“That’s one of the things this company has always prided itself on—working more on a custom level than offering pre-built, catalog items,” says Steve Field, Architectural Sales for Stamprite Supersine.
First a little history: Stamprite Supersine began as two companies, both of which were founded in 1954.
Stamprite started out as a rubber stamp and identity signage company. Over the years, it expanded its identification signage division to include Braille and exterior signs.
Supersine also manufactured tactile Braille signs (but with a focus on aluminum construction rather than plastic). In 2005, Stamprite bought Supersine and merged the two companies, combining capabilities as well as contracts and contacts—one of which was the Rabbinical school.
When the school approached Stamprite Supersine, it had a rough idea of what it wanted on the donor display wall, and one of the main design elements was a Torah [books of Jewish scripture]. “[They] wanted it to look a little more traditional—like an actual Torah,” explains Field. “They provided us with photos, and we did research online to see what they look like exactly and set out to create something very, very realistic.”
With the look and design in mind, the biggest challenge was to translate that into reality—a tall order for a custom piece that had no precedent.
“When we first walked into this, we had no idea how we were going to achieve it,” says Field. “We knew what the final look was going to be, so I think the biggest challenge was conveying that all off to the fabricators and coming up with materials and construction methods that would achieve that final look.”
Since a lot of standoff hardware would be anchored to it, the shop needed something substantial to use for the Torah, so they chose .063-inch-thick aluminum. To give the aluminum the appearance of paper, the shop used a combination of paint and 3M vinyl printed on a Mimaki printer.
The shop also used a few dimensional tools to add realism. “We actually cut the fabricator loose with various saws and tools to go about making it look like the edges were torn,” says Field.
Everyone in the shop had a hand in crafting the Torah, even the owner. “He’s a woodworker and has some equipment at home. He created the wooden handles working in his basement on a lathe,” explains Field. “He had some samples of stain to match up colors to existing woodwork in the school.”
Another smaller Torah was also included in the display. This piece recognizes special donors and was made in a similar way to the main Torah, except with .032-inch-thick aluminum. The ends of this Torah were also rolled several times to resemble paper.
Both the main and small Torahs feature solid brass plaques that Stamprite Supersine cut from a large piece of brass. They are stud-mounted onto 1/4-inch-thick, green-tinted acrylic (for a cut glass look) with 3/8-inch-diameter gold anodized aluminum standoffs.
A third display also makes use of the green-tinted acrylic and recognizes additional special donors. It features acrylic panels cut into an arch with smaller brass plaques affixed via the same style standoffs used elsewhere. This smaller display was the school’s design. “That was one element that they brought to the table and really had a clear picture of what they wanted,” says Field.
The final element of the donor display wall is the series of three-inch-tall Hebrew letters that serve as a header. These letters were cut from acrylic on a Gerber Sabre CNC router and then brass faces were affixed to them.
Since the shop was unfamiliar with Hebrew, they paid close attention to a text file provided by the client. “They provided us with a live text file that we were later able to convert into a plot file,” says Field. “As everything was going through the final decoration and assembly and then bagged up for the installers, everything had to be numbered so that they could go back with the templates and know which piece went where.”
Right before Stamprite Supersine was scheduled to begin installing, the school decided to cover the plain, painted masonry wall with a wooden façade. The school also added downlighting to the wall.
With the fabrication of the Torah and all the accompanying elements done, Stamprite Supersine’s next challenge was the installation. The wall for the display features a compounded radius that curves inward and then outward in an “S”-like shape.
The school had no floor plans or the exact radius measurement of the wall, so Stamprite Supersine had to field-fit all of the elements.
“We provided a full-size paper proof at the time of the install, just to make sure that everything was translated correctly from the machines and to help locate the final install,” says Field. “Because of the curved wall, it was hard to decide exactly how all of these elements would be displayed and what we would call a center point.”
The installer and the school moved the paper elements around until they arrived at a layout they liked. Stamprite Supersine then installed the main Torah and the letters as a center point.
The letters were flush-mounted to the wall using double-sided 3M™ VHB™ tape. The Torah was also flush-mounted to the wall but with concealed screws.
The aluminum was slightly malleable and allowed the Torah to conform to the wall’s curve, which was another reason Stamprite Supersine chose the material. “Our main concern was that whatever we constructed had to fit that radius,” says Field.
The curve of the wall also affected the location of the standoffs, and the shop had to field-fit this hardware as well.
“You have to take into consideration that all this standoff hardware is going to move a little bit one way or the other,” says Field. “So we had to go back after we installed it and find our center point on [the standoffs] to drill all of the components that mount to them. It was kind of a backwards install.”
Once the letters and main Torah were mounted, the installer measured from these elements and centered the two additional displays accordingly.
The smaller Torah was flush-mounted to the right of the main Torah with concealed screws. The acrylic display was stud-mounted on the left using a series of 3/8-inch-diameter gold anodized aluminum standoffs. The standoffs are one-inch-long on the outside ends and 1/2-inch-long in the center to compensate for the curve of the wall.
Overall the install took about three days for one installer (with the occasional helpers stepping in on the larger components).
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Stamprite Supersine finished up the job about a month later by engraving the names of the donors into the brass plaques.
The entire project took about six months to complete, but the impression the custom donor wall makes will last for much longer.
By Ashley Bray
All photos: Stamprite Supersine.