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January 22, 2016

Last fall, our good friends at Workhorse approached us about helping them with a rebranding project for their client, Rock Creek Homes. Rock Creek Homes is a high-end home remodeling and construction company in the Washington, DC. Because of their appreciation for design, Rock Creek wanted a "real estate sign" that didn't suck. We brainstormed with Workhorse and came up with an idea to use a traditional Japanese wood preservation technique, Shou Sugi Ban. Shou Sugi Ban is a way of burning the surface of hardwoods so that they are naturally resistant to rot, insects, and water. Oh, and it looks amazingly beautiful. 

Shou sugi ban laser engraved sign.

Inspired by the Japanese technique, we chose to use traditional Japanese joinery to frame out the design of the sign. This made for a cohesive look to the sign, one that complimented the new logo and accentuated the luxury positioning of Rock Creek Homes. 

Coffee in hand, I spun up the blade of the table saw quickly making sticks out of a bunch of cypress boards. Then I laminated the boards to form the legs of the sign.

Laminating wood for sign legs.

Gluing up panels for the main sign board and the phone number board was a cinch. Armed with a pattern bit, a Bosch router, some double sided tape, and a Baltic birch plywood template cut on our Epilog laser cutter, I cut the smooth curve for the main sign board with the router.

Shou sugi ban sign

I used thru tenons, held in place by walnut dowels to keep everything firm. The tenons were a real pain to chisel by hand.

Shou sugi ban sign

Then I filled some of the nasty looking knots with epoxy resin.

Shou sugi ban custom sign making

After a quick trip to Lowe's to pick up a handheld flamethrower and a propane tank, I terrorized my neighbors by cooking the sign in my driveway.

Next, I carefully positioned the main sign board in the laser, and slowly etched the wood. The laser pulses disintegrated the burned surface of the cypress, exposing the lighter color wood beneath.

Realizing I forgot chain and hangers, I drove back to Lowe's, grabbed the chain, and went through the same checkout line. The cashier gave me a weird look and I made a beeline back to the Jumbie workshop to paint the chain black, to keep it from standing out too much. From there, the sign came together nicely.

Burnt wood custom signage

Burnt wood custom business signage

Rob, the owner of Rock Creek Homes, was totally amped on the sign.

Happy client with custom sign

Robert Bailey, the owner of Rock Creek Homes, had some nice things to say. "When we first reached out to Jumbie, we were looking for something that would set our company apart from other local real estate developers.  Jay delivered that and much more.  We now have a sophisticated and handcrafted way to display our name and logo in front of all our new properties.  We couldn’t be happier with the outcome."