Designing Signs for a Tourism Farm Sawatzky Style

Coastal Enterprises, manufacturers of Precision Board HDU, is proud to host guest blogs written by some of the signage industry’s biggest movers and shakers, posted to the Precision Board Blog.  This guest blog is written by Dan Sawatzky with Imagination Corporation in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada.  This month, Dan tells us how he plans to use PBLT-30 Precision Board HDU and other materials to design signs for a tourism farm.  To do that, he takes us back to the drawing board with a look at his preliminary design ideas.


In Dan’s own words…

We love to use 30lb density Precision Board high density urethane in our projects and do so at every opportunity. Most often we combine this premium product with other materials and components to create our award winning designs. In the process our goal is to create long lasting signs which really work hard for our clients. Each of our projects always has to start with a very strong design, of course, and we are always seeking to push this envelope as far as our clients will go.

A current project of ours is a large tourism farm in the US midwest. They have successfully operated and prospered for more than thirty-five years, building almost everything in house with their skilled team. Recently, the owners of the farm approached us to help them out by re-branding and re-signing the many food outlets and attractions on the farm. They loved our style and wanted to kick things up a notch. With more than fifty food operations and attractions on the property there is plenty to do over the next few years. This was the perfect opportunity for us to design and fabricate our signature dimensional signs and add a whole lot more visual fun to the farm operation.

We’ll start with a number of key projects this year and then work our way through the farm. I’ll do about twenty designs for the first phase. It is a VERY FUN and exciting project! In the next few months I will chronicle some of the projects as they make their way through our shop. Stay tuned…


Sawatzky’s Imagination Corporation is a small family company that specializes in the design and creation of dimensional signs and environments. They tackle projects of any size from small signs to entire theme parks. Their work has garnered numerous national and international awards.

Dan Sawatzky is best described as a creative force and visual storyteller extraordinaire. His art career spans almost fifty years of magic. Dan’s passion is to design and create imaginative places that take people from the normal world to a setting of delight and wonder.

Coastal Enterprises manufactures Precision Board HDU, a versatile, cost-effective and eco-friendly urethane sign material that is particularly effective for making professional-looking indoor and outdoor dimensional signs.  It is a closed-cell rigid substrate that does not rot, warp or crack.  You can request free samplesget a quote or sign up for periodic newsletters packed with helpful information.

Add Shine to Your Sign with a Chrome Coating

When Jim Dawson from Synergy Sign & Graphics got the call from his friend Steve at Liquid 3D Design about collaborating on chrome coating of signs, he was intrigued.  Steve asked him to carve a 3D sign out of Precision Board PBLT-30 so that he could practice his chrome spraying technique.  Jim decided to make two signs- one for his own shop and one for his friend’s shop.  After a lot of trial and error, they are now offering their own line of chrome signs.  We asked Jim for some design tips and lessons learned from his experience.

sign with chrome coating

Chrome spray really highlights the surface details of your sign substrate, so you have to prep your material ahead of time.

“The higher the density of the Precision Board, the smoother the surface and the better to handle the chrome coating,” Dawson stated.  “Because it’s a silver nitrate, the chrome pours onto the HDU smooth, like liquid, and has almost zero texture once the hardcoat dries.”

Jim says that because it’s not a plating process, but rather a spray process, you have more flexibility.  You can do a lot with how the chrome is applied, whether in stages or using different inlays.  There is definitely an art form to creating chrome signs and Jim and Steve seem to have figured it out.

In partnering with Liquid 3D Designs, Synergy Sign & Graphics can create 3D signs with complete chrome finishes or just small chrome accents. Combine this with lighting and traditional sign techniques, and you have a real showstopper!  Check out their website or give them a call at (330) 878-7646 to see about your next project!

You can request a sample of Precision Board HDU on our website, get how-to tips, watch training videos and search our distributor directory to find a supplier near you.

