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Printed graphics on an aluminum composite material panel that was mounted to an existing sign structure. Bob and Bryan Hardbarger, Hardbarger Signs, Ellenboro, West Virginia

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The B was cut out of the 42-by-48-in. aluminum sign face which has a grinder-scratched surface. The black letters and blue bar were router-cut from Sintra PVC board. The aluminum face is illuminated with white LEDs from behind. Mike Chamberlin, Vital Signs, Verona, Wisconsin

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The lettering was incise-carved, and the car’s relief background was carved using a Multicam CNC router on 2-in. 18-lb. HDU board. The flags, banner, scrolls and Corvette are all hand carved. It was finished in acrylic latex paints with artist oils for details; lettering and scrolls are 23K gold leaf. The sign is 31-by-54-in. David Hassan, Hassan Sign Co., Cohasset, Massachusetts

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Sandblasted 4-by-5-ft. western red cedar panel. Dave Beatty, Dave Beatty Sign Artist, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada

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Router-cut Sintra PVC board letters and graphics on frosted acrylic sheet. Mike Chamberlin, Vital Signs, Verona, Wisconsin

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Letters were cut from Gatorfoam, and the seagull was hand sculpted from 18-lb. HDU board. “The background is made from old poplar planks,” says Greg Scott, GS Worx, New Philadelphia, Ohio, “hand hewn with an axe head that I modified by welding a piece of 1-in. steel tubing on the side. It mimicked the mark an adz would make on the wood. Watch your toes! I distressed, then stained it.”

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The lettering is a digital print, mounted on a black DiBond aluminum composite panel. The borders and inset stripe are acrylic latex paint.

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“I did this background with DiBond Brushed Silver aluminum composite material,” says Andy Stroh, ACS Graphics, Fremont, Indiana. “I took a grinder to the panel, adding a more swirled look, then had it painted by a local body shop using a House of Kolors candy paint. The text is custom-cut acrylic from Gemini.

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Cut vinyl graphics on 3mm aluminum composite material panel. Michael James, Apple Sign Co., Ball, Louisiana

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Pictogram and text are Rowmark ADA-compliant material on green edge acrylic, with braille dots. Steve Shepherd, Custom Engraving & Signs, Richmond, Virginia

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Two layers of Rowmark laser engravable material, 8-by-7-in. overall, bonded together, with braille dots added. Robbins Sign Co., Kirkwood, New York

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Know your substrate options

By SignCraft Magazine

Posted on Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

It wasn’t that long ago that you could count the typical substrates used for signs on one hand: overlaid plywood, aluminum, acrylic, corrugated plastic—that was about it. Now there are plenty to choose from, each with its own efficiency, durability and cost advantages.

Aluminum composite materials, high density urethane, PVC board, foam core panels—each of these materials have unique characteristics that creative sign people can use to their best advantage. If you do engraving, there are also new materials that you can take advantage of for your ADA and engraved signage. You need only invest a little time learning what’s available and how to best work with it.

Of course, the traditional options still have a lot to offer. Nothing matches the look of real wood, and sandblasted or carved cedar signs have an appeal all their own. Overlaid plywood is a great choice for many signs, and aluminum is ideal for many sign fabrication tasks.


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