Division Fish & Chips – Sign Restoration

So I acquired a piece of Kingston history — the sign for Division Fish and Chips, a legendary fish and chips shop (you’ll never guess what street it’s on) here in Kingston. Bought it from the man who bought the property after the residence closed and set it up as a private residence. The sign’s old, I don’t know how old, but the Pepsi logo is the 1973-1990 version.

I’ve fixed up a sign before… an outdoor clock/soda sign. That was just a matter of taking out the old flourescent fixtures and putting in rope light. This was supposed to be like that, on a larger scale, but got a bit more complicated.
First of all, there was a lot of rust damage. Screws were mostly unscrewable, but some had the heads snap off.

Inside, the flourescents were a mess (bulbs still in, and not broken, surprisingly). And heavy. I’d guess the ballast was 40 pounds or so.

Taking the top off, it was gratifying to see one of the panels slide right off, making it easy to work. Job One was vacumming thing out — four dead wasps’ nests, among other things — then removing the flourescents, putting the ballast and metal out by the curb and letting Kijiji at it. Went fast.

The surprise was that the blue backing paint/decal/whatever on one side of the sign was… gone. It was janky when the sign arrived, but upon opening it, disintegrated into dust. It was weird — just the blue. Not even the blue part of the Pepsi logo in the middle. Just the panel on the side. Upon cleaning the panels, inside and out, most of it wiped away, leaving entirely transparent sections. The only blue remaining was the darkest patch in the first photo at the top of this page. Everything else was gone — you can see clear through it to the wall/door behind.

I did some research into rigid plastic outdoor sign paint; no dice; no local dealers, and expensive. Brainstorm: what about hobby paint? Turns out Michaels’ sells translucent blue paint for model car enthusiasts. The colour was a pretty close match, too.

Several coats later, it looked great… but too translucent. A quick test with the rope light, and it was entirely visible through the blue. So: a back coat of white spray.

The next minor complication… I thought I’d rewire an extension cord directly to the rope light (cutting plugs off both ends) via an interior junction box and using the old external wire housing. Turns out the rope light has a special fuse built right into the plug, so I just rewired the extension cord and used its original end on the inside of the sign to plug the rope light into.

Reassembly (using new, thinner bolts and wing nuts to fit the rusted out holes), some ladders, and some friends and chain, and it’s now hanging in our house lounge. I couldn’t be happier.