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The How-To Magazine

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Contents JANUARY 2018

Vol. 32

No. 271

How-To Columns




By Jim Hingst Glues and epoxies are the island spice of signs.


6 8 12 46 48


Signs at a new museum help Editor Jeff Wooten wonder if the words of Dr. Seuss can inspire sign makers.


LED mesh goes to college, Vice President Pence holds tax reform roundtable, and USSC merges with the USSC Foundation.

Sign Show

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

SBI Marketplace

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade.

Shop Talk

David Hickey shows how changes in the government can affect our industry.


20 24 28


By Michael Quill This year’s USSC Sign Design Contest winners.


By Ashley Bray Setting up service equipment for a successful install.


By Jeff Wooten Transferring dye sub into the soft signage industry.

Special Section

33 34


The Amazing World of Dimensional Signage.


By Jes Grant Creative signage at the Dr. Seuss museum.


28 2

Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

42 44


By Kelly Haas A sign maker and the three bears.


By Lori Shridhare Engineering a memorial monument.


By Jacquie Devine Stacked foam-core letters go mobile.


By Mandy Moore The ingredients for a tasty neon-LED dimensional sign.

​Cover Photo: Altec.


WHERE DESIGN M E E T S INNOVATION Novacryl Photopolymer, the most diverse line of photopolymer substrates for ADA Braille & Accessible Room Identification Signage. Allow your creativity to flow free and make your ideas possible. Our substrates allow for unlimited design while being ADA compliant and environmentally conscious.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

January 2018, Vol. 32, No. 271 Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

Subscriptions: 800-895-4389

executive offices President and Chairman Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr. Publisher Arthur J. Sutley 55 Broad Street, 26th floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7247 ; Fax: 212-633-1863

“To learn something new.”

editorial Editor Jeff Wooten 323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 212-620-7244 “To read at least twenty books this year.”

“To not worry as much as soon as my resolution is quickly broken.”

Managing Editor Ashley Bray 55 Broad Street, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7220

Contributing Writers Jes Grant, Kelly Haas, David Hickey, Jim Hingst, Mandy Moore, Lori Shridhare

art Art Director Nicole Cassano “To spend more time with family and friends.”

Graphic Designer Aleza Leinwand

production Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers

circulation Circulation Director Maureen Cooney

advertising sales Associate Publisher/East Coast Sales Jeff Sutley 212-620-7233 Publisher/Mid-West & West Coast Sales Monica Boutros 212-620-7225 Sign Builder Illustrated is published monthly. All rights reserved. Nothing herein may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher. To purchase PDF files of cover and layouts or hard copy reprints, please call Art Sutley at 212-620-7247 or e-mail


Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

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Editor’s Column By Jeff Wooten

February 2018 FEBRUARY 15-16:

The Midwest Sign Association will conduct its Winter Meeting at the Renaissance Hotel in Toledo, Ohio. (


The Mid South Sign Association’s “New Ideas, New Possibilities” conference takes place at the Holiday Inn, Alexandria Downtown Convention Center in Alexandria, Louisiana. (


Graphics of the Americas 2018 will commence at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (

The Sign Cat in the Hard Hat Was Dr. Seuss a sign maker at heart?


Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

uss; a bit of Occam’s razor, it’s also good advice for your shop. Don’t overthink things; sometimes the simplest solution is the best answer, whether it’s design, fabrication, or project management. For example, find out how a regular chainsaw was used to detail an HDU sculpture (page 39). The end-result was a project that managed to satisfy the customer “98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.” “You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” I have always loved this quote from Seuss’s book I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. It’s a testament that there’s more to life than just the tried-and-true. Is it time to experiment? There are some really creative, really bold, really inspirational signs out there to soak in. With this in mind, we’re also presenting an overview of the recent USSC Design Contest award-winning works, all showing how know-how and imagination were used to fuel the sign-making spirit (“Best of the Best,” page 20). And keep your eyes open for what’s to come now that the USSC has merged with the USSC Foundation, and in turn, its Sign World International event is metamorphosing into The Sign Exchange (page 10). This could be the A-B-C building block of something unique.

Jeff Wooten Editor,

March 2018 MARCH 22-24:

ISA International Sign Expo 2018 is scheduled to be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (

May 2018 MAY 7-11:

LIGHTFAIR International, the world’s largest architectural and commercial lighting tradeshow, happens at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. (

June 2018 JUNE 7-9:

The 2018 SEGD Conference Experience Minneapolis takes place in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ( Photo: Chrisy Fletcher.


ow did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn.” The above poem was written by the late, great Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as wordsmith-cartoonist-philosopher Dr. Seuss. It’s the sentiment of this quote (as well as select others of his) where I wonder if the good doctor deep down inside wasn’t a sign maker (or magazine editor) at heart too. Honestly where does the time go when it’s time to finish projects (or stories about said projects, for that matter)? While I’m not entirely serious here, I do admit that I am inspired by an article this month detailing the signs and graphics created for The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts (“One Sign, Two Sign, Red Sign, Blue Sign,” page 34). It’s the opening story of our Dimensions 2018 supplement (which covers a wide variety of dimensional sign types—monuments, blade signs, architectural, etc.). This piece details un-Sneetch-like how vinyl graphics were mixed with stylized sculptures and perfectly perfect plaques to spring these imaginative exhibits to life. I guess, during these stressful real-world times, it can prove comforting to revisit one’s words of wisdom from childhood and be able to reuse them to improve your life if even by the tiniest bit today. “Sometimes the questions are complicated, and the answers are simple.” This is another quote attributed to Se-

JUNE 14-15:

The Midwest Sign Association’s Midwest Sign Show will be held at the Motor City Casino Hotel in Detroit, Michigan. (


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In The Industry


to College


ambridge, Maryland—As architects, designers, and facility managers seek to transform the traditional and staid façades of educational facilities into dynamic, vivid communication mediums, they have increasingly turned to transparent media façades constructed of metal mesh. Based on its design process, performance, and design flexibility, Mediamesh from GKD is appearing on college campuses and university buildings around the country. Mediamesh is specifically designed to allow for thin, horizontal LED profiles to be placed at custom vertical intervals within the mesh. The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) James Branch Cabell Library 8

Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

project is one example (pictured, above), beckoning students into a building that’s trying to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world. Covering a total area of 400 square feet, the transparent media façade at VCU is composed of two panels, each measuring 19-by-10.5 feet. The rigid panels are attached with woven-in-bars with eyebolts for a seamless appearance. Although the screen is installed on the interior of the building, it is viewed from the exterior, providing a focal point from multiple places on campus. Before construction began, GKD completed initial concept and technical drawings, met with contractors, and walked with the building owners to discuss

specific cable routs running from power equipment to the Mediamesh façade. Despite several meetings, when GKD got to the job site, they found that the contractor’s team had put half a dozen bends in the conduit. There was no way for GKD to thread the cable, and they had to work to reroute it. While the team ended up losing several days in the installation process, GKD added time to its installation shifts to make sure the cable could get pulled in as quickly as possible. Beyond issues with the conduit, the installation team had to develop specialty equipment and lifting systems to work around a functioning library. The fourth floor, where the Mediamesh install took place, is a private, no-noise think tank

talk on tax reform

A flexible, exterior façade at NCSU serves multiple purposes for the campus.


Transparent media facades made of metal mesh transform buildings into dynamic communication mediums. for doctoral students. Through smart planning and effective systems, they were able to work around the library and students’ schedules. Fundamentally different than the installation at VCU, the North Carolina State University (NCSU) Talley Student Center project in Raleigh includes a flexible, exterior façade that serves multiple purposes for the campus. Being a brandnew building, the Talley Student Center also allowed the team at GKD to work with the architect and general contractor from the concept stage through final installation and quality checks. Three exterior panels join together to form a 565-square foot façade over the existing curtain wall of the student center.

