The Traditional Craft of Sign Writing

Artistry up close

I bumped into this fellow today.  Tom Collins.

He’s a traditional signwriter and in case you’re wondering, yes he is a son of that Tom Collins, whose glorious drinking establishment we have all frequented for so many years.  Recently, when the old pub changed hands, Tom was commissioned to repaint the signs bearing his own name, because the new proprietor understands what quality means.

Tom is a proper sign artist, employing a mahl stick to steady his hand as he makes deft little sweeps with his brush to form the lettering on his creations.  I caught him recently doing the new side entrance to Mary-Jo Hogan’s where, with infinite patience, he showed me not only his lettering techniques, but also the art of gilding.

Here he is applying gold leaf.  As he worked, he explained the intricacies of oil gilding and water gilding while I nodded wisely, though I understood not one word of what he said.





If you’d like to see more of Tom’s work, have a look at his website here, but if you call him about a job, beware.  He’s one of those people who love what they do, so he might want to engage with you as a fellow human being and not just a potential customer.  Worse still, he’s that annoying sort of craftsman who wants to do a really good job for you, just like in the old days, before we replaced them with Olde Days.


Tom Collins, Signwriter

10 thoughts on “The Traditional Craft of Sign Writing

  1. And I hear that he understandably got a bit emotional while refurbishing the front of Tom’s. He stripped back a few layers and the original “Michael Collins” (which he’d only seen in photographs) slowly became visible for the first time in, what, 50-60 years?


  2. Working at a job that you are good at, and love. What a way to spend your working life.

  3. Great barman too when he worked in the Cecil Street premises many moons ago. Good luck to him, a craftsman / artist of great quality.

  4. Wow…..
    Just googled traditional sign writing as Im having some new vans I’ve bought recently done and i was looking for some ideas.. Imagine my surprise when Tom Collins (a good friend from many years ago) popped up doing ‘Tom Collins’ where I used to frequent…many years ago and still do when Im in Ireland.

    A true gentleman and master of his craft…..don’t see much of that these days.

    Nice one Tom!

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