I guess I work slow. It took six months to have our house built, and yet it took three months for me to hang a sign. But what a sign it is. You may recall the cold, dreary GTG back in April; I mark that as the beginning of the latest adventure.
I'd seen the post in the New England forum by quattronly for an Audi dealership sign he wanted to trade for some 17 inch wheels. I'm always in the market for automobilia, especially Audi stuff, so I made an offer, which was accepted. During the excitement of the chase, I didn't notice a few comments that had been made in the post like "it's huge" from quattronly, "I don't have enough wall space for that!" from Ming02, and (my favorite) "I thought about it for a split-second but then slipped myself back to reality." by A4AdMan. Whoops. After a few emails back and forth with quattronly, I realized that I did not own any vehicle that would accept a sign that was nearly 8 feet by 4 feet in size.
A call went out to Glastonbury's largest car dealership (4driver4) and the `burbinator was secured for the trip to Boston for the sign and the GTG. We also took advantage of this trip to personally deliver a fine set of Pie Plates from Bac2h to quattronly. After loading the rims into the garage, it took both of us to walk the sign out the vehicle and load it. The sign barely fit into the mighty `burbinator
So a huge thanks to 4driver4 for the use of the `burbinator and for helping me get it into the basement. I think that was the first time he asked if Mrs. GBW knew about the size of the sign...which the answer was "no"
The manufacture of a large sign is actually rather interesting. In this case of the classic Audi logo from the `80s it starts life as a piece of clear plastic that is molded into a raised rectangle, and then has a raised oval for the Audi logo.
The years had take some toll on the sign and it needed some minor refurbishment to eliminate some of the surface scratches on the external side of the sign, and some paint touch up on the internal side of the sign.
Step 1 - Sign Refurbishment
I started by giving the sign a cleaning on both sides, and then set it up on some work benches to begin wet sanding the entire external side. I started with 3M Imperial Wetordry Sandpaper Sheets - 600 grit, then 1000 grit, finishing with 2000 grit. At this point it was nice and smooth, so I pulled the Porter-Cable out and finished up with the Meguiars #17 Clear Plastic Cleaner and the #10 Clear Plastic Polish. The exterior was done.
Not being a professional sign maker, I was unsure how to restore the missing paint on the exterior. It's actually multiple layers of paint, and uses different transparencies of paint to give the proper effect when lit. The first coat of paint is the reddish/brown of the Audi Logo. That is screen printed in the oval area only. The second layer of paint is the white, and that covers the entire sign interior. The next coat of paint is a grey that is not transparent. That is sprayed over the entire sign except the raised Audi logo. This last coat makes the logo part of the sign the only part that looks lit; the grey paint blocks the light from shining through the other areas. The final coat is white, and I suspect they do that to aid reflection within the sign to get the most light of the lights. This picture shows the clear plastic and the white and grey paint layers.
My first dilemma was that normal paint would not work, even when thinned (I tried numerous times). It did not match the transparency of the paint originally used and really stuck out like a sore thumb. After more research on the internet than I'll admit to, I discovered that there is "glass paint" that is highly transparent but still leaves a color, so I bought a glass paint kit at an arts and craft store and began touching up using the same paint layering process, using the red, white and grey as appropriate.
Since about six weeks had passed, 4driver4 asked Mrs. GBW knew about the size of the sign yet... the answer was still "no" (she doesn't venture into my side of the basement unless under duress)
Step 2 - Making the Frame
It's a big sign, and the plastic is only about 1/8th of an inch thick, so it's rather flexible and I needed some way to get it up on the wall. I decided to make a picture frame for it out of 1*3 dimensional wood. I used my Kreg Pocket Hole kit and compound miter saw to make a simple face frame. To add rigidity to this, I made a second frame, but this time a box frame, to mount onto the back of the face frame. The frames were glued and screwed together. I finished the frame in a black satin finish. The finishing touch was sliding the sign into the frame, and then using ¼ square dimensional wood, I screwed these strips into place on top of the sign, locking it into place.
Since another month had passed, 4driver4 asked Mrs. GBW knew about the size of the sign yet... the answer was still "no"
Step 3 - Did I mention it's big?
Yep. It's 20 inches wider than the A6 and 84% as high; it's a big sign. Big enough that I had to make room for it by rewiring the garage door openers, lowering them about 18 inches. This process included making a new mounting and patching the old one. I also mounted "J" hooks at the top of the garage wall (using the studs of course) in preparation for the big moment when the sign was mounted
Getting curious, I asked Mrs. GBW if she'd seen the sign yet. She mentioned that she had seen it when looking for the kids' water shoes. No other comment was made, but at that point it was kind of in the corner; the result of project "finish the *@#!& dining room"
Step 4 - Boys Just Want to Have Fun
What fun is it to simply have a large sheet of plastic hang on your garage wall, even if it does have an Audi logo? Nah, this was just another challenge, we're adding lights! I took the existing wall outlet and added another line off of it with a switch and outlet so that I could hook up some lights behind the sign for the right ambiance; better yet, the sign will light up when the garage door is opened, and turn off when the door is shut. Using X-10 components (industry standard for communication among devices used for home automation using your existing electrical wiring), I wired up a circuit to do just that. I leveraged my existing X-10 system, adding a magnetic garage door contact, wiring that to a Power Flash interface which detects the garage door contact opening/closing and relays a signal via the existing electrical wiring to an outlet "address" that turns on/off the lights for the sign. The beauty of this set up is that with some simple, but time consuming, wiring and a few additional components, I could automate the lighting of the sign to the garage door without running wiring from the door to the back of the garage. So every time I open the garage door, I'm greeted by the lighted Audi dealership sign; when I shut the door, the sign lights go off.
By this point, 4driver4 had stopped asking, but Mrs. GBW acutely aware of the amount of activity in the garage and that I had spent months (on and off) in various parts of the house on this single project (not on her project list by the way). Noticing the vast expanse of free space created on the garage wall by the various moving switches and outlets, Mrs. GBW asked exactly how big was this sign going to be. I probably should have stopped at just saying yes, the Audi sign is going to take over the entire wall, but I let it let it slip about the lighting automation with the garage door. The kids thought it was very cool; Mrs. GBW was thinking of all the other projects around the house that could have used that time. But she did ask if I was going to invite all my Audi friends over for a showing (as she rolled her eyes)....
"Vast amount of free space"
Even an Audi sign needs service mode:
A Day shot:
A Night Shot
Special thanks to 4driver4 for use of the 'burbinator and the assistance with moving it between the basement, garage and final hanging.