Attached using woven-in-bars with eyebolts top and bottom, the installation is the only flexible, transparent media façade in use. This allows students inside the building to have uninterrupted views of the university quad and allows the screen to blend in with the building’s architecture. The NCSU project utilizes Mediamesh in clever and community-building ways. Students watch movies on the 18-by-32foot screen from the quad, and a hidden surround-sound system provides highquality audio. The screen and accompanying system can also switch between eight different units and uses, including live video streaming, static images, important ticker messages, and more—all connected to an internal server.

lainfield, Indiana—Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Senator Todd Young, and Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb joined Vice President Mike Pence for a roundtable discussion about tax reform with Central Indiana business owners at TKO Graphix (tkographix. com) in Plainfield, Indiana. The roundtable was focused on what tax reform means to the American small business owner and to the American worker. Host Tom Taulman, CEO of TKO Graphix, said, “Tax cuts will improve the quality of life for our 260 employees and give the company a little bit of financial cushion, allowing for expansion.” Vice President Pence thanked TKO Graphix and commented on Tom Taulman’s remarks, “The opportunity for business tax cuts is the opportunity for businesses to invest more in wages,” Pence said. Secretary Acosta added, “From my perspective, tax reform is really about job creation.” Several business owners shared how tax reform would positively impact their growth and their job creation. A standing room only crowd of more than 250 enthusiastically agreed with Vice President Pence when he concluded his talk by saying, “Tax reform isn’t a Republican thing, and it’s not a Democratic thing; it’s an American thing.”

January 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


In The Industry

L 3m Wrap


as Vegas, Nevada—Another exciting SEMA Show is officially in the books and so is 3M’s 1080 Live Wrap Competition. This year, eleven teams competed for a chance to win more than $32,000 in total prizes. After two days of competition, visitors to the 3M booth voted for their favorite designs, with Team 11’s design coming out on top. Members of the winning team are pictured above: Steve Carney, Joe Alexander, Carl Brewer, and Enrique Torres. Their winning wrap design will also be featured on the new 3M™ Knifeless Tape packaging.

USSC Merges with USSC Foundation


ristol, Pennsylvania—The Board of Directors of the United States Sign Council (USSC) voted unanimously to merge the USSC and all of its assets into the USSC Foundation. Starting January 1, 2018, the USSC will cease operations, and the USSC Foundation will assume all functions and activities associated with the past organization. The USSC Foundation has been the research wing of the United States Sign Council since 1999, and this rebranding will insure that the vital USSC Foundation research can continue into the future to yield tangible benefits for sign companies and the sign industry in the areas of sign research and science-based codes. The USSC Foundation has funded 10

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over twenty-one studies dealing with onpremise signs to date. Most recent projects have included: an up-to-date Model Sign Code, national guideline sign lighting standards, standardized sign illumination research, and national guideline sign size standards. All members of the United States Sign Council will become automatic Supporting Members of the USSC Foundation, and the Foundation will continue to provide member services. It will be committed to providing research, training, and networking opportunities to the sign industry. The USSC Foundation will be a donor-driven organization, and this concept has gathered favorable support in the sign industry. The USSC Foundation has a five-person board that will handle management functions and Foundation responsibilities into the future. This management team represents a complete departure from previous management practices. The USSC Foundation Board consists of: Adam Brown, Wendy Kern, Max Aronow,

Richard Crawford, and Neal Wilcox. In addition, the USSC Foundation announced that it will be hosting a new sign convention next year in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The venue has been changed to Harrah’s Resort and Casino. It features a dynamic event space, newly renovated hotel rooms, and over twelve bars and restaurants ready to serve attendees—all under one roof. The Foundation is confident that Harrah’s will present advantages and opportunities to both exhibitors and attendees alike. Besides offering amenities to exhibitors and attendees, the new USSC Foundation convention will be based on a revolutionary concept: the convention will be an exhibitor-owned show, where a percentage of the show profits will be returned to each exhibiting company based on their booth space. Dates for the convention will be November 29-30. For more details about next year’s convention, contact USSC Foundation Board Members Neal Wilcox (716) 5830346 or Wendy Kern (570) 573-1735.

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Sign Show ACRYLICS/PLASTICS Light Up Your Projects with LuciteLux Spectrum The vibrant imagery of fall foliage colors have dimmed with the onset of winter, but this doesn’t mean that you have to leave color behind in your lighting projects. Breathe energy into your projects with LuciteLux® Spectrum continuous and cast acrylic sheet. Create slimmer, brighter, and cost-effective backlit signs and other applications that perform in all weather. The product, available in both .118 and .177 thicknesses, is infused with diffusion particles that hide hot spots to deliver vibrant, constant color, and even brightness. Available colors in both sizes include WT2448 (Opal White), RD2157 (Pink), RD2283 (Red), and GN2018 (Green), while RD2793 (Red), BL2114 (Blue), and YL2037 (Yellow) are standard in .118, manufactured in .177.

ARCHITECTURAL The Trade Group Adds METALLI Rimini to their METALLI® Line The Trade Group’s new 20-by-20-foot METALLI Rimini display features a center bridge, open floor plan, generous wall space, and a semi-private office. Or does it? That’s the beauty of the METALLI line of modular tradeshow displays—features can be added or removed to fit exhibiting needs. The Rimini is ideal for exhibitors looking for an island-style display with an open feel and branding visible from every angle. The height of the bridge (up to nearly sixteen feet) helps ensure the exhibit can be seen from across the tradeshow floor. Since the structure itself takes up minimal floor space, exhibitors have plenty of room to add seating, demo stations, product displays, and more. 800/343-2005;

DIGITAL SIGNAGE Watchfire Signs Introduces a New Indoor LED Sign for Sports Venues Watchfire Signs’ new Indoor 10mm sign is ideal for use in any location with pedestrian crowds. The sign’s high-contrast LEDs deliver an ultra-wide 150-degree horizontal viewing angle for a clear image from virtually any seat in the house. The Indoor 10mm features a slim cabinet and versatile mounting options, making it compatible with many design integrations (including scoreboards and basic wall mount installations). The fanless design ensures quiet operation, and beveled modules make it possible for unique architectural use around corners and curves. All Watchfire signs come with Ignite® content management software, which makes it easy and convenient to create and schedule content.

Xtreme from ThinkSIGN is Thinner, Lighter, and Smarter A recent study indicated that color can influence an impulse buying decision by as much as 90 percent and proper contrast in signage increases revenue by 114 percent! UL Listed and FCC Compliant, ThinkSIGN Outdoor EMCs ensure your message reaches more people and grabs more attention. The newest product line, Xtreme, is thinner (featuring a five-inch aluminum cabinet with a two-inch powder-coated steel frame); 30 percent lighter (saving time and money on delivery and installation); and smarter (each module is designed with a CPU, allowing superior color depth and calibration as well as easy diagnostics to find and report sign issues). The universal module size of the Xtreme makes future upgrades to a higher resolution a breeze.

FABRICS Top Value Fabrics' Award-winning Heavy Deko-Stretch 8488GFS Top Value Fabrics presents Heavy Deko-Stretch 8488GFS, a market-leading solution for event and retail applications where a stretch fit is required. This fabric by Georg + Otto Friedrich is engineered with equal fourway stretch in width and length. The resulting dimensional stability alleviates installation issues traditionally associated with stretch fabrics, since the fabric doesn’t wrinkle or skew after installation. Convenient functionality and vibrant, flawless print quality make Heavy Deko-Stretch ideal for applications such as tradeshows, retail structures and P-O-P, banners, and SEG frame systems (including those that stretch over a rigid frame system). The fabric is REACH Compliant and OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 Certified.


Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

Sign Show FLATBED PRINTERS EFI Continues Innovation with Their Newest Dedicated Flatbed Printer The EFI™ Pro 24f from Electronics for Imaging, Inc. (EFI) is the only dedicated flatbed wide format printer featuring the company’s proven LED and variable-drop grayscale head technologies. The device is perfect for applications requiring discerning image quality and absolute dot placement accuracy, including signage, photographic backlit displays, art reproductions, and other specialty applications. EFI Pro 24f’s true four-byeight-foot flatbed architecture features a multi-zoned vacuum system that eliminates masking while ensuring accurate registration for multiple over-prints or panels. EFI’s “cool cure” LED technology ensures low power consumption, minimal waste, and compatibility with thinner and heat-sensitive substrates.

LED LIGHTING/TUBES/MODULES SloanLED Prism Enlighten Launches Breakthrough LED Lens Technology SloanLED has launched SloanLED Prism Enlighten, which is a low-power, high-reliability sign and channel letter lighting solution that delivers a superior lifespan and lower operating costs using fewer power supplies. SloanLED Prism Enlighten lasts three times longer than typical LED systems, with tests showing a lifetime rating of 150,000+ hours. The efficacy of SloanLED Prism Enlighten ranges from 107-120 lm/W depending on the color temperature that includes six options from 3000 K to 7100 K. This solution provides significant energy cost reductions, maintenance cost savings, and easy installation and delivers exceptional performance with consistent brightness and uniformity.

