Storefront of Wm Heyny Jr, sign painter.

Sign Painting

The brotherhood of the brush
has been good to me...

All through my career I have painted signs. It has become a small part of my work load lately. I love lettering and was lucky to learn from some skilled mentors. My interests are in historic and calligraphic letter styles.

1972 my early lettering and stripes. American LaFrance scroll by Peter Achorn. I painted dozens of these dogs all around the Tucson dog track. My sign when I moved to Maine.

    I painted many roadside bill boards in my youth. I found this photo on the Internet recently. The THING? hasn't changed its graphic design in the past 40 years. I value my apprenticeship very much and have had several apprentices myself.

I painted a lot of billboards in Arizona. Kevin Solsten sign with palladium and gold letters.The local lighthouse on Marshall Point.A house sign for the Schreiber family. Painted and oil gilded window sign. Detail of composition leaf that has slightly tarnished over 20 years.Golden Hand sign with gold split shade letters.the Post Office sign here in town.I like using shades, outlines and highlights on exterior signs.General Dentistry sign with gold only in oval, circle and triangle.The silver letters are palladium which won't tarnish like silver.Free sign sometimes offer more freedom to the designer. Latex paint on sheetrock.

     Most fonts are designed to appear a half inch tall in a paragraph or page of lettering. Take these same letters and make a sign with just two or three large words, and the effect can be awkward and imbalanced. Signs I see today are more precise in their details yet less sophisticated in their typography, layout and design.

Northeast Harbor, Maine with the fog lifting.
Wagon built by Southwest Wagon & Wheel Works Wagon showing stripes and lettering... and maker's mark above rub iron.

    I was a pin-striper for a few years at the Southwest Wagon and Wheel Works in Patagonia, Arizona. I put lines on many horse drawn vehicles. There were standards and rules about wagon striping that I learned. Early automobile striping resembled carriage decoration of the 1800s. The lines point out hardware and features of the vehicle.

Stanley Steamer with black and white stripes on vermilion. Simple stripes on a 1911 Brush Runabout Brush catalog cover 1911Even a car as simple and cheap as this had hand painted stripes. advertisement for a $500 Brush Runabout. Tenants Harbor Maine from the church tower. Black and white stripes on brass era antique car. Painted lines on brass car axle and spring. American LaFrance type 5R commercial truck restoration at the American LaFrance museum.Cast iron wheel with solid rubber tire on 5R commercial truck restoration.1950s magazine adv. with a sign painter monograming a Chevy.warm gray and black 1930 Ford with olive green and gray stripes. Sail Delivery truck sign and stripes with shadowsGold leaf with asphaltum shading by Peter Achorn.1936 Ford with simple stripes that don't start working till you get closer. Budweiser parade wagon by Southwest Wagon & Wheel Works with stripes and lettering by Peter Achorn.hand painted pin-stripe ends on modern van.
Tenants Harbor seen from Harts Neck. Hansom cab restored by Firefly Restoration

    This black and red vehicle is a Hansom cab. This was used as a one-horse taxi in an east coast city around 1900.

old photo of a Hansom cab in use. Hansom cab in Fire Gold paint shop.Single stripe and double line on spring of Hansom cab. Painted lines on Rear body panel. Body panel over axle and spring of Hansom cab with black decoration. Tenants Harbor with Church Hill in distance.American Sign Museum logo

    The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio has 19,000 square feet of exhibit space, with another 20,000 waiting for development. There are 28-foot ceilings, able to accommodate large signs, and even a working neon shop where you can watch craftspeople create neon signs. The Sign Museum also holds archives of books, photos, and documents reflecting the art, craft, and history of sign making. It's a fun place that will bring back memories.
    The Museum's mission is to celebrate the rich history of American signage through preservation and education. The American Sign Museum is the premier institution for preserving historic signs and promoting the contributions the sign industry makes to commerce, culture, and the American landscape.

Neon signs on display at the American Sign Museum.I repainted one of these Big Boy statues as an apprentice. It was unforgetable.

“Signs and sign making are a fascinating reflection of America through the years. If your experience at the American Sign Museum causes you to be more aware of signs in your travels and of their value to businesses and communities, we’ve done our job.”
    ~Tod Swormstedt, Founder

Early electric signs at the American Sign Museum. The sign painted on this barn has been donated to the American Sign Museum. The barn wall will be reassembled at the American Sign Museum in Cincinnatti.

    Another old sign heads to the Museum.

I know this road, but there are many trees now.

    My panel for the American Sign Museum is designed as a monogram on the side of a wagon seat ca. 1850, a hundred years before I was born. The colors and stripes are from that era. The panel is varnished and there is asphaltum shading on the gold.

Sample panel with monogram ASM showing 19th century paint techniques.Peter Achorn painting a sign on location over a shop door.Sign in front of Fire Gold driveway.The last remaining sign painter.
All photos, artwork and information are copyrighted by Peter Achorn and Fire Gold.  © 1999-2015 all rights reserved.
Any perceived copyright infringements are unintentional and will be removed upon request.