How to make new planed cedar look like it's been beaten by wind and storm for years

A few years ago A customer (another sign company) called and asked if we could create sandblasted cedar signs and make them look like they had been weathered like driftwood and bleached by the sun and wind for several years.

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher classic signs nc 320x240I explained that wood worn and beaten by the sea looks very different to wood that's been weathered by the wind and sun he said that his customer wanted the wind and sun version. Wood, in particular, "driftwood" is wet and that softens it so the wear and tear make it rounded and smooth. Depending on how long before it's washed up decides on just how round and smooth it will be. It then dries out, splits, and can take on some sharper edges. Wood that is weathered by wind, storm, and sand will start to crack, very soon then it splits and is worn away by the wind blowing sand and grit. The end grain that's exposed on the sides (if it was laminated horizontally) takes the worst beating and is eroded faster thus creating the jagged-edged signs you see in many western movies.

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher hours classic signs nc 320x240The next problem was that the client wanted them natural (unpainted) Cedar, that's a problem because it might work in the desert where there is no humidity but everywhere else the damp would very soon make them go black with mold. Black letters on a black sign are hard to read. 

So we gave them a very light coating of a translucent cedar stain. Some cedar is very dark and some are almost white. Multi-colored or toned backgrounds don't work for signs because to make it readable it must have contrast.

Signs101: CCL  =  Contrast, Clarity, Legibility

If you don't have those, I don't care what a wonderful work of art your sign is, it won't work as a sign.  

Back to the point, a light coat of stain helps even out the more drastic color tones and helps protect it. Then we spray several coats of clear coat and mildewcide. This stops the water from getting in and stops the mold from forming.

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher main sign classic signs nc 320x240Note: This only works if you use a high-quality clear coat designed for wood. With over 50 years of experience using paints of all types, we use Benjamin Moore. Some years ago the local Ben Moore store closed down and so we tried Sherwin Williams, They are similar in price and I always thought they were about the same quality. NO, THEY ARE NOT!  We tried "Richards Paint (that's very good but they don't have the wide range of products we require) and the various Lowes offerings! I won't even go there. Suffice to say, the day Short flooring opened their paint store we were there. 

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher reserved parking classic signs nc 320x240

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher max penalty 250 classic signs nc 320x240

We have to run the cedar boards through the table saw to cut off the rounded edges and then through the planner, they are cut roughly to length and laminated together using a biscuit jointer and a high-quality waterproof glue. When assembled they are clamped together and set aside for 24 hours. When being prepared for laminating each board is checked and inspected to make sure boards of a similar grain are placed next to each other. Have you ever noticed a sandblasted wooden sign that looks like it's got a big stripe running through its center? That's what happens when a board with a very vertical grain is put next to one with flat grain. It is a natural product and so it will never match perfectly (and we don't want it to) but we do try not to detract from the job the sign has to do. 

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge schumacher model open classic signs nc 320x240

The next day they are cut to size and sanded flat and the sandblast stencil is applied. This is a rubberized pressure-sensitive material that has had the shape or letters cut into it, the part that we want to wear away is removed and the rest is then applied to the cedar boards. They are now ready to be hacked around the edges with a jigsaw, This is time-consuming and it has to be done properly. Nature can damage the edges in a very uneven way but we are making signs and when all is said and done it has to look authentic BUT it also has to balance. If people look at a sign that is too unbalanced it will make them feel uneasy. You don't want potential customers having negative feelings about your product if you are trying to sell them, well, anything.

sandblasted cedar natural finish weathered edge zoom schumacher main sign classic signs nc 320x240We now have a board ready to sandblast with very jagged edges. Every sign sandblaster has his own way to sandblast a sign. As long as you end up with a sandblasted background that is nicely textured but most importantly even. It is easy to spot a sign done by an amateur you will clearly see where the sandblaster has traced around the letters and graphics in an attempt to make the process go faster. The result is a sign where the background is so uneven it looks like it has worms crawling all over it. It is very important to have the background eaten away to create the "raised " letters etc. but we must never forget that the whole purpose of the sign is to have people see it and its message or instruction, you never want the background or the border to take visual priority over the message. That doesn't mean you can't have a fancy background it means the designer had better have something even more noticeable for the message when it's done.


Schumacher, Cedar sandblasted natural wooden sign, "Model Open" for construction show site.

This is part of a package of natural sandblasted cedar "new construction show homes" signs that we create for a customer. The edges are weathered to give the appearance of old driftwood. They are sealed with several coats of satin clear coat to protect from mold making the sign darken. This sign is hung up when the sales folks are there.

construction and site signs



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