When Kenna McCulluh wanted to make a sign for her side business, Gramma’s Bloomers, she decided to use the leftover Precision Board HDU pieces from larger projects at the full time sign company she owns, Custom Sign Center, LLC in Idaho. She wanted to make a smaltz sign, but decided to crush her own glass from the local recycling center. Kenna tells us how she made this mixed media sign from rescued material, much like her other designs for Gramma’s Bloomers.
“I have a hard time tossing things in the garbage, so things that were once headed to the trash heap now ‘Bloom’ in to fun and unique items I list on my Gramma’s Bloomers Etsy store. I have fun mixing the drops with other materials like the recycled glass and sculpting epoxy.”
The Gramma’s Bloomers sign was made from a smaller piece of PBLT-15 and is 1.5″ thick and 11″ x 23″. Kenna designed it in Corel Draw and then exported the eps file to Vectric V-Carve Pro and programmed the tooling for the sign.
She pocketed out 3/8″ deep where the glass was going to be, leaving the lettering outline and “bloomers” using her CAMaster Stinger 1 router. The flowers and letters were from the Precision Board HDU protective cover sheet that came with a larger order from her local distributor. She used a 1/16″ CNC router bit to tool the flowers because of the level of detail required.
After routing the sign, Kenna primed it with two coats of FSC-88 WB everywhere except where the glass was going. Once the primer was dry, she added at least two coats of Modern Masters metallic paints.
“I love how Modern Masters paint feels when painting and how it picks up highlights and shadows,” she says. For exterior use, Kenna says she uses Masterclear Protective Clear Topcoat to protect the paint. The flowers were domed with epoxy to give a little more height and effect.
“I’ve always loved the classic smalted signs and decided to pick up some recycled glass to try,” she says. “It’s interesting because there may still be some paper left from the labels so it’s a process to clean it out but I also think it’s things like that which lend a certain personality to handmade items.” Kenna gets her crushed recycled glass from the local glass recycling plant (Coeur d’Alene Glass Recycling Company).
She leaves the HDU un-primed where the glass will go so there is good adhesion between the HDU, epoxy and glass. Kenna used West Systems Epoxy to secure the glass to the sign. “I usually would use Smith’s Cream with glass smalts but I wanted to experiment to see how the epoxy holds up.”
Kenna made two of these signs… one for display and one to test out in the elements. She says, “it’s better to experiment with my own things first. It helps me gain knowledge of the materials and techniques before I sell to my customers.”
Total project time? Probably 10 – 12 hours total. Kenna says, “I have to admit, I get lost keeping track of time on a project like this that is for myself. It’s more of an enjoyment thing for me rather than a job. Projects like these are great because you can do other things while primer, paint and epoxy dries, then come back and work a little bit more.”
Kenna prefers working with Precision Board HDU for many reasons. “The stability and endless uses for the product is amazing. It is also very nice to work with. The amount of detail you can achieve is far superior than with wood and you don’t have to worry about wood grain lifting or splintering while cutting or routing it. It finishes faster than wood as well.” She adds, “In my opinion there is not a better sign substrate for dimensional signs.”
Kenna has been making the shift from mostly digital graphics to dimensional signage and finds that even in an “instant world where digital graphics dominate”, she can still find customers who are willing to invest time and money to get a unique and eye-catching sign. “Quality dimensional signage is far from an instant product, however, there are many clients that are more than happy to wait and pay extra because they understand the appeal and value it brings to their image.” She adds, “it not only looks nicer than a printed sign but last so much longer. Besides, they are so much more fun to make and that makes for a happy signmaker!”
With 25 years in the sign industry, Custom Sign Center LLC knows the process from design and production to permits and installation. Quality work, honesty, value and a passion for what they do combined with years of experience is evidence that you came to the right place. You can give them a call at 208-664-7917 or visit their website.
Gramma’s Bloomers is a place where scrap items used in the sign industry and a mixture of other materials are lovingly transformed into new life. Items that were once headed to the trash heap now “Bloom” in to fun, imaginative and unique items inspired by the world around Kenna. She believes it’s the little details that make each item unique so they become special to you. No two items are the same. Each creation was made so it blossomed with it’s own unique personality. Gramma’s Bloomers can be found on Instagram and on her Etsy store.
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