LETTERS/LOGOS New Video Captures the Essence of Gemini’s “Made True” Promise Gemini, an industry leader in the wholesale manufacture of dimensional letters, logos, and plaques, has released a new video that offers a dynamic glimpse into its people, manufacturing capabilities, and strong commitment to partnership with the sign trade—all of the things that define its “Made True” promise. The five-minute video tells the story of what’s behind the company’s Made True commitment, a glimpse into the company’s manufacturing footprint across its seven North American manufacturing sites, and describes the company’s humble beginnings, spirit of innovation, and work ethic that has made Gemini a trusted industry partner.

ROUTERS/ENGRAVERS AXYZ International Announces Several New CNC Router Options First AXYZ International has introduced two new automatic changer options with capacity for ten or fourteen tool stations. The existing seven and twenty-one station units were upgraded with improved mechanics and drive motors. Second AXYZ’s new Kiss Cutting Knife expands the functionality of their CNC routers by allowing the routers to cut wider ranges of materials. A range of adapters allows the Kiss Cutting Knife to fit into most existing spindles and tangential knife tools. Third AXYZ’s HSD 40,000 RPM High Speed Spindle (pictured) operates at 6.7HP when running at speeds of 40,000 RPM, and when running at standard cutting speeds of 12,000-24,000 RPM, the HSD spindle delivers power of 8.7HP. (800) 361-3408;

CAMaster Launches New SignPro CNC Router The SignPro router from U.S.-based CAMaster is designed with flexibility and performance in mind, giving its users the ability to cut wood, composites, plastics, non-ferrous metals, ACM, vinyl, magnet, gasket, fabrics, coroplast, and much more. The SignPro is built from a heavy, all-steel welded frame, a steel gantry, and steel gantry supports that ensure maximum rigidity and durability. The SignPro features rapid traverse speeds of 2500 ipm and cut speeds of 1500 ipm. It comes standard with many top-of-the-line features including: a 4 HP HSD quick-change spindle, an oscillating tangential knife, brushless digital AC servo-drive system, 25 MM precision rails and bearings, and 10:1 precision planetary gearboxes specifically for precise cutting at higher speeds. (770) 334-2448;

January 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


Sign Show SERVICE TRUCKS/EQUIPMENT Altec's LS87 Aerial Device Reaches New Heights As seen on this month’s cover, Altec’s LS87 is a non-insulating, four-stage, hydraulically sequenced telescopic aerial device with a working height of eighty-seven feet and a maximum side reach of sixty-two feet. The unit can be equipped with a 5,900-pound-capacity primary winch for lifting materials as well as a 500-pound jib winch in the platform. The working end of the unit features a 60-by-40-inch, twoman, 600-pound-capacity reach through steel platform with 160-degree platform rotation as standard. With the ability to short-jack the outriggers in confined work spaces and the added rotation of the platform, the LS87 is designed to increase productivity in difficult work environments.

SIGN MATERIALS PALBOARD: Print It! Cut It! Route It! V-Groove It! Cold Bend It! In the world of multi-layer substrates, new PALBOARD from Palram Americas is an innovative sheet that’s like no other. PALBOARD combines the extra-tough surface quality of solid PVC with the lightweight, easy-to-work-with characteristics of foam PVC. Its core is made with high-quality recycled foam PVC, and the panel itself is recyclable too. PALBOARD has an ultra-smooth surface that offers excellent ink adhesion for digital or traditional printing applications. It is easy to fabricate, can be cold-bent with a v-groove cut, and offers good mechanical strength and excellent chemical resistance—making it ideal for a wide variety of interior sign, display, or other applications.


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January 2018

Sign Show TOOLS Kett Straight-Handle Shears are Easy to Use and Reduce Waste Kett Tool Company's Kett KL-200 shears cut cold-rolled steel, stainless steel, plastic, and Formica without warping or bending the finished piece for less wasted material and a savings of time and money. The shears are lightweight and maneuverable and can easily follow a scribed line. They can cut a radius as small as six inches. The Double-Cut Shears’ dual blades transfer any distortion produced in cutting to a small 7/32-inch waste strip, leaving behind material edges that are not hardened or burred. The blades’ swiping action also seals edges of coated metals. The tool uses a four-amp straight handle, single-speed electric motor to produce straight or contoured cuts at speeds of up to 300 inches per minute. (513) 271-0333;

VINYL/VINYL FILMS Protect and Enhance Your Image with Drytac Protac Anti-Scratch Gloss Film Drytac Protac™ Anti-Scratch Gloss is a 4-mil clear PET laminating film with a scratch-resistant hard coat and high-gloss finish that adds depth, detail, and protection for printed graphics. Coated on one side with a pressure-sensitive, solvent acrylic adhesive with a PET release liner, the film is ideal for the protection and enhancement of any application where a durable, high-gloss, mirror-like finish is desired. Thanks to its quality and durability, this high-end laminating film is suitable for use in art galleries and museums. Drytac Protac AntiScratch Gloss can be used with cold or heat-assisted laminators and features a high-performance adhesive developed by Drytac for the lamination of output from (eco) solvent, latex, and UV printers.

Photo: SNA Displays.



Sign Builder Illustrated SBI_VisitSignShopAd_Options.indd 3

January 2018 12/13/16 3:22 PM

Sign Builder Illustrated


How To


HDU Tiki Sign, Part One Glues and epoxies are the island spice of signs. four hours. Full curing occurs after twelve hours. You can expect some squeeze-out. Remove the residual adhesive with either a razor or a #3 carving gouge. Urethane glues are messy, so wear latex gloves and your grubbies. Cover your work table with application tape for easy clean up. Place sheets of wax paper or clear application tape underneath the glued pieces to prevent adhering the HDU to your work surface.


ast month, I detailed the various factors related to selecting, carving, and painting high-density urethane (HDU) sign. I focused on this material because I was working on a custom Tiki bar sign made from it. I will detail its creation this issue and next. This installment will look at the bonding of HDU sheets on this project. One-Part Urethane Glues The easiest way to edge-glue or face-glue one sheet of HDU to another is to use one-part urethane glue, such as Precision Board PB Bond-240 HDU Adhesive. This glue is similar to Gorilla Glue, but it foams less, which many sign makers prefer because it produces a tighter glue line. What’s nice about urethane adhesive is that there is no measuring. To activate the adhesive, you just need to moisten the surface to be bonded by lightly spraying the HDU with water. Clamp the pieces and you’re done. More water is not better, so wipe off any excess with your hand. To build the thickness that I needed for the Tiki mask appliqué, I glued four sheets 16

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of HDU together. Prior to gluing the pieces together, I made sure that the surfaces fit tightly, so as to not have any gaps. After the surfaces were moistened, I applied a thin coating of adhesive using an inexpensive squeegee. Kellie Miller of Coastal Enterprises recommends spreading the adhesive to one surface using a tongue depressor. “As you spread the adhesive, pool the excess in the center of the board,” she says. “This technique prevents air pockets from being trapped between the boards.” After the adhesive is applied, position one board over another. “Apply weights to the top of the boards so that the pressure is evenly distributed,” says Miller. “Weight alone won’t hold the boards in place. “To keep them from slipping and sliding out of place, toe-nail the board together in several places with drywall screws.” Urethane adhesives can expand near four times their original volume. In a couple of minutes, the adhesive will start to bubble. Join the surfaces together and clamp the pieces using even pressure. Keep the surfaces clamped for at least

Laminating with Epoxy If your sign is going to be subjected to significant wind load, you must support the HDU board in some way to strengthen the panel. For the background of my Tiki bar sign, I used a one-and-a-half-inch sheet of HDU, which I carved into as much as an inch deep in some places. I felt that I still needed extra strength, so I laminated a two-by-four-foot sheet of Dibond® aluminum composite material to a same-size sheet of HDU. Dibond was a better choice than wood or MDO here because it’s not only lighter weight but also more dimensionally stable. A urethane adhesive would work, but epoxy provides better structural strength and is great for bonding HDU to wood, plastic, or metal. Epoxy is comprised of two components: the resin and the hardener. These components must be mixed in precise proportions for the mixture to solidify properly. While epoxy poses little potential for respiratory problems, you should work in a clean, well-ventilated shop. It also wouldn’t hurt to wear a chemical respirator. Contact with your skin can result in dermal reactions so always wear chemical-resistant gloves, clothing, and other safety gear recommended by the manufacturer. If you’re sanding, wear a respirator with a particulate filter. For my project, I selected a fast hardener. If you need additional working

How To


time, especially when working in warmer environments, use a slow hardener. In combing the resin and hardener, thoroughly mix the components for a minute or two. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing cups so all ingredients are evenly combined. A mixing stick with a squared end will get into the corners of the cup. To change the consistency of the resin/ hardener mixture, add filler. It can also be used as an extender. I used a filler that consisted of microfibers of chopped cotton, which not only thickened the epoxy, but also gave the mixture tremendous strength. If the surfaces are uneven, the filler also produces a mixture that will fill any gaps. When it cures, it hardens like a rock, which can make sanding difficult. The different fillers can be mixed together to produce your own special concoction.

