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Materials

Customers often ask us what type of signs do you make, and when we answer all types, they then try to put things in their own terms and say, "Well do you make wood signs, plastic signs, metal signs or what?" The answer is yes, all of the above. And then the education process begins. Years ago these 3 materials dominated the sign industry, however in the world we live in today wood is discouraged in favor of polyurethane resin, metal and plastic are still used, but many new hybrid materials and expanded pvc's and vinyl have cropped up to give us many options in the signs we build, and although the chart we have assembled here explains these materials in depth it is our 30 years experience in using them in fabrication that sets us apart from other companies. Of course all materials can be used well in flat sheet form with flat lettering on them. However, when engraving, carving or dimensional construction are involved the choices become much more in depth. This chart is simply a way for us to help inform you of what attributes each material has and what mediums they work well for.

  • Corrugated plastic: A cellular plastic that is used for any type of flat sign. This material is ideal for yard signs and temporary outdoor applications. It is shown here being used with a simple wire stake that is inserted between the cells. We have seen this material last for many years outdoors as well, but is limited to being used alone and should not be used in building complex signs. A derivative of this product called Alumacore is also used commonly. It is a hybrid of the corrugated plastic, it has a corrugated plastic interior core with two sheets of thin aluminum laminated over the front and back, making it an amazingly durable and low maintenance product.
  • M.D.O. plywood: An excellent outdoor material with a life span of up to 7-8 years if painted and treated properly. Unlike many of the modern materials it is structurally good used alone (between two posts) etc. However, it is a wood product and is prone to absorb water through the edges. Most often used for temporary or short term permanent signs in real estate applications or many other industrial and commercial applications. M.D.O. has withstood the test of time and is very commonly used for simple signage and construction applications.
  • Expanded PVC: A relatively new but amazing material. (PVC standing for Poly Vinyl Chloride.) Without getting to techy it is a material that is in the plastic family but through adding air to the fabrication process, hence the term expanded, makes it a little lighter and less prone to breakage as regular plastics would be. Great for fabricating with, in the heavier mills (thickness). Not recommended as a stand alone material, in other words with no frame or backing. It has some trouble with ordinary paint adhering to the surface, but can be painted with some automotive paints very successfully. Also must have room to breathe. Not to be screwed down to tight to to other surfaces. Also can be engraved or machined, but is slightly less favorable in our estimation than the more expensive Poly-urethane resin sign boards described below, especially on larger signs due to its expansion and contraction ratio.
  • Poly-urethane resin boards: Have been used very successfully for approximately 18 years now and were designed to imitate and improve on all the qualities of a soft wood without the decaying and water absorption of wood. This material is all it is cracked up to be. It paints well! It carves and machines well! You can build and fabricate with it, laminate it, sculpt and sand it. Just amazing! However, every sliver lining has its cloud. A small detriment would be that used alone as a structure unto itself it is breakable, and is also more prone to denting than some other materials. It is our opinion that these small drawbacks can be lived with due to the superior attributes of this material.
  • Acrylic: Widely used in the illuminated sign industry for sign faces that need to be illuminated. This material is painted with translucent paints to allow light to pass through and create a message read in the daytime or nighttime. Although this is the most common use for the product it is not the only one, however, with the onset of expanded PVC and Corrugated plastics sheets we use it much less often than we once did on non-illuminated signs. Shatter resistant but pretty breakable.
  • Polycarbonate: Also widely used in the illuminated sign industry this material has all the same qualities as acrylic, but is different in one huge way. It is unbreakable! A wonderful material to use in any flat sign application and has been used to engrave letter in. Usually used in thin 1/4" and 1/8" sheets. Although available in thicker sheets it becomes cost prohibitive to use but is sometimes considered.
  • Aluminum: We are all familiar with aluminum as many common household containers and items are made of it. Although a great and highly durable effective sign material it does have fabrication restrictions. By that we mean that it can only change its form by being bent in various linear forms and is therefore used as angle pieces, channels, flat faces, etc. We use it quite often though when a sign does not have to be contorted, carved or dimensioned. In all fairness we must mention that it can be cast as well in the form of plaques and other signage. Very attractive but sometimes a higher budget must be considered due to costly set up.
  • Aluminum clad acrylic and plywood: Very good material, especially the aluminum clad plastics. These products are just as they state, a piece of aluminum is glued to a core of either acrylic or plywood. The plywood version is much more prone to de-laminating if the edge is not properly protected and actually pinched together. The acrylic version is great and has not been observed to de-laminate. Although if any holes are to be drilled or screws are to be put in we recommend using the acrylic product.
  • Cedar Redwood or Mahogany: The lure of natural beauty and ecology is just too hard for some to resist, however, be aware that maintenance will be constantly present, usually re-painting or staining will need to be done bi-yearly at the very least seeing how wood remains a constantly breathing and moving material. We will use wood as a sign material, providing that you the customers are very aware of the maintenance, although we like not to use wood because if neglected can give us an undeserved bad image.
  • Exterior M.D.F. (Medium Density Fiberboard): A complex new and interesting composite in which we have used for 3-4 years sparingly as a test seems to be a good material but is still relatively new to us. It comes in thickness from 1/4" up to 1-1/4". It can be painted with minimal success although appears to sometimes repel latex paint. Can be compared to the above mentioned poly resin, but is not as versatile for building due to its ability to split apart if screws or nails are put in or around the edge of the material. It is also excessively heavy and cumbersome but does seem to be structurally sound to stand alone.
  • Treated Wood: Used mostly for posts this material can also be used as internal framing or even as a carved sign face. Rarely used as a sign face that will be painted or accept pressure sensitive vinyl films.

 

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