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Bee Sky Rise Informational Signs

For this job, we installed exterior exhibit pedestal style informational signs for the 4 Bee Real Sky Rises. These Sky Rises are pollinator houses designed in a collaboration between Public Art St. Paul and the UMN. John Wenzel of St Paul Sign (and Geometry Inc) finalized designs in a 3D digital model and fabricated the sculptures while working at Blue Rhino Studio. Now, John is staying busy with Geometry Inc who has adopted the maintenance of these Bee Sky Rises.

  • Date: Sep-Oct 2019
  • Client: City of St. Paul and UMN
  • Project Type: Exterior Exhibit Sign Installation
  • More Info: Visit Bee Sky Rise Page at Geometry

About this Project

This project entailed the installation of 4 hexagonal informational signs, one at each Bee Sky Rise locations. These installs were pretty straightforward.

Exhibit Sign Post System

The system consisted of the 3” aluminum powder coated pole and raw aluminum stabilizer wings that get attached to the bottom of the pole (see pic below). These wings help stabilize the pole in the dirt without concrete, although one could use concrete if they thought it would help and didn’t care about how removable they were. In some cases, I did use a bag of quick-setting concrete to really stabilize the pole bottom. But it probably wasn’t necessary.

Call 811 for Utility Locate

The first step was to mark the exact location of the dig and contact my state’s utility location service. In the USA you can just call 811 and be routed to your state’s utility location service. In Minnesota, that’s Gopher 1. You want to have the address (or closest address) of the dig handy before you call. Once this is done, it takes 3 business days (in Minnesota) before digging. The 3 days passed and by checking the dig ticket, I could verify there were no conflicts. Then we could safely start digging.

Digging the Hole

I start out with a spade and carefully cut out a 12”-16” round of sod and lay it aside. That will be used in the end to patch the hole nicely. Then I dig as far down as I can with spade. Probably 30” or so. And then I switch over to post hole digger. Once in a while, I’d hit a rock or old cement chunks. I get down and make sure it is in fact just debris..Then, I would use a wrecking bar or anything else to carve dirt around it until I could pry it loose. Sometimes the hole ends up quite a bit bigger, but that’s ok. If you find a rock that seems very difficult to excavate, consider shifting the hole a bit. At times too, with old concrete debris, you can crack it by use of a sledge hammer hitting the wrecking bar. Finally, I would get down to 42” as required by this system. And the hole bottom had to be about 12” diameter to accept winged pole.

Calculate Pole Height (Twice)

The sign here had to be 30” from it’s lowest edge to the ground. I would lay it out on the ground and figure out where the grade line would be on the pole, then wrap a piece of tape there. At this point, I found it useful to use some gravel to line the bottom of the hole so the pole was pretty stable vertically. This required the hole was a couple inches deeper. So I’d set this pole in the hole then on the gravel, and adjust it until the grade line tape lined up with a straight edge I laid across the hole. Then, I’d DOUBLE CHECK my height MEASUREMENTS AND LOGIC! It’s easy to adjust now. Very difficult to adjust later! Since my sign connected to a plate which connected to the pole, all at an angle, it wasn’t completely simple. And once I almost put it in too low. You get going on a lot of assumptions sometimes. That can be a bad thing. Always be sure. Especially if you are using concrete!!!

Setting Post 

At this point, I would strap on a 2-sided post level. Get one of these. They’re about $8 and they’re very useful. So I’d hold the pole plumb by watching the 2 bubbles, and add gravel up a few inches around the wings at the bottom of the hole. Then I’d start adding dirt evenly around it. I’d get about 8 inches of dirt in there, and then while checking for plumb, use a sledge hammer to dangle in the hole and pack the dirt as tight as possible, all around the pole. I’d repeat this process until hole was filled, making adjustments to pole for plumb. I’d leave enough room at the top for the thickness of the sod cap, then place that by cutting a hole in the sod for the pole. I’d pack this down good, adding or removing dirt under it until it was packed and level with the ground. While doing so, you can remove the tape at the grade level line.

Attaching Sign with Security Hardware

At this point, all I had to do was attach the mounting plate to the pole plate and the sign to that mounting plate. As luck would have it, the hardware was accidentally not shipped. I figured out though, what hardware to use. Ideally, you’ll use all stainless steel for parts that are exposed. This hardware was all 5/16”. 

The pole plate to mounting plate has an interesting tamper resistant system. There are 4 Flat Head Socket Cap Screws that have a hex drive and these point down through countersunk holes in mounting plate. The plate on the pole had corresponding holes that were hexagonal shaped. Here you place 5/16” Flange Nuts, or Serrated Nuts into hex holes, and screw down socket cap screws until tight. 

The sign had studs that would go through the mounting plate and then be fastened down with tamper resistant Tuff Nuts. These are cool. They are sort of pyramidal nuts that you can only fasten by taking an extra Tuff Nut and threading it on upside-down next to the one that will stay on. Then you tighten both by using a box wrench or adjustable wrench that straddles the Vs made by opposing nuts. Once tight, you remove the helper nut. To remove, you would need one of these nuts on hand.

Then, I’d stand back and admire my fine work!