Burkhart Signs Brushes Up With Pole Sign
The owner of South Bend, IN’s Mahoney Family Dentistry, Terry Mahoney, contacted Burkhart Sign Systems regarding a new sign. I knew this was going to be a special project. Their old sign, a 3 x 6-ft., wooden, sandblasted sign, had started looking really weather-beaten. He embraced the opportunity to not only create a new sign, but to completely rebrand his office with a new logo and invest in upgraded equipment.
He kept repeating, “We want to make an impression.” So, we challenged our creative director to develop a bold design using iconic dentistry symbols. Mahoney provided us with a vectored logo, and our design department used a combination of CorelDraw X5 and Adobe Illustrator.
The property is located within St. Joseph County, but not within South Bend’s city limits. The city maintains a much stricter sign code. The county permits a 300-sq.-ft sign that’s 45 ft. tall. Thus, we needed only a standard permit – no variance required.
To determine the proper letter visibility and sign height, we conducted a flag test. We covered the middle of a 4 x 8-ft. sheet of plywood and placed a 30-in.-tall, vinyl “X” in the middle. Using our crane truck, we lifted the sheet to various heights. Mahoney and I drove down the adjacent roadway to determine the most visible height. Based on this test, we chose a 40-ft.-tall sign (which ultimately measured 42 ft. tall). The test also confirmed 30-in.-tall letters would provide excellent legibility. You only have one chance to get it right. By conducting a flag test, we provided a professional solution that eliminated second-guessing.
We contracted Productivity Fabricators to develop wind-load specs and engineer the foundation, which consists of a poured foundation and set, J-bolt anchor cages. Per code, the sign was rated to withstand 90-mph winds. We constructed the cabinets from 0.125-in.-thick aluminum with our in-house Miller Regency 250, short-arc, MIG-welding system. Our shop cut the irregularly shaped panels on a MultiCam 5000 CNC router.
We built the main support pylon from 18-gauge steel, and attached a stringer system, which comprises aluminum angle that distributes the wind’s force across the entire sign surface, instead of applying all the stress to a specific point.
Giant cavity fighters
The sign’s focal point is a 25-ft.-tall, LED-illuminated toothbrush. To construct the frame, we used SignComp’s 5-in.-deep, square-tube-frame, #2104 bleed-face extrusion. We chose this extrusion because it provides the flexibility to handle the sign’s size and complex curves. Considering the location, size and wind load, we covered the frame with Cooley Brite 16-oz., flexible-face material. We considered building a Lexan® polycarbonate face, but wind load, size and the design made flexible-face decoration the logical chance to eliminate seams.
We chose a bleed-face extrusion because the trim that covers the bleed area conceals any small imperfections. Preventing wrinkles when stretching fabric taut over an irregular shape is challenging. However, the system and our skilled craftsmen provided a clean appearance and reduced stretching time. SignComp’s #2121 flat-bleed cover extrusion provides the bleed face.
We created the fabric as a single, oversized piece. Then, we laid out the toothbrush and toothpaste cabinet over the material, marked an outline, and cut it by hand to create faces for the toothbrush and toothpaste elements.
We “stick built” the “floss” cabinet, which means we built the sign from raw aluminum sheet and angle, instead of using a stock-extrusion product. Like the main cabinet, we MIG-welded it with 0.125-in. aluminum. We contracted United Roll Form to fabricate the floss, which began as a straight, 9-ft.-long section of 1-in.-diameter, aluminum round tubing. Their process created the floss shape, and we painted the rolled material and installed it on the box.
For effect, we installed a Lumark 70W, metal-halide lamp with an adjustable shade door, which we coordinated with S/T Bancroft Electric. Externally illuminating the floss box breaks up the face-lit main elements and provides good contrast lighting.
Instead of printing the flexible-face media’s graphics, we cut the Gerber 3M Scotchcal™ high-performance, translucent film on a Graphtec FC-5100 plotter, because prints are more prone to fading. Also, we could install the fabric and make it taut – and remove any wrinkles around the radius elements – before graphic application.
