Building Sandwich Boards for Fun and Not-for-Profits

About a month ago, my wife told me that someone had stolen the sandwich boards for the Wallingford Senior Center. (Sandwich boards are the signs that many companies and realtors put out on the streetcorners to attract attention.) The Wallingford Senior Center, or WSC, had been using the same sandwich boards for as long as I've lived here. They use them to attract folks to the Sunday pancake breakfast and the Tuesday spaghetti dinner. For the life of me I couldn't figure out who would steal them unless it was just vandals out to have a good time. You have to stoop pretty low to steal from a not-for-profit advertising carbohydrates twice a week for seniors.

Setting my distaste for certain elements of humanity aside, my wife asked me if I could make sandwich boards. Given that this involves attaching two pieces of plywood together with a hinge, I allowed as to how my building skills were probably up to the challenge. Then came the engineering requirements. First off, she wanted them lighter -- the old ones were built from MDF or plywood and must have weighed 50 pounds. That's pretty hard for a 70-year-old to haul around. Second, I realized that any wood I put out in Seattle's persistent floating moisture (I won't call it rain because it's really more like an omnipresent high humidity that stretches from October to March) would quickly rot or degrade. Third, I wanted them to be flexible -- to be able to advertise different events easily, for example. Finally, I wanted them to cost very little.

I went to Home Depot to receive a dose of creative juice. I started picking up sheets of MDF and plywood and pricing hinges. So that they could lock open, I wanted the same kind of spreaders that a stepladder has. To get around the weight issue, I decided to attach wheels that could flip out of the way. To get around the wood-rot problem, I looked at epoxy resins and strong sealers. I'd loaded up my cart with $150 worth of stuff when I happened by a couple of Stanley plastic sawhorses for about $25. At that point, I had an epiphany. Stanley had build the basic infrastructure for me and made it lightweight (each sawhorse weighs maybe 10lb) and plastic (so it wouldn't rot). After that, I bought a couple of pieces of clear acrylic ($11/sheet) and some RustOleum white plastic paint. I painted the acrylic, bolted it to the sides of the sawhorse, added a strap on the top of the sawhorse made from an old nylon tie-down and presto, I had lightweight, weather-impervious sandwich boards. Total cost for each one was about $50 -- probably a bit more than if I'd made them from MDF, but these met more of the design considerations.

Unfortunately, the only power tool I got to use was my electric drill/screwdriver.