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New Guy from PA, knows nothing

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by jimhenry2000, Jan 9, 2010.

  1. jimhenry2000

    jimhenry2000 New Member

    Jan 4, 2010
    Hello! I am trying to learn all I can about the sign business before launching my start up. I have found many sites (Including this one) through Google as I do my research. My inclination is to start out doing magnetic vehicle signs at first because I believe there is a market for them locally. I'm getting confused from all the info in trying to determine what equipment I need. I thought these signs seemed to be printed on flat magnetic material but have found a few articles that reference "vacuum machines" and placing individual letters on some sort of magnetic substrate and then using this vacuum machine to attach them. I would really prefer to just use a printer if that is possible. Can anyone point me to what equipment I might need including software? I have seen a few web sites that let customer's design their sign online so I think software to do this would be a must. I'm open to all suggestions as I continue to read the articles I find.
    Thanks very much!
  2. JPGraphics

    JPGraphics Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Greetings from your neck of the woods...
  3. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

    Sep 11, 2003
    Olympia, WA
    I think your research has led you astray into some very old technology. Vacuum formed magnetic signs were popular in the early 1970s. it was plagued by problems and has fallen into disuse. Once magnetic sheet came out, sign painters and screen printer used that as their substrate. In the 1980s vinyl cutting plotters became available and magnetic signs on magnetic sheet became a staple for them ... remaining so to this day. Printing digitally, laminating and transferring to magnetic sheet works well also and expands the creative possibilities, but also requires a much higher investment in production equipment.

    Your least expensive way to get started will be with a vinyl cutting plotter and appropriate software or you could seek out a shop to outsource your needs to while you test your skills and the waters. I would caution you that magnetic signs are a haven for steep discounting and stiff competition. A reasonably good learning ground but not the place to earn a living.

    The majority of signs, magnetic and otherwise are sold manufactured at the local level. Online selling is a whole other can of worms and is completely premature for a startup.

    Good luck to you.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2010
  4. OldPaint

    OldPaint Major Contributor

    google honey brook............them patches are farmers fields..........almost as bad as where iam from in pa,
    penowa, pa.
  5. Jillbeans

    Jillbeans Major Contributor

    Dec 24, 2003
    Butler, PA
    Don't expect to get rich making magnetic signs here in PA.
    Most people get them from Kinko's for $39/pair.
    There are "sign companies" on Craigslist and the Internet who sell them cheaper than that.

    What is your background?
    Do you have any art ability/training?
    Do you own any design programs?
    Have you ever worked for a sign company before?

    I am not trying to sound like a know-it-all beeyotch but really making signs should not be something someone just jumps into with eyes wide shut.
    Joining a sign forum will give you more pertinant info that Google, such as learning about layout, materials, pricing, and business skills.
    (in my 25th year of signs and still not rich)
  6. Patrick46

    Patrick46 Member

    Geez...I hate to argue this one with ya there boss...
    but the cheapest way to get into the sign business, is still with a can of paint & a brush. $40 and you're on your way to fame & fortune. (altho, just like Jill, I've been at this for over 30 years and still have yet to find either!) :banghead:

    Try finding a part time job sweeping floors at a sign shop so you can get a feel for whats involved in this occupation. It can be fun & fascinating, or it can be as frustrating as hell!!!

    Welcome to the forum Jim!
  7. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

    Sep 11, 2003
    Olympia, WA
    :Oops: I stand corrected.
  8. Steve C.

    Steve C. Very Active Member

    May 22, 2003
    Hi Jim, Welcome to Signs 101. What you really need to make it big in the
    sign business is a set of good Fonts....:rolleyes: Just kidding.
    I mostlly agree will Jill. You will want to sharpen your design skills, and starting
    out it's just as easy to get into doing banners and vehicle lettering as
    magnetics. And there's more money in it.

    The only rich people I know in the sign business are the salesmen.
  9. letterman7

    letterman7 Very Active Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    Yep... welcome from right down the street. There aren't much call for magnetics in this area because... well.. there just isn't. Most of the contractors are better versed in the pros and cons of magnetics and opt for just lettering their trucks. Feel free to contact myself or JP (we're neighbors!) for anything else...

  10. Craig Sjoquist

    Craig Sjoquist Major Contributor

    Jun 18, 2004
    ..Welcome to a outstanding forum and people

    Agrees with Fred & Jill

    But we all started somehow remembers school out of the 20 that signed up to learn signs... 3 of us finished and applied what we learned
  11. GB2

    GB2 Very Active Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Connecticut, USA
    You state that you "know nothing",
    From your questions you confirm that you "know nothing",
    From your questions you imply that you have nothing,
    You wish to start out with direct to substrate printing equipment with the best possible software to do that,
    You wish to develop a web site where customers can design on line,
    It is assumed you wish to develop all the infrastruture to produce and deliver all these products,

    Are you kidding or what?!

