Drill panel and mount letters: 2.5 hours A drill stop keeps you from drilling through the ¾-in. overlaid plywood panel.
I used clear silicone and studs to mount the PVC letters. The mallet provided a little gentle persuasion to speed the process.
A few dabs of silicone caulk provide enough adhesion to securely mount the letters.
The main panel is 40-by-72-in., and the overall height was 64 in.

What’s it cost to produce this freestanding sign?

By Rocco Gaskins

Posted on Monday, July 2nd, 2018


One sheet of ½-in. PVC board: $121.54
PVC posts and finials: $68.12
One sheet ¾-in. overlaid plywood: $86.82
Cutting charge: $4.85
Cutting/painting of letters: $270.00
One yard Avery 900 series white vinyl: $3.62
Vectorization of artwork: $8.00
Digital prints: $30.00
Paint: $26.00
Misc. supplies (see text): $74.27
Total materials: $693.22


Sales: 2.5 hours
Design: .5 hour
Gather materials (includes travel time): 1.25 hours
Hand draw curve and cut panel: .5 hour
Painting panels: 1.25 hours
Drill panel and pin mount letters: 2.5 hours
Cut/weed/apply vinyl: .5 hour
Apply digital prints: .25 hour
Make/paint brackets: .75 hour
Assembly/disassembly of sign in the shop: 1 hour
Installation (two people times 3.5 hours): 7 hours
Total time: 18 hours

We typically do electrical signs, but always appreciate the chance to go in a different direction. While this wasn’t something exactly new, it was a welcome change of pace from drilling holes in concrete walls for channel letters. We were referred by another customer so that makes it even better.

This funeral home’s small freestanding sign had seen better days. The letters (originally plywood) were delaminating, the posts were starting to rot and it was time for a new sign. Since this town has a strict sign code, we had to re-create what they already had. That eliminated the chance to be creative but it did cut down on the design time.

The hardest part of the design was trying to match the font that had been used originally. Most likely it was some signwriter’s version of a roman but nothing I had looked right. Rather than spend time running through a tracing routine (and the associated cleanup) or getting a “close enough” match, I sent some good photos to VectorDoctor.com. For their eight dollar fee, it was a bargain. I got clean vector artwork, including the bottom panel copy, which would be cut from high performance vinyl.

For the substrate, I decided on good ol’ overlaid plywood. It’s been used since before I was born and still makes a good sign background. I chose ¾-in. thickness because I wanted to pin mount the letters in addition to gluing them to the panel. The sheet came pre-primed and cut to size, including the bottom panel. I had to draw and hand cut the curve at the top. Had I thought about it, my sign supplier would have cut that on their CNC machine for a small extra cost.

I used flat black exterior enamel for the background. I like flat paint for backgrounds, because it shows fewer flaws compared to gloss or even semi-gloss.

The components The letters are ½-in.-thick PVC. I had a friend with a CNC machine cut the letters from ½-in. PVC board and spray finish them in white. Over time, raw PVC will yellow, so a good coat of Matthews acrylic-polyurethane paint solves that problem.

It’s nice to have a local source to cut your letters. During assembly, my natural klutziness resulted in the letter Y falling to the concrete floor. It broke. One phone call and a couple of days later I had a replacement.

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