“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.” Originally sung by Five Man Electric Band (didn’t know that) and made famous by Tesla. I knew “Signs” was a cover tune, but who has ever heard of those other guys? But, this isn’t music trivia time. My point is signs are everywhere–why not in RC? Scale signs add an awesome amount of realism to a trail or course and the best part is they are easy to make.
- Printer paper
- Foam-core poster board
- Spray adhesive
- Clear coat sealer
- Bamboo skewers
You can either print the signs in this article (see below) by clicking on the image and saving it in its full-size or you design your own. There are plenty of examples online. Getting the signs the proper size can take a bit of work depending on how computer savvy you are. You can even start from scratch using simple programs such as Microsoft’s Paint. After you have the signs you want, simply print them out on ordinary printer paper. Special paper isn’t needed as the paper will get sealed with a clear coat to help protect it.
Obviously there are a number of way you can adhere the paper to the foam core (check the local dollar store), but you’ll get the best results with spray adhesive. Simply cut out each sign cut off enough foam core to have space for all of the signs you’re making. This allows you to save the unused foam core for future use. Follow the directions on the spray adhesive and apply a coat of the glue to the foam core. Carefully apply the cut-out signs so that they are smoothly and uniformly attached to the foam core. Now, simply let the glue dry.
Cutting the foam core can be a little tricky and sharp blade is absolutely essential. The best way to do it is in three steps. First, trace around the sign, right at the edge of the adhered paper. You only need to cut through the first paper layer of the foam core, Second, cut through the inner foam. The last step is to cut through the paper layer on the other side of the foam core.
Printed paper isn’t durable. A single drop of water will make the ink run and a smudge of dirt will permanently stain the paper. The solution is to seal the paper. Like the spray adhesive, you need to follow the directions on the can. I have to be perfectly clear that the acrylic sealer must be sprayed in an extremely well ventilated area–like, outdoors. The sealer can be found in matte and gloss. Which you use is personal preference, but this one of the few times where I believe gloss is the better choice on a scale accessory. Gloss is also a little more stain resistant and easier to clean. The first batch of signs have been used extensively–even at an event. That means they have been sprayed with dirt, run over put through their paces. Each survived and easily cleaned with a damp paper towel.
The easiest way to create realistic wooden posts is to use real wood. Bamboo skewers (you can find them at most grocery stores) are perfect for the task and are super inexpensive (less than $2 for a bag) and easy to use. Just take the sharply pointed end and carefully pierce the foam core. The posts work great just as they come out of the package, but you can easily darken them a variety of ways. The best and possibly the messiest is to give them a quick wipe with some wood stain. A cleaner alternative is to use a brown marker.
THE EASY WAY
We’d be remiss to not mention FubarCrawlers in an article about scale signs. If you’re not into making your own signs or want really professional looking signs, you should check out FubarCrawlers Scale Course Signs. These signs are laser engraved plastic and are offered in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. FubarCrawlers will do custom work, but they also sell a standard variety pack for $25. You can find FubarCrawlers on here.
The signs below are saved as a single sheet in an effort to make printing easy. For best results, save the image to your computer and print the saved image. If you click on the image and print, the signs will most likely be smaller than desired. Print the signs as a single sheet.