Part 69 - Making the Black Oak Maille Guild Sign - Part 3
by Lord Thomas the Black


 Making the Black Oak Maille Guild Sign, pt 3:

             Welcome back to another month of Blackmaille! This month, we wrap up our three-part series on how we made the sign that adorns our demo space at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. In part one, we covered design, construction, and initial painting. Part two covered lettering, final painting, and finishing. This month, we'll cover installation.

             We'd initially arranged for our area manager to get the materials we needed, since he was a contractor, and said he could get a discount on the stuff. We'd originally intended to set up the sign in the spring, while the weather was cool, but it didn't work out that way, and after getting the run-around about our materials and set-up date, we finally got our supplies ourselves, and set aside a weekend prior to renfest for the set-up.

             The plan was simple (in theory): we'd get two 14-ft 4x4's, an auger, and some Quickrete, and have the thing up in no time. As it turns out, it didn't quite work out that way.

            First snag: Lowe's doesn't carry 4x4's in 14 ft lengths, only 12' and 16'. Worse still, they won't cut the 16" down to 14' because they're pressure-treated, and it's a respiratory hazard to cut indoors. So, I arranged to rent a truck to carry the 4x4's. Which leads us to snag #2: the truck they wanted to rent us was the same size as Louis's truck (which the boards didn't fit into, hence the need for a rental truck). So, we decided to load the boards into Louis' truck, tell Lowe's to pound sand, and after loading up the sign, 4x4's, and miscellaneous other tools and materials, we were on our way.


             When we got to the job site, we laid out the 4x4's, with the sign on top, and I started attaching the sign to the 4x4's, while Louis started digging the holes. He'd decided to save us some money my digging them with a post-hole digger instead of renting an auger. I had my doubts about this, but it turned out ok.


             I attached the sign to our posts using six 3" lag bolts, drilling guide holes first to make the insertion easier. The lag bolts were then tightened down with a socket wrench.


             Finally, Louis had the holes dug, and the sign was ready to go up, so we started hoisting it into position. It wasn't near as easy as these pictures make it look, and any resemblance to the flag raising at Iwo Jima is purely coincidental.


             When we finally got the posts wrestled into the holes, we set about bracing the assembly so it'd be stable while the concrete set.


             With the posts braced, we poured the concrete. Rather than mix it ahead of time, we poured the Quickrete into the holes around the posts, then poured water in on top of it and stirred it with a stick. We left the Quickrete to set for the week, returning for the work day the following weekend.


             The following weekend, we got lots of compliments on the sign, except for the owner/operator of the area, whose sole comment was "It leans." Thanks, Little Red Hen. Anyway, two weeks later, I get a call from Louis, who informs me that fest decided that the sign was too tall, and that the posts had to be three feet into the ground. Fortunately, they were argued down to allowing us two feet, since they're set in concrete, but that still left us over the height limit. So, the following week we came out and lowered it to the required 10', then chopped the tops of the posts. By the way, if you're ever in a similar situation, and get permission to put up a permanent sign like ours, get all the specifications ahead of time so you're not faced with last-minute sweat-fest like we had!

             The end result of all this is that the sign looks amazing, and has gotten a lot of compliments at fest, by patrons and performers alike. It makes our area look more professional, and tells those performers who may not know us who we are, and that yes, we do belong there.


             So that wraps up the saga of our sign. If you're planning to make your local renaissance festival a permanent place for your demonstrations, or if you're opening a craft booth there, or what have you, a sign like this can make the difference between fame and fortune, or wallowing in shameful obscurity.

             Thanks for joining us for another month of Blackmaille! As usual, any and all questions, comments, hate mail and fan mail can (and should) be sent to me at:

                                                                                    c/o Thomas Beckett
                                                                                    13628 Belmead Ave
                                                                                    Grandview, MO 64030

            Or email me at:

             See you next month!


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