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Blackout’s Neon Pole Sign Promotes The Men (and Women) from La Mancha

In Austin, over-the-top signage is a requirement.

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With its growing cache as a creative mecca, Austin, TX has become famous for its restaurants – and their signage often matches the cuisine’s creativity. La Mancha (which roughly translates as “the spot”) bills itself as “Tex-Mex With a Twist”, and the signage fabricated by Blackout Sign (San Marcos, TX) provides the “Keep Austin Weird” hip factor as much as the tacos al pastor and cheesecake empanadas.

Will Muntz, La Mancha’s owner, knew Blackout Signs owner Jeremy “Jay” Gordon socially through frequenting Austin’s The Lucky Lounge, and, both being gearheads, they crossed paths at Austin’s Lone Star Roundup custom-car show. Muntz provided art with the sort of typography and imagery that indicated his preferences for the establishment’s visual palate, and, according to Gordon, asked him to “interpret” the artwork into a freestanding sign.

Gordon hired Kirk Tunningsley, the owner of Big Dog Neon (Lockhart, TX), to bend the approximately 200 linear ft. of 15mm-dimater neon for the channel letters and the blinking arrows that beckon motorists to come inside for an enchilada plate. To illuminate La Mancha’s sign, Gordon installed 15,000V/30mA France ServiceMaster electronic transformers to power the channel letters, and core-and-coil transformers and a sign controller to direct the arrows’ running animation.

To fabricate the channel letters, Gordon’s team riveted open-face channel letters together, and stud-mounted them together on 0.080-in.-thick, distressed-aluminum faces. Blackout Signs bent the letters with a press brake, and formed them the old-fashioned way with tin snips, a jigsaw, a drill and a tinsmith’s press brake. To decorate the faces, Gordon used TJ Ronan’s japan colors; he also had a little fun with the Lone Star State’s borders. He formed an LED-backlit, aluminum panel that resembles Texas’ outline, but blurred the lines with what appears to be paint splashes (my first thought was how modern artist Jackson Pollack overzealously sloshed paint on one of his canvases).

Creating the signs’s rustic – and rusty – person required some custom weathering techniques. Gordon quipped, “They’re top secret. I can’t say.” Gordon, Sean Holton and Jason Mathis installed the sign into an existing pole-sign cabinet. After installing the panels, they proceeded to the channel letters, transformers, the wiring, and, finally, the Texas outline.

“We finished installation over three hot, hot, hot days in July,” Gordon concluded.
 

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