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Case Study - Old West 'Wanted' Sign by Mark Summers


In this month's case study we learn more about the fantastic 'WANTED' sign you can see below that was created by Aspire user Mark Summers.

Mark is a professional sign painter, sign maker and owner of The Sign Shoppe based in Summit County, Colorado - you may have seen him posting on the Vectric Forum under the username 'zlmark'.

Old West 'Wanted' Sign

After we saw pictures of this 'Old West' themed piece online, we got in touch with Mark to learn about how he produced it. He kindly agreed to share more information about this sign, as well as answer other questions we had about his experience in the sign industry, use of CNC and Vectric software. Mark starts by telling us when he first decided to take up sign making as a career choice...

"I was originally in the Navy before I started out as a sign worker, then when I left I decided to go to college and study business. Over time I decided that the course wasn't for me and dropped out after 3 years. Before leaving college for good though, I noticed that they were offering a class in Sign Painting, so I returned to study this for one year which ended in 1976. After that year I have never looked back, I knew sign painting was what I wanted to do from them on; I still feel that way to this day. The funny thing is that not a lot of people really know what a sign painter is and I find myself very fortunate to have this skill in my bag. When creating signs I'm not really into creating pieces that look computer generated as I prefer my work to be more organic in its look and feel."

"My experience with routing started when I got my first Roland EGX-600. While this is really more of an engraver, I found that when required I could still perform router functions on its 16"x24" bed. After using this for some time I decided that I needed a bigger machine so I could turn the potential ideas I was having into something real."

Considering the fact that my first real routing job brought in $3500, I not only knew that I had made the right move, but it gave me the confidence to actually start looking for a more capable machine. After doing my research I came to the conclusion that Vectric software and CAMaster Routers worked together seamlessly, so I purchased a CAMaster Stinger II with a 36"x48" bed. The Stinger has an FTC (fast tool change) function which one could call a poor man's auto tool changer, but with Aspire's postprocessor helping me control it, moving from tool 1-5 was a breeze. In hindsight I spent more than I originally planned, but retrospect says I made a smart move and I have been very happy with the combination. I mostly cut HDU; particularly when I started as it's very forgiving for beginners as opposed to wood."

Old West 'Wanted' Sign

"Another reason I chose Vectric software with the router was because I always happen to hear about it. I would keep myself up to date with what Vectric and its customers were up to through the Vectric User Forum. I can't say enough about the great people on the forum, everybody was wonderful with helping me get started. I can't believe some of the dumb questions I would ask and how gracious everybody was to help you out. One particular forum member, Tim Merrill always seemed to be there to help walk you through your problem."

"Vectric software has been instrumental in my thinking toward the present and future. While I still do digital print, I would be happy only ever doing dimensional signs. I really enjoy pulling together 3D signs with the fine art aspect to it. Fine art painting is a big passion with me."

Mark continues by telling us more about the 'WANTED' sign that he created. He starts by telling us how he got the job, then goes on to detail his approach to building the piece and the finishing techniques he used to give it that 'Old West' feel...

"The Old West Sign job came to me by way of a client's wife starting a new business. After some lengthy conversations with the client she gave me a real good idea about what direction I needed to take. This was not going to be a Gucci western store sign, so it was up to me to make it look as rustic as possible."

"For the longest time I have thought about the idea of burnt parchment as a background so I was excited to give this a go. I also decided to add 3D stars to the sign with a pebble finish and patina finish by Sculpt Noveau which really seemed to really capture the 'Old West' idea. I have been chomping at the bit to do a sign like this since I can remember."

Old West 'Wanted' Sign

Old West 'Wanted' Sign

Old West 'Wanted' Sign

Old West 'Wanted' Sign

2" thick HDU - Signfoam.
When cutting the stars I used a 3/16" end mill to rough out and a 3/16" ball to finish.
I finished with Sculpt Noveau copper and green patina.

I cut the end pieces out of 1.5" rough cedar using a 1/4" end mill.

I cut the letters out of 1" thick HDU and took a die grinder to the sides of each letter to give them a rustic look. From there I finished with Sculpt Noveau copper and black patina.
I highlighted the edge of the letters with a brighter copper for effect.

I cut the 'EST' letters out of 1/2" thick HDU. I used a 3/6" end mill and finished with Sculpt Noveau copper and red patina.

"When it came to the burnt parchment background, I implemented a tissue technique to give it texture and used NovaColor acrylics for the paint. I also took a propane torch to the cedar frame for effect, and after the letters were cut I took a die grinder to the sides of the 1" thick HDU to give it a very ragged look."

Old West 'Wanted' SignOld West 'Wanted' Sign
As you can see from the images, the sign really demonstrates Marks' craftsmanship and skill. It's so wonderful when the customer is delighted with the end result that you both worked so diligently at.

Mark finished off by saying a few closing words about his current CNC setup and what he hopes to be creating moving forward. We follow this with a small showcase gallery of other projects he has kindly shared with us.

"The combination of Vectric and CAMaster has been a solid affair for me. When Aspire first came out it was a real exciting time to know I could not only cut 3D, but actually design and route my own models. I wouldn't say I'm the best at 3D modeling as I know others are, but it comes in real handy at times. To top all this off, the free training videos offered by Vectric made a substantial difference in the learning curve."

"In the future I am really looking forward to doing more western type signs. People have been really impressed by what they have seen with the 'WANTED' sign. This type of work really suits me. I was born in Old El Paso so you might say that this is in my blood. The mountains where I live are really suited for this type of work."

"It's hard to imagine that after all these years I still get so excited about the work that I do. I guess I picked a good trade."

Old West 'Wanted' SignOld West 'Wanted' SignOld West 'Wanted' SignOld West 'Wanted' Sign

We would like to thank Mark for taking the time to share his experience with us and tell us more about the "Wanted" sign project. If you want to learn more about Marks business then please visit You can also follow Mark's posts on the Vectric forum by looking out for posts made by user 'zlmark'.

If you are not an Aspire user but would like to see how easy to use and deceptively powerful the software is then you can download a free trial today - no registration required.

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