In thickening epoxy, add small amounts of the filler, little by little, until you produce the desired consistency. For laminating flat panels of HDU and aluminum composite panel, you’ll want the epoxy to have the consistency of ketchup. When bonding one surface to another with epoxy, make sure the surfaces are dry. In storage and during fabrication, the surface of the HDU can accumulate dirt and dust. To clean the surface, slightly abrade it with a grey Scotch-Brite® pad. Before applying the epoxy adhesive, brush off any residue from the surface using a chip brush and wipe it down with a clean rag. Contaminants will compromise the adhesive bond. When bonding to a non-porous smooth surface, such as the aluminum composite panel, rough it up with 80-grit sand paper. This will give the surface some tooth so the adhesive bonds to it.

I used a two-step procedure to bond the HDU and the Dibond panel. First I coated the HDU with epoxy without any filler using a foam roller. This ensured that the epoxy would wet out the entire surface of the HDU. After applying the first coating, I poured the epoxy thickened with the filler onto the HDU. If you’re covering a large surface, pour the thickened epoxy in the middle of the panel and spread it evenly using a notched spreader; this applies a uniform thickness of epoxy and prevents air pockets from developing in your lamination. After coating the adhesive to one panel, I laminated the two panels together using moderate pressure—just enough for the thickened adhesive to start to squeeze out. An alternative to using clamps to secure the panels as the epoxy cures is to use drywall screws and weights evenly distributed over the panel. Too much clamping



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January 2018

How To


pressure will squeeze out too much of the adhesive to from a good bond. It’s critical that you maintain pressure on the two parts to be joined until the epoxy cures, which is about eight hours. Failure to maintain consistent pressure may result in the parts pulling apart, which will stress the bond. Clean up any of the adhesive as best you can before it hardens. Pot Life and Working Time Pot life is the amount of time it takes for the resin and hardener to cure in your mixing cup before it hardens. Working time, on the other hand, is the time it takes for resin to cure after it’s spread out onto the surfaces that you’re trying to bond. Depending on the ambient temperature, you can have as much as an hour for working. Pot life and working times for epoxy can vary greatly based on the temperature of your shop. The warmer the tem-

perature is, the faster the epoxy cures. At 72°F, pot life for a mixture can as little as 10 minutes. At 90°F, that time is cut in half. That means that if you’re working on a hot day, work fast! Curing to a hardened state takes six to eight hours. Complete curing takes even longer. In about two weeks, the adhesive is nearly at full strength. (Note: Don’t be concerned if the adhesive on a test panel feels tacky before it cures completely. The adhesive should harden as solid as a rock, if you follow manufacturer’s directions.) Why is there such a difference between pot life and working time? Mixing resin and hardener causes a chemical reaction that creates heat. In a confined space like a mixing cup, you contain the heat. When you do that, the heat builds up really fast. If you’re mixing a big batch, the greater mass of material can generate a lot of heat.


When you pour the mixed epoxy onto your working surface, the heat dissipates. Using the example of bonding Dibond to the Precision Board, the metal surface can dissipate the heat fast, but the HDU doesn’t dissipate the heat so fast. If it’s impractical or impossible to control the temperature of your work environment, use a slow hardener. If you’re mixing on a large surface, mix a smaller batch and spread it onto the substrate, then mix additional batches until the surface is covered. When you thicken an epoxy with filler, you increase the mass of the mixture and generate more heat, which shortens the pot life. Because there are time limitations when working with epoxy, make sure you assemble all the materials and equipment that you need for the job. Join me here next issue, as I finish up the creation of this custom HDU sign.

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Sign Builder Illustrated




he United States Sign Council (USSC) recently announced the winners of its USSC Sign Design Contest. This annual contest identifies and recognizes signs that demonstrate excellence in client identification, creative graphic expression, and a combination of materials and/or techniques. These First Place honorees were judged the “best of the best” when it comes to the top-notch creative signs that are being designed and fabricated by sign makers today. Judges for this year’s contest were Joe Diaz of Diaz Sign Art in Pontiac, Illinois; Francis Lestingi of Signs of Gold, Inc., in Buffalo, New York; and Dan Sawatzky of Sawatzky’s Imagination Corporation in Chilliwack, British Columbia. Hundreds of entries submitted from across the country—and even the globe—were grouped into twelve distinct sign-related categories and judged on three criteria: the submission’s overall appearance, effectiveness, and originality. To view all of this year’s award-winning entries, visit our Web site,, at “Banners, Murals, or Supergraphics” Rogers Sign Co., of Milton, Delaware (company and location) Deborah Breneman and Lynn Rogers (designers) Town of Milton (client)

“Building Sign, External Illumination or Non-Illuminated” House of Signs of Frisco, Colorado (company and location) Roger Cox and Periandros Damoulis (designers) The Clubhouse (client) Description: The design for this outdoor three-by-sixfoot double-sided identity sign features golf balls and 20

Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

Photo: Danthonia Designs.

Description: This mixed media vinyl/hand-painted wall mural features classic lettering, banderoles, and a schooner and covers a 17-by-30-foot area in downtown Milton, Delaware. It welcomes people to the town while simultaneously embracing the community’s heritage of shipbuilding. Rogers Sign Co., designed this entire piece from scratch for the customer. The sign shop hand-painted the lettering and flourishes using Nova Paints from Artex Manufacturing Co.They used their Roland SOLJET PRO II V printer to output the picture of the ship onto 3M™ Envision™ SV480 vinyl and laminated it with 3M™ Envison™ Glow Wrap Overlaminate 8548G.

Winner: Monument Sign, Illuminated



The USSC Sign Design Contest winners.

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


Winner: Electronic Message Center Sign

“Building Sign, Illuminated” John’s Studio of Batavia, New York (company and location) Theresa Deuel (designer) Attica Pharmacy Inc.; Owner Ryan LaVarnway (client) Description: The overall design goal of this identity sign for a new pharmacy was to achieve a historically appropriate piece that would match the recently restored 1916 building’s exterior. The sign makers custom-fabricated a two-sided, contour-shaped cabinet with a corner-mounting bracket built through it for extra durability and stability. They custom-painted embossed block-out faces to give depth to the internally LED illuminated sign. 22

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January 2018

They also added flexible LED to the perimeter of the sign to bestow a fauxneon look. “Carved/Dimensional Sign, Affixed to a Building” Middle Creek Signs, Inc., of Beaver Springs, Pennsylvania (company and location) Patricia Brill (designer) Bull Run Tap House (client) Description: Sign makers created this 40-by-48-by-3-inch double-sided hanging identity sign for a tap house in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania out of HDU material. Adding to its dimensionality, the finished sign features raised panels and a hand-sculpted bull. It also combines digital prints with painted elements. “Carved/Dimensional Sign, Monument or Freestanding” House of Signs of Frisco, Colorado (company and location) Roger Cox and Periandros Damoulis (designers) Breckenridge Heritage Alliance (client)

Description: This four-by-four-foot, multi-layered, single-sided sign was inspired by the surrounding area’s mines and gold panning. It was made from eight-inchthick HDU. The custom wood post structure was painted with oil stain. “Electronic Message Center Sign” Danthonia Designs of Elsmore, NSW, Australia (company and location) Doreen Shirky (designer) The Waves sports club (client) Description: Sign makers designed this 11-by-28-foot monument sign using Adobe Illustrator®. The electronic message board is a full-color, P10-resolution Danthonia Message Center. The monument piece housing this display was made from an aluminum structure clad in EPS and hard-coated with polyurethane. Avery paint masks were plotted using a Roland Camm-1 Pro cutter. The add-on letters and logo were cast using dyed resin and lit from behind using LED lights. The monument was painted with Dulux Weathershield Paint.

Photo: Danthonia Designs.

flags representative of the Frisco, Colorado-based establishment’s indoor golf simulator with its lounge cocktails and the surrounding Rocky Mountains scenery. House of Signs made this sign from twelve-inch-thick multi-layered HDU. Concealed LED lighting externally illuminates all the lettering.