    Of course I'm not trying to be negative or discouraging in any way, so to give you some constructive advice....save up about $500,000.00, contact your local Small Business Administration to advise you on how to start your own business, accumulate a few years worth of experience, then come back again and ask your questions!

    I keep telling myself, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all" but sometimes....just sometimes....
  12. GB2

    GB2 Very Active Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Connecticut, USA
    You know, subsequent to my last post here, I looked at your profile. I see you are an Optical Engineer, obviously an intelligent guy, looking for a start in this business. We, who are here already, are constantly perplexed as to why so many people think this is an easy road to success, so if you don't mind I'd like to sincerely ask...why do you want a start in this business, why do you think you will succeed and what are you looking to achieve in the long term?
  13. jimhenry2000

    jimhenry2000 New Member

    Jan 4, 2010
    New Guy from PA

    Well thank you all for the (mostly) helpful replies. Let me try to address all of them here.
    First, to dispense with the ridiculous, I'm thinking most people starting a sign business do not start up with a $500,000 investment. If I'm mistaken, then I'm out, but I don't see that as realistic or necessary.

    Fred: Re the vacuum formed magnetic signs, I'm glad to hear that Fred. As I indicated in my original post I was hoping that was no longer the case and that they could be printed. I did find one good video tutorial on a HP web site on printing magnetic signs on vinyl then laminating to magnetic sheets. That was really the way I wanted to go. I do have experience with DesignJet plotters in my job but only in printing large engineering diagrams. I also have experience with web sited and have built and maintained several.

    Old paint - you are right we are farm country, but that is why I moved out here 3 years ago!
    JillBeans - my background. I spent many (20+) years working as a meat manager in very high volume ($5 million/yr) meat depts then decided to change careers as the pay declined. I then started using my degree in electrical engineering and have had a part time network consultancy while working full time as an optical network engineer and engineering manager for a major telecommunications company. I currently manage the commercial fiber business for an area covering PA,NJ,DE,MD,VA,DC,WV. We design and build fiber optic networks connecting school districts, hospitals, local govts, and small, medium, and large businesses. I'm looking to diversify my income sources which is why my interest. I earn a good salary and don't expect to better that, but no job is guaranteed so I want something to fall back on.
    I do own CorelDraw but use it rarely so far. In my job I use MS Visio which is a design and drawing program. I do NOT have any art ability or training so let me admit that up front. What I do have is a daughter and a son in law who are graphic design artists by vocation and VERY talented, whom I am hoping to sub-contract out work to.
    SO, I do not have experience specific to this business but at the same time I am not jumping into it with my eyes shut. I am "testing the water" and trying to learn. Everyone has to start somewhere and I am here.

    Patrick46 - I DO plan to skip over the paint and brush and start with the plotter/cutter!

    Letterman7 - when you letter a vehicle with vinyl, are you applying one letter at a time? Thanks for the kind words and enlightening me about magnetics.

    GB2 - I think in this post I have covered most of why I want to do this. I don't believe I ever implied I thought this was an easy way to riches. The reason I think I will succeed is because I have always succeeded and risen to the top in my past endeavours. I have always been able to determine what people want from me and provide it.

    Everyone thanks again. I hope I can learn more from all of you.
  14. you and about 9000 others diving in the sign business in the last couple months.
    I would'nt quit your day job.
  15. GregT

    GregT Very Active Member

    yep, one letter at a time in vehicle lettering. Working on a arch is a killer....
  16. Replicator

    Replicator Major Contributor

    Nov 19, 2006
    Sun City, AZ
    Welcome !
  17. Farmboy

    Farmboy Active Member

    Feb 8, 2007
    Auburn, NY
    Sounds like you already have at least 2 shops right next door and in the country that could be as far as 5 miles away lol Seriuosly though, I hope this is not going to be your only income. Guy with about 6 years working for another sign company left and opened about 4 miles away from me. Took him 6 months to go out and he had some design talent. One guys telling you theres not a market in your area. Do you know something he doesn't??
  18. when you letter a vehicle with vinyl, are you applying one letter at a time?
  19. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

    Sep 11, 2003
    Olympia, WA
    No. Cut lettering can be a prespaced line of copy or multiple lines depending on the preferences of the one doing the installing. One letter at a time would defeat the whole purpose of doing a layout first.

    For you to ask such a question would indicate to me that you do not understand the methodology of prespaced cut vinyl lettering; weeding; and application of transfer paper. I would suggest you research those items.
  20. jimhenry2000

    jimhenry2000 New Member

    Jan 4, 2010

    Well those shops are further than that but point well made and taken. It was stated there was little market for magnetic signs, not little market for signs.
    I thought I made clear in my last post that I already have a good job, which is why I feel I can afford to research this and go into it if I feel it is right.

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