Graffiti on Historic Ghost Sign

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Dan Seese
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Location: Fort Collins, CO
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Graffiti on Historic Ghost Sign

Post by Dan Seese » Thu Mar 13, 2014 12:42 pm

I just received a phone call from the Fort Collins Historic Preservation planner informing me that a ghost sign had been tagged. She emailed this rough photo of the vandalism.
graffiti.jpg
Graffiti on ghost sign
graffiti.jpg (140.98 KiB) Viewed 3315 times
Her question was if I know how to remove this without damaging the sign underneath. I have an over-the-counter graffiti-removing product which might work. Immediate power-washing is often the solution on a regular surface but on an old building with a ghost sign I think it would cause the brick underneath to crumble and remove the fading paint.
Anyone have experience with this? Any advice would be appreciated.
the sign was likely painted in the 1930's by Stewart Case. I had taken a photo a couple of years ago of the sign before any graffiti, which you can see here: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/397724210811956516/
Dan
"The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne."
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340 - 1400)

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Larry White
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Re: Graffiti on Historic Ghost Sign

Post by Larry White » Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:01 pm

Tell 'em to just leave it....its a sign of the times....
it too can become a ghost sign in a hundred years....

Guess I'm amazed that anyone really cares about that old sign...
other than us sign painters...
Larry White
That's enough for now... it's gettin' late
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pat mackle
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Re: Graffiti on Historic Ghost Sign

Post by pat mackle » Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:17 pm

If the tagging is not too old. You may try this on a small portion.
Take clean paper(the most soft and absorbent the better, try paper towels or paper shop towels) Try two types of thinner since we don't know which spray paint the little "...." used.
If it is still fresh Naptha may work. If older or a stronger paint try lacquer thinner.
Place the paper over the tag, and moisten a clean rag with the thinner. Do a test of these thinners by blotting the thinner onto the paper until it makes the tag appear and see if the spray paint transfers into the paper.
Using this method should allow you two wake up the recent paint without smearing the tag deeper into the ghost sign. You don't want to do any rubbing directly on the ghost paint. If most of the tag can be lifted using the paper and you know which solvent worked, you can probably dab a clean rag with solvent directly on the old sign to lift any tag residue. The whole goal is not to disturb or abrade the original ghost paint or saturate it with thinner.
If you try this. Report back with any details.

Dan Seese
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Re: Graffiti on Historic Ghost Sign

Post by Dan Seese » Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:34 pm

Thanks Larry! Great advice. I'll suggest that but somehow I don't think that's the answer they're looking for. :? (And thankfully there are people, beyond sign painters, who are interested in preserving these moments in time.)

Pat - you've made some good observations here (with your empirical habits) which would prevent me from making the problem worse. Not exactly what I want to be doing but I do have an interest in preserving what I can.
I'll get back in touch with them. In the meantime, still open to other thoughts - though I think time is of the essence.
Dan
"The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne."
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340 - 1400)

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Roderick Treece
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Re: Graffiti on Historic Ghost Sign

Post by Roderick Treece » Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:14 pm

Hi Dan,
I'm with Pat but I think your going to need to start with Lacquer thiner or Acetone. I would try brushing a very small amount on the paint getting it wet enough to lift to Graffitti up off the wall. It should come up in peels.

Good luck.

Andrew Lawrence
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Joined: Sat Jun 29, 2013 1:06 pm

Re: Graffiti on Historic Ghost Sign

Post by Andrew Lawrence » Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:50 pm

Seeing as how it's not directly over the ghost sign you should just be able to power wash over it with a baking soda and water mix. They've been using it Chicago for decades.

Roderick Treece
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Re: Graffiti on Historic Ghost Sign

Post by Roderick Treece » Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:25 pm

Dan,
After looking at the Pinterest before photo it looks like the bottom of the sign has been graffittied and cleaned up before. I might suggest repainting a new ghost sign on the bottom for them. I know just the guy to help you.

Lorenzo Petersson
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Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2012 12:11 pm

Re: Graffiti on Historic Ghost Sign

Post by Lorenzo Petersson » Wed Mar 26, 2014 9:38 pm

2 cents from a "vandal" (i do legal stuff, period):
Having many years experience with graffiti and spray i can say most paints sold today used for graffiti are specialist graffiti paints, almost every single maker uses some sort of acetone solvent for their sprays, unless they have used what the kids today call "tar-cans" to do the black fill in, wich is bitumen based, semi abrasive and can with a single spray become a 2 mm thick layer. It smells like tar and fades toward sepia brown tones.
That stuff eats into the surface and leaves this brown-ish mess after surface cleaning, soluble with turpentine.
From the contrast it looks like a non-tar black, wich should be easy to remove, it should fade to grey or blue-ish. If its the tar thing, i'd let it sit and become part of the layering and ever changing visual landscape of the city :)

I'd say get up there and try different solvents in small patches with cotton wool on a stick in the q-tip fashion, test on both colours and overlap and the ghost of course just to see how it reacts.
Pats method seems wise, maybe the peeling Roderick mentioned seems likely as well!

Robare M. Novou
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Re: Graffiti on Historic Ghost Sign

Post by Robare M. Novou » Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:38 pm

Power Wash with Baking Soda usually does it, Although it leaves the brick area cleaner than the surrounding unwashed bricks.

Be sure to mask over the ghost sign so that you don't accidentally clean that area off.

RMN
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