Sandblasted Wood Sign for Dr Martinsen in Fairview has Grunge!

Our latest project involves a massive new custom sandblasted wood sign for Fairview’s newest dentist, Dr. Mike Martinsen. Dr. Mike took over the practice that Dr. Robert Busey built and tended for 40+ years, last year in 2020.


Dr. Busey and his team have been taking care of the folks at Lamb Sign Company and others in Fairview NC for nearly 40 years. He is pleased to pass on the legacy of exceptional dental care to Dr. Mike Martinsen, who will continue to work with the team that Jimmy and Elizabeth have come to know and love.


Dr. Martinsen’s sign is going to be rather huge at 78” wide x 42” high,and more than three inches thick. A standard thickness for wood signs is 1-1/2” to 1-5/8”. Of course a sign this big needs massive posts. This extra thick custom wood sign will be impressively displayed on a pair of 6x6 wood posts with 6x6 crossbeams behind, to support it.


Jimmy and Elizabeth are planning a timber frame home in Madison County where they hope to one day move their business. When Jimmy mentioned the timber frame project to Dr. Martinsen, Jimmy could see the massive posts he was describing twinkling in Dr. Martinsen’s eyes. Dr. Mike decided to go with Jimmy’s vision of gigantic posts and a sign sized to match.


The sign face is constructed of cedar 4x4 posts put together with biscuits, Titebond III glue, and threaded rods. Jimmy Lamb’s 40+ years have taught him how to make signs that last. He has also learned how to line up wood grain so that when blasted, the sign will appear to be constructed of one piece of wood. It will be a permanent fixture in Fairview for generations to come, and is guaranteed to outlast any HDU (foamboard) sign. It will also look so much better because it’ll have the wood grain texture that can only be achieved by using real wood.


The arrangement was a half-cash, half barter deal. Jimmy is going to have some dental work done in exchange for a portion of the sign, which is super cool. Jimmy and Elizabeth are always happy to trade services, especially when it’s something as necessary as oral care.


The logo that Dr. Martinsen provided to Lamb Sign Company included a vectorized scan of a low resolution word, “Dental”. Every letter in it had jaggedy edges (see illustration B), which created an interesting challenge. The question arose; did Dr. Mike want the jaggedy edges? Surely not, but they had to ask. Lamb Sign Company presented the options shown in illustration C and D, and to their surprise, Dr. Mike chose option C, which still looks very much like a “grunge font”.



Some fonts called grunge fonts are designed to look dirty, old, or just worn out. Grunge fonts are growing in popularity. Why? One word: Rebellion. Think about the group “Extinction Rebellion”, which has galvanized young and old across party lines on the issue of climate change. In a matter of months, Extinction Rebellion became the fastest growing environmental organization in the world in 2020. Most people feel completely worn out by inaction. They are feeling … rebellious.


Grunge fonts are rebellious. They deviate from the accepted and usual design form and offer a fresh approach. Grunge fonts don’t rely on habit; they present a creative combination of design elements and typography that maximize a certain sense of rebellion.


It’s easy to understand why grunge fonts have become mainstream. On a sandblasted wood sign however, they are nearly impossible to faithfully reproduce. They commonly have lots of tiny elements that are simply too small for a plotter to cut. What is a plotter? A plotter is a computerized machine that cuts sandblast rubber stencil. The smallest element that a plotter can cut is about 1/16” diameter. Now, although the plotter can cut a dot that is 1/16” in diameter, the adhesive on the back side won’t necessarily prevent it from blowing off during the sandstorm that is created by the sandblasting process.


A mechanical means of simulating a grunge font is necessary when a design contains a grunge font. For sand blasting purposes, a font has to be cleaned up – those tiny elements have to go. Elizabeth’s experience in Girl Scouts comes in handy; she has used a technique she learned called paintbrush splattering.



If you’ve never seen anyone paint with the toothbrush splatter technique, here’s a VIDEO by a sweet young woman named Amigo, and it’s her very first video! Give her a thumb’s up if you like it, we’d like to encourage her to make more useful videos.


Lamb Sign Company has made a few signs with grunge fonts over the years, but one really excellent wood sign stands out in their memory, which did not use the toothbrush technique, but another method. The design provided for the sign was fabulous, and the grunge font was the icing on the cake. The sign was for Arriba, a café on Seabrook Island, south of Charleston. The customer wanted the sign to give the impression that the café had been around for a while. Over the fresh and impeccably executed logo, they applied paint the same color as the background by means of dried roller technique. They needed larger areas of “paint removed” than the toothbrush technique would deliver, so they improvised with small amounts of paint applied to an intentionally dried out paint roller. The result was stunning.


Jimmy and Elizabeth hope that Dr. Martinsen will be pleased with the loving attention to detail and execution that they bring to every job, big or small. Jimmy also hopes that his dental work will last as long as his sign.


Jimmy and Elizabeth at Lamb Sign Company are so glad to have been chosen to make Dr. Martinsen’s new sign. After many years of getting to know Dr. Busey, they are looking forward to getting to know Dr. Martinsen, as well. Dr. Busey still works on Wednesdays, so they will still get to see him occasionally.



Dr. Martinsen received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He later received his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from Marquette University School of Dentistry. He enjoys problem solving, a skill that led him to his first career as an Engineer.



Dr. Robert Busey earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from North Carolina State University and his dental degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has been president of the Buncombe County Dental Society since 2016 and won the LFR Founders Award in 2018. He loves the creativity that working with his hands provides. He has also been an avid skydiver for over four decades, a thrill that he and Elizabeth have in common! Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Why not?!?


Keep an eye out for Dr. Martinsen and his gorgeous new sandblasted wood sign at 12 Old Fort Road in Fairview, North Carolina.

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