“Freestanding Sign, External Illumination or Non-illuminated” Lunsford Sign Works of Hot Sulphur, Colorado (company and location) Joel D. Lunsford (designer) Lunsford Sign (client)

“Monument Sign, Illuminated” Danthonia Designs of Elsmore, NSW, Australia (company and location) Ramona Gattis (Danthonia Designs) and Rockingham City Council (designers) Rockingham (client)

Description: It took two years and approximately 1,000 man-hours for this sign shop to craft their machine-themed identity sign, titled “Think-a-ma-jig” (see page 33). It stands twenty-two feet tall and weighs about three tons (not including the four tons of concrete at its base). It was fabricated from three-inchthick Precision Board HDU, aluminum, glass, and steel. The shop applied Matthews metallic paint finishes and Modern Masters Metal Effects coatings to arrive at its appropriate appearance.

Description: This 7-by-93-foot monument sign consists of 14 separate pieces. It was made from an aluminum structure clad in EPS and hard-coated with polyurethane. It was painted with Sculpt Noveau Iron B Metal coating for a genuine rust effect. Avery paint masks featuring penguins and rocks were plotted using a Roland CAMM-1 Pro cutter. The add-on letters were fabricated from Sign•Foam® and painted with Dulux Weathershield Paint. Solar lighting ties in to the client’s environmentally friendliness.

Description: To keep in sync with the school’s colorful, eye-catching architecture, Danthonia Designs designed and built creative signage that kept up with the appearance of the buildings. All the signs for were designed using Adobe Illustrator. The wall- and post-mounted signs were constructed from Sign•Foam4® HDU and laminated to a PVC backer. The monument sign was made out of an aluminum structure clad in EPS and hard-coated with polyurethane. Averybrand paint masks were plotted using a Roland CAMM-1 Pro cutter.

“Monument Sign, External Illumination or Non-illuminated” House of Signs of Frisco, Colorado (company and location) Roger Cox (designer) Abbey’s Coffee (client)

“Multimedia” House of Signs of Frisco, Colorado (company and location) Roger Cox and Periandros Damoulis (designers) The Sign Invitational (client)

“Vehicles” Middle Creek Signs, Inc., of Beaver Springs, Pennsylvania (company and location) Patricia Brill (designer) Lester Stuck Building Supply (client)

Description: This 4-by-12-by-2-foot, three-sided HDU identity sign includes all sorts of elements one will find inside this popular coffee shop/bakery. It features a steel bracket and frame with a mesh inlay.

Description: This 2-by-2-by-6-foot, foursided art piece was made entirely out of HDU and acrylic. Modern-day touches were used to achieve the classic ’40s style, as internal illumination is LEDs while the exterior tubes are fully active lava lamps.

Description: The customer requested a ’40s-type graphic for use on a recently restored vehicle, so the sign makers designed and applied contour-cut wrap vinyl featuring period-appropriate lettering to the vehicle.

“Sign Systems” Danthonia Designs of Elsmore, NSW, Australia (company and location) Ramona Gattis (designer) Harrison School (client)

Photos: (left) House of Signs; (right) Danthonia Designs.

Winner: Multimedia

Winner: Sign Systems

January 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated



Setting up service equipment for a safe and successful installation.


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

Equipped for



All Photos: Altec.

ign projects requiring service equipment call for a bit more preparation before starting the installation. We talked to a few service equipment manufacturers about what installers should do to set up the job site for the most successful—and safe—installation. Site Survey Before starting any installation, manufacturers say a site survey is a must. “A work site survey is required every time the equipment relocates to a new location,” says Alan Calta, director of Product Safety, Quality, and Reliability at Elliott Equipment Company. “The survey should be conducted the day of equipment use and before the equipment is operated.” The site survey should identify any possible hazards like debris; ditches; road, pedestrian, or worksite traffic; overhead obstructions and electrical lines/conductors; insufficient supporting surfaces such as soft ground or tamped earth fills; sub-surface chambers such as underground utility components or septic systems; etc. The weather itself can also present a hazard. “Be sure to check your local weather forecast for lightning and high wind conditions, rain, snow, or any other element that can affect you,” cautions Manitex Product Support Representative Michael Grider. In addition to keeping workers safe, a site survey also allows shops to make sure they have what they need. “It will ensure that you will have the proper materials and tools on the site when you are ready to go to work, and if any additional help will be needed during the installation,” says Bryan Wilkerson, vice president of Wilkie Manufacturing.

Location, Location As part of the site survey, installers will also want to pay attention to where to best position the service equipment. “Every job site must be carefully surveyed to make sure the equipment available can safely reach the work location. If necessary, bringing in different equipment needs to be an option, rather than cutting corners on safety to use what’s on hand,” says Altec Sentry Safety Training Manager Phil Doud. “The best position is one that avoids any hazards in the job site, while also staying within the reach and capacity of the unit for the load being lifted.” Grider says there are four main things installers should look for when choosing a spot for their equipment: “One, know where you will be lifting and swinging objects as well as make sure there are no obstructions in the way. Two, ensure that the area where the crane will be set up is clear to swing and there aren’t any underground or aerial obstructions when performing the task at hand. “Three, make sure the ground is rated to hold the weight of the crane along with the desired load. Four, make sure the location has been approved for the desired application.” If the install requires the use of a telescopic boom, additional calculations may be needed to determine a location for the equipment. “A qualified operator should use the manufacturer’s load capacity and range charts to put the unit where boom angle and height optimize capacity for the task being performed,” says Doud. Once a location is chosen, ensure it’s clearly marked to surrounding traffic with barricades or tape. “Make sure you have your site adequately demarcated to ensure it is clear of traffic, bystanders, passersby, and the like,” says Calta.

Equipment Preparations The site has been inspected and a location has been chosen, but the installers aren’t ready to go up in the air just yet. Be sure you’ve performed all the necessary inspections and tests on your equipment before operating it. “Start with a daily inspection first thing every morning. A log of a daily inspection is required by OSHA,” says Wilkerson. “From there, you would begin your day on the job site by stabilizing the truck. This includes checking the wheels and setting the outriggers and properly leveling it. “Get all materials and tools ready for the installation and inform any additional persons on the site of what you intend to do and when. OSHA requires a lift plan and site safety meeting to discuss the plan with everyone.” In addition to these checks, the equipment must be tested before use. “All controls and safety devices on aerial units and cranes must be tested and functional before placing the unit in service before the beginning of each shift,” says Doud. Calta says to use the pre-start inspection criteria in the manufacturer’s manual as a guide as well as all applicable federal, state, and local inspection requirements. He says these requirements include, but are not limited to, the following steps: • Perform a walk-around inspection looking for cracks, corrosion, damaged components, missing bolts or fasteners, etc. • Check visual and audible operator aides for proper operation per the manufacturer’s requirements. • Visually inspect fiberglass and insu-

January 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


lating components for visible damage and contamination. • Check for missing or illegible operational and instructional markings. • Check hydraulic and pneumatic systems for observable deterioration and excessive leaking. • Check electrical systems for malfunction, dirt, signs of excessive deterioration, and moisture accumulations. • Perform functional tests that include setting up the equipment for operation, including outriggers and stabilizers; cycle each boom function through its complete range of motion from the lower controls, except where operation through the complete range of motion would create a hazard; and check functionality of emergency controls. If any problems are found, they need to be addressed before starting work. “Any suspected items shall be carefully examined or tested and determination made by a qualified person as to whether they constitute a safety hazard,” says

Calta. “All unsafe items shall be replaced or repaired before use.”

in addition to keeping workers safe, a site survey allows shops to make sure they have everything they need. Final Considerations Mistakes happen, and equipment manufacturers say the most common ones relate to the setup and operation of the equipment. “Setting up and operating too close to

power lines continues to be a major contributor to injury-causing accidents with aerial devices, as does operating beyond manufacturer’s slope and capacity limitations,” says Doud. “Take time to consider the big picture at each job site, rather than just the job itself. It is a good habit to do this every time the unit is moved, even if only to a nearby position.” According to Wilkerson, another common error is not being prepared with all of the necessary tools and materials for the job, which leads to repeated trips back to the shop. Wilkerson also reminds installers, “Always wear the proper safety equipment like a hardhat, steel toe boots (if needed), safety glasses (if needed), fall protection, etc.” Above all, always remember to follow all laws and industry safety standards, as well as manufacturer’s requirements. “Many questions regarding the safety and operation of a boom truck or crane can be answered by reading and understanding the operator’s manual,” advises Grider.

