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Contour Cutting FoamCore/GatorBoard/Coroplast, etc

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by fdgrafius, Jun 29, 2012.

  1. fdgrafius

    fdgrafius New Member

    Dec 21, 2011
    Cedar Park, TX
    I'm pretty new to the sign business and have now taken on some jobs that are slightly beyond my know-how:

    What is the consensus on contour cutting FoamCore/GatorBoard, etc.?

    I have two projects, both vinyl prints mounted on GatorBoard, that need to be contour cut. One is essentially a 4' diameter circle, and the other is a life size cut out of a person.

    Here is what we have tried so far:

    1. Cut by hand with an X-Acto knife. Result: not very clean, lots of scalloping from the hand operation.
    2. Jig Saw. What a mess!
    3. Hand-Held Router Result: okay, but still not a very clean circle.

    Is the answer, "Try, Try, again, newbie," or is there another option we're missing.

    Thanks in advance for your input.

  2. TwoNine

    TwoNine Active Member

    Apr 17, 2011
    If you want to hand-cut, use a string and a pin for circles. Jigsaws are good - and yes, they are messy (like most sign work). Hand held router - same technique as a knife (string and a pin)....

    If you're still a little shaky - overcut the circle and sand it down to perfection with a unidirectional sander (belt, orbital). This is probably best option for you it sounds like

    Or - outsource to someone with a CNC router. - No mess and prefect circles. Just end up about 80 bucks poorer. ;)

  3. TwoNine

    TwoNine Active Member

    Apr 17, 2011
    BTW - welcome from WA....
  4. carter75

    carter75 Member

    Jul 5, 2012
    Not sure how much help this will be, but the last place I worked had a specific tool for this. Unsure of the brand or name of it, but it looked a lot like a regular router except that the blade was reciprocating and looked like a small jigsaw blade, and where the blade mounted was able to swivel so that you could cut around any size contour, even very small points. We cut several lego men out of 1" gatorboard for a display in Chicago and they looked awesome!
  5. carter75

    carter75 Member

    Jul 5, 2012
    Sorry for the delay, but the tool that I was referring to is called a cutawl model k-11.
  6. signcrafters london

    signcrafters london Very Active Member

    May 22, 2010
    London KY
    They are hard to find at a reasonable price, but nothing is better, imo. It took me 9 months to finally find one on ebay.
  7. Rooster

    Rooster Very Active Member

    Feb 22, 2008
    It's fairly easy to cut gatorboard into circles with the pin and string method, but foamcore is too soft and the center pin will move too much. If your client will be upset with a hole in the center of their project, you'll need to farm the cutting out to someone with a flatbed cutter or a router table.

    I've done life size cutouts on gatorboard with a jigsaw and a fine tooth blade and they worked great. It does make a bloody mess like you say. I wouldn't try that with foamcore though.
  8. TammieH

    TammieH Very Active Member

    Nov 28, 2011
    Pacific NW
    you can make a handheld router circle cutter base with a little bit of know how, i made one years ago. Rout a recess in one end of a piece of MDO about 6" wide (or whatever size you need for your router) by 48" long. Drill holes in the MDO for pivot points when needed. Drill and countersink holes to hold the router in place. Hand routing free form shapes like human figures is a breeze with a bit of practice.

    But if you do have access to a CNC vendor to cut for you, its nice not to get messy :-D
  9. Terremoto

    Terremoto Member

    Jun 28, 2007
    I use a narrow knife blade (no teeth) in my jig saw. If you slow it down to a crawl it cuts pretty fast without melting things or leaving shavings and whatnot lying around.


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