Cutting the PVC board We nested other letters around the main panel to save material. A separate sheet was used to cut pieces for the border, the bone panel and the eight parts to make the custom post skirts.
Sanding the letter edges We use a tabletop belt sander to dress the outer edges of the letters we cut and an oscillating spindle sander to do the inside edges. Letters too small for the spindle to fit into have to be sanded by hand.
Sanding the letter edges We use a tabletop belt sander to dress the outer edges of the letters we cut and an oscillating spindle sander to do the inside edges. Letters too small for the spindle to fit into have to be sanded by hand.
Gluing up the post skirts The PVC is permanently bonded together with standard PVC pipefitting glue.
Texturing the background A nylon brush in a drill is used to sand and clean up the faux woodgrain areas. Small carving tools come in handy for removing stubborn particles.
Making the mounting bracket A welded aluminum mounting frame and brackets were used to mount the sign to the posts.
Here you can see how the mounting frame and posts are attached.
Close-up of puppy graphic

What’s it cost to produce this 4-by-5-ft. freestanding sign?

All-PVC construction delivers the durability

By Larry Elliott

Posted on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

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Materials (at retail prices):
4x8x¾-in. PVC board: $235
4x6x¾-in. PVC board: $170
12x24x½-in. PVC: $12
12 ft. 1½-in. alum. angle: $40
Two 5-by-5-in. 8-ft. PVC post covers: $120
Two 5-by-5-in. flat PVC post caps: $25
Two 5-by-5-in. PVC post skirts: $40
Stainless steel screws: $20
Two quarts exterior acrylic latex paint: $40
Misc. consumables: $15
Total materials: $717

Sales/rough drafts: 1.25 hours
Finished art: 1.5 hours
Production files: .5 hours
Material handling: 1 hour
Routing setups: .5 hour
CNC machine time: 3.5 hours
Sanding, cleaning, prep: 4 hours
Prime, coat, finish: .5 hours
Assemble panels, border and letters: 1 hour

Post sleeve/skirts (hours):
Assemble: 1 hour
Prime, coat: .5 hour

Mounting frame (hours):
Cutting: 3 hour
Drilling: .25 hour
Welding: .5 hour
Prime, coat: 4 hour

Assemble posts/frame: 2 hours
Delivery, load/unload: 1 hr
Total time: 24.2 hours

This custom PVC sign was produced for a local municipality for their new dog park. The sign face and posts are all PVC with an aluminum frame on the back spanning between the posts as support and mounting.

Jill Holland, mayor of McKenzie, Tennessee, contacted us to create another custom sign for their parks department. The only directions were to keep it in the style of the main sign we had constructed at the city park a few years ago—any other design elements were up to us. I made a couple rough layouts of what I had in mind and presented them to the mayor. She and the board agreed on one—which happened to be my favorite also—and we were told to proceed.

Overall, the sign panel size is 48-in. tall by 60-in. wide. It’s built up in four layers of ¾-in. PVC sheet for a total of 3 in. thick on the face of the white letters of Dog Park. The upper portion of the background on the main backing panel was routed away, leaving the word McKenzie standing ¼-in. proud. On the lower portion we routed away the whole area, and a texture file was created to add a faux woodgrain around the letters in both the top and bottom areas.

The letters in the bottom area were v-carved with a 90-degree bit. We run this v-carve file twice. The second pass cleans up the bottom of the v cut and takes less time than cleaning it up with hand tools.

PVC is a great material but it does need special consideration and techniques to get clean cuts. The smaller the pointed tip of the V bit, the less cleanly it cuts. This is a normal physical aspect of the tool. The larger the diameter of the bit, the faster the cutting edge of the tool moves in a circular motion. As a result, it cuts faster. The smaller the diameter of the bit, the less tool surface there is and the result is less cutting action.

The sharp pointed tip of a V bit barely cuts— it does more of a drag. The second pass helps clean the scruff out. PVC is quite soft and the tip is almost scraping the bottom of the cut away instead of cutting it. What little scruff that’s left after the second pass will be covered over with paint and is not noticeable.

The bone cutout and border are on the same level. The dark brown border for Dog Park is on another layer on top of the bone with the white lettering on top of that. The puppy is cut from ½-in. PVC and sits on a ½-in.-thick circle on top of the border layer. The puppy graphic is an image styled from one we found in a clipart book then modified and edited to make it into a dimensional element for the sign.

The posts are custom constructed from 5-in. square hollow PVC post covers and skirted with ¾-in. PVC board. The top edge of the sleeve skirts are capped with ready-made PVC skirts that fit over the posts and have enough lip to dress up the sleeves. These are available at most large hardware stores and from online suppliers.

All screws are stainless steel to prevent any rust from ever showing up on this custom dimensional sign. Although the paint has a limited lifetime, the sign itself will withstand many years of outdoor exposure and could be refinished in years to come.

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