I started eating lunch at my desk. I thought it would be obvious that I was at lunch, because I was eating my lunch, but things get busy here on the 10th floor of the DoItYourself Building, and the stream of people coming to my desk was never-ending (this may be an exaggeration). So, the Managing Editor said, “you need a sign,” and she stood a bright yellow file folder on my desk with the words “At Lunch” written in pencil. If you know me, you know I couldn’t leave it at that. Plus, I have that pile of reclaimed scrap wood back at my shop just waiting to be upcycled. It would be easy to adapt these designs to go in your kitchen, your garden, or anywhere else you want to send a message.
The Senior Editor
Out of necessity, this was the first sign. I had an 8-foot board, 5 inches wide, 1 inch thick and painted green. It was out in the elements for years, so the paint was both baked on and peeling off. Perfect. I knew I wanted a one-foot base, so I cut the green board at 14 inches, to overlap by an inch on each end. Then I sanded it smooth. The base and posts would be 2x2s. To make things easy for myself, I decided to make everything 12 inches. I cut 3 for the base and 2 for the posts. Then cut 2 1 ½-inch sections out of one (the actual width of a 2x2), so the posts could slide into the base. Then it was just a matter of sandwiching the base pieces together with the posts and screwing them all together.
I screwed hooks into the bottom of the sign board and cut a smaller piece to fit between the posts. Then I did the lettering with a fat, black Sharpie.
The Managing Editor
After a week at the only desk with a sign, it became clear I had more work to do. I don’t like to repeat myself, so I’d use the green board again, but change up the design. I wanted to try something more animated. I cut the green board to 17 ½-inches, based on penciling the wording in at a credible size before I cut. This one would have a single sign post, so I cut a 24-inch length of 2x2 and screwed it to the center of the back of the sign. For the moving parts, I envisioned a rail-road sign style disk on a swing arm.
The disk I had from cutting a hole in a plank for another project. And I had a long 1x1 from somewhere that I used as a paint stirrer for years. The 1x1 is actually ¾-inch wide, so I cut that out of the center of the disk with a jigsaw. Instead of cutting the 1x1 to length, I scored it all the way around at 14 ½-inches and broke it, to maintain the rough, reclaimed look. I glued and screwed the halves of the disk to the 1x1, wrapped the arm in painter’s tape and spray painted the disk, red on one side and blue on the other. At the base of the swing arm, I drilled a hole and passed a length of bailing wire through, then I wrapped the wire around off-set nails on either side of the sign post. Two small blocks of 2x2 got nailed behind the sign, to act as stops for the swing arm. I drove a nail into each stop and cut the head off, drilling a matching hole into the arm. The headless nails fit through the arm to lock it in place.
All this business made the thing too top-heavy to stand up 2 feet high, without a massive base, and this thing had to sit on a desk. So I cut it down to 1 foot and screwed on 3 2x4 base legs (toenail fashion). These came from an old wood pallet and already had a nice taper cut into them, as the other portions of each are part of a wine rack I made some time ago. Finally, again with a fat Sharpie, I did the lettering.
The Content Coordinator
This one was an emergency. This poor guy is so overwhelmed with things to do he needed a sign right away, and it needed to denote not when he was here or away, but when he was too busy to talk to you (or to take on any more projects).
Space was an issue too, so instead of standing on the surface of his desk, I decided it had to hang on the divider of his cube. The divider is 1 inch thick, and the green board has a 1 inch lip on the back. Perfect. I cut a 17 ½-inch length of the green board (again based on the wording) and screwed a piece of 1x4 scrap to the lip, creating a socket that could slip over the divider.
Time being short, I went back to the hooks from the original sign, but I set them far off center, so the hanging message would project past the sign when the most important side was facing out, “Not Available.” I honestly don’t know where the wood for the hanger came from. It was old and weathered and I didn’t even have to cut it to size.
The Associate Editor
With a little breathing room, time wise, I got a little ambitious with this one. It had to spin. Again I cut the green board based on the wording, this time to 13 ½-inches. With similar space restrictions to the last one, this sign would also hang over a divider.
But because of the spinning piece, it had to stand off from the surface enough to allow for the action. I nailed 2 1-inch blocks of 1x1 to the back of the sign and furred out the existing lip with a length of the 1x1 paint stick. Then I screwed a scrap of 1x6 to the extended lip, so it created a 2-inch pocket, with the blocks to hold the back of the sign 1-inch off the divider. For the spinner, I cut a disk about an inch thick off the stump of an old Christmas tree. I scribed the spinner onto the sign board and cut it out with a jigsaw. I have a drill bit long enough to drill all the way through the 4 ¾-inch spinner, but I couldn’t find it, so I drilled half way through it on one edge and half way through on the other and actually managed to make both holes meet on the first try.
I clipped a piece of bailing wire about a foot long and bent it in half. The two ends got pinched in the chuck of a drill driver, and the loop was secured over a ¼-inch bolt held in my bench vice. Running the drill twisted the wire into a pretty rigid two strand cable. I pushed the cable through a hole in the top of the sign, fed it through the spinner and out the bottom of the sign. Then I cut it off and curled up the bottom end. And then, of course, I did the wording.
The Editorial Assistant
This guy has the same space constraints as the Content Coordinator and Associate editor, but I wanted make another standing sign. The green board had only a little left to give, but with the other standing signs being a foot tall, there was enough to cut off a 12-inch section to stand vertically, leaving 7 ½-inches for the base. It would stand like an inverted T and have a small enough footprint for the limited space.
I screwed through the base into the end of the sign board, and then screwed down two pieces of the lip to make a sort of a plinth. For the animation, I found an old slat about the dimensions of a dollar bill and made a 45-degree cut down the middle. I flipped one piece to face the other way, and they fit back together like a V. I needed more structure than the slat could offer, so I stapled the two pieces to the 1x1 paint stick and broke it off again, even with the bottom of the slats. There was a length of two-strand cable left over from the Associate Editor, so I hammered one end of it around a steel rod, to make a loop.
I drilled a hole through the center of the sign and the paint stick and pushed the cable through the holes. The loop was flush with the face of the sign. The other end of the cable I bent over and stapled to the paint stick, so turning the loop turns the whole V of slats and stick. One nail on each side of the V on the back of the sign act as stops. Turn the loop one way and one tip of the V sticks out on one side, turn it the other way, and the other tip sticks out on the other side. I lettered “Off” and “On,” to the V and then did the lettering of the title on the face.
Believe it or not, that’s the entire in-house editorial team for DoItYourself, so that made a complete set. Of course, there are writers and contributors all over the country, but if they want signs, they have to come here in person.