Realife Large Metal Letter R

Case Study: Large Outdoor Display Metal Letters

Table of Contents

Commission

Recently, WhiteClouds created a 13’ steel replica of the Realife Church logo, a uniquely designed letter ‘R’ to be displayed outdoors. Created using rolled steel metal and finished with automotive paint in the logo’s representative orange, this remarkable logo is sure to catch the eye of anyone passing by.

Leaders of the Realife Church found us (WhiteClouds) online while searching for a company that creates large metal letters. They had recently purchased a commercial building that used to be a gym and completely renovated it to be their new church building. They were hoping that a large metal representation of their logo would be the final touch before opening their doors at this new building, providing a familiar and distinct landmark to welcome newcomers and regulars.

Design

Our designers took the concept drawings of the logo provided by the Realife Church to design this large letter.  This giant “R” was to be constructed in two pieces (an inner and an outer piece) and its full size was to be 13’ tall x 12” deep. An impressive size for an impressive community, meant to be impossible to overlook. As an outdoor permanent installation, extra measures were taken so the “R” logo would be extremely sturdy and durable, able to withstand any and all weather elements.

Since the leaders at Realife wanted to mount the metal letter onto concrete pillars as opposed to a flat slab of concrete, our production team had to work through a few issues to make sure the base plates were adequate. Instead of support rods, metal brackets were welded to the bottom of the letters to allow for bolts to attach to a concrete slab. The height (and balance) of this enormous letter “R” also posed some challenges from a wind perspective. It was decided that the insides would be reinforced with structural truss elements to make sure of no movement in the wind (similar to the triangular elements visibly seen in the Golden Gate Bridge or the Eiffel Tower which distributes the weight more evenly, but on the inside).  

Materials

The metal material for the logo is our standard 12 gauge (approximately 1/8” thick) carbon steel hot-rolled pickled-and-oiled sheet metal (HRP&O). Hot-Rolled sheet metal was chosen due to its flexibility in creating the rounded edges of the letter R as well as being more cost effective for such a large project. “Pickled-and-oiled” refers to a process of bathing or ‘pickling’ the metal into a hydrochloric acidic solution to remove rust or other contaminants that may interfere with welding. After being pickled, the metal is oiled to prevent rusting or degradation. This process improves the sheet metal’s durability and makes it much easier to work with. Additionally, the truss was built with square steel tubing, which provides maximum strength to this vital internal support.

Production

Production could broadly be described as a three-step process. The first step was to cut the shape of the R (front and back) using plasma cutters. Next, the truss was built and placed inside where the interior sides of the R were then welded to the truss, securely connecting the whole framework together. Last, the letters were welded shut using MIG welders, sealing it so that no water could get inside which might lead to any rust that weaken the structure. 

The finishing process consisted of grinding the edges to a smooth, rounded finish to ensure a cleaner look as well as preventing injury if anyone were to come into contact with a sharp corner. The final step was applying automative primer and paint in the Realife characteristic orange. High-grade automotive paint is best for outdoor applications due to its durability, corrosion-resistant and scratch-resistant finish, perfect for preventing damages caused by man or nature. Ultimately, the outer piece of the “R” weighed 625 lbs and the inner piece weighed 575 lbs. The dimensions were 13’ tall, 9’ wide, and 12” thick as requested, with front faces that were 7” wide.

Installation

Installation was a tricky process. First, the large and heavy metal letter had to be shipped on a flatbed because it could not fit inside a normal semi-trailer. After it arrived, it was a precarious operation to find the right balance of the support. Originally, the Realife installation team wanted to mount the logo onto an I-beam extending across two piers. However, due to the immense height and weight of the letter, the team ended up pouring a concrete piece horizontally across the two concrete pillars and subsequently bolted the letter to the concrete beam to prevent any flexibility that might cause the Metal Letter R to become unstable. 

The 1,200 lbs large metal “R” now stands as a strong and reliable symbol, welcoming guests both old and new. Great care was taken to make this icon as sturdy and secure as it could be, ensuring that it will endure against all other rough elements, that it might remain as a legacy of the Realife Church and their new building. 

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