Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Birchbank Mountain Kiosk Sign

Installed kiosk sign

A lot of people pull into the Birchbank traihead parking area thinking they're at Indian Well. There's a blurb in the kiosk asking people if they're looking for the falls at Indian Well, and tells them how to get there, but a lot of people don't stop to read.  Groups clad in swimsuits and carrying beach towels head down the trail, possibly wandering about the trails for hours in utter confusion. Who knows. Do they get to the little cascades of Upper White Hills Brook and think that's the "well" of Indian Well? 

..inspired by the Eklund Garden sign

A header sign for the well-built kiosk is something that always made sense. A gorgeous sign crafted for Eklund Garden by Tim Bonney several years ago set a very high bar for what might be possible. The sign has raised-relief lettering, with the wood around the letters having been carved or routered away. I've always admired it. 

As always, these things are typically harder and more time-consuming than you expect. The first hurdle was getting some lettering penciled onto the boards, which sounds simple, but it isn't. What font? How do you transfer that onto the wood? I printed out "BIRCHBANK MOUNTAIN" in what I hoped was a workable font, then tried using a small projector we had stashed in the basement. Sadly, the projector cannot project from very far away, meaning the project image must be small. Too small.  I pulled the project back farther from the board to try an enlarge the lettering, but then it was out of focus. So I did my best to trace the fuzzy letters, then turned the lights back on and repaired the font by eye. Not a very efficient system, but eventually the lettering looked OK. 

Outlining the letters with a narrow router bit

The next step was to carefully outline the lettering using a 1/16th" router bit. This was done freehand and was a little nerve wracking. All it takes is one slip up...


Then a 1/4" router bit was put on and the remainder of the wood around the lettering was removed. This was boring and took longer than expected. And then it was all sanded.

All painted

There was a lot of back and forth about the colors. The Eklund Garden sign looks superb with the dark green background and natural stained border. For a trailhead sign, a different set of colors seemed appropriate. The other issues to consider were maintenance (polyurethane tends not to last very long), and what supplies were already on hand. In the end, the colors were (for future reference): 
  • Lettering - White paint used for trail blazes (Behr premium plus)
  • Background - the Gallagher's leftover deck stain. 
  • Border - Concealer paint used to cover obsolete blazes and graffiti on trees. Behr Premium Plus "Landmark Brown" (ultra flat). 
In the end, it looks pretty good, but not as nice as the Eklund Garden sign, which was expected. I certainly gained an appreciation for how hard these signs are to make. And when people pull into the parking area, or even just drive past on the road, they should see that the kiosk is for BIRCHBANK MOUNTAIN. 


  1. Nice addition to the trailhead. It's a good gateway to Birchbank.

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