The Artists Who Happen to Make Signs – The Angry Bull

I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “taking the bull by the horns.” Well Xpressive Graphix takes the phrase to a whole new level. Creating a sign for the Angry Bull Saloon is a prime example of what the artists at Xpressive Graphix are capable of while following their motto: Expect the unexpected.

First being approached with the idea of rebranding one of Zanesville’s favored local saloons, Tony Rose, David Mattingly and the crew at Xpressive Graphix used their expertise to take this project above and beyond. Using Precision Board Plus, these artists were able to craft a sign that would stop any passer-by in their tracks.

The design created by Xpressive Graphix.

The design created by Xpressive Graphix.

Using PBLT-18, this sign is layered perfectly. Actual 19th century barn wood was mounted on a steel frame as a backing for one of the craziest bulls you’ll find on a sign. While the lettering and outline were routed on a CNC, the bull itself was HAND CARVED by Tony Rose. The hand carved bull was mounted using 100% silicone while screws where placed to hold the bull until the silicone set. The surly demeanor was captured perfectly and the Angry Bull Saloon is now the proud owner of an amazing sign using Precision Board Plus!

19th century barn wood and the steel frame.

19th century barn wood and the steel frame.


IMG_0003bull finish1


The Angry Bull Saloon by Xpressive Graphix, Zanesville, OH.

Tony and the team are doing an amazing job showing what Precision Board can become. Visit them at their website or catch Tony on his twitter to see what they can do for you.

Letterheads: Keepers of the Craft – 40th Anniversary

For generations, men and woman designed, carved, lettered and painted signs by hand. In today’s world, machinery is taking the lead in signage with its ability to mass produce or “set it and forget it”, but what about the flowing subtleties and unique touches that lead to a top-notch sign? Letterheads ‘Keepers of the Craft’ are all about keeping traditions alive and Coastal is proud to be a part of the 40th anniversary.

This special 40th anniversary will be held, appropriately, at the American Sign Museum in a few weeks on September 24th through the 27th. This four-day event will offer two days of formal workshops – aka, Letterhead University, and two days of informal sessions such as panel jams, murals, impromptu demonstrations, and more. The workshops offer a range of topics with an emphasis on traditional techniques and design.

Coastal Enterprises has sponsored the Letterhead Meets, with Precision Board HDU, since the early 90s, and still to this day, we are very honored to be part of it. Kellie Miller will be in attendance for all 4 days of Letterhead40, and besides having a table, she will be available at the workshop offered by Noella Cotnam and Shane Durnford, “Letter carving and Then Some”. She’ll be there to help with any and all questions regarding HDU and finishing products (Primers, adhesives, texture coatings, etc.). This is a 2-day class offered on the 24th and 25th among the 28+ classes available, but time is of the essence as these classes fill up quickly.

If you don’t have time for the workshops, stop by Coastals table for free samples and demonstrations.

Online Registration ends on September 10th so be sure to register ASAP!

Letterhead40 Registration


Noella Cotnam, 2009. Don’t forget to sign up for her carving class co-taught with Shane Durnford.


Cam Bortz – Callander, Scotland, 2006


Stewart McLaren, Brenda Daley, Mike Meyer – Winter Muster, 2004

photo 1.1

Mozeppa Muster, 1999



Terry Colley – Callander, Scotland, 2006

letterhead timeline

Bring a piece from a past letterhead meet to share with others and place on the 48ft display shelf!

Check out their website,, or look for them on Facebook! You’ll find more details about the meet and see more pictures that will give you an even greater appreciation for the craft. Hope to see you there!


Fizzy Lifting Soda Pop Candy Shop Sign – Part 4

All done and ready to install.  What a fun sign to make – We hope this draws in people from far and wide to stop into this great shop. photo 1 John is on the street! After shoring up the existing sign bracket and doing some spot painting on the new steel he’s ready to hang the sign.139 142 146 All done!

Good Luck Adam and the gang – We wish you the best with the new store!

Oh and can you stock Reggie Bars?


Published with permission from KDF Custom Graphics. Source.