Marvelous Mixed Media Monkey: Soha Sign

Probably two of the nicest guys you’ll ever run across. Mike Starks owner of Soha Sign Co. has been making signs since birth, and Heath DeWallace creative director/artist was the only guy in his kindergarten class that did something with his finger paint other than eat it. Both Mike and Heath love a tough challenge and enjoy the process of implementing mixed media developing techniques for finishing Precision Board Plus. One of the latest jobs they completed using mixed media was a monkey made with Precision Board Plus, real (close your ears PETA) Bear Fur, and Bamboo.[divider_padding]

Creating 3d signs and sculptures from pictures and drawings are another specialty of the Soha Sign Co. Check out my buddy Frogger, this little guy was inspired by a drawing and then brought to 3d life by Heath, finally perched on top of another mixed media structure they craftily created.

Working in the great northwest can prove to be challenging when it comes to creating signage that lasts through the long cold and rainy seasons. They have their work cut out for them when it comes to mounting signs in that rugged environment. What Mike likes to do is build u-channel aluminum frames around the board and secure the frame using spacers keeping it directly off the wall which allows for the expansion and contraction of both surfaces.

From making toothpaste with silicon, ice cream from spackle, monkeys with bear fur, and over 22,000 signs under their belt it is pretty safe to say if you can imagine it they can build it! To see more signs from SohaSign, visit their website at

Structure for small Precision Board sign

Precision Board is a wonderful substrate. It routed superbly. It holds detail well. Unlike wood Precision Board will not warp, check or split. Paint adheres well. Properly coated Precision Board lasts a long time. But one thing Precision Board and all HDU’s are not is structural. Many screw frameworks to the back of their signs but for me that messes things up in a nasty, temporary looking way. 
I tend to overbuild just about everything we tackle but I dislike failures intensely. I’d rather spend a little more time and effort to do things right once. It is just one of the things that separates our work from a lot out there. 
For our house project we created sign for many of the trades and suppliers. They are lined up out front for the duration of the project. When it is done they will be given to them for their own use.
The signs measure about four feet wide. Each has a steel frame laminated inside for maximum strength.
I routed the sign in three layers. The front layer was from 1.5″ 30 lb precision Board. I covered that is the previous post. The middle layer was routed in two pieces with slots cut to allow the 1″ x 1″ square tubing to fit inside the sign. I cut and welded up the steel frame in a few minutes.
Once the welds had cooled it was time to start the gluing process. I used PBBond 240. It is a one part glue made by Coastal Enterprises. I dumped a puddle on the back sign piece and then spread it out with a stir stick. Old hotel key cards work great for this purpose. Then I misted the sign with a water sprayer to activate the glue.
The next layer (middle portions) of the sign were lined up and laid into place. THe welded steel frame was also laid into place at this stage. More PB BOND 240glue was spread, sprayed and spritzed with water.
Then the routed face of the sign was paid on top and everything lined up perfectly. Lots of clamps are critical at this point. The glue tends to bubble up as it activates and will expand between layers. The first time I used it I thought some heavy weights would do the trick. when I came back the next morning the sign layers looked like a deck of cards as the glue had expanded and then twisted as it dried. I learned that clamps were necessary to keep things in line and the more clamps are much better than less.
Properly glued and clamped the seams are all but invisible and hold forever.

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Day of rest

Today, I finished the sculpting on the Shady Rest sign. It was fun to add all the small details such as his wiggly toes, his big belly and the had pulled down low over his eyes. This guy is out for the count. A bunny sneaks up below – not worried by the fellow sleeping overhead. 
The sculpted tree foliage was a first for me and I was pleased with the result.
Now it is on to paint. Stay tuned…

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Working in the dark

Yesterday, in the early afternoon, when I went up the road to get some small supplies from the local hardware store we noticed some smoke coming from a neighboring building. The fire department was called but before they even arrived the fire was well out of control. The flames were so high they engulfed the power and telephone lines putting all of Yarrow out of commission for the day. Power was restored before long but the internet was out into the night.

This morning things were back to normal but around nine thirty it went black once more. A fire at a local electrical substation knocked power out for thirty thousand homes and businesses in the area. Thankfully I didn’t lose any computer work nor did I have the router running but we did already have a good amount of epoxy mixed so we pressed on with our work in the semi darkness of the shop.
Around noon we headed into the Fox & Hounds Pub to do the last of the touchup painting there. Tomorrow things will hopefully go smoother in the shop. Stay tuned…

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Built to last

Then it was time to take the routered pieces of Precision Board off the MultiCam and make them into a sign.
 I used the center pieces of the sign as a jig to hold things nice and steady I cut short lengths of 1″ x 1″ steel tubing to length, approximating the angles by eye. The beauty of welding is that small gaps are easily remedied with a MIG welder.
 The welding only took a few minutes. It created an extremely strong frame that will be laminated inside the 30 lb Precision Board sign.
A few seconds of grinding on each side flattened the welds to make the welded metal pieces fit nice and flush into the sign.
I also bent up an welded some 5/8″ solid steel rods on each side. these would form the armature for the trees. I cut a small slot in each side of the sign with my air powered die grinder to make room for them.
Then I used Coastal Enterprises  PB BOND-240 one part glue to hold everything together. I clamped things up tight as the glue expands as it cures. I left it clamped overnight.
The net morning it was time for a little more welding. I used up a bunch of short pieces of 1.5″ x 1.5″ square tubing which I save for this kind of job. THe triangle tubing which sticks out of the bottom of the sign was leveled up and welded into the top of the new steel. I then used some 1/4″ steel pencil rod to form the hammock, tree branches and also to create a framework for the thicker bottom of the support branch. the Abracadabra Sculpt will be formed around these sturdy supports.
Now we are on to the sculpting phase of the project. My two helpers are in the next couple of days and it should go pretty quick. Stay tuned…

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