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What's a good thick outdoor sign material-1 3/4"-2" thickness for a building sign?

Discussion in 'Hand Made Signs' started by sinclairgraphics1, Nov 28, 2016.

  1. sinclairgraphics1

    sinclairgraphics1 Sinclair Graphics & Installations

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    We are bidding on a project for a historic building and the client would like to have a wood background like the attached mockup. I was thinking something 2" thick or less and I found a product by Wensco called "AllWood" sign blanks. Just for the material alone, at my wholesale cost they want almost $1k. Seems way too high for a piece of wood. Also was looking into sandblasted HDU but not sure how "real" that's going to look. What would be a good material for this? I will likely hand-paint the sign onto the substrate to go with the vintage style.

    Thanks
     

    Attached Files:

  2. jsmoritz2000

    jsmoritz2000 Very Active Member

    Personally, I would say if you want something thick that looks like wood, attach some .063 aluminum sheet to a 2" aluminum tube or angle framework with VHB tape. For the look of real wood, just wrap it with a print. This would be a lightweight and economical alternative, anyway.
     
  3. Kottwitz-Graphics

    Kottwitz-Graphics Very Active Member

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    The Allwood is expensive because it's solid cedar...not a cheap alternative. It's made for sand blasting.

    If you must have it 2" and woodgrain, hdu is the way to go. It can be blasted or routed, and depending on the amount of time prepping the setup, the more realistic it can be.
     
  4. Billct2

    Billct2 Major Contributor

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    If you want wood and will be leaving it unfinished or cleared then you could fake the thickness.
    Build a sub frame and skin with the widest cedar boards you can get, I'd use 5/4" thick if I could get it.
    You'll have seams, but that was common when making wood signs.
    The only issue would be the edge, but you could do a border with the same boards edgewise and have it raised a bit to frame the sign.
     
  5. signbrad

    signbrad Member

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    My first question for a client like this is, "Why do you want a thick slab of wood for your sign?" Is he thinking that it would look 'historic,' so that it would harmonize with the building?

    In my mind, a 2-inch thick wood sign, especially with sandblasted graphics, is neither traditional nor historic. It is a modern treatment. Maybe hand-carved could be considered historic. In either case, the wood blank is not cheap, as you already know. HDU is easier to work with, in my opinion, whether sandblasting or carving. You can incise the graphics with carving tools, or have the graphics in relief. A bent spoon gouge used on the background can give a carved-out look. Still, is this not often a look that is more rustic rather than historic? During the years when everybody was sandblasting redwood signs, I believe it was often inappropriate for the architecture. We were doing it so much not because it was appropriate, but because it was new and different and we could charge a lot.

    A point already mentioned to is that the panel does not need to be 2 inches thick to achieve a 2-inch-thick look. A thinner panel can be framed to give the appearance of thickness. A frame on the backside whether made of lumber or metal, can push the face away from the wall. Then a finish frame can cover the edges. You can get a thick look this way without the weight and the problems associated with a wood slab. Of course, HDU doesn't have any of the problems that a slab of redwood or cedar has, and it can last practically forever.

    If this were my job my first inclination would be to suggest a glass smalts background and gold leaf graphics. Smalts is an old-fashioned, historic treatment that has a nice masonry look to it. Then add a decorative frame of redwood or cedar that would take a stain and still have a wood look without appearing rustic or like a 'state park' sign. The signs I have made in the past with glass smalts were on MDO panels (this tells you how long it's been since I've done one), but I would experiment with smalts on an aluminum composite panel.

    My next choice would be an HDU slab painted to resemble marble. I would router a decorative molding treatment on the edges of the HDU, and then finish the face till it was very smooth before marbleizing. If you are not confident at marbleizing, some commercial painters are good at it. We have some in our area that can achieve a very realistic look and they don't charge as much as you might think. A marbleized background can be hand lettered or have flatcut letters mounted to it.

    A digitally-printed background to resemble wood might look cool, as jsmoritz suggests, though it might not have the lifespan of the other treatments. You could even mount flat cutout graphics to it.

    I think the letterstyle is important, too. It can look better if the letterstyle fits the historic look of the building. Not always, but sometimes, a historic building can look a little ridiculous dressed in Helvetica Medium, though I am not one of the Helvetica haters. :smile:


    Brad in Kansas City
     
  6. rossmosh

    rossmosh Member

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    Come up with 2-3 designs, then figure out the materials and processes.

    I will say this, if you want a sign which shows the wood grain, you should probably buy wood. You can faux finish HDU or PVC to look like wood, but at the end of the day, it's still a faux finish. Don't be afraid to call a few cabinet shops and see what they'd charge to glue up a cedar sign for you. You might be able to save a few bucks.
     
  7. visual800

    visual800 Very Active Member

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    I love the folks working with the "Hysterical Society"...they are clueless. However I would take 3/4 routed PVC and mount it to @" aluminum square tubing OR as the guy above suggested aluminum mounted to 2" square tubing.

    These committees that work for these so called "societies" are usually clueless as to substitute materials PLUS their budget wont cover
     
  8. sinclairgraphics1

    sinclairgraphics1 Sinclair Graphics & Installations

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    I'm thinking the sign with some type of framework sounds great like many of you suggested. But also the HDU is appealing as well because of the light weight and being able to blast it to give it the look they want. I was actually surprised the committee and an architect approved the design right away. I have not figured up the pricing for them yet so we'll see how it all goes but they were all about going forward with the project. I have not worked with HDU but have a local guy that I will use for that part. Does the HDU need to be attached to some type of framework or structure or how would be the best way to attach that?
     
  9. Marlene

    Marlene Major Contributor

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    who did the mock up? it is clear that they want to see the wood. the biggest problem is that wood blank look like butcher block as they are made to see the wood, but to be carved or sandblasted and painted. check into Chemetal as I think they also have some wood laminates tht would look better than the wood that is available for sign blanks.
     
  10. sinclairgraphics1

    sinclairgraphics1 Sinclair Graphics & Installations

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    I did the mockup for the client and I just used a stock background photo I had for the wood. So yes, they want to see the wood grain, but no it does not necessarily need to be real wood. They want the look and thickness. I will google Chemetal and check them out. Do you have a direct link to their products?
     
  11. printhog

    printhog Member

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    If it were me, i'd build it like a theater flat - use VHB tape and recessed flat head metals screws to put composite sheeting (dibond) over a 1"x 2" tube aluminum frame (TIG welded corners), seal and filler the edges, then digitally print the wood effect and graphics and WRAP the sign and seal any edges. remember to add tiny drain holes at the bottom... The sign will be very lightweight - so it will install faster, safer and the digital print will likely last 7 years and you'll be able to put more $ in your pocket. Ive used this method for many clients and they have been VERY happy. a sheet of dibond and the aluminum will likely be about $150.
     
  12. Marlene

    Marlene Major Contributor

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    there are laminates that might work but since they don't need real wood, why not direct print onto HDU a wood seamless print? you get the depth and the look
     
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