In this instructable (my first), I will show you how to make a replica road sign.
I will be honest and say, that I borrowed - ok maybe stole, the concept from a bumper sticker. But none the less, I made the sign.
(Please note: the "UniMan" image is a copyrighted image. The use of this image has been granted to me by Mr. Dustin Kelm. The permission granted is for a one-time, not for profit use. If you do not know who he is, then please look him up on the web. He has some amazing stats, and a heart for people. Thanks Mr. Kelm!)
The story behind the sign, in case you are wondering is that my son taught himself to ride a unicycle a year ago. And his birthday was coming up, so... This became an easy idea for a Birthday gift.
There are not a lot of unique Unicycle related things. It is not exactly a common sport (yes it is a sport, if you don't think so, then look up Extreme unicycling, or Unicon on utube... or maybe they are just plain crazy.) In the last year, my son has used this passion to train his 14 year old abs in amazing ways. And he has self taught how to do several tricks. So this idea was a natural to fit his passion.
An old sign, piece of sheet steel, or whatever you may choose to use as your background. - I was fortunate to find an old road sign that my company was throwing away (legal note, do not steal a road sign to make your own, probably not safe and definitely not legal)
Spray paints in what ever colors your sign needs to be.- in this case gloss yellow, satin black, and ultimately clear.
Painters masking tape - I used Frog Tape, it gives nice results.
Projector - I was fortunate enough to have an old overhead projector available.
Sand Paper and/ or Scotchbright pads
Step 1: Sign Prep
The first thing is to prepare your sign by sanding it smooth enough so that there are not heavy scratches. This could be one of the most time consuming parts of the project.
You want a fairly smooth piece in order to have a smooth finish.
Take your time for the best results.
Once the sign is smooth enough for paint, dust off the sign with a clean cloth, and then spray your background color.
Spray paint works fine. According to the paint instructions, it says for best results, you may want to use primer first. Honestly, I did not. And it turned out fine.
For this, I sprayed a gloss yellow. Then waited to let the paint properly dry. Use the directions on the can. Usually you must wait 5 days for the paint to be cured.
Next, I covered the sign with Frog Tape.
Doing this, I wanted to be sure that the strips of tape slightly overlapped the previous strip. And also wanted the tape to be firmly pressed down to seal the strips both to the sign and the other layer of tape.
You will notice in this picture, that the outline of the sign border is drawn on already. I used a tape measure and straight edge and drew on these lines. This sign is fairly large 36"x36". So to keep proportions looking right, I measured in 1 inch, marked it, then another 1.5 inches, and created my inside mark.
I connected these marks to create my border.
The corners were drawn free hand using the lines as a guide.
It worked out nice.
Step 2: Getting Your Art Ready
Obviously, as I said before, I used a bumper sticker for the design. So I found that sticker online. Then I copied that image into a basic photo editing program and took the color out of the original image.
I also cleaned up the lines a bit. As the image was small and I knew that blown up it would be very pixilated.
In retrospect, this probably would not have been such an issue, because of how I did it later.
Step 3: Project YOUR Image
As I said before, the company that I work for still has an old transparency projector (but we don't have a digital projector at our facility)
So I set up my art on a transparency ( or in my case, I copied it onto a clear page protector, which was a last minute idea)
Set up your sign so that it is stable and project your image onto the sign.
You may have to mess with the size to get it just right and centered.
As a note- make sure that you have your favorite music jamming to calm your nerves.
Step 4: Trace the Day Away!
Using the projected image, trace away.
You only need to trace the outline of the image.
Take your time tracing your image.
You can use this time to correct any flaws in the design (or pixilation from your image)
Of course, you will have to keep yourself out of the light.
At this point you may want to lay the sign flat to clean up your tracing.
Step 5: Don't Be a Cut Up!
I say this sort of tongue in cheek.
Using the Razor Knife, carefully cut along your traced lines.
Make sure that you use enough pressure to cut thru the tape, but not too hard that it may cut the paint below.
Also, make sure that as you are cutting, that you complete the cuts around the shape. Attempt as much as possible to make one fluid cut thru the turns and around the shapes. It is not always possible. But if you can then do it. It will make the pieces come out cleaner.
Again, take your time to make sure that you complete the cuts with smooth corners. Any jagged edges in you cuts will show up in the finished sign.
(You can cheat, by using your straight edge to cut the straight edges.)
The work space that I used allowed me to be on three sides of the sign. So if I couldn't move around the sign, then I gently turned the sign while holding the knife in place.
This was not always possible, but I tried as much as I could to make one cut on the shapes.
Step 6: Peel Away
Using your finger nail, or the point of the knife, gently lift the corner of one of the cut outs.
Again, if you use the knife, be careful that you do not cut yourself, or cut into the sign.
This is a long process. Removing one piece at a time. Do not get in a hurry.
You may need to trim a few places that didn't cut right, so keep that knife handy.
Step 7: Preview of Your Work
After getting your tape all peeled away, take a step back to admire your efforts, and to look for things that you may want to clean up a bit more.
Step 8: Foreground Color
I used a satin black to spray the foreground.
You could be creative in painting this, by layering tape to paint different parts different colors.
But this sign was going to be a "Caution" type of road sign. And they are only two colors. Yellow and black.
As a side note, some paints recommend having the surface prepped for the paint by removing the shiny layer that will be painted. I did this by using a piece of scotchbrite. Again, being cautious not to rub thru the paint.
Make sure that all of the edges of the tape are firmly sealed. And also be sure to remove any paint dust by wiping it down with a clean cloth.
Then spray paint the foreground.
It is always best to make several light coats, rather than one heavy coat. This can help prevent runs. A paint run could destroy this project. So TAKE YOUR TIME.
Step 9: Finished Product, Well Almost..
For best results, DO NOT allow the paint to dry before removing the tape.
Carefully (even more so than in the previous step) peel up a corner of tape and pull the strips off.
You may end up pulling the tape off in larger section. This is ok, but use care when getting to a painted edge.
If the edge was not firmly sealed, you may peel some paint along with it. Do not fret about that if you are making the same kind of sign. You can use a permanent magic marker to make any small corrections.
Wait a few more days, scuff the surface gently, wife off the dust, and spray your clear coat.
All told, this was done in a couple of weeks (mostly due to waiting for paint to dry). The majority of this was done in less than 4 hours. This meaning from the time that the background paint was cured, until the time that the tape was peeled off around the foreground. And this included the prep time of setting this project up.
And it turned out that it was done on the cheap too! This project was completed for less than thirty dollars. Really, it cost me a total of $12. Mainly because I already had the yellow, and I got the sign for free. And on top of that, I had a discount card for our local hardware store. Gotta love those sales!
Have fun! And be creative!!
Now the hard part... where in the world am I going to hang a 36" x 36" unicycle sign?!?!?
All told, it was very much worth the time and effort. This isn't a thing you can pick up at the local Big-Brand-Box Store.
We have also made our own, unicycle stand out of PVC pipe and rods. And I have been working hard on designing a Unicycle specific hitch mount rack for our family hauler. So maybe there are a few more Uni/Muni-ibles that will pop up in the future.
Till then... It only takes one wheel, a big heart, and a pinch of courage to create dozens of smiles!! Uni on!!