Work on the homemade plasma CNC table continues to make progress. After hours of machining I finally have the Z and Y axis all mocked up and in an operating state. I often find that sometimes I need to shift gears slightly just to keep things interesting. Quite often I enjoy sneaking in side projects to break up the action a bit and keep the creative juices flowing. In the case of the plasma CNC build I was at a good stopping point to step away for a couple weeks and doing a few side jobs.

For 5 years now I have been walking into my daughter’s school to pick her up and for 5 years I have been staring at the same “remove your shoes” sign perched at the entry way asking people to do their part in keeping the school clean. The other day when I saw the sign, again, it finally dawned on me that there has to be something better and perhaps it was time for an upgrade.

The schools in my area operate on a tight budget and there is typically no money to be spent on “frivolous” items, especially “remove your shoes” signs. I talked to the principal and asked if I would be able to donate a couple of new signs that would replace the old ones. She was happy to accept the offer.

So this is where one of the side projects come in. I didn’t have a clear game plan and all the ideas I generated started to get to complicated and expensive. The one aspect I did know is that I was going to give my new shop equipment, a vinyl plotter, a workout and use it for all the art work. I decided to just head into the garage, see what metal I had laying around, and start cutting and welding.

I finally settled on a chalkboard/sandwich board retro theme. Everything was going to go black and white to give it a bit of an old school look. Since there are 2 main entrances to the school I offered to double the recipe and build two signs at the same time. As usual the documentation of the project was done in picture format and is available below for your viewing. I am happy with how they turned out and I am even happier that I completed the entire project “in house”.


This is one of the original signs that I have been staring at for the past 5 years. Although effective, and polite, an upgrade was in order.



Started by building the blank slates. I had some scrap 10 gauge mild steel so I carved out a couple chunks with the plasma torch. Starting size was 14″ x 21″.



90 degrees can be boring so I bent a section of round bar to act as a plasma guide and gave the tops an appealing curve.



To give the sign some depth, and to avoid sharp edges, I added some 1″ flat bar to the perimeter. It all got TIG welded into place on the back side.



I didn’t know what to build for legs so I just started to bend 5/16″ cold rolled steel and eventually came up with this design. I have no pictures to showing the machining of all the mounting pegs. 2 pegs are built to support the sign and the other 2 accommodate the feet. The pegs were cut from 5/8″ cold rolled, drilled and threaded on the lathe and then cross drilled on the mill.



All the support pegs were neatly TIG welded into place. I love TIGing!



These are all the rough sign components that have been fabricated. I will not explain the details since the remaining pictures will clear it all up. Onto the finishing stage.



The dimensions of the sign were determined by 1 thing, the size of my powder coating oven. Before I started the build I measured the oven to see what I could fit in it. It turns out a 21″ tall sign will give me approximately 1/2″ of clearance in the oven. Here I am wiring the sign to my oven rack to get it ready for the powder fogging.



Sign was coated with a matte black powder coat and is now ready to get baked at 375 degrees PMT for 15 minutes.



Matte black sign finished baking and hung for a cool down.



The legs were coated with White Glacier Full Gloss to give them some contrast.



Here the 2 blank canvasses are set to accept the artwork.



Using a combination of Draftsight, Inkscape, and WinPCSIGN software I designed the main artwork. The idea was to go for a chalk board/sandwich board style design.



The decals were cut out on my vinyl plotter using white vinyl. The decals were then prepped and transfer tape was applied.



My daughter had requested happy faces and I didn’t want to disappoint. I sliced a couple out of yellow vinyl, they are approximately 9″ x 9″.



Final product. Decals applied and legs bolted on. Clean, simple, and hopefully, and effective design.



I think the white legs with the white decals was the way to go. I purchased the stainless steel feet and added a rear cross brace between the rear legs to help with stability. An interesting build fact is that I calculated the angle of the sign so that it would be perpendicular with a persons line of vision at a viewing height of 5′ 6″ from 7 feet away.



The happy face satisfied my daughters request. I also figured that because the entire sign was donated I was entitled to give my blog a free plug. If the school doesn’t like it they can peel the decal off.



  1. Nice Job Gord, good cause too!

  2. Beni says:

    So precise as always!
    Merry Christmas Gord!

    • gordsgarage says:

      Hi Beni, precision can become an obsession. The more I learn the more fixated I get on making things dimensionally correct.

      Here’s hoping the holiday season is good to you,

  3. David says:

    Nice job on the signs! The contrast is visually pleasing and easy to read. You really add so much to the community you live in. Thanks for sharing, Gord.

    • gordsgarage says:

      Hi David, I agree that the contrast worked out. I had a fairly elaborate plan for the signs but then I decided to give my head a shake and realized that clean and simple lines are most effective. I wanted something easy on the eyes and the black, and white, delivers that.

      Thanks for the comments.

  4. Howard Nore says:

    Hi Gord, it’s always nice to see you post something. as usual you have gone to the wall on a seemingly dreary project and turned it into an objet d’art. Have a great holiday season, I am looking forward to your next winter project,
    Regards, H

    • gordsgarage says:

      Hi Howard, thanks for the comments. I find it hard to do the same old and typically spend much time trying to figure out how to do something different. Unfortunately different doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes I lose but this one seemed to work out.

      Happy holidays Howard!

  5. Gord –
    Great sign. And your daughter is right – the happy face is a nice touch! Keep up the great work.

    BTW – Have you gone or exhibited at a Maker Faire? I have been exhibiting over the last 4 years with some of my projects. I think you and your family would love it. Take a look at http://www.makerfaire.com and my post about the upcoming event (Bay Area, CA) in May: http://wayne-yoshida-kh6wz.com/2015/01/18/call-for-2015-bay-area-makers-is-now-open/

    • gordsgarage says:

      Thanks Wayne, the sign turned out great.

      Thanks for the info on the Maker Faire exhibit. I was unaware of that particular one. I have been fascinated, over the last few years, with the whole Maker movement going on all over the world. I think it’s fantastic. I took a look at the links you posted. Looks like it would be great to attend. I am occasionally down in that neck of the woods. You have me thinking I need to schedule my next trip around those dates.


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