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Thread: Finish for an outside sign

  1. #1
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    Finish for an outside sign

    I am working on refinishing the sign at our fire house. These are solid wood signs that have the department/ station routed into. The lettering is painted and the rest of the wood is left exposed. What is the best finish that I can use on the sign, that will last at least a few years and will have easy maintenance?

  2. #2
    Really, none of the natural finishes will outlast any good 100% acrylic paint. When someone insists on "natural", I "faux paint" it in the correct colours for the species. All softwoods have similar grain patterns.
    When I started making signs 22 years ago, someone told me that Sikkens Cetol was the way to go. Well, 3 years of our Canadian summers & the stuff was shot. And, it was nasty to remove, I learned to faux-paint!

  3. #3
    I'd agree with Rodger that most any clear is going to need attention every couple years. 2K urethane would probably last the longest but he is also correct that the more rugged the clear is the harder it will be to refresh. Looking into somewhere like west marine or total boat would be your best bet for a 2K urethane and just plan on sanding and full refinish every 2-3 years.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  4. #4
    I feel I should offer some back-up to my harsh opinion on "natural" finishes.
    I love wood ... especially redcedar, cypress & redwood. When I started making signs full time, 22 years ago, the question was always "how long will it last?" Frankly, I had no idea, other than what I'd been told by someone else in the business. So, it wasn't long until I decided to raise my prices by 10% & offer the following warranty ...... first re-furbishing, no charge, no expiry date. Business boomed, & frankly, it was one of my better business decisions.
    You soon learn what finishes are problematic
    Sikkens Cetol was the first .... after 3 years, it required stripping & recoating..... a really nasty job, I might add.
    Then I tried other naturals, none of which performed any better.
    So I switched to 100%acrylic "housepaint" , reluctantly, but I knew better than to put an enamel on a sandblasted background.
    OneShot .... until 2004, I swore by it. They took out the last of the lead in Sept 2004, & the EPA was banning a lot of other stuff in their war on VOC's. So, in 2007 I was repainting signs I'd painted 18 months before ( just the 1-shot ... the acrylic was still fine) Frankly, a paint that was historically good for 20 years ore more was failing after 20 months.
    Then I discovered "scumble", which allows you to easily " faux-grain", & started to paint on the woodgrain. Frankly, I didn't expect it to last, but 10 years later, most of the signs with my "faux-natural" finish are still looking great.
    You just have to understand grain structure, & practice.
    I saw I sign the other day I painted in 2005. "Natural" Ice cream, the theme, so the ice-cream blob in the cone was just flat, & needed to match their other signage, which was natural cedar. I suggested it be lighter in colour, for better visibility,
    so I painted it in the colour of "natural" Douglas Fir.. A local sawmiller stopped by the shop, & said " are you nuts ... a chunk of fir that size must weigh 100 lbs & you're going to hang it out over the street?"
    It was on High Density Urethane.... likely 30 lbs, including steel insert. If I can fool a man who's been cutting logs for 35 years, I can fool almost anyone.

  5. #5
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    What about some type of oil finish. Is their an oil that can be applied annually that will leave the wood looking good? I see where you are coming from with the faux grain painted signs, but Iím really not much of a painter.

  6. #6
    Oils will suffer the same fate. They will be much easier to refresh if done regularly.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  7. #7
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    The odds of the sign being stripped and sanded every few years probably isnít realistic. Iím thinking about maybe using a deck/fence stain. That way every year or two a new coat can be applied relatively easily. Does this sound like a viable option or are there issues with fence stains?

  8. #8
    John, if you can live with a stain ....... IF you have band-sawn lumber, & don't plane it ....... WB stain sticks to that like snot to a baby blanket. I'm guessing another coat every 8 years, less if you're in southern California.

  9. #9
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    I always had good luck with Oneshot Chromatic waterborne topcoat, it holds up as well as their paint, which I always used on outdoor wood signs.



    Sammamish, WA

    Epilog Legend 24TT 45W, had a sign business for 17 years, now just doing laser work on the side.

    "One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop." G. Weilacher

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rodger MacMunn View Post
    John, if you can live with a stain ....... IF you have band-sawn lumber, & don't plane it ....... WB stain sticks to that like snot to a baby blanket. I'm guessing another coat every 8 years, less if you're in southern California.
    Itís a redwood sign that was made 10-15 years ago. It was sanded smooth when it was built. Have you found any specific fence stains to be better than others?

  11. #11
    John, I'm in Canada & the stuff I used on my house & shop is a Canadian store brand. On sign posts, I use Olympic ( made by PPG) I've never used it on an actual sign ...just the posts.

    Joe Pelonio .... I suspect you've not had much experience with 1-shot lately. After 2004, the paints we were accustomed to lasting 20 years were good for about 20 months. It's improved a bit since then, but that crap cost me a fortune in warranty claims. So, I switched to acrylics. When I need oil paints now, although I have a stash of very old 1-shot, I use Ronan.

  12. #12
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    Scumble...very interesting. Is there a better video than this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCxYFm6e7p8 Started with MDF and looks pretty realistic when done.

    I had a similar experience with Cetol and still need to sand off all my entrance glulams to make them look good again.

  13. #13
    Brad ..... for the grains of "softwood", you need to buy one of those "grainer" tools at a paint store. That way you can have both flat grain & vertical grain too..
    That's a good video, but I do it a bit differently. I put down my base colour & let it dry overnight . Then I mix my "grain" colour into some scumble, & do no more than a couple of sq' at a time, because even with the scumble retarding the drying process, it dries too fast. On larger areas, I'll even use painters tape to show the individual boards, & change the grain angle on each one.. Para paints used to make a scumble ..... I bought a gallon of it about 15 years ago & still have some left.
    BTW, if you understand woodgrain, you can do down over the edges & match the end grain to the face..... that's what's convincing.

  14. #14
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    Thanks Rodger. I will have experiment with this. Your attention to detail is something I will have to keep in mind.

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