What’s it cost to produce this 30-by-90-in. dimensional sign?

By Duncan Wilkie

Posted on Friday, June 18th, 2021

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2-by-5-ft.-by-3⁄8-in. PVC board: $ 57
3-by-8-ft.-by-1⁄2-in. pre-finished overlaid plywood: $ 61
2-by-8-ft.-by-3⁄4-in. overlaid plywood for frame: $ 53
12-ft. 3M VHB Tape: $ 10
1 pt. 1Shot enamel: $ 43
1Shot hardener: $ 12
Gerber Mask: $ 19
Total materials: $255

Cut panel and apply mask: 1 hr. 15 min.
Seal edges, prime and base coat: 1 hr.
Spray background: 1 hr.
Remove mask: 15 min.
Create router file and cut letters: 1 hr. 15 min.
Apply VHB and apply letters: 30 min.
Paint white border outline: 15 min.
Cut frame components: 45 min.
Assemble, seal, prime and paint frame: 1 hr. 15 min.
Attach frame and prep to install: 45 min.
Total labor: 8 hrs. 25 min.

This sign was for a customer whose building was in an industrial area. They wanted to identify their location with a simple flat sign that featured their logo.

I thought there was an opportunity here to kick things up a bit and strengthen their image, so I priced the job on three levels—basic to custom. They liked what I showed them and chose Option C, the custom 3D version.

Router-cut graphics make projects like this much more practical for both the sign shop and the customer. We cut the graphics from 3⁄8-in. PVC board and mounted them on the 3⁄4-in. overlaid plywood panel, which was mounted on a frame for added dimension.

The gradient blend on the background was inspired by something I saw in their sales literature, so that tied in nicely. The total time for labor came to eight hours; time allotted for each step includes all prep and clean-up time.

Duncan Wilkie’s shop, Comsign, is Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

From SignCraft, July/August 2008; Prices have been adjusted for inflation to 2021.

Bevel panel edges and apply mask: 1 hour 15 minutes I started with a 30-by-90-in. overlaid plywood panel, beveled the edge of the face, and applied a mask of the graphics. I’ll show why later.

Seal and prime edges, paint base coat: 1 hour I sealed the edges with Titebond III glue, then primed the beveled edge and back before rolling on a coat of magenta 1Shot enamel with their hardener added.

Spray black-to-magenta fade: 1 hour After the magenta in the background was dry, I sprayed on the black enamel—carefully fading to magenta at one end.

Peel paint mask: 15 minutes Peeling the mask applied in the first step gives me a pattern for applying the PVC graphics. Besides making the letter installation easy, I prefer bonding the graphics to the factory finish on the panel rather than the fresh enamel.

Set up router file and cut PVC letters: 1 hour 15 minutes The graphic elements were cut from PVC board on our Gerber 408 Sabre router.

Apply VHB tape and bond letters to sign face: 30 minutes I applied the graphics using 3M VHB tape #4910.

Paint white border outline: 15 minutes I taped off the beveled edge of the main panel and painted it white. The border helps add to the dimensional effect.

Cut frame components and chamfer edges: 45 minutes The frame was fabricated from 3⁄4-in. overlaid plywood.


Assemble frame, seal, prime and paint: 75 minutes We used biscuit joints on the mitered corners of the frame.

Here’s the finished sign, mounted to the building using a 45-degree overlapping cleat at the top and screws at the bottom.

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