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Metal Fabrication

“Can you make this for me?”

Not every signshop project has to be a sign.




I don’t know if this is the case with your signshop, but here at M1, we constantly have clients asking us to fabricate projects that would not be considered “signs.” A lot of times, the requests are so far away from signs that we hesitate to do them, but after consulting my partners and fabrication team, we ultimately say something like, “Well, it’s not a sign, but we know how to build it!” Typically, this works out great, but sometimes it also means delving into an area in which we have virtually zero experience.

These scenarios are risky; unusual projects can very easily run away from you in costs, time and overall quality of the finished product, leaving you kicking yourself for agreeing to do it in the first place!

This story is about one of those projects that technically wouldn’t be considered a sign, although sign elements were incorporated, but we decided to give it a roll – and wound up with an amazing finished product.

Rollins College boasts a sprawling 80-acre campus located in Winter Park, FL. Rollins College was established way back in 1885 and, as such, is the oldest recognized college in the state. Winter Park is generally considered a very well-to-do area of Orlando. (When you say “Winter Park,” it’s obligatory to raise your pinky finger in the air as if sipping tea, and to use your very best obscenely rich voice.) Rollins’ tuition, including room, board and books, tips the scales at an average of $62,220 per year. That’s nearly $250,000 for a four-year degree!

We’ve done sign projects for this client over the years, so when they told us they wanted to remodel their student workout facility, we were eager to meet with them. The gym was old, worn out and in desperate need of a modern update. All-new rubber-mat flooring, new paint and some new equipment, including flat- screen TVs, were to be installed. Rollins needed a solution for four large columns located in the middle of the gym floor, as well as four wall sections jutting into the room. The columns were beautiful, solid (and expensive) stone that was not to be drilled into or damaged in any way. They were also outdated and stood in the way of the remodel.

The client already had some ideas about how they wanted the final product to look, but were counting on Media 1 to come up with a plan to make it happen. They envisioned transforming the columns and wall elements into a smooth, modern look, featuring the school colors of sapphire blue and bright yellow. Each wall section and column was to feature multiple layers of full-color dimensional PVC logos and silver accent stripes. The four columns would each have 40-in. flat-screen TVs mounted on one side. To add to the complexity of the project, all walls and columns needed to maintain electrical outlet accessibility to power the workout machines. Oh, and of course they had a four-week completion deadline, which just happened to fall smack in the middle of the Christmas holidays.


After committing to the timeline, we immediately thought of our favorite fabrication material, aluminum, as the perfect choice for this wall-wrap project. However, keep in mind, there were to be no penetrations of the underlying stonework. So, after some brainstorming with our designer, Dave Nicks, and fabricators, Ron Roberts and Steve Pass, we came up with our plan.

The four wall sections protrude from the main wall by 4 in. on two of the sections, and 20 in. on the other two. We “sheeted” each section in 0.125-in.-thick aluminum, built in the shape of a “U,” utilizing an interior 1.5-in. aluminum angle framework. These wall sections were 63 in. wide x 10 ft. tall. We made the wall covers 67 in. wide to facilitate an internal 2-in. mounting angle that we could screw into the main back wall. We slipped the U-shaped covers over the protruding wall and then over the mounting angle. Then, we fastened the whole thing to the mounting angle with countersunk screws to minimize visibility. Each wall received ½- and 1-in.-thick PVC logos, router-cut to shape, painted and attached prior to installation.

The 3 x 10-ft. columns were a bit trickier. With no fastening points to work with, Ron fabricated the covers in two 10-ft.-tall clamshell-like shapes. Each clamshell had to be made with exacting precision, not only to ensure they fit onto the columns securely so no movement would occur, but also to take into consideration a 2-in. air space gap we had to leave in order to allow room for the A/V cables and power routing for the TVs. To aid in the sturdiness endeavor, 3/8-in. neoprene padding was installed at various contact points of the stone columns inside the aluminum covers. So, when we screwed the two halves together, the neoprene pads compressed for a super sturdy installation. Having contact on the floor and ceiling, as well as squeezing the column tightly together, gave us a solid compression fit that can be easily removeable if they ever want to return to the stone-column aesthetic. After installation, the TVs and dimensional PVC logos were mounted to the columns. Finally, the aluminum and logo elements were prepped and sprayed in Matthews Paint Satin Acrylic Polyurethane, using the school colors.

We hit our deadline with one day to spare, and the client was pleased enough for us to consider this another element added to our bag of tricks. The lesson learned? If the project is not a sign, but you know how to build it, factor in some learning- curve time and money, and if you can do it, jump right in. Sign company capabilities fit projects of all shapes and sizes, so learn to stretch your abilities – and see how you can broaden your reach.



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