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January 2018

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Digital Printing By JEFF WOOTEN

Transferring dye sub into the soft signage industry.



rom banners and exhibit backdrops to interior décor and garment wear, soft signage and digital textiles continue to be a hot topic within the industry, particularly for sign makers and print providers ready to make an imprint in this market—today 28

Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

as well as in the foreseeable future. Market research, consulting, and testing firm Smithers Pira recently released a report citing that the digital textile printing market volume will increase at a rate of 17.5 percent from 2016-2021 eventually reaching a market value of $2.66

billion (“The Future of Digital Textile Printing to 2021,” October 2016). There are several reasons sign shops have expressed interest in getting involved with fabrics and textiles. “One of the benefits of soft signage is that it’s lightweight,” says Tommy

Photos (this spread): Sawgrass.

Getting Soft About

A lot of soft signage being output today is eschewing traditional imprinting techniques and is instead created via transfer dye sublimation print technology. tin, product manager, Textile & Apparel Business Development & Marketing at Mimaki USA. “It can also easily be rolled and packaged, making it more economical to produce and ship. And decreased shipping weights and packing dimensions contributes to reduction in greenhouse emissions.” Randy Anderson, product marketing manager at Mutoh America, Inc., adds, “The nice thing about a polyester fabric ‘sign’ is that it can be [unfurled] from a container and easily set up (and reused) as signage just by using a little steam to sort out the wrinkles.” A lot of soft signage being output today is eschewing traditional imprinting techniques and is instead created via transfer dye sublimation print technology. This process binds the image into the actual soft sign or fabric, rather than placing the image onto the surface. The images are initially printed with dye inks onto coated, heat-resistant transfer paper as a reverse image of the final design, which is then transferred onto polyester fabric through the use of a heat press operating at a temperature around 375°F. This causes the solid pigments to leave the film as a gas and enter into the paper where it cools and re-solidifies as a solid. Why Dye Sub? The chief advantages of dye sublimation often cited in soft signage applications are their color and their durability. “The colors and designs that are imprinted never fade, wash out, crack, or chip off,” explains Robin Kavanagh, public relations manager for Sawgrass, noting that the sublimation process effectively dyes the polyester fibers of the material used for soft signage (Lycra, spandex, poplin, and other 100 percent polyester fabrics). The colors achieved through dye sublimation are deep and vibrant and can

match specific brand colors and Pantones easily with sublimation’s digital processing. “Because the design and print processes are both digital, sign makers can quickly customize and fulfill orders without having to change their production set-up, thereby saving valuable time and money,” says Kavanagh. Martin mentions that dye sublimation offers increased washability. “The colors stay vibrant and—because, in post-processing, the colors become part of the finished fabric—they can stand up to multiple installations and de-installations,” he says. Transfer dye sublimation works on any poly-coated surface. “This is limited to 100 percent polyester-based/coated materials,” says Martin, noting that active sportswear and exhibit graphics markets are proving reliable clientele for this technology. Anderson points out that fabrics lend themselves to unusual shapes, as well as tents, canopies, and (rotatable) hanging signs. “Dye sublimation has been huge at tradeshows,” he says. “Shows that historically used PVC banner material are now almost exclusively polyester fabrics. “Wind sails and similar-type outdoor marketing applications are also really impacting the dye sub signage market.” In addition to exhibition displays, there are several other popular interior soft signage opportunities utilizing dye sublimation—flags, banners, stretch signage, etc. “[Their] creative graphics and uses are endless, especially since you can turn around small runs of custom orders very quickly,” says Kavanagh. Dye sub is also helping end-users create and improve their own branding. According to Anderson, one of the most dramatic applications for dye sublimation in soft signage is backlit. “Placing a dye-sub image in a light box produces that extra ‘pop’ that captures the attention of the viewer,” he says.

“Stretch-frame fabric (SEG) light boxes can be tailored to look like design elements in a retail or office environment or as part of an exhibit,” adds Martin. Meanwhile, as our society becomes more and more oriented to visual messaging, the market demand for custom signage continues to grow. Because of this, dye sublimation finds itself a natural fit in these situations because of its ability to deliver high-resolution images, custom graphics, and photos. While not a mainstream signage application, there are opportunities to provide soft signage as part of an interior décor project. “Offices, schools, and medical/dental centers are candidates that are looking to add soft décor elements, which can be customized with their identities,” says Martin. Dye Sub Advances: Fluorescent Inks Another way to help dye-sublimated soft signage to stand out, according to Martin, is to use fluorescent inks to help these colors “pop.” “Fluorescent inks produce bright colors beyond the range that’s reproducible by process color printing,” he says, noting that these can be configured in a four- or six-color ink configurations, plus fluorescent pink and yellow. “In process color mode, use the fluorescent ink as a spot color, where a color replacement is designated for one color, replacing it

January 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


Adding fluorescent accents is also a great way to draw attention to specific messages, especially since they glow under black light.

with the fluorescent color. “In multi-color mode, use the fluorescent ink mixed with other colors,” continues Martin. “This adds vibrancy to basic colors.” Adding fluorescent accents is also a great way to draw attention to specific messages, especially since they glow under black light. These are achieved mainly through adding fluorescent yellow and pink inks to eight-color CMYK plus orange and blue sets. These two fluorescent inks combine with the others to create a set of pre-configured spot colors, as well as user-defined custom spot colors. “Fluorescent colors simply ‘pop’ on both soft and hard signage and can be a powerful addition to designs when used sparingly and as accent colors,” says Kavanagh. “Full-fluorescent signs may be appropriate for warning, low/black light, and safety applications.” To make sure your dye-sublimated graphics/messages stand out in soft sig-

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nage applications, Kavanagh advises to go bold with colors and get creative with graphics. “Use digital four- or eight-color print technology to your advantage—especially inks that deliver expanded gamut and fluorescent colors,” she says. “Choose clear, but eye-catching fonts, colors, and text effects. “Look for images that reinforce your message and draw the eye. And don’t be afraid to make them large.” Kavanagh stresses not to use too many words in the final dye-sublimated image though. “People don’t generally read soft signage. They scan and skim them for the major ideas,” she says, “so make those the star of your signs.” Succeeding at Dye Sub Anderson states that sign shops and graphic providers can achieve a quicker return-on-investment with dye sublimation by targeting the needs and wants of their current customer base. “You want to keep as much produc-


Sign Builder Illustrated

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January 2018 SBI_VisitSignShopAd_Options.indd 2

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tion in house,” he advises. Martin recommends sign shops and graphics providers do their homework on what digital textile opportunities exist within their communities. “Flags, wind dancers, silicone-edge graphics (SEG), and the like are all items that fit within the purview of a sign shop’s offerings,” he says. “But is the shop currently turning away this business (or sending it out to a third party) because it’s not available in-house?” If moving into soft signage is of interest, the next recommendation is to work with a knowledgeable dealer that specializes in all aspects of digital textile technology. “There are several components to consider—(1) the printer; (2) the inks, and for best results, a dealer should be selling the inks matched to the printer by the manufacturer; (3) the transfer media; and (4) the heat press and any other finishing products required,” says Martin, noting that there are companies that will sew SEG graphics if the sign shop doesn’t want to take this on in-house. “A qualified dealer should be not only able to provide these key elements but also work with a shop to select the best solution based on specific needs, provide information on cost/ value and return on investment, and continually service the shop by providing consumables and assistance.” Keep in mind that sublimated signs command higher prices, which customers will pay because of the print quality and durability sublimation offers. “Sublimation printing also enables sign makers to offer lots of complementary products they wouldn’t have been able to offer customers before,” says Kavanagh. For example, if a new business comes looking for signs, a sign maker with a dye sublimation system can also offer this customer promotional items, uniforms and apparel, linens, and any number of products that they also need to get their shops up and running. “With all that being said, any shop offering soft signs, murals, table tops, ceiling signage, flags, banners, and the like,” says Kavanagh, “will easily make that dye sublimation printer investment back within a year.”

January 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


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Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

Creative signage at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum.


study on indoor and outdoor signage. It houses virtually every type of sign. From outdoor banners, statues made of specialty foam, hand-painted and digitally printed signs and murals to cut vinyl and digital screens (including inter-

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum combines many different signage types to create an engaging experience for guests of all ages. active ones)—this museum combines it all to create an engaging experience for guests of all ages. The museum design and layout was a true meeting of the minds and involved many.

