What’s it cost to produce four 2-by-3-ft. sandblasted signs?

By signcraft

Posted on Friday, March 4th, 2022

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I did my first sandblasted signs back in 1973 at Cal Neon in San Diego, the first sign shop I worked in. I remember covering the panel with three layers of duct tape (that was before sandblast mask!), pouncing on the pattern and hand cutting the duct tape. As I blasted, I had to keep stopping to patch the tape.

We were making the signs for the then-new Wild Animal Park near San Diego. I recall coming out of the paint booth after spraying enamel, sandblasting a few signs, then spraying more enamel. By the end of the day my arms were covered with a stucco finish.

These days I take better care of myself. This project was a repeat order of a previous job. We first did a set of these for the contractor a couple years ago. At the time, they had some older signs with lettering on an arc, and they wanted to continue that look. We did the layout based on their old signs, just resetting the type in Garth Graphic and cleaning up the layout a bit. We charged them for the file setup back then, so they had no additional layout charges this time.

Materials (excluding markup):
Four 3 3⁄8-in.-thick cedar panels: $800

24 ft. of 15-in. sandblast mask: $110

Paint, primer, rollers, etc.: $55

Sandblasting: $125

Total materials: $1090

Time: about 23 hrs.

At the customer’s request, these signs are 3 3⁄8 in. thick. We got the blanks from Perfect Plank Co. and had them trucked to us. Being homebuilders, the client prefers to make their own posts.

Since we’ve done several of these signs and kept notes, we were able to be a little more efficient than usual on this project. My assistant, Mike Grant, and myself worked on these together, so I figured our time in total man-hours.

Chuck Peterson’s shop, Chuck Peterson Graphics, is in San Diego, California.

This appeared in the November/December 2004 issue of SignCraft. The prices have been adjusted for inflation.

Locate the file: 10 minutes

Since we were using a layout from a previous job, all I had to do was locate the file and print out the pattern for the panel shape. Then I sent it to the cutter to cut the mask.

Unpack panels, finish sand and clean: 1 hour 30 minutes

I like to use prefabricated panels when I can. Whenever I can buy something as good or better than I can do it myself, my time is freed up to do what I do best. We sand the surface down to 220 grit, blow the dust off with compressed air, and then tack cloth them clean.

Pounce pattern on panel, band saw to shape and sand: 2 hours 30 minutes

It took both of us to cut these out on the band saw, but Mike was busy taking this photo while I paused mid-cut.

Cut and weed sandblast mask: 3 hours

I used a Gerber Signmaker IVB for this. I’m weeding and taping while the machine is cutting, so I don’t count most of the cutting time—just the time to load material, etc.

Apply mask: 2 hours

I prefer to apply the sandblast mask to bare, smooth, clean wood. I’ve not found any time savings in sealers or pre-painting.

Deliver and pickup at sandblaster: 1 hour

We use a sandblasting company to blast anything larger than about 2 sq. ft., and here we were dealing with a total of 24 sq. ft.

Peel mask, rout beveled edge and sand panels: 3 hours

This is just hand work, and we try to set up to work through it as efficiently as possible. We use a hand-held random orbit sander.

Apply two coats of primer: 3 hours

We use a stain-blocking acrylic primer. We tint the primer gray for the blasted areas that will get a forest green finish coat but use white primer on the raised areas. It takes very little extra time and the finish coats cover much better.

Apply two coats of finish: 6 hours

We use a high-quality acrylic latex paint for the finish coats, a brush for the blasted-out parts and a 3-in. trim roller for the raised areas.

Deliver to customer: 1 hour

By the time we returned from dropping the signs off at the customer’s office, we had about 23 hours in the project start-to-finish.

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