Sign of the Times – The Making of the New Village Sign

Tunstead Village SignAnybody familiar with Tunstead coming into the village from the South side will have no doubt noticed the new Village Sign installed on the corner of Market Street and Ashmanhaugh Road. As highlighted earlier the original Tunstead Barrel Man sign, created by Harry Carter a prodigious craftsman responsible for many village signed around Norfolk and East Anglia, was suffering the ravages of time. For those who have not been closely been following the creation of Tunstead’s new village sign, we thought it would be interesting to highlight the process that led to the design of the new sign.

The Childrens Tale

10 children from the school took up the challenge of designing a sign that would reflect aspects of Tunstead. Their brief was to draw a simple design on A4 paper, preferably in black & white, using silhouette if they wanted. They were to con-sider the overall shape of the sign, whether their ideas took individual aspects, like the church and the school, or was a narrative – a picture of the village. The results were varied and at times quite unexpected: some focussed on one aspect, elaborating it with good detail; others included people, dogs and horses. One discovered the historic Tunstead workhouse; another included a strawberry , representing the international farm. Most included the church and the school, giving different angles and perspective.

The judging was done by the Parish Council, who, after a long deliberation, amalgamated several ideas and reduced the choice to 2 shapes: rectangular or circular, and 2 themes: individual aspects crossed by road and rail or a village narrative. A rectangular sign, diagonally crossed, with the 4 aspects which best represented Tunstead was the result. And so the sign depicts the History, the Church, the School and Agricultural & Rural aspects of Tunstead. Harry Carter’s iconic Tunman was retained and sits astride the sign in a triangle on top, with the village name on large capital letters at the bottom.

The Graphic Designer’s Tale

As told by Rachel Bowie, Graphic Designer

Tacehl Bowie, Graphic DesignerI received the sketches from the children’s artwork which gave a rough out-line of the shape – a square crossed with an off-set diagonal with the road and the railway line. The brief was to structure the design in a way that could be copied by the metal worker: I knew the form was to be in wrought iron with very little colour. I looked at other signs made from this material, to look for inspiration and look at the simplicity and clarity of designs – which worked and which didn’t. One of the crucial aspects when working on a design which is a 2D silhouette is working out the negative space: everything has to be connected otherwise parts of the sign would simply fall out, like the centre of the halfpenny token. Obviously the interest in the sign lies in the detail, and I tried to incorporate as much detail as I could, keeping the metal worker’s task in mind.

I added trees around the church and details of the field around the tractor, giving perspective to the field and to the buildings. It was important to try to be true to the children’s style of work, and bring the elements together in a well-balanced and eye-catching way. Finally I produced a vector based image for the sign maker for him to produce the finished article. We liaised over one or two details, and then, satisfied with the template, my job was complete.

The Metal Worker’s Tale

As told by Clive Howard, of Bure Valley Forge

Clive Howard, Bure Valley Forge, ColtishallTo start with I took Rachel’s design and drew it out full size on cardboard, then printed it off from there. Some minor changes were needed – tags were added to some of the detail to prevent it falling through – the trees for example. I designed the outside framework, and then the tunman on top. I used a plasma cutter with a ‘magic eye’ so I could follow the original design. The rest was done with my oxyacetylene cutter. Then I filed the parts where I’d been unable to get into – some of the corners. Then it was put into the frame-work, making it secure and tight. Next, the letters were cut and added at the bottom. I made a box section post for the whole sign to fit over the post at the site. The side scrolls were made – the original ones which we were going to use were too small.

Next it was sent off to the galvanising plant in Great Yarmouth. The process of galvanising is dipping the metal to an enormous vat filled with molten zinc to prevent any rusting. Firstly, it’s acid washed to get rid of any dirt or grease residue, then put into a water bath to neutralise the acid, and finally it goes into the vat. Some of the primer paint I use has got zinc in it as well. It’s what is done for the oil rigs, which is why the V.A.T. is so expensive.

On its return to the forge, more filing – or fettling – was needed to clear the small crannies and restore the definition, especially where the zinc ‘feathers’ had been left on the bot-tom while it was drying. Next came the painting process. I first used a T wash: it’s hard to paint onto newly galvanised metal, so the T wash roughens the surface just enough to allow the paint to stick to it. 2 coats of zinc oxide primer were applied, then the top coat was sprayed on.

After drying I added the detail – the colouring of Tunman and the ‘coin’ of the workhouse. This penny token had to be done separately – it couldn’t be plasma cut because the detail was so fine. So borrowing an idea from an artist friend of mine, I made a stencil from the photocopied design, cut it out, attached it and sprayed through it. When it had dried it was bolted up and the backboard added. The white background was needed because some of the detail would have been lost against the hedging; it’s a UV plastic which can be taken down and cleaned if necessary.

This entry was posted in Tunstead Remembers. Bookmark the permalink.