When the great cheese and wine shop Love Cheese from York approached AD Bell for a sign that was quality, bespoke and a true stand-out, we knew we had an opportunity to produce something really beautiful. The sign was to go on the brickwork above the frontage of their shop, and needed to offer a classy and attractive appearance, as befitting a shop of this type. York is also a very beautiful place, and we really had to keep this in mind when designing the sign.
Love Cheese had the basic specification for the text that was to appear on the sign panel, as well as the type of paint they wanted us to use to match their shopfront – Farrow & Ball Oval Room Blue. In this case, it was the gloss exterior variety, for wood and metal. They also had a “cheese knife & corkscrew” motif that they really liked.
Well, as with anything like this, it all starts with a design. No wood or steel is cut until the drawings are done and approved with the client.
The drawing are always done at 100% scale, and in this case we had to work to the 450mm x 740mm panel size that is known to be acceptable as regards planning permission. The sign consists of a wooden panel with architrave edging and a steel edging strip fixed to the top edge to allow fixing to the top bar. The metal bracket featured a beefy 500mm x 250mm x 5mm wall mounting plate with 6 large bolts, a 40mm steel box section top bar, and smaller welded sections to make up the swinging mechanism. The corkscrew and cheese knife logo was to be cut from 3mm plate steel and fixed to the top of the sign. Once all completed, the panel would be painted in Oval Room Blue and the graphics applied, and the steel work would be given several coats of black Hammerite. With the drawings done, and approved by the client, it was time to make the drawing a reality.
The sign panel was made from a piece of 18mm exterior plywood. This was accurately cut to 450mm x 750mm using a wall saw to ensure accuracy of size and squareness of corners. The architrave was then measured and cut to fit using a mitre saw. The architrave was measured so that it would be slightly larger than the ply board, to allow it to be sanded back flush before painting.
Once all of the pieces of architrave were glued and dried, the edges were sanded back flush and any sharp edges were removed. Any small gaps were then filled and the whole sign was given two coats of primer before being rubbed back and given one final coat of primer. The sign was now ready for the Farrow & Ball Oval Room Blue. Now onto the steelwork!
As per the drawing, the steel was all now cut to length ready for fabrication. Once cut, the steel is cleaned with acetone to remove any grease, and then all of the edges and surfaces to be welded are ground back to bright clean metal. This allows for a smooth, clean and strong weld and is especially important when TIG welding, which is a strong and neat welding method but does require clean metal to work best.
The steel is held in position with magnet clamps ready for welding. As steel saws rarely cut perfectly square, final adjustments are made with a t-square and a tap of a hammer to get everything lined up perfectly. Once it’s all in position, the welds are put in place. On this piece (the part that holds the wooden panel) the welds are made on both the inside and outside faces. This is for extra strength and is required here as the welds will be ground back for neatness.
Once the welds were made, an angle grinder with flap disc attachment was then used to smooth out the welds. On the inside edge (shown above) this meant that the bracket would sit flush with the panel, as any weld left in the corned would bind on the edges of the wooden panel. The outside edge was ground smooth for a nice appearance. The mounting holes were then measure up, drilled and countersunk. This would make the screws easy to hide once the bracket was fixed to the woodwork later on.
Next up was the welding of the top supporting bar, wall mounting plate and swing mounts. it was very important that the swing mounts on the top bar mated up perfectly with the single swing mounts on the sign “cradle”. Lots of measuring and double checking here, and in the end they were absolutely perfect. This means that the sign will hang square and not bind on the mountings.
As you can see, the CNC cut metal logo has also been welded to the top bar. This meant grinding two flat spots on the logo to allow greater surface area for the welds. The weld between the main supporting bar and the back plate is especially important as it needs to be really strong. The two pieces of metal (5mm plate and 40mm box with 2.5mm wall) were both very strong individually, but a good bond between them was essential. The bar was chamfered heavily where it was to be welded to allow greater area for the weld to do its work, and of course, the metal was cleaned thoroughly beforehand to prevent any dirt or inclusions in the weld. Once this was all welded up, the sign was essentially complete and the whole unit was put together to test that all measurements had been correct before painting. Everything lined up perfectly, so now we were onto the painting.
Black Hammerite was used on the metal and I have to say, there is a reason why this paint is so well known. It sticks and covers fabulously well and offers a level of rust prevention that is hard to beat. it also dries quickly and is not hard to clean up if there are any drips or spills. Overall, the metalwork had three thick coats of paint, and even the back of the backplate was painted. At this point I made a decision regarding the open end of the top supporting bar. It is possible to put a plastic end cap on this type of steel box section, but there is some evidence that this can trap water inside and cause rust. My favoured method is to liberally apply oil to the inside of the box section to prevent rust. A piece of oiled rag is then pushed a few inches down into the tube. This holds the oil inside to prevent drips, and allows any water in the atmosphere to escape. That said, the steel used was hot formed, which means that it has a coating of black mill scale which resists rusting anyway.
The sign sections are held together on two large bolts. Stainless steel was chosen for this application as it is very hard and resists corrosion. The bolts were carefully chosen so that the weight of the sign was supported by an unthreaded section of the bolt – the thread did not start until the bolt was clear of the metalwork. Two washers added to the security and prevented the bolt faces from scraping on the metal. The bolts were too long, so we cut them down to size once the signs were fitted together. At this stage, the metalwork was complete. Now onto the painting of the wood!
In total, the sign had three coats of white primer and around five coats of the Farrow & Ball Oval Room Blue. This ensured a lovely thick build, and the maximum amount of weather durability for the sign, going forwards. The paint is expensive, but is very high quality and goes on really well. Once complete, it was time to fix the eye bolts and the top fixing bracket.
The top bracket was fixed in place with long screws into pre-drilled holes. The screw tops were painted black after they were in place so they were not as visible. The bottom eye bolts were drilled and inserted, and the blue paint around them was touched in for neatness of finish. The two parts of the sign were now almost complete. The graphics were applied to the board and the fitters were sent on their way. The six holes were drilled into the brickwork and the bracket bolted in place. The stainless bolts were then lubricated and slotted in to hold the swing panel in position, and the Nylock nuts were finally torqued into place. Done!
Read more about Love Cheese at www.lovecheese.co.uk