Over the past few months, I have designed, developed and built an A-Frame sign for my former boss at Blue Sky Café, here in Bangor, North Wales. The brief was to build a sign that would stand out from the others on the High Street, particularly as the café is up an alley, and therefore not visible from the street. It also has to stand up to the daily wear and tear of being taken up and down the alley and endure the lovely welsh weather.
I started by sketching out a possible design to think through some of the options in construction and layout. A mortise and tenon frame would provide the needed structural integrity, and rounded through tenons would be a nice feature. I built a simple to-scale mock up to help visualise whether everything was in proportion, and to show to Chrissy, to help in discussing necessary features and design aesthetic.
For the signage, it was decided to have a fixed main bottom panel with the key information on, and then a removable smaller top panel, which could be changed to suit. These panels would be backed up with marine ply to add rigidity and weight which would help ensure the sign would not easily fall over in windy conditions. To make it really catch the eye, we decided on a semi-circular piece of signage which would stick out at the top of the sign with the logo on it.
I bought some nice, straight, even grained redwood from my local timber merchant and got to work cutting to length, planing the surfaces and ploughing the groove that would take the signage and marine ply backing.Then came the cutting of the mortises, shaping of the tenons and fitting of the top piece into the grooves of the frame.
Once I had taken delivery of the signage, I got to work fitting it and the ply to the frame, being careful to make sure that the top panels slid out easily, allowing for swelling. All that was left to do then was angle the bottom and top of the side pieces and apply the stain and finish. The stain was to darken the redwood somewhat and I decided on a yacht varnish for weather resistance.
Once I had built up the coats and allowed it to harden fully, I got to work gluing it up, then fitting the hardware, as well as screwing on the semicircular logo at the top. After a bit of fiddling about taking the hinge apart to screw it on and put it back together in situ, it was ready to go off to its new home on Bangor High Street.
It was a great learning experience for me, particularly taking it from the design/prototype phase, working through some of the issues that came up during construction, and then seeing it in use. I am very pleased with how it came out and I hope it will serve many years of use at Blue Sky Café.