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

By Gord Colenutt

Posted on Monday, September 20th, 2021

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This was exactly the sort of project I was looking for after SignCraft asked me to put this article together. I wanted to put my Roland VersaCAMM SP-300V printer/cutter at work on a project like this one—a pair of simple overlaid plywood signs with a solid print. I designed the sign, prepped both panels, applied the prints, and that was it.

I run my shop in parallel with my farm, so planning and organization are critical in order to keep everything on an even keel. Producing signs like this one works great for me; I can create the design, get the printer started, then prep the panel or vehicle surface.

Gord Colenutt’s shop, Colenutt Signs, is in Essex, Ontario, Canada.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2006 issue of SignCraft.

Materials (excluding markup):
1 sheet double-sided ¾-in. overlaid plywood: $101
Primer and lettering enamel: $45
Two paint rollers: $7
Digital prints: $80
Clear coat: $20
Total: $253

Labor: About 4 hours

Note: Material costs have been updated to current prices as of September 2021 and are in US dollars.

1. Layout and color selection: 45 minutes I have been driving past this church’s old hand-routed sign for some time, so I already had a few design ideas in mind.

2. Print and cut scale model: 10 minutes I made up this little sample for the committee at the church to look over. After printing it, I applied it to a piece of styrene and hand-cut it. They approved the sign, and it was on to production.

3. Cut and apply the mask: 15 minutes I cut this pattern for the panel out of a piece of inexpensive vinyl. I only needed one vinyl pattern, since the first panel I cut would be the template for the second panel.

4. Cut the first panel to shape: 15 minutes I used a jigsaw and circular saw to cut the first panel to shape, following the edge of the mask.

5. Cut the second panel to shape: 5 minutes I dropped the other half of my 4-by-8-ft. sheet on top of the first panel, then clamped them together. Using a router guide with a template, I cut the top sheet to shape.

6. Here’s a close-up of the router guide in place.

7. Fill panel edges: 10 minutes Using exterior wood putty, I filled the edges of both panels.

8. Prime and sand: 15 minutes After lightly rounding the edges, I coated out both panels and sanded them after they dried, then I wiped them down with Windex cleaner and a tack cloth. Then I rolled on a coat of primer on both panels.

9. Coat-out with background color: 20 minutes Coating the panel allows the digital print to adhere to a smooth surface.

10. Printing: 70 minutes Each face had to be printed in two pieces, because my printer can’t handle anything wider than 30 in.

11. Vinyl application: 20 minutes This is the easy part. I apply the vinyl dry, so it only takes a few minutes.

12. Spraying the clear coat: 30 minutes This only took about half an hour, including setup and cleanup. 1Shot UV Clear dries really fast, so I had three coats on within a half hour.

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