How 3 Signmakers Are Using Routers to Carve Custom Signs
These projects stand a cut above thanks to precision and creativity.
Green Cove Springs, FL
WHETHER LAUNCHING A NEW business or updating an existing one, routed signage can be an essential element for success. It can provide much-needed direction, emphasize a range of services or catch the eye of potential customers with a whimsical message. These three East Coast signmakers rose to the occasion when called upon.
THE DOGS ROUT?
When Infamous Graphics (Albany, NY) was called upon to make distinctive outdoor signage for Elite Touchless, a car washing business in East Greenbush, NY, it was also necessary to draw attention to its unique dog wash service. The new proprietors wanted signage to highlight their new equipment, updated bays and premium dog washing stations.
The challenge for Infamous Graphics was to carry the Elite logo and branding from existing businesses and maintain consistency on the new routed metal pricing and entrance signs, each the shape of a dog’s silhouette. “We were told to keep it playful and fun,” says Jasmine Fay, customer service and administration for Infamous.
Johnny Gomez, designer at Infamous, took some of the customer’s ideas and examples to offer them a treat. Using Illustrator, he created a red-canine silhouette sign that accentuated the red, black and gray from the car wash logo.
With everything quickly approved, Infamous Graphics fabricated the signs. For the car wash, the firm produced new acrylic sign faces and a new skirt for the existing pylon sign, and installed a new LED message board underneath. They also produced a custom 4 x 8-ft. internally LED illuminated encapsulation for the building, two routed pricing signs, vinyl wraps for the car wash kiosks and white vinyl lettering for the band along the building. To draw attention to the premium canine cleaning services, they created a triangular dog wash sign to fit on the entranceway awning and routed dog silhouettes for outside the entrance. Two freestanding routed entrance signs provide direction.
Infamous Graphics is equipped with a Gerber AR600 that’s been modified and rebuilt by CNC experts and is driven by SAi EnRoute software. The fabrication team routed the dog silhouettes from ½-in. PVC Sintra Board. For the internally illuminated pylon sign and building sign, the signmaker used polycarbonate panels for the faces with routed and bent aluminum for the boxes and skirting. Infamous routed ⅛-in. DIBOND for the entrance, pricing and triangular awning signs. They welded 1-in. square tube aluminum to frame the pricing signs and 1 x 2-in. aluminum tube for the entrance sign, which was skinned in .040 aluminum panels bonded to the frame using Weld-On 45.
Three of the company’s installers spent five hours placing the building sign and road sign panels, making use of a bucket truck for the higher signage.
“The variation in signage and graphics throughout the location was not only practical, providing regulations, pricing and directions, but also inventive,” says Fay. “We let our imagination flow and the routed pieces helped to bring to life the customers’ vision for their new space.”
When you are the third generation of a family-owned business that was established in 1933, you want to preserve your historical lineage as well as encourage current customers to pay you a visit. Keith Delauter, the manager of Lee Delauter & Sons (LDS), approached Sign Solutions (Frederick, MD) to create new signage for his Middletown, MD convenience store and gas station that would fit his general store heritage and the surrounding area — a historic town founded in 1767 where Revolutionary and Civil War troops once traveled. Today its streets are lined with quaint local shops and restaurants.
“The signage our company envisioned was multi-dimensional, non-standard depths and what we considered unique as one-off signs of that era may have been,” says Tim Ward, owner/managing member of Sign Solutions, referring to the 1930’s, when the store was founded.
Ward entrusted the project to his 28-year-old son William Ward, a certified welder and accomplished sign and metal fabricator trained in the vo-tech classes of the Middletown school district. Mike Brown, the firm’s designer who creates and runs most of the CNC files for its projects, assisted Ward. The shop uses a 5 x 12-ft. MultiCam 3000 router with eight-tool auto changer and vacuum hold down, also running on SAi’s EnRoute.
Starting with the frame for the main ID cabinet, Ward and Brown decided to use their CNC as much as possible. Both the front and back sides of the frame were routed out of ¼-in. 5052 aluminum alloy, with 1 x 1-in. aluminum struts spanning the width to the 30-in. depth. The retainers are all radius- and multi-radius cut from ⅛-in. aluminum, and the returns, .063 aluminum.
To complete the sign faces, Ward and Brown shaped them with their in-house Vaquform machine, then used the MultiCam to cut MDF wood to produce the molds for the faces and embossed lettering. These were finished using translucent 3M and printed vinyl graphics.
“We wanted to really dress up the base and pole covers to augment the overall pylon design,” says Ward. “The pole covers and bases were fabricated out of ⅛-in. ABS plastic and pan-formed. The CNC router was then utilized to create the MDF molds used in the forming process, with a subtle note of the LDS logo reverse-embossed on both sides.”
It took time, but the town approved a variance for the new larger sign and Sign Solutions used its bucket truck to install the signage. Today, the LDS sign can be seen along S. Church St., perched high among the tall church steeples, red-brick storefronts and rolling farm fields, a custom fit for this historic setting.
LET’S HANG OUT
To draw young professionals to its new Barlow apartment complex in the historic San Marco neighborhood of Jacksonville, FL, local developer Chance Partners handed the project of designing and installing routed signage to Heritage Signs (Green Cove Springs, FL). The goal was to produce signage that conveyed a clean, modern and hip appearance yet identified the upscale building and provided directional purposes. Two signs were needed for the front of the building, and one on top of the complex’s parking garage.
“We put our creative heads together and decided that the parking garage sign especially had to have a ‘wow’ factor to be spotted from the main roads,” says Emma Callahan, owner of Heritage Signs. “But we also felt that a well-designed, non-illuminated sign with a certain character and tone could be more effective than relying on bright illumination and elaborate fonts to make the business stand out.”
Heritage’s designer Tom Beach used CorelDRAW, Illustrator and Photoshop to design the signs, with input from Jonathan Knight, the firm’s shop manager. With the art then approved, Rob Conant, the firm’s CNC guru, began routing the signage on the shop’s AXYZ 6012 router using Vectric’s VCarve Pro software.
For the front entrance sign, the team chose .090 aluminum and acrylic lettering — all CNC cut — while the top front building sign is routed from .125 aluminum. The parking garage sign comprises .125 aluminum back panels, acrylic faces and non-illuminated aluminum channel letters, with all visible components cut on the CNC. Matthews Paint in Cool Gray metallic adds a polished finish to the two front building signs.
The principal challenge with fabrication, explains Callahan, proved to be the front entrance sign because it hangs on the front side of a low balcony, directly above the main entrance of the apartment complex. Due to this location, it needed to be both extremely secure and visually attractive. Knight took extra care in engineering the sign so that it was sturdy, tamper proof, but still as seamless looking as possible. He and fabricator Mike Docuyanan had to design and build special brackets in order for the sign to be mounted to the building safely.
There were other hurdles to overcome as well. Heritage’s team needed to create a routed back panel for the sign to keep it looking clean and professional yet cover the internal components. But, says Callahan, for the sign to be mounted securely and allow the back panel to be removable for servicing, the team had to rout multiple holes in precise locations on the back panel for perfect sign harmony.
Once the signage was engineered and fabricated, it took Heritage’s Chris Crumton, Jordan White and Chas Knight five days for installation. Using a 16-ft. trailer to transport the signs, Heritage enlisted an Altec truck with a 65-ft. crane and bucket to reach the sloping concrete roof atop the complex’s parking garage. Now, anyone visiting the lively San Marco area will be able to easily spot the latest upscale apartment complex.
PHOTO GALLERY (12 IMAGES)
📷: Heritage Signs | Infamous Graphics | Sign Solutions
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