That's Not Metal, It's All In The Finish!

Its hard to believe it’s not solid cast metal, but this is a custom finish applied to Precision Board Plus by the artisans at Synergy Sign & Graphics in Strasburg, OH!

This massive gearbox was built by Synergy as a showpiece for the front of their business as part of a recent Steampunk rebranding theme and also to show their 3-D and design capabilities.


We asked Synergy Sign & Graphics owner Jim Dawson how he came up with this project and he responded: “Out of nowhere except my crazy head. I wanted to design something that reflected our recent Steampunk rebranding, and I came up with this idea.”

Thinking of a project is one thing, bringing it to life is another. “I started this project by planning out the contour layout for the gears and side beams in . Designing the project in AI is always our first step in our workflow of a project, as it is such a powerful drawing tool. Next, we imported the AI designs into our Enroute CNC software and put the CNC to work. We routed three sheets of Precision Board Plus PBLT-30 on our 5′ x 10′ MultiCAM 1000 and they came out absolutely perfect,” explains Dawson.



After the pieces were cut, it was time to assemble the behemoth. The rolled chain was linked together with 1″ PVC pipes cut to size and PVC splice connectors for spacing to keep the chain aligned.

One of the major standout features of this project is the finish. After seeing the finished picture and looking close, it was apparent that every square inch of the gearbox was textured with an extreme amount of care.

Two coats of FSC-88WB Primer/Filler, undiluted, were hand-brushed on. Jim decided against diluting the primer, purposefully keeping it thick in order to simultaneously add texture while priming.

“After priming and texturing the entire gearbox, we added base coats of Modern Masters black and black metallic. Next we did 3 or 4 coats of a combination of a wipe on/wipe off glaze along with a lot of dry brushing. The aged look was completed with an application of Modern Masters Iron Reactive Paint, which is a 2-part process consisting of the paint and rust activator,” stated Dawson.

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Jim also used denatured alcohol on a rag to fine-tune the appearance of the rust in many of the low spots. “One of the coolest things about the Iron Paint is that the rust is continually activated by water if you don’t put a clear coat over it, which we didn’t. When it’s set up for good in front of our shop, it will continue to develop real rust, continually looking more aged,” says Jim.

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Jim plans to also create a fictional story documenting the history of the gearbox and its recovery from the Titanic. The story will be inscribed on a plaque attached to the front.

All in all, we would like to congratulate Jim and Synergy Sign & Graphics on this awesome project!

Be sure to check out more info about Synergy Sign & Graphics here.