4 coats probably would have been enough.
After that, I installed all the hardware, and built the post for it to hang. The post itself is also made out of cedar, and to give it an "older look", I chiseled out a 2x4 rectangle THROUGH the 4x4, and hammered the arm through with a mallet. I then added 2 bolts on each side, and put another piece of cedar w/ 45 degree angles for additional support. Once I hung it up, it was more than enough support for the sign.
I tried my best to keep most of the "design" a secret, as I wanted to surprise the owners of Copper Dragonfly as much as I could. They seemed very pleased with the finished sign, and I think everything passed their expectations. There will probably be some small yearly maintenance, but hopefully the sign will last for a very long time. Depending on how the 1st year goes, I may switch from the Exterior Oil finish to Cabot's Spar Varnish.
Thanks for reading, feel free to ask any questions, and please vote!