Rock City Sign

December 23, 2018
By: Randall Chapman

I learned to climb at Rock City in Anaheim Hills, California in 2001. I took a college class and after retaking the class a few times for the cheap membership I got hired on part time. I pretty much lived at the gym since it was close to where I worked and went to school and going to the gym was more fun than sitting in traffic. It was a different owner back then but the new owner Maurice, you may remember him from Ep 3 of the podcast, is a great guy and really has kept the feel of the gym to where it still feels like home. I got to know Maurice really well while I was out in LA and he’s one of the best people I know. So when he said he needed a new sign for the new reception area I happily offered to make him one.

When I first got back out to LA on this last stint, Maurice was in the middle of building a new addition to the gym that would almost double the space but more importantly it had a more modern look and feel to it and it really brought the gym into the modern age. Rock City is one of the original gyms in Southern California and for that matter in the world being built in 1994. Along with the new climbing area came a new reception area that looked more professional than the back door warehouse entrance the gym had been using. I helped the crew hang the rest of the plywood on the new wall hanging half the wall by myself with one other in just two days. The new climbing area opened up in summer 2016 but it took a little longer to get the new reception area ready. The new reception opened up a couple of months ago and this sign is now hanging on the front of the desk where people check in.

Now Maurice had no idea what the sign was going to look like, all he knew is that I had the logo water jet cut but I didn’t tell him anything of the design. His first time seeing it, my family came out to visit me in Colorado and transported it to a friend of mine that went in and installed it while he was coaching the climbing team kids. After it was installed and powered up they went and got him, it was a great surprise and I was psyched to be able to do something nice for such a great guy.

I had the Logo water jet cut out of 1/8″ aluminum at the shop where I’ve been getting the 5150 hooks cut. I sat on it for a couple of months after having them cut because I had no ideas for the over all shape of the sign. I tried to sit and design it a few times but that almost never works, this time was no exception. Sometimes I just can’t see it, I draw a blank but I never worry about it, the answer always comes to me eventually. Finally one night as I was driving down to climb at the Montrose community center it came to me, cut the outline of snow capped mountains and mount the logo to that with standoffs  and back lighting. After climbing I went over to home depot and found a piece of plywood with a red and grey swoosh through it, I thought that’s not mountains, that’s sandstone, it’s going to be a tower.

After heading home I started to scroll through pictures of iconic desert towers, if I was going to do a tower, people had to recognize it. I settled on the Left Mitten from Monument Valley, ironically a tower that is illegle to climb.

From here I laid the logo on the wood and looked for what would be the best use of the swoosh. I then took painters tape and stuck it in the general shape of the tower. Using my super keen artistic skills (not really) I drew the outline then cut it out with a jig saw.

I painted the letters and climber in the color scheme from the logo Maurice sent me but the large R and C I first added a random grain, we call it prevandalized, then painted with a tinted transparent paint. We call it prevandalized because it’s used a lot in bathrooms and other places where people like to scratch their name or obscenities. With this, even if some one does scratch into the material you can just come back with a grinder and remove it and it just looks like part of the design. I think it gives a really cool look though, and even looks 3D as you move your head around. I’d never seen the tinted clear coat but was spyched to find it, it really adds to the look.

After doing all of the sanding and normal prep work to the wood I decided to test the colors against the wood before clear coating the finished piece. I took the two big leftover drops of wood and clear coated one without stain and placed one of each colored pieces on it. The wood had just enough orange in it that I decided to do a slight stain to darken it up a bit to make sure the R and C really popped. In the second picture only the middle of the wood is stained. The last two pictures were after the main piece of wood was stained. 

I kicked around ideas for how to mount it to the wall for a while. In my head I designed several different systems before coming up with this one. This is going on the front of the desk where customers, including kids, can touch it. It had to be able to withstand the two year old hanging on it or the random hard bump. I took 2x4s and cut them at an angle so they would nestle together. I then capped the two ends so it couldn’t slide side to side. To really secure it I put 2 screws in through the top and two from the bottom that can be run in with a long extension. I put two rows of the 2X4s so it would be secure top and bottom. Since I wasn’t going to be the one installing it I made a mount plate with the spacing correct and the person installing just just had to find a stud and screw through the plate. This also provided the stand off for the back lighting and I mounted LED strip lights to the back side of the wood for the sign.

I had to test out the back lighting while the clear coat dried. 

With the clear coat on the wood and all the sanding done I started mounting the logo. I used 2 part epoxy to mount the letters, I clamped my level as a straight edge to make sure the letters stayed straight. To make sure the climber stayed on I used my grinder to remove paint on the R and C in places hidden by the climber but I also gooped on enough epoxy that it bridged the gap to the wood. Your not getting this logo off without a lot of force.

Side note, Aukie’s bed is on the floor right next to the chair, he is so spoiled.

The LED strip lights come with a remote and you can set the color or have it cycle through the colors. My family came up from LA to hang out in Moab and took the sign back with them so I didn’t have to ship it. It hung on my wall for 2 weeks before they arived, I’m gonna miss that sign.

Maurice and his wife Tasha are great people and I was so excited to do something nice for them. I had a lot of help along the way and it speaks to how great these people are that so many were willing to help do this for them. If you’re ever in So Cal make sure you stop and check out the gym.

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