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Fabricate signs from aluminum composite panels

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Aluminum composite material—a sandwich of two thin sheets of aluminum with a layer of plastic between—is a versatile material in the hands of a creative sign professional. You can fabricate sign faces, build add-on panels, make pole and pylon covers with just a router and adhesive.

John Dutton, Quality Signs, Jasper, Alabama, finds his customers like the clean look of the 3D signs and panels he creates from aluminum composite sheet.

 

On the 4-by-19-ft. American Cutlery sign, John routed a V-groove in PolyMetal aluminum composite sheet [www.nudo.com] and bent back returns to add depth for the black panel. He cut the oval face out of PolyMetal, then used a long strip for the sides. (Fletcher-Terry www.fletcher-terry.com now offers a V-Groove Tool for cutting grooves to allow 90-degree bends in aluminum composite panels without routing.)

He then cut the same oval out of 3/4-in. particle board to serve as a mold. He dropped the face into that, and bent the sides inside the mold. He bonded the sides to the face using stainless steel corner brackets from the hardware store and Gorilla Glue, hold it together. 

 “For the Blackson sign,” says John, “I used an AlumaCorr panel, which is aluminum faces over a corrugated plastic core for the main panel. I made the logo and secondary copy boxes using PolyMetal aluminum composite panel, fast and easy. It added some dimension, and the client loved it.
“I’ve built quite a few sign cabinets like this over the past few years. It keeps the cost down, and the signs hold up well.”

 

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Comments  10

  • Gilberg 11 Jan

    One question... (well, a couple, if anybody knows)
    How do you finish the panels---particularly the seam on the non-folded panels?
    And how durable is Gorilla Glue?

    Allen Gilberg

  • Amazing Designs 11 Jan

    Are they using a CNC router and how are these boxes actually attached to the surface?

  • John Dutton 13 Jan

    @Gilberg  I have had good luck with using the Gorilla Glue.  You have to rough the surface of the composite material to expose the core.  I have found that it adheres better to the composite core than the aluminum.  I have several signs that have been up for 3 years or more with no issues.  I will apply the glue and then lightly mist water/alcohol mixture on the glue to speed up the curing..  The water/alcohol will make the Gorilla Glue expand.  When joining panels together to create a continuous
    face (Such as the Case Sign)  I will create a slip joint so that the two panels will interlock. 

    @Amazing Designs  I wish that I had one.  I use a standard Porter Cable router with a 45degree bit to make the V-Groove.  When installing a panel to a structure I position a strip of aluminum angle to the surface-measure down and place another piece opposite of the top.  Then  slip the sign over the angles and use rivites to fasten the panel to the angle.  It provides a seamless look.  Its hard to explain but really easy and painless to install.

  • John Dutton 16 Jan

    @Gilberg  I have had good luck with using the Gorilla Glue.  You have to rough the surface of the composite material to expose the core.  I have found that it adheres better to the composite core than the aluminum.  I have several signs that have been up for 3 years or more with no issues.  I will apply the glue and then lightly mist water/alcohol mixture on the glue to speed up the curing..  The water/alcohol will make the Gorilla Glue expand.  When joining panels together to create a continuous
    face (Such as the Case Sign)  I will create a slip joint so that the two panels will interlock. 

    @Amazing Designs  I wish that I had one.  I use a standard Porter Cable router with a 45degree bit to make the V-Groove.  When installing a panel to a structure I position a strip of aluminum angle to the surface-measure down and place another piece opposite of the top.  Then  slip the sign over the angles and use rivites to fasten the panel to the angle.  It provides a seamless look.  Its hard to explain but really easy and painless to install.

  • Glen Collin 19 Sep

    What about expansion and contraction.  Does the edge around the ellipse separate from the front panel on a hot summer day.  Or does it all expand at the same rate.

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