Upcycle Progress – 1950’s Signage

I currently do not have much done on my upcycle project other than the general idea. I think I’ll run into significant issues gathering enough material to do what I want to do since I plan on using a lot of aluminum cans to capture my aesthetic and I am not much of a soda drinker. I think that Coke cans could be used for the reds and whites, and then maybe Pepsi or something similar for the blues. I plan on reaching out to the CU recycling center to see if they’ll let me collect some of their recycling for my materials. This will be a bit of a pain since I’ll need to cut and wash all of the cans before adding them to the model. I want to emulate the starburst effect which is very common on these signs, and I think I’ll laser cut some material in the ITLL and then use that as a guide for cutting plywood on a bandsaw into the shape I want. I don’t want to exactly copy something here, so I’ll use chat GPT to come up with some good motel names that fit the aesthetic and design.

Pepsi Soda 12oz cans, Pack of 48 - Walmart.comCoke 12oz cans, Pack of 36 - Walmart.com

[1] Pepsi and Coke cans display the primary colors I want to use for my design.

The bedazzling Stardust Motel sign in the historic city of Wallace and set in the Silver Valley mining district of Idaho Stock Photo - Alamy

[2] Stardust Motel sign (Alamy Stock Photo), an example of a starburst sign.

My manufacturing plan/schedule will be dependent on the amount of material I can come up with, since size will be extremely dependent on this. Ideally, I’ll be able to create something large but if I can’t come up with the amount of aluminum I need for this I’ll have to change the overall dimensions. I’ll first have to collect aluminum cans, cut out the colors I want, wash everything in the dishwasher to get rid of any residual organic material, and arrange them into the general shape so I can gauge size. I’ll have a 3D model set up in Solidworks that I can scale based on material availability and then take my found plywood to the machine shop to copy the dimensions from my model. Finally, I’ll be able to create a collage of the aluminum on the plywood to create the lettering and designs that are expected of this aesthetic and mount it using hot glue or similar adhesive. This collage will emulate the run-down signs that we see now in their post-prime degenerative state.

Lewis Motel, Route 66 - Vinita, Oklahoma ~ authentic 1950s postcard coloration | Vintage neon signs, Old neon signs, Retro signage

[3] Image of Lewis Motel Sign (Country Road Nine), a run-down sign example. I am seeking for a similar look.

I think that the most tedious task will be working with the aluminum, and this will take most of my time on this project. The plywood will take the least amount of time, I have a piece of scrap wood already that I plan to use and the cutting should only take a few minutes. The gluing of the aluminum to it will be difficult, it may take some time to piece everything together cohesively and smartly to best use my materials throughout. Overall I look forward to getting started on the manufacturing but the material gathering and organizing will take the most significant portion of my time on this project.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Seems like a cool project! What is your ideal size for this? I was also wondering if you had a plan for if you only end up with cans that are not the colors you want, would you consider painting some of them?

    • I would love for this to be around 3 feet tall, but the material selection may limit me here. If I’m unable to get cans with the colors I want I’ll have to collage together similar colors for kind of a patchy look or just change the color scheme a bit, I want to stay away from painting the materials because it would take away from the metallic look that I want.


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