Lounge Act

For the past ten years, the owner of the West Cove Lounge, a gathering spot along Moosehead Lake in Greenville, Maine, had been using a flat 1/2-inch MDO sign on the gable side of his building, as well as a plain changeable message board sign placed near the highway. So he contacted Tom Stade, owner of nearby Moosehead Signs, requesting more visually exciting, artfully crafted replacements.

Stade designed the new roadside sign from scratch: A double-sided, 96-inch-wide-by-60-inch-tall sign panel with cut-out letters attached to them. The panels are mounted between a set of posts, meaning the finished piece stands thirteen feet tall!

Because the lounge is located across from Moosehead Lake’s old wharf that had been a main gateway for supplies sent up the lake by steamship, Stade employed a nautical theme for the new sign design. The main sign panel features different shades of blue throughout and is bordered by ornate, swashbuckler-style flourishes. The posts resemble something you’d find at a pier and rope and anchors add to the look.

Stade used his CNC router to cut the panels out of fifteen-pound high-density urethane (HDU) materials. Since the finished panel would be wider than what he could place on his router table, he carved two separate pieces of HDU blank for each.

Placing the two pieces of each panel together on his worktable, Stade then ran a hand-held skill saw to create a matching edge seam between them. He bonded the two panels together with Gorilla Glue™ and clamped and placed spring poles using 1x6s against the ceiling.

He then router-cut four-inch-deep (width of the aluminum suspension beam) HDU pieces for the border enclosure out of HDU, along with scrap pieces of 1-1/2-inch HDU cut into four-inch lengths by various widths to act as fillers. Knowing that his CNC router could only cut so deep, Stade used his hand router with a special long roller edge bit on it to cut through the middle of the pieces the CNC could not reach (the filler pieces that had curved contours).

With the first panel lying face down, he dry fit, marked, and glued the fillers to the panel using urethane adhesives. (Note: Since everything needed to be flat and tight—and urethane adhesives will expand—Stade placed the second panel temporarily on top with the face up and used clamps, along with everything in the shop, to keep the blocking from lifting upward. He also again used spring poles positioned to the ceiling along with blocking to hold everything in place.)

Once everything had thoroughly dried, Stade used a straight edge to check across the blocking at var


ious directions and sanded any high spots on the blocking. He then applied Gorilla Glue to these filler pieces.

Positioning the other panel over top of the first assembly, he placed clamps and nearly every heavy tool in his shop on top of the panels to bond them. (Note: Stade later sanded off any excess glue that had expanded out around the edges.)

For the border, Stade added another layer of HDU in specific areas for extra dimension. He attached these finished pieces to the panel with a minimum amount of urethane adhesive, clamped them, and, once set up, whittled them down with a knife and chisels. He then sanded to give these areas a radius edge.

Next Stade mounted the completed sign panel up on a customized, temporary stanchion support frame.

Stade sprayed Behr latex paints using a four-stage HVLP Sherwin-Williams® spray unit onto both sides of the sign panel. He made sure to mix the latex paints to arrive at the right color blends—dark blue to light blue for a “misty” lake surface effect. Stade applied the darker blues first and then went back over in spots with lighter shades.

After letting the entire sign panel dry (“fortunately latex paint is quick drying,” he says), Stade also used latex paint to hand-paint the border outlines and flourishes their intended colors.

Stade carved the basic shapes of all three sets of letters (“West Cove,” “Lounge,” and “Food • Spirits • Lodging”) out of fifteen-pound HDU on his CNC router. He applied contact cement to the HDU and bonded them to the Alupanel.

However Stade used a chisel and knife to hand-modify the bigger “West Cove” letters and give them a stressed appearance. He then primed and painted the basic colors in two shades of blue. As soon as he applied the dark blue paint, he took a wet paper towel and wiped this paint across the letters.

For the “Lounge” letters, Stade applied 23k gold leaf size to their surfaces, gilded, and later hand-brushed their outlines with latex paint. (Note: This outline work was done on all of the sign’s lettering.)

After painting, Stade cut out and placed Gerbermask onto the face of the sign to provide a guide as to where the contact cement would be applied for the letters. “So once I had the contact cement on the panel and on the letter, I simply pushed it right in place,” he explains. “Then I pulled the Gerbermask off.”

For the gable signage on the building, Stade used flat Alupanel letters. He flush-mounted the studs through the letters and epoxied the face of the screw flush with the face of the letter. He then applied a Sherwin-Williams Bonding Primer and top coating with black latex gloss.


Using clear transfer tape, he laid this over the Gerbermask cut-out outlines of the letters. He squeegeed it, pulled the letters out leaving the outline, cut each letter separately, taped it to the table upside down (so he could place the Alupanel cutout letter onto it), flipped it over, squeegeed some more, and then took an sharp X-Acto® knife and lightly followed the masked outline in the middle (cutting through only the clear transfer tape).

Stade then pulled off the inner transfer tape, exposing the inside area of the letter to be sprayed light blue. After spraying, he hand-lettered the darker blue to achieve a prismatic look.

The posts holding the sign panels are two sections comprised of three separate pieces each of 8x8 pressure-treated wood. Although the finished sign stands thirteen feet tall, the posts are actually even taller (as four feet of them are buried underground).

Because of the limited amount of space in his shop, Stade worked on these pieces outside on his truck-hitched trailer. He also used two fourteen-foot 6x6 pressure-treated crosspieces to support the post cantilevering out past the width of the trailer.

Stade and his brother carried the two main posts back into his shop and carved the mortises for the placement of the aluminum supporting crosspiece. Once mortised, the posts were placed back onto the trailer alongside the other posts, drilled through, and bolted together.

Next the sign was carefully laid down between the posts. The posts were then slid onto the 4x8 aluminum cross piece. Once bolted together, the posts were so heavy, a Come Along system was used to pull them together onto the crosspiece.


Stade cut the set of anchors for the posts with the CNC router and spray-painted them black. He then mounted them to a white Alupanel outline for the backing. With studs pre-mounted, the HDU anchors were siliconed to the Alupanel. Once the sign was installed, he drilled holes in the posts, applied silicone in them, and pressed the stud mounts on the back of the anchors into the holes.

Stade added 1-1/2-inch-thick rope around the posts by hammering specially ordered copper u-shaped staples over them. The copper looks good against the rope and will prevent later corrosion.

One of Stade’s friends owns a logging truck, so he hired him to lift up the heavy sign and drop it into place in a brand-new thirty-inch-tall slab-and-stonework planter the owner had installed.

By Jeff Wooten

All photos: Moosehead Signs.

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