Our installers wet-applied the film because it allowed them to more easily remove wrinkles and create a uniform appearance. To stretch and apply vinyl graphics on both the toothbrush and toothpaste elements require five shop days for our fabricators to finish.
Inside the toothbrush cabinet, which measures 25 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide, we used white US LED modules. We chose LEDs over fluorescent tubing to reduce the need for future service. Also, fluorescent’s dimming tendencies can create an unwanted, striped appearance. We illuminated the toothbrush cabinet with 440 internal LED modules, made up of 1,320 individual diodes.
We also outfitted the 7 ft. 11-in. x 25 ft. 7-in. toothpaste cabinet with 540 white, US LED modules. The toothpaste cabinet’s end cap entails an unlit, 3-D piece with a hollow center that mimics an actual toothpaste cap.
We assembled the floss box, toothbrush and toothpaste cabinet as individual pieces, and transported each element to the jobsite on a 25-ft.-long trailer. On our first trip, we poured the new foundation and set the anchor bolts. After letting the foundation and bolts cure, we set the primary structural-pylon steel via a match plate and bolts. We later fabricated a cover to hide the bolts. Once we’d set the main steel, we installed the floss box and toothbrush element with our Elliott HiReach work platform and national Crane Sterling Acterra bucket track. On the third day, we installed the toothpaste cabinet.
At our last day on the jobsite, we connected the primary wiring and finished additional touch-ups. We avoided major delays; the project took approximately three months from concept to completion. We prefer the design/build approach for projects; it allows our clients to be with us each step of the way.
Ultimately, the process yields projects that exceed expectations while staying within budget. The size and complexity of the shapes we built posed challenges. But, we overcame them by relying on our team’s more than 140 years of collective, sign-industry experience. Through teamwork, creativity and working proactively, we developed a unique architectural sign that leaves a lasting impression.
Equipment and Materials
Cranes: HiReach work platform, from Elliott Equipment Co. (Omaha, NE), (402) 592-4500 or www.elliottequip.com; National Crane Sterling Acterra crane truck, from Manitowoc (Shady Grove, PA), (717) 597-8121 or www.nationalcrane.com
Extrusions: Bleed-face and cover extrusions, from SignComp (Grand Rapids, MI), (877) 784-0405 or www.signcomp.com
Fabric: Cooley Brite 16-oz., flexible-face material, from the Cooley Group (Pawtucket, RI), (401) 724-9000 or www.cooleygroup.com
Lighting: White, tri-diode modules, from US LED (Houston), (713) 337-3828 or www.usled.com
Plotter: Graphtec FC8000 CB090 48-in. plotter, from Graphtec America (Irvine, CA), (800) 854-8385 or www.graphtecamerica.com
Router: MultiCam 5000 CNC router, from MultiCam Inc. (Dallas), (972) 929-4070 or www.multicam.com
Software: CorelDRAW X5, from Corel Corp. (Ottawa, ON, Canada), www.corel.com; Adobe Illustrator, from Adobe Inc. (San Jose, CA), (408) 536-6000 or www.adobe.com
Vinyl: Gerber 3M Scotchcal™ high-performance, translucent film, available from 3M Commercial Graphics (St. Paul, MN), (800) 364-3577 or www.3mgraphics.com
Welding: Miller Regency 250 short-arc, MIG-welding system, from Miller Weldmaster Corp. (Navarre, OH), (330) 833-6739 or www.millerweldmaster.com
More About Burkhart Sign Systems
Burkhart Sign Systems designs and fabricates sign systems that effectively communicate a message and complement architecture. As a division of Burkhart Advertising, Burkhart Sign Systems has produced signs for more than 45 years. The Sign Systems division comprises fabrication and third-party installation, and its architectural-systems division focuses on canopies, sunshades and custom building façades.
Through our team’s design/build approach, the company devises master sign plans, campus sign planning and signage-study recommendations. With offices in South Bend and Fort Wayne, IN, it serves northern Indiana, southern Michigan and northwest Ohio.
For more information, visit www.burkhartsignsystems.com