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I want to start fabricating channel letters

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by montrealsigns, Dec 28, 2018.

  1. montrealsigns

    montrealsigns Member

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    Feb 22, 2018
    Montreal, Quebec, canada
    Hello I would like to know what equipments and tools are necessary for for channel letter fabrication?

    Thank you
     
  2. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    First thing you need is a license in the electric field, so you can become UL approved. I forget what the Canadian equivalent is, but whether you work with old neon or LEDs, you'll need it.
     
  3. visual800

    visual800 Very Active Member

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    I had to make sure this was not the same post as a couple months back. A CNC router is a must for cutting faces and backs, a notcher for radiusing the sides, you can buy raceways now prefabbed which is great!

    my question is why do you want to fab your own channels when you can buy them wholesale cheaper?
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Active Member

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    Normal, Illinois
    In addition to the fabrication equipment and inventory, you will need a good-sized paint booth and a paint mixing station. You will need an exhaust system that meets local code and an air supply system. In addition to that, you will need storage, crating, and staging areas and a loading dock. You will also need additional sales, admin., and production staff to meet at least $1mil/annual sales of channel letters.

    If you are not currently doing that volume (or more), you might consider buying your channel letters wholesale until you can get a return from your expense. Many sign companies, however, have determined that service and maintenance are more profitable than fabrication, and continue to purchase channel letters wholesale while investing their capital in additional service equipment and personel.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Rocco G

    Rocco G Member

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    You CAN get by with the basics if you aren't doing volume. A sheet metal brake (not an aluminum siding brake please), hand notcher, sign plotter, hand held jigsaw and some skill is all you need to get started. It's not easy BTW to make them from scratch the old fashioned way. We used to make channel letters wholesale, back when we rode dinosaurs to the shop and it did take time I do know people that still do it that way, but what everyone above said is needed to do it in a modern way. BTW, you don't need an electrical license to MAKE channel letters. It's when you get to installing them and applying for permits where licensing is needed. You can just cut a check to UL or met labs or... and get your certification (yes I'm oversimplifying the process) in a fairly short time period. That alone is ~$5K.

    However, unless you are selling a lot of them, it's so much easier to buy them wholesale. Yes you CAN make them cheaper, but why? You can also make bricks cheaper than you can buy them but do you want to? I have a full sheet metal shop (10' shear and brake and box/pan and much more) but when I need letters I usually buy them. Design the job, sell it, hire someone with the licenses to do the installation and collect the check and move on to the next paying job.

    Oh, just saw that you are in Canada. IDK what the process is for getting CSA approval.
     
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  6. ddarlak

    ddarlak Trump Hater

    1 million in sales...lol

    i wanted to make them years ago, used to work at a shop that did, i was on the other side of the shop though so i didn't get to.

    sold a job, bought a welder, made a few, had fun. i knew it would be cheaper to sub them out but i just wanted to make them. it's not for me but it was fun doing it and i use my welder all the time so i'm glad i tried it.

    made a super cool giant channel letter sign for my shop, it was worth the time...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Active Member

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    1 million in sales... in order to justify the expense of an automated system and be competitive. If you just want to make them for fun, I suppose you could cut everything with a jig saw, use a hand notcher and mechanical brake, and paint with a brush. A good automated system will reduce labor by up to 85%, and a proper coating system will extend the life of the letters beyond 5 years or so (you may not need a spray booth if you live out in the country and wear a proper mask).
     
  8. visual800

    visual800 Very Active Member

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    I was just offering to help the guy out in a simplified manner I didnt wanna kick him into a multi million dollar production shop.

    Back to the OP. I have made channel letters by hand although routers have come along and sped this process up and notchers really are a gift from the Sign God, making letters is a PITA. The first few sets may be exciting but after that the joy is over
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  9. montrealsigns

    montrealsigns Member

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    Feb 22, 2018
    Montreal, Quebec, canada
    Thank you all for you help.
     
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