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A Sign of the Times


On Martha’s Vineyard, JP Uranker hand carves a variety of signs, including quarterboards. “A sign is a piece of artwork families are going to have for years to come,” he says. “They are family heirlooms.” Eagles and quarterboards are his biggest sellers.

Uranker, who has been carving for about 50 years, makes all his signs out of mahogany, which he considers more durable than pine, and finishes them with a marine-based paint made in Europe. He uses 23-karat Italian gold leaf, which he says has “a nice shine and presentation.” One of his signature touches is brass keyhole slots on the back of the piece, so there are no holes going through the sign.

On the Vineyard, people tend to opt for traditional designs on the carved ends, such as pineapple fronds, but the sky’s the limit, Uranker says. “As big as someone’s imagination is, that’s what I can put on the end of a quarterboard.”

In Chatham, Bob Lacy has been creating quarterboards at Chatham Sign Shop for 30 years. Like McCarthy and Uranker, he started out carving by hand. But in the early 2000s, he and many other carvers began using a CNC (computerized numerical control) router for lettering, though some of the ornamental end pieces are still hand carved.

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