License to chill

A fun challenge creating a replica vintage Angolan license plate for a timeless look in photos. It was designed based on photos of examples from the time period, cut and formed from a rusty scrap of sheet steel using a few simple blacksmithing tools, and finished with traditional Japanese baked lacquer and tung oil.

The design is based on the rear rectangular plate on my grandparents series 2a, and even the font was carefully replicated from photos of the original. The scrap of steel was a small off cut that was once part of a large forge hood, and then a charcoal kiln, and then a skateboard ramp. The remaining scrap was just barely large enough to get the proportions needed and after some careful planning and measuring it was cut out using a hammer and cold chisel.

After filing the edges smooth, the flat plate was cold forged at the corners and around the edges to give it some depth and form the hooks to hang on the existing license plates. The rust was mostly preserved and a very thin layer of traditional tree-source urushi lacquer was wiped over the surface and baked to cure. The urushi reacts with the red iron oxide to turn it black while still showing through some of the underlying surface.

The letters and numbers were carefully laid out using a stencil traced from the original and then painted to show some brush marks. Some appearance of aging and wear was accomplished by very lightly wet sanding over the whole front surface with 1000grit sand paper to tone things down and add a brown patina to the urushi. A very thin coat of 100% natural tung oil was added last to seal the whole surface including the back. The two hooks on the back hang over the existing plate (one is smaller due to the tail light) and make a quick and tool-free way of changing the look of the vehicle from one place and time to another.