For the digital prints, much of the vision came from the team at the sign company, Design Workshop, Inc. ( of Indian Orchard, Massachusetts. They worked with key personnel at the Springfield Museums and Northstar Illustration & Design and partnered with wholesale digital printer, SignCenter ( of Milford, Connecticut, for a majority of the large format printing. A few weeks before the scheduled opening, Design Workshop Owners Deanna Chrislip and Brian Hale were invited to walk through the museum to look at additional spaces for graphic enhancements. The museum wanted to add wall plaques with rhyming copy, enlarged photos from Geisel’s family, various copies of art, and two wall murals measuring 237-by-71.5 inches and 234-by102.5 inches. “We made some recommendations for materials and locations and then coordinated the production and some of the installation,” says Chrislip. “Design Workshop also designed, produced, and installed all the vinyl lettering in the galleries.” Design Workshop teamed up with SignCenter for the production of the printed cut vinyl, Omegabond™ panels for wall plaques, portraits, art enlarge-

All Photos: Chrisy Fletcher.

pringfield Museums of Springfield, Massachusetts recently opened the doors to their highly anticipated new museum, The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss. This imaginative and creative threestory museum is dedicated to the impact Springfield had on its native son and the many whimsical and memorable characters from the pages of his books. Walking into the graphically rich museum, it is as if visitors are transported into one of those colorful books. “The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum was developed as a partnership between the Springfield Museums and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., as a tribute to Springfield native Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss,” explains Karen Fisk, director of Public Relations and Marketing for Springfield Museums. “Geisel is quite simply the most beloved children’s book author of all time.” From the original idea to concept completion, the museum was an eightyear endeavor. Construction took two years to complete, and the museum opened its doors in June of 2017. The successful collaboration of creatives and historians is evident in the thoughtful layout and flow of the museum. The museum is an excellent case

January 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


ments, and the two wall murals. “SignCenter was very helpful in getting things printed for us on a very tight deadline,” explains Chrislip. “We recommended the use of Omegabond panels for the plaques because of the durability and clean, modern look.” SignCenter’s role with the graphics went above just printing. Michael Oli-

veras, president and owner of SignCenter, worked with Design Workshop to ensure the file sizes were a high enough resolution for printing and also advised on the wall paint to use in the galleries for the best adhesion of the graphics. Some of the family photos provided by Theodor B. Owens, grand-nephew of Theodor Geisel, were small and faded,

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Neathawk Designs is a sign-making studio in The Berkshires of Massachusetts. Since 2011, they’ve been using their full-size ShopBot PRSstandard to make signs and work on special projects. Most recently, they created a full-sized reproduction (1.5’ deep x 12.5’ wide x 6.5’ tall) of a spoils panel from the Arch of Titus for an exhibit at the Yeshiva University Museum. Talk about a big undertaking! Not only was shop owner Lindsay Neathawk up to the task, but so was their ShopBot—and both continue to produce quality work.

making enlarging them a bit of a challenge. Oliveras advised Design Workshop to purchase ON1 Photo RAW to resize and prepare the photos for printing, which solved the problem of resolution and enlargement. The two wall murals and the family portraits and art reproductions can all be found installed on the top floor of the museum. Great care was taken in the placement of the graphics. For example, one of the art reproductions was even thoughtfully placed on Geisel’s desk, which gives the feeling that it is a work in progress. The printed vinyl embellishments are installed throughout the museum as well. Although the museum is open, the graphics are an ongoing project. Design Workshop and SignCenter are currently producing more wall plaques—this time written in Spanish. The museum is also tweaking displays as they learn what works best for the public. For example, the museum found that children were tripping over the three-dimensional box lid in the Thing One and Thing Two exhibit. To resolve this, it is being replaced with a floor graphic. The museum will also use signage and print to promote itself at their and others’ exhibits and events. The possibilities for further signage and graphics are endless. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!”

To read more about Neathawk Designs, as well as see more photos of their work, visit

For our full tool line-up and pricing, visit Then give us a call at 888-680-4466 We’ll help you choose the right tool for the job.

888-680-4466 •


Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018









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Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

A sign maker and the three bears.


witching from the loud and fast paced streets of Chicago to the quiet rural woods of Northern Maine is a huge change, but it was a welcome one for a recent client of Custom Wood Carvings. Known for its lush forests and ample backwoods, the countryside of Northern Maine is an outdoorsman’s paradise of picturesque, serene, and peaceful landscapes. A recent client asked Kris Connors, owner of Custom Wood Carvings, to design a realistic sculpture featuring bears in a canoe to help him leave the city atmosphere in the dust and embrace his beautiful new home in the country. Custom Wood Carvings is a custom sculpture and sign company based out of Westbrook, Connecticut. The company does everything from 3D signs to custom carved furniture to custom wildlife sculptures, which is just what this particular project called for. Kris started by working out the design, and he sketched bears in different positions, sizes, and facial expressions until he found the perfect fit. With the design finalized, Kris decided to use six-pound CORAFOAM® HDU to create the bears. The canoe needed to be mounted onto a wall, and he needed a lightweight material that held detail and was easy to carve. After bonding the blocks of HDU together, Kris used a small chainsaw to carve out the rough shape of the bears. (Note: If you’re looking to learn more about bonding HDU, check out “HDU Tiki Sign, Part One” on page 16.) The spectacular finish was added using a Dremel and various woodworking tools, while the realistic-looking fur on the bears was accomplished using the side wheel of an electric sander. The bears ranged in size from the largest at forty-four inches tall to the smallest at about thirty inches tall. All three are sitting in a twelve-foot-long canoe that was custom-made to fit this particular project. After hand-sanding the lamination lines out, it was time to prime and paint. Thanks to the ultra-smooth surface

of the HDU, Kris was able to use only a single coat of primer on this sculpture. The bears were then painted black using Benjamin Moore’s acrylic paint and finished with a satin spray paint to make them appear realistic. “The light weight of the HDU made it easy for installation,” says Kris. “The whole thing only weighted about sixty pounds!” Kris Connors started working at his first sign shop while in high school. He went on to major in liberal arts and became a high school art teacher. While teaching, he created his own sculpting and dimensional signage shop, Custom Wood Carvings.

Kris then began advertising and marketing himself through various channels, including social media, YouTube, his Web site, and by word of mouth. Five years ago, he was able to quit teaching to focus on his business full time! Now he is using his talents to create sculptures and 3D signs for customers all around the world. Kris is in the process of moving his shop to Nickelville, Virginia, but he continues to work on projects during the transition. To see more of Kris’ work or to read his blog full of carving resources and tips, visit

January 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


DIMENSIONs 2018: MONUMENTS BY Lori Shridhare


Sign Builder Illustrated

BUILt on honor

January 2018

Engineering a memorial monument.


ast April, a memorial was dedicated to honor Americans of Japanese descent who were forcibly removed during World War II from Venice, California. The Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument (VJAMM) features a solid granite obelisk commemorating this event. San Diego-based Sullaway Engineering played an integral role as the designer of the footing and the attachment that secures the footing to the monument. The VJAMM Committee, an ad hoc group that included former internees and concerned citizens, came together in 2010 to build this permanent memorial to the Japanese-Americans who were removed from Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu and incarcerated at the War Relocation Authority camp at Manzanar for the duration of war. The committee raised over $150,000 for this project.

Michael F. Sullaway, P.E., president and CEO of Sullaway Engineering, was responsible for guiding the work and designing the footing to ensure the 12,500-pound obelisk was properly secured. Sullaway completed the structural engineering calculations for the VJAMM obelisk, planning a four-by-four-by-twofoot deep concrete foundation with four #4 rebar anchored into concrete, which was drilled and epoxied into the base of the obelisk. “The VJAMM Committee was extremely pleased with our design and timeliness on this project,” says Sullaway. After the design was approved by the city of Los Angeles, the Williams Monument Company of Arvin, California acquired the obelisk, which was shaped, polished, and shipped from India. The design of the monument is modeled after the white obelisk that was

erected in 1943 for the cemetery at the Manzanar War Relocation Authority Camp. On the back of the monument, a description of the Manzanar War Relocation Authority camp features prominently, and it includes a map of the route from Venice to the Manzanar National Historic Site in Inyo County. The words “I REI TO” translated from the Japanese characters are displayed, meaning “monument to console the dead.”

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All Photos: Sullaway Engineering.

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January 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


DIMENSIONs 2018: Letters Feature Name By Jacquie BY Author devine



Stacked foam-core letters go mobile.


Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

ita letters, we had to splice them into smaller sections to be assembled later on,” says Kakacek. Midtown Signs built the frame, the part of the rolling base that allows the sign to be mobile, underneath the entire display. Mounting poles were built into the frame to nest inside of the larger Wichita letters. The #Together letters were built as separate pieces for disassembly and to completely encapsulate each section with the coating. “We used a similar design for mounting the top section,” says Kakacek. “Sleeves were embedded into each part so they could be secured with mounting pins.” Because they were working with brighter colors, Benchmark used automotive paints, mainly for their color retention. “Leaving the surface painted takes away that rough texture of stucco and makes them easier to clean,” explains Kacacek. Signs By Benchmark shipped the project back to Midtown Signs in five

sections total. “Knowing that the top letters could be taken off for storage, we wanted to make manageable sections so they could be carried, if necessary,” says Kakacek. Seams are always an issue when dealing with a project of this size, and in this case, Benchmark placed seams along the edge of the red letters. “We figured this was a natural place to break the letters, as it made only a small space above and below where the seam is visible,” says Kakacek. The foam-core mobile sign debuted at a local arts festival last September and plans to pop up at other events throughout Wichita.

Photos: Signs By Benchmark.


igns By Benchmark took foamcore letters to another level during a collaboration with Midtown Signs of Kansas City, Kansas. Together Wichita, a community organization, was looking for a mobile sign to use at events to celebrate its city and serve residents. To accomplish the mobility without sacrificing durability, Midtown Signs contacted the Signs By Benchmark team to discuss the life-sized project. The organization’s vision came to life with the stacked #TogetherWichita letters made from EPS and a polyuria hardcoat. The mobile sign stands nearly twelve feet tall and thirty feet wide. “When Midtown gave us the green light on the project, they supplied us with an EPS file of the letters, as well as drawings on how they were going to build the frame,” says Designer Jamie Kakacek. Signs By Benchmark cut the letters out using their CNC cutting equipment. “Because of the scale of the larger Wich-

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Mellow About


The ingredients for a tasty neon-LED dimensional sign.


Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

blade sign constructed of aluminum components over a steel frame. They used Adobe Illustrator CS6 to design this vibrant identity piece. The illuminated cabinet consists of a colorful array of red, white, blue, green, and yellow neon elements that help emphasize Mellow Mushroom’s theme of “fun” and “funky.” Meanwhile the chasing arrow LED bulb rows feature the use of a modern digital controller to turn on from tail to point then turn off and recycle with a three-second interval between stages. 3M vinyl was applied for the copy to economically represent the vintage porcelain painting process, and it was finished with a Matthews polyurethane coating. The finished sign was bolt-attached to the existing brickwork of the second floor of this Mellow Mushroom.

Photos: Don Bell Signs.


he owner of a Mellow Mushroom in Nashville, Tennessee was looking for a design to enhance the Nashville Historic District/Broadway Street theme of neon, flashing lights, and retro attention-seeking signs. They turned to Don Bell Signs of Tampa, Florida, a full turnkey sign manufacturer that has been specializing in custom signage for over sixty-five years. They are one of the largest electrical custom sign companies in the southeast. The company goes beyond design and engineering to offer superior customer support including permit acquisition, project management, and post installation and maintenance. For this project, Don Bell Signs designed and crafted a 10-3/4-foot-by5-foot-by-1-1/2-foot double-face neon

WE’RE HERE TO ANSWER THE CALL! Sign Builder Illustrated is the “how-to magazine” of the sign industry. Each issue includes SBI’s signature “how-to” columns and features with detailed, stepby-step instructions covering a wide range of signage. SBI’s website (, newsletters, Buyer’s Guide, and digital edition keep you updated with timely news, recent projects, and upcoming industry events.





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Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

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ADA Central Signs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

26 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C4


AdamsTech. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19


Sinalite. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1


Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46


Southern Stud Weld . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

InfoDirect #


Altec Industries Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27


Stamm Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . . . 26


AXYZ International . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32


Techno CNC Systems. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41


Brooklyn Hardware . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46


Top Value Fabrics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


DUNA-USA Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37


Trotec . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43


Duxbury Systems Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46


Wilkie Mfg. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C3


Echod Graphics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46


Fastenation Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31


Gemini Letters & Logos. . . . . . . . . . . . . 7



Gravotech Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18


AXYZ International. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13


International Sign Association. . . . . . 11


CAMaster. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13



COMPANIES IN SIGN SHOW Altec Industries, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


J. Freeman Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15


Drytac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15


JDS Industries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C2


EFI, Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13


Keystone Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5


Gemini Letters & Logos. . . . . . . . . . . . 13


Lidco. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46


Kett Tool Company. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15


Manitex.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17


LuciteLux. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


Nova Polymers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3


Palram Americas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


Orbus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46


SloanLED. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13


Orbus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46


ThinkSIGN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


Ornamental Post Panel & Traffic. . . . 46


Top Value Fabrics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


Safety Speed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30


Trade Group, The. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


ShopBot Tools. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36


Watchfire Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


Sign America Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

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January 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


Shop Talk


A Year in Review

Changes in government can affect our industry.


t’s easy to feel out of touch with what’s happening with the government— whether that’s at the federal level or in our local communities. But sticking our heads in the sand can’t be the answer. We can more successfully argue our case when we get involved—and the earlier the better. If we don’t, we will continue to encounter headwinds that cut into the bottom line. As we look to a new year, I am hoping to see improvement at all three levels of government. Federal Government: More Action Needed. While the U.S. Congress closed out 2017 with much discussion of tax reform, there are more actions needed. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, federal regulations cost the U.S. economy over $1 trillion a year. When the Trump administration took office in 2017, it took early steps to reform this regulatory burden by requiring that two existing regulations be rescind-

ed for every new one added and capping the costs. Congress joined in, nullifying more than a dozen last-minute regulations from the previous administration. But there is more work to be done to reduce regulatory burdens and overall government-imposed costs for small businesses. ISA continues to work at the federal level to enact positive change for our industry by meeting with members of Congress and participating in allied coalitions to ensure that Washington understands the impact these actions have on the day-to-day operations of small businesses throughout the country. State Level: An Eye to the Courts. State and federal district courts have been hearing a number of lawsuits that could have far-reaching implications for the onpremise sign, graphics, and visual communications industry. These cases are fallout from the Reed v. Town of Gilbert decision of 2015 and are all related to off-premise

Sign Builder Illustrated (Print ISSN 895-0555, Digital ISSN 2161-4709) (USPS#0015805) (Canada Post Cust. #7204564; Agreement #40612608; IMEX Po Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2, Canada) is published monthly by Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, 55 Broad St. 26th Floor, New York, NY 10004. Printed in the U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and Additional mailing offices.

Prices are subject to change.

Pricing, Qualified individual working in the sign industry may request a free subscription. Non-qualified subscriptions Print version, Digital version, Both Print & Digital versions: 1 year US/Canada/Mexico $50.00; foreign $99.00. Single Copies are $15.00 ea. Subscriptions must be paid for in U.S. funds only.

For Subscriptions, & address changes, Please call (800) 895-4389, (847) 7639686, Fax (847) 763-9544, e-mail, or write to: Sign Builder Illustrated, Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, PO Box 3135, Northbrook, IL 60062-3135.


Sign Builder Illustrated

January 2018

COPYRIGHT © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2018. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without permission. For reprint information, contact: Arthur Sutley, Publisher (212) 620-7247 or

signs or billboards. Cases in Tennessee and Texas have struck down state DOT laws distinguishing between on-premise and offpremise signs because they are contentbased, even though Justice Sam Alito said that such a distinction is legal in his Reed-concurring opinion. ISA has long argued in favor of keeping regulations between on-premise and off-premise signs separate, as has traditionally been the case. If on-premise signs were regulated the same way as billboards, there could be significant ramifications for the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry. The two kinds of signs serve very different purposes and intended audiences, and any differences are locational and not content-based. These recent cases, as well as similar cases in California and Indiana, show that the regulatory distinction between onpremise signs and billboards is under reconsideration and may be on the way out. Local: Reed’s Continued Impact. The Reed ruling has forced virtually every community in the U.S. to examine its sign codes. As the communities have explored whether their sign codes complied with Reed, ISA and the Sign Research Foundation (SRF) developed materials and educational sessions designed to help planners and local officials understand more. To read more, visit

SRF will release a new model sign code in early 2018 to help communities comply with Reed.

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 3135, Northbrook , IL 60062-3135. Instructional information provided in this magazine should only be performed by skilled crafts people with the proper equipment. The publisher and authors of information provided herein advise all readers to exercise care when engaging in any of the how-to-activities published in the magazine. Further, the publisher and authors assume no liability for damages or injuries resulting from projects contained herein.

Photo: Shutterstock/ ESB Professional.


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Sign Builder Illustrated January 2018  
Sign Builder Illustrated January 2018  

This issue features stories on service trucks, dimensional signs, HDU, dye sublimation printing, and more!