Fabricate signs from aluminum composite material

By Jim Dutton

Posted on Friday, January 14th, 2022

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After I read Curt Nelson’s article, “Step-by-step: Building monument cabinet signs,” in the May/June 2010 issue, I began experimenting with aluminum composite material (ACM) even more than I had on previous jobs.

On this sign for the Case Knife Outlet, the customer wanted something out of the ordinary but needed to keep the cost down. I designed a 4-ft.-by-19-ft. sign constructed from ACM that let me add dimension to the sign. I router-cut and bent the edges of the panels to create a seamless look where no fasteners can be seen. We wound up doing two of these signs for the storefront.

I thought that this approach would inspire other shops that may be facing the same issue (“Keep the cost down, but make it interesting…”) that I hear often. The sign itself is constructed totally from Poly-Metal ACM. The Case logo is painted onto the substrate, and the lettering is done with Oracal 951 Premium Cast Vinyl.

The 4-by-19-ft. faces were fabricated from PolyMetal aluminum composite sheet, which are aluminum faces over a thermoplastic core. I routed a v-groove in the back of the rectangular panel then bent back returns to add depth. The thicker oval logo panel overlaps the rectangular panel.

I cut the oval face out of ACM, then cut the long strip that would become the sides. I then cut the same oval out of a piece of 3⁄4-in. particle board to serve as a mold. I dropped the face into that, and bent the sides inside the mold. Using stainless steel corner brackets from the hardware store, I bonded the sides to the face using Gorilla Glue.

I’ve built quite a few sign cabinets like this over the past few years. It keeps the cost down, and they hold up well.

John Dutton’s shop, Quality Signs LLC, is in Jasper, Alabama.

This appeared in the March/April 2011 issue of SignCraft.

Here is the assembled oval panel in the mold, with the angle brackets glued in position, while the glue dries.

This cabinet was built using the same approach.