Posted on Friday, October 29th, 2021
Have you ever had a customer who wanted more than a 4-by-8-ft. plywood sign mounted to a couple posts, but didn’t have the budget for a full-blown stucco monument sign? My shop is in a town with a population of less than 3000 people. There are not a lot of businesses with a budget large enough to get dramatic with their signage.
For these customers, I give them the option of what I call a “Dibond (or ACM) can.” Many sign people call an illuminated sign cabinet a “can.” I guess that comes from neon sign days when a tin box or “can” was fabricated to hold the neon tube graphics. But my ACM can is a thick box that gives the look and feel of a monument, as opposed to a sign face on two posts. They are inexpensive to produce and fairly simple to build, thanks to today’s aluminum composite panels.
You need only the most basic tools and materials to build one of these signs. My shop is a one-person operation, and I can build them without the help of an extra person—even though my 16-year-old son Clint (aka SignBoy) helps out now and then, which makes it even easier.
Try building a small can with some scrap material. It will help you get comfortable with the process, and you’ll have a nice sample to show all of those “middle-of-the-road” customers who are willing to spend a little more for a sign that looks a lot better than a flat panel.
Curt Nelson’s shop, Signman, is in Rock Valley, Iowa.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2010 issue of SignCraft.
I start by cutting out two 3 ⁄4-in. CDX plywood panels to shape and putting 2-by-4-in. spacers between them. I include cavities in the bottom edge of the sign to allow it to slide down onto the posts for installation.
Next, I glue and staple aluminum composite panels around the outside edge of the sign.
I make the side panels an inch or two wider than the face of the sign and rout the edges flush with the face.
We use a belt sander to clean up the areas that my router doesn’t reach.
I use a urethane construction adhesive to glue a full sheet of aluminum composite material to the face, then stack up a bunch of heavy things on it overnight while the adhesive dries.
To cut the face panel to shape, I use my router with a flush cut bit.
Bondo is your friend! Fill, sand and prime any voids and gaps between panels with auto body filler.
Coat the sign with your paint of choice. I prefer a quality exterior acrylic latex paint.
You can handle the graphics just as you would on any other sign face. For all of you young bucks out there, that’s a paintbrush in my hand!
This 4-by-10-ft. sign was lowered over two existing posts and secured in place.
I fabricated this 30-by-36-in. hanging sign using the same approach.
This ACM can sign is 4-by-8-ft. overall.