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Each 'See Rock City' barn was painted a little differently, depending on the proportions of the barn and which side faced a major road.  We slected this barn for our prototype. Click to see the article where we found this image."See Rock City" Signage

With the birth of the automobile came a need for paved roads, followed quickly by roadside advertising. Billboard signs went up, as did Burma Shave poems.

But the folks who got the idea of painting their advertising on existing structures started a roadside tradition that survived for most of the 20th century.

In return for painting one or more sides of a farmer's barn, the "Mail Pouch" or "Rock City" painters would get permission to paint a barn-sized advertisement for their products - even in places where billboards were illegal. Eventually, having your barn painted this way was considered an honor of sorts.

Each 'See Rock City' barn was painted a little differently, depending on the proportions of the barn and which side faced a major road. We slected the barn shown above right for our prototype. If you click on that image, you will see an article that shows several other barns

I chose a "Rock City" ad for this project. (When I was young, Miamisburg, Ohio had many "chawers," and I spent too much time stepping around spent "chaws" on sidewalks, on driveways, and even on playgrounds. Consequently, I have no desire to promote that, even as a joke.")This barn-shaped mailbox gave me the idea of creating a 'See Rock City' barn for my railroad.  Click for bigger photo.

I got motivated for this project when I found an old, black mailbox at a flea market for $3. Most of these are red, but this one is black all over.

The mailbox was missing its flag, and had two large screws protruding from the side. Other than that, it wasn't in too bad a shape. Yes, I removed the screws.

Of course, if you want to download my graphic files and try it yourself, you can put it on any model barn you wish.

To get the "Rock City" graphic, I went through dozens of old photos, then traced a couple to approximate the letter shapes, etc. I used CorelDraw to A hand-traced version of the See Rock City sign I chose to replicate.  Click to see a bigger version.create an SVG file that I could use with my craftcutters.

The first version was a little rough. Hand-tracing the letters gave me something close to the original, and it looked hand-drawn. On a small-scale building it would probably have done just fine.

In fact, if you want to try using this version, the SVG file I created from it is here. Right click the link to download it to your computer.

After I let that part of the project "sit" a while, I came back to it and decided that - based on my experience cutting lettering with craftcutters, I should probably start with something a little "cleaner."

This version of the See Rock City sign uses commercial fonts to imitate the hand-drawn art of the original sign.  Click to see a bigger version.The version to the right uses computer typefaces to imitate the original hand-drawn lettering. Arial Narrow (bold) on the top line, Gill Sans Ultra Bold Condensed on the middle and bottom-right line. The "you" is the original version I traced from the photography.

To download this version to your computer, right-click on this link.

Once you have the SVG file on your computer, you can open it in the software of your choice. If you are using Design Space, you simply "upload" the graphic then copy it into the "canvas."

The 'See Rock City' graphic imported into Design Space. Click for bigger picture.Ironically, as soon as I typed this line, I tried just that and Cricut Design Space froze up on my fastest computer and I had to uninstall and reinstall it. I just don't use it often enough for it to keep itself updated, I suppose.

Once I reloaded Design Space, I uploaded the SVG file and "copied" it to the "canvas." You can see that the picture defaults to about 4.5" x 10.25". But of course I can make it any size I want.

Not counting the overhang, the side of my barn is about 4"x19", so I'll have to shrink it a little - maybe down to 3.5" high to get it to fit. Either way, this graphic could easily print on a Cricut Joy. Or if you are using Sure-Cuts-a-Lot with the hack that lets you write to vintage Cricuts, you could use a Personal Cutter, Create, or Cake Mini (or an Expression 1 of course).

The 'See Rock City' graphic as loaded into Sure-Cuts-A-Lot 5. Click for bigger picture.The illustration to the right shows the "See Rock City" graphic imported into Sure-Cuts-A-Lot 5. This approach would allow you to cut on Legacy Cricuts or on Cameos. Unlike the "free" software that comes with your Cameo, SCAL can import SVG files directly.

If you are using a Silhouette Cameo with the basic software, you can get an AutoCad-compatible version of this graphic, which the software can import, by right-clicking here.

Choice of Application - If you look at the graphic, you'll see that the background part (shown in black) is almost entirely connected. So once I pull that off, I would only have to weed out the centers of the R, O, little O, and B to get a vinyl "sticker" ready to stick the mailbox.

So, a permanent white vinyl for the lettering and "frame" should last for years if I do it right.

But at the same time, what's to keep me from using the "background" part (shown in black) as a stencil - fastening it to the mailbox and painting the frame and lettering with white paint?

Come to think of it, what's to keep me from trying both approaches?

My 'See Rock City' graphic, cut in vinyl. Both 'positive' and 'negative' versions were created. Click for bigger photo.Cutting the Project

I used Sure-Cuts-A-Lot 5, driving a vintage Cricut Expression (1) that has never failed me for this sort of project. (Yes, I have newer machines, but why wear them out when the old one works just fine for vinyl and card stock?)

I cut the same exact pattern twice in the same run, with the idea that one would be the 'positive' version that would go right on the barn, and the other would be the stencil I would use with paint and a stencil brush.

The photo to the right shows the two signs after weeding. The little dots in the capital "R" and "B," as well as the lower-case "o" wouldn't stay with the stencil no matter what I did. But I figured it wouldn't be too hard to add a tiny dot of black paint.

The mailbox after a touch-up paint job.  Click for bigger photo.Prepping the Barn

On closer inspection, after a thorough cleaning, I noticed that there were tiny discolorations on one side and end of the mailbox, probably put there by a chemical splash. I also wanted to make the roof look a little more textured.

So I hit the roof with a light, uneven coat of gray primer, then used flat black to spray the roof at an angle, so that the lower edges of the "shingles" would be a little darker than the face.

I also sprayed the side and end that had the discoloration, as well as the front (not shown). I'll put a sign over the raised "U.S. Mail" marking eventually, but in the meantime, it camouflages it.

The 'permanent' vinyl signage attached to the barn. Click for bigger photo. I put the vinyl signage on one side of the barn. It was a little tricky, since the surface was so uneven. I've "burnished it" several times and it still doesn't quite look like it will stay on. Maybe a coat of clear, flat finish will help.

Here's the true confession part. I put the stencil on the other side of the barn and used a stencil brush to lightly tap, tap, tap white paint into it. But the surface was so uneven, the result was, too. When cold weather hits, I'll touch it up and show that part of the project as well.

There's no reason the stencil version wouldn't have worked fine on a smoother project.

The mailbox barn with new signage on my railroad.  Click for bigger photo.


We have more articles about specific projects planned, but we wanted to get these out as soon as we could.

Watch this page: more articles are in the works.

As always, we want to hear your suggestions, criticisms, additions, etc. Enjoy your hobbies, and especially any time you can spend with your family in the coming months!


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