Veteran Signmaker Spotlight: Daniel Ortiz

Daniel Ortiz has been hand-carving signs since 1978, racking up an impressive 36 years of experience. He’s been using Precision Board for about 15 of those, and has built and designed some eye-catching signs along the way that we’re interested in sharing.

He learned his craft at The Woodsmith Studio circa 1979, which was famous for it’s hand-carved wood creations and 6 week wood-carving course.

Afterwards, he got into sign making and eventually started Coastwise Design, which operated until 2009 before becoming Coastwise Design Signs & Screen Printing. Over the years he’s gained some serious insight into the sign industry.

FTNONSENSECNC routed Precision Board Plus sign by Coastwise

As many experienced sign makers know, going from carving wood to HDU is an easy transition. According to Daniel, “My first experience with Precision Board was in 2000. I’ve found that it’s a product that truly behaves itself when you’re carving it, specifically because it has no grain. Wood tells you what it wants you to do. If you’re cutting the wrong way, it will let you know. I still enjoy carving wood, but I really enjoy watching Precision Board come to life right before my eyes.”

OasisBooksPrecision Board Plus on top of MDO, top is Fypon decorative millwork

We asked Daniel, with his years of experience in the industry, what advice he would give to new sign makers: “My advice to someone new to the industry would be to ask a lot of questions and read all the info they can. Also, talk to manufacturers – they know their products!”

Coastwise Design Signs & Screen Printing is a full-service signshop located North, VA, and specializes in 3-D signage. Additional information can be seen at:

The following are all Precision Board Plus signs designed and crafted by Coastwise:





Smaltz & Gold-Leaf: The Mark of A High-End Sign

As the proprietor of a sign shop, having a nice-looking sign for your business is a good rule of thumb. Dave Correll, owner of Brushwork Signs in Faribault, MN, recently decided to make a new sign for the outside of his business – a sign that was featured on the cover of SignCraft magazine!

According to Dave, “I started out making this sign for my business by CNC routing a 2′ x 4′ panel of Precision Board Plus PBLT-15 on my ShopBot. Next, I backed it up with MDO to give it enough strength to stand up to the sometimes harsh weather we see in Faribault. Because we wanted our sign to represent the quality and service of goods that can be expected from Brushwork Signs, I decided to go with a combination of 23K gold-leaf and smaltz to accent the sign.”

*A great step-by-step article by Sign & Digital Graphics on the time-honored tradition of gold-leafing can be seen here. 


As many sign makers are aware, smaltz is the technique of adding a crushed glass background to a sign, providing an eye-catching, unique texture. “In order for the glass to properly adhere to the sign, it is necessary to add a binding agent to the glass mixture. Through my years of adding smaltz backgrounds to 3-D signs, my binder of choice has become a custom mixture consisting of West Systems Epoxy mixed with Ronan Paints lettering enamel, because I’ve found it provides the best adherence qualities,” says Correll.

*An excellent SignCraft article on adding a smaltz background can be seen here.

The sign was finished with layers of Novacolor acrylic latex paints with a satin sheen to give it nice reflective qualities.

Dave got his start in the sign industry after attending the now-defunct hand-lettering course at the Detroit Lakes Vocational School. Throughout the two-year course he mastered the art of sign painting, and also met his wife Ann. After graduation, they each spent time at different sign shops for several years until the opening of Brushwork Signs in 1988, continuing to this day and specializing in all types of signage.

Look for a special project from Dave that will be on display at our booth #1347 at ISA Orlando this year!

Additional pictures of quality signs by Brushwork Signs can be seen at:

HDU, Aluminum, Vinyl and MDO: Together At Last!

We’re always impressed when we see a sign utilizing so many different materials and we’re really excited about this one. Tom Slade, owner of Moosehead Sign, whom you may remember from our previous blog post: The Maine Signcrafter, made this sign for the Maine Air National Guard base in Bangor, ME.

Consisting of Precision Board Plus, .040 aluminum, vinyl and MDO, this sign has many of the Earth’s elements incorporated into it. Tom started this project out by taking a 4′ x 8′ sheet of .040 aluminum and bending it with a sheet metal brake, forming it into what he calls a “pan face” sign base. Using his Gerber Edge digital printer, he printed out the eye-catching background onto a piece of vinyl and applied it to the aluminum background.

Next, Tom cut out the “Starbase” letters on his Sabre CNC router out of Precision Board Plus PBLT-15. Once finished cutting he used a hand-router to bullnose the edges of the letters and hand tools to spot-check any rough areas. The letters were then mounted onto 1/2″ MDO using PB Bond-240. Tom uses Behr latex paints to finish his signs, followed by clearcoat for an ultra-smooth finish.

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The “Starbase” letters were mounted to aluminum by screwing into the MDO from the back of the aluminum base. It all came together into one sharp looking sign. For more info and pictures from Moosehead Sign, please visit:

The Starbase program is a Department of Defense program designed for elementary school students, primarily 5th graders. They are typically students who live in inner cities or rural locations and are socio-economically disadvantaged, low in academic performance or have a disability. See more info at:

Copy of DCP_0420