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Dimensional Letters Outside - Thickness/Material?

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by Andy D, Aug 16, 2019.

  1. Andy D

    Andy D Very Active Member

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    I'm quoting a job where I would be installing dimensional letters and logos to an existing
    wood monument sign. I use Gemini & their best options are cut aluminum or acrylic.

    I want to give them a few options on material & prices & I'm looking for some feedback,
    What's the thinnest you would offer for acrylic outside dimensional letters? I would prefer they were
    drilled and tapped.

    The Letters are all fonts with thick strokes for 6" to 9" & all the logos are basic shapes around 12" x 16"
     
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  2. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    I always give them a few options on thickness and let them decide. Nothing smaller then 3/16 acrylic on those letters.. 1/4" is nice and thick
     
  3. Andy D

    Andy D Very Active Member

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    Thanks Texas, that's what I'm thinking. Assuming you had to sub them out, who would you use?
     
  4. unclebun

    unclebun Very Active Member

    I don't think they can drill and tap 3/16" acrylic. 1/4" is minimum. Even then, if the letters are large, they may seem too thin at 1/4".

    We've done a fair amount of aluminum 1/4" and 3/8" letters with various finishes, which look pretty nice. But when you get to 1/2" and above, whether plastic or metal, they really start to look right.
     
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  5. shoresigns

    shoresigns Very Active Member

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    1/4" is very thin for 6–9" letters. A normal depth range for that letter size would be more like 1/2" to 1".

    You can easily create an isometric 3D mockup of the letters with whatever depth you want in Illustrator via Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel.
     
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  6. rossmosh

    rossmosh Active Member

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    I wouldn't offer 1/4" thick letters. They'll look flat. I'd offer 1/2" thick or better.

    I'd probably use 3/4" or 1" PVC painted with exterior latex paint. It's just way more cost effective and an easier process if you have a CNC router.
     
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  7. fresh

    fresh Very Active Member

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    3/8" acrylic to drill and tap

    depends on what we're doing, but i like 1/4" most of the time. cast aluminum is sometimes that same or cheaper than cut aluminum, so just ask them for a bunch of quotes too see what works best for you.
     
  8. rossmosh

    rossmosh Active Member

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    <wrong thread>
     
  9. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    The install or the letters?

    Letters would be Gemini... Since I'm mostly setup for installing I'd do it myself if it's in my territory.
     
  10. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    The thickness of 3/16" or 1/4" isn't meant to make it look "3D". He asked what's the thinnest you could use outside. Anything thinner than 1/4" and it gets dicey when you're pressing in the letters.

    If the customer wanted a 3D look, 1" would be the minimum I would guess. But it all depends on what they want. They may want 3" and in that case I'd go with fabricated metal. Around here you get anything too thick and the birds use it as a hotel.
     
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  11. James Burke

    James Burke Being a grandpa is more fun than working

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    This is not typical, but we did a historic building and I only gave them one option for their 12" high letters: half-inch thick cast bronze, powder-coated black, and stud mounted.

    The lettering faces west and takes the brunt of the weather, including sizzling-hot temperatures in the afternoon. I wanted something that was going to stand up to tens of thousands of thermal expansion and contraction cycles.

    It was pricey, but I feel good knowing that I won't ever have to touch it again.


    JB
     
  12. Bigdawg

    Bigdawg Just Me

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    For Gemini to do drill flush stud mount (which I think looks a lot better), acrylic has to be 3/8" thick. Aluminum can be 1/4". If you want them to stand off they can send spacers with the job - up to 1"

    Edited to add: If cost is an issue with the customer, the spacers give you that dimension without the cost of the thick letter.
     
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  13. Andy D

    Andy D Very Active Member

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    I don't have Illustrator & don't have any experience with creating isometric 3D mockups, is there another program that's cheap or free that does this?
    I have Corel 16 and PhotoShop 13, will either one of those work, I know Corel has Extrude & Bevel but I haven't messed with it much.
     
  14. shoresigns

    shoresigns Very Active Member

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    You could try a 3D modeling app like Sketchup. I tried it once and gave up after discovering how much of a learning curve there was just to do something simple like mocking up a 3D sign. It might be worth your time if you want to do a lot of 3D mockups, or if you do architectural signs.
     
  15. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    I must be a heathen... I just add a drop shadow or perspective to Flexi and go with it. I have a Gemini sample box that has the physical letters and let my customer pick which one they like.
     
  16. TimToad

    TimToad Very Active Member

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    Andy,

    This advice depends on the typeface you are using and installation condition but a good guide to follow is to try and match your letter thickness to the width of the thinnest stroke. If you have 1/2" thin strokes and use a 1" thick letter, it looks a little unnatural and clumsy. Same thing with the distance you space the letters off the wall. Too much distance and it creates really deep shadows and cuts down on legibility. Nothing reads worse than a 6" thin stroked, 1/4" thick letter stood off the wall 2".

    The thinnest we'll do outdoors is 1/4".

    My guess on your parameters would be 1/2" to 3/4" if acrylic, 1/4" for aluminum.
     
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  17. Nick Nie

    Nick Nie Member

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    I tried many times with Gemini, never got any deal with their pricing, now we outsouce to local supplier who can help to cut the 1/2 or 1/4 thick PVC, then apply vinyl, edge painting by ourselves. it turns out very good, we have more and more business now.
     
  18. unclebun

    unclebun Very Active Member

    Why did you expect to get a "deal" from Gemini? They sell to everyone at the net price listed in their catalogs. Can you make cheaper letters? Yes, as you've found. But you aren't going to be able to get free replacement letters when the plastic fails over 20 years later, even though they were ordered originally by a different sign shop that is no longer in business. We have done that for a customer.
     
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  19. TimToad

    TimToad Very Active Member

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    Really good points. We've developed a two tier pricing structure for dimensional letters and try to emphasize the material and finish guarantee that Gemini offers compared to letters we have cut from our neighbor's CNC and then paint. The choice is pretty clear. A 1/2" thick painted PVC letter made here in shorter time costs less, but we make sure to describe the quality difference between it and a 1/2" acrylic Gemini letter accurately to potential clients.
     
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  20. Nick Nie

    Nick Nie Member

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    that's a good point, but customers are always looking for a balance between quality and pricing, the proposal to customers should match their requirments, not over not under, Gemini should fit for those customers with long term requirement, but not for all customers. i would rather to figure out the reason why Gemini quality is better and then find the similar quality but with competitive pricing supplier to win the deal. this part of work would be the value we creat for customer and the profit we get from customer.
     
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