Celebrating 70 Years – Retro Sign Re-Creation
As we began the planning process to celebrate our 70th anniversary, we knew that there was only way to truly appreciate and honour our heritage, and that is through signage! We are so excited to announce we will be re-creating the classic neon sign display from our second location (10224-109th Street), and donating it to the Edmonton Downtown Neon Museum.
The completed retro sign was officially unveiled with an formal lighting ceremony at our September 28th, 2017 Open House.
Stay tuned to our Social Media feeds and this blog for the very latest updates on the installation ceremony to be held late-2017 at the 104th Street & 104th Avenue museum.
Making this idea into reality could not have been possible without a number of great individuals that have our most sincere thanks; Tim Pedrick of the Alberta Sign Association, David Johnston from the City of Edmonton, and most importantly, our fantastic staff involved in the design, build and installation processes!
The first step was for our talented design team to recreate the sign in a colour format from the single black & white photo we have. Unfortunately, because no records were kept from this time period, this step took a bit of imagination, combined with our knowledge of the most commonly used materials (neon, metals and paint), from the time the sign was originally manufactured. Internally, a bit of back and forth took place over the little decisions:
- What was the overall size was the display?
- Was the “Neon” of “Blanchett Neon” illuminated by Ruby Red, Con Red or Tangerine neon?
- Was the background a painted feature or a metal finish?
- How will the new display be mounted to the steel structure of the Edmonton Neon Museum?
Finally, we arrived at the following rendering, and the design was approved by the City of Edmonton and Alberta Sign Association in its accuracy and historical relevance:
Technology has changed significantly since the 1950’s when our original sign was produced, and the large wall in our manufacturing facility that was once used for creating layouts by hand is now empty, having been replaced by a large format printer that provides the installation pattern for all custom signage displays.
Projects like this feature a balancing act; we could honour our heritage and utilize historically accurate techniques and processes, or choose more time & cost efficient methods that are common today.
With a slim window in production to ensure the display is completed in time for the official unveiling at our Open House, we compromised; the full sized template was printed via our in-house large format printer, and all loading and detailing for the neon illumination was laid out by hand.
Sheet Metal Structure
Once the neon pattern was finalized and all project materials ordered, the next step is in our sheet metal department, forming the structure and internal support components of the retro sign. AutoCAD production drawings are created by our drafting department and contain all information required to accurately build the display:
Our metal department is by far the largest sector of our manufacturing facility. Featuring four sheet-metal journeyman, this is the stage in the production process where all metal components are cut, bent and welded to form frames and structural elements.
Sheet Metal Department
August 25 – Update
Completed Structural Frame
The framework of the retro sign is completed, and the paper pattern is in the process of being transferred onto the sign structure. Once transcribed, the mounting holes for all neon and electrical components and access hatches are drilled.
With the frame complete and all access and mounting holes drilled, the next step in the process is for the entire structure to enter our paint booth.
Research & Development
In the world of custom signage where very few displays or building conditions are similar, Research & Development initiatives are a big part of our manufacturing day-to-day operations.
For this retro display in particular, the main purpose of our testing was to determine the best method to achieve the background “checkerboard” pattern that would both honour the look of the original display and align with signage manufacturing techniques from the era.
The result was an sanded “grain” worked into the raw metal finish that was alternated horizontally and vertically and then painted over with a semi gloss clear coat of our automotive grade paint to really emphasize the final result.
Before the days of the application of vinyl graphics, all signage details were painted carefully by hand, and in the interest of remaining as true to those traditions as possible, the graphics for this replica sign were completed using the same techniques.
We are truly fortunate to have some of the most talented production staff in the industry that are capable of achieving these hand-crafted graphics for projects such as this!
As our name may suggest, producing neon displays was our primary focus right up until the introduction of alternative illumination sources.
Blanchett Neon 70th Anniversary
For more on our history as we celebrate our 70th Anniversary in 2017, check out: