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New to channel letters

Discussion in 'Electric Signs & Channel Letters' started by Biggermens, Jan 20, 2020.

  1. Biggermens

    Biggermens Member

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    Hi everyone

    I am looking on getting into channel letters, i have never done this before, i am very mechanically inclined
    i watch a few YouTube videos ( I am now a expert ;) )
    I have a cnc router and a small machine shop

    What else would i need to get started ???
    I am not looking to do this full time, manual machines would be ok

    Thanks
    Biggs
     
    Tags:
  2. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Best to buy from a wholesaler because you need the letters to be UL certified if you want any chance to legally install them.

    Besides a CNC you'd need Acubend machine
     
  3. GB2

    GB2 Very Active Member

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    You don't need any $75,000 machines to try it. Since you already have a CNC router, at the very least you would need a sheet metal brake, a notcher and possibly a manual channel letter brake of some type, along with some hand tools which you must have already, drill, rivet gun, etc. You could manually notch the returns where the bends are but if you need to do curves then you need multiple notches, which you could do by hand but it would be very tedious.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
  4. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    What's an Acubend? We do all of ours with the CNC and a pair of breaks.
    Some folks prefer the Rouff notcher and then to hand form them. Some folks let a machine have all the fun... Looking very hard at an accubend myself...
     
  5. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Its a machine that bends the metal into the shapes of letters.
     
  6. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    I forgot the /s
    Like I said, looking really hard at one myself, to buy that is. Do you have one?
     
  7. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    I worked in a shop that had one and I never knew anything about bending other then that machine so I have nothing to compare it to. Load the roll in the machine and it spits out channels. There is another machine that presses the backs to the channels. Route the acrylic faces, lay in LEDs and manually trim cap the acrylic faces and then fasten to channel. I use a wholesaler now... there is better $$ in subbing that stuff out than producing in house unless you're doing it all the time.
     
  8. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    IDK, I'm a big fan of making my own. Not that I can do it better (I mean I can) but I take pride in what I assembled. Not knocking other approaches, it's just nice to tell my kiddo that we 'built' those letters, instead of lying to her...
     
  9. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    I hear you. I'd like nothing more then to make them in house. I like the satisfaction of building them and having better control over the turn-around times, but my financial sense overrides the desire and says no.

    I always thought having complete control over all the process meant I could give a better product and make more $$$... but I've found that giving up some part of the control can make better financial sense
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    We have an Accu-Bend machine in our shop. A machine like that is definitely good to have if your shop produces a lot of channel letters.

    Previously we used software from a company called Arete that would create a cut path so channel letter returns could be routed out of a flat sheet of aluminum on a standard routing table. The path would incorporate all the notches needed for the returns. They sold a device where you could feed the routed return into it to make bends at specific points. The system worked very precise, but it wasn't a quick process. I think the Arete company went out of business.

    The Accu-Bend machine does all the notching and bending of the returns automatically. I just wish it did a more neat, precise job at it. Some returns require a bit of clean-up work before attaching to a channel letter back or metal face. The machine seems to do best on larger letters and sans serif letter styles.

    Not only do a growing number of communities require UL Listing on channel letter signs, but they'll often also require the sign company to have one or more employees carry Master Electricians Licenses and anyone doing the install work to have at the minimum a Journeyman's Electricians License. Our shop had to comply with those requirements to do any work down in Texas. Plus we had to get registered and licensed through the TDLR (Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation) and put the license number on our trucks. From time to time we have to send guys from our shop down to continuing education classes in the Dallas area.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
    • Informative Informative x 1
  11. JBurton

    JBurton Signtologist

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    I'm still running that software! It's not the greatest, but when all you got is a CNC, it's a game changer. Then we use a standard break and a channel letter break to finish them out.
    As far as Arete goes, I think those guys started Adams Tech, they make their own notcher that is supposedly superior to accubend.
     
  12. player

    player Major Contributor

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    I would buy from a wholesaler.
     
  13. ams

    ams Very Active Member

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    You need to get UL or ETL certified. That could be anywhere from $20k - $60k depending on what you want to do and then ongoing fees.
    Also you need a letter bender, notcher, trimmer, etc. You'd be looking at the $150k range for that equipment.
     
  14. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    Aside from the specialized equipment, regulatory requirements and possible licensing, it's a whole lot easier and even cheaper making and installing channel letter signs than it used to be. That's thanks largely to the switch from neon to LED-based lighting. But it's coming at a consequence of killing off much of the market for neon. It's rare that we sell a channel letter sign with open or clear faces equipped with neon tubing. And that's one of the few types of signs left that pretty much require neon to look proper. If the neon glass isn't visible then the lighting job can be done with LEDs. Customers balk at the cost of neon, worry about the power requirements (and electric bill) as well as the service costs. Trim-capped clear acrylic faces are a good idea for any channel letter sign with visible neon.

    I think many of the UL requirements in many cities and towns took hold due to improper fabrication and installation of neon-based signs. Bare wire carrying high voltage can literally start fires. The risks are much lower with low-voltage LED-based lighting in channel letters. The transformers are much smaller, which opens more possibilities for low profile raceways or flush mount letters.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  15. Biggermens

    Biggermens Member

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    Over here we don't go by UL, anything DC no ones looks at, i just have a make sure i have a CSA certified power supply and i am good to go

    I also have a sheet metal break, i was gonna try it with that and see what i come up with
    is there any software around that can figure out the math for you ??

    Thanks
     
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