By SignCraft Magazine
Posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2019
For Bob, doing garment printing while working his way through college was his doorway to the sign business. He went on to apprentice as a sign painter. Working in sign shops taught him most aspects of sign making, and he went on to learn neon bending. He launched Bob’s Signs in 1984, creating a diverse graphics business that’s still growing.
Signs and more:
1200 sq. ft.
Three plus Bob
2-by-3-ft. Laguna IQ Pro CNC router
30-in. Roland VersaCAMM digital printer
80- and 100-watt GCC Laser Pro laser cutter/engravers
4-by-4-ft. PlasmaCAM plasma cutter
4-head embroidery machine
Two screenprinting carousels
Sign Wizard software
We’re getting ready to break ground on a 3000-sq.-ft. shop. We’ll finally have enough room—or at least I think so! [Laughing.] Right now the sign shop is in a 30-by-40-ft. building, and I have multiple outbuildings on the property where we do the engraving and embroidery work. It’s two acres that we’ve taken to calling “The Compound”.
There’s a lot going in our area right now—wineries, schools and lots of tourist-related businesses. These are businesses that want unique custom signs so we get into some fun projects.
We do a lot of signs, but we also do a lot of screenprinting and embroidery. It has become about half of our business, and it fits in very nicely with the sign work. You’d be surprised how many sign customers turn out to also be customers for embroidery, screenprinting or laser engraving.
We’ve always tried to be a one-stop shop for everything from signs to promotional items to T-shirts to hats. They all kind of go together. Garments and promotional items aren’t like signs—they’re used up and reordered. You build a sign to last and it’s out there for decades, but folks come back for screenprinting, embroidery and promotional things.
Tell customers what you do:
When you work like this, it’s important to make sure every customer knows everything you can do. Otherwise it’s too easy for them to go online and order a bunch of T-shirts. Six months later when you do a sign for them and they see a stack of shirts in your shop, they’ll say, “I didn’t know you did T-shirts…” It’s the same with signs. If you do a monument for them, they may think you don’t do wraps. They need to know you can do it all.
Cut from steel:
I’ve been doing cutout metal letters forever. I have always liked that look. We’ve done a lot of them on our plasma cutter. I like to use interesting finishes on them, too, because it really adds to the effect.
And using the plasma cutter is what got me into laser cutting. It’s amazing what you can do with this equipment. Our 100-watt laser will cut through 3/8-in. acrylic, which makes a beautiful letter. It’s also thick enough that I can tap it to use it on a sign face.