HELP! Material for 40" signs — styrene or ?

The place to discuss all aspects of building models from scratch.

Moderators: Joseph C. Brown, Moderators

Post Reply
sbaxter
Posts: 6205
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 3:42 pm
Location: Tallahassee, Florida

HELP! Material for 40" signs — styrene or ?

Post by sbaxter » Sun Jul 14, 2013 7:32 am

I've designed new signs for my department at work, based on an idea I showed hereabouts a few weeks ago. Here's the "design brief" — briefly.

These will be exterior signs, 38 inches wide. They will be assembled in three pieces — a top and bottom with a straight side and a curved side, with a rectangular center section. The center section will be foam board with a printed name, laminated to protect it from weather. But the curved side on the other two pieces means I can't laminate those parts, so I need another material — and price is an issue.

I need something that can be primed and painted. Where they'll be installed, it is unlikely but not impossible they'll be exposed directly to rain. The larger issue is that they'll definitely experience humidity and temperature extremes. During winter, we generally get a few hard freezes a year with temps dipping into the 20s. We'll also get days in the summer that approach or exceed 100 degrees (but these won't get a lot of direct sun). The main thing that concerns me is the insane humidity we live with from late May through October. So whatever I use needs to stand up to all that for at least five years, with the most important thing probably being able to resist the humidity. To get the finish I want, these pieces will be primed with Krylon or Rust-Oleum automotive primer, painted with a "hammered metal" spray paint (possibly two coats), then a satin nickel spray paint, and possibly get a final wash with an acrylic a bit darker than the nickel, if I think it needs it to make the texture as apparent as I want it.

My first thought was sheet styrene about .187 thick, which matches the thickness of the foam board. Unfortunately, there is no plastics supplier here. I found a place in Nevada with a good price on the sheet ($67.20 for a 4x8 sheet, which is large enough to make about 22 pieces — enough to cover the number I need with a couple of spares). However, when I e-mailed them they replied that shipping would drive the price to somewhere around $200! I don’t think I’d be able to get that approved.

So, first, does anyone who may be in the Florida/Georgia/Alabama area know of a supplier for the styrene sheet that is reasonably “local-ish” to the Tallahassee area that would charge something less outlandish for a 4x8 .187 sheet, including shipping? I’d like to keep the total cost for materials at or under $100 in order to get this approved.

Second, failing that, any other ideas for something similar? I really don’t want to reduce the size of the signs because they need to be fairly visible from a good distance, and we’re approaching the fall semester (and we;re less than a month from our fist new department chairman in six years — I’df like to try to get this approved by the outgoing chair if possible. The machine shop in the department has a good material — a sort of rigid, dense plastic foam sheet, but apparently they think it is too expensive for this use.

What about a sheet of quarter-inch high-quality plywood? If I used birch or poplar or something like that that might cost about $50 per sheet, could I seal it against the elements well enough? I could use something that thick by doubling up the foam board used for the center section, but I’d want to be able to hide the grain, and the edges that would be revealed when the sheet is cut. I think the flat surfaces would be hidden well-enough by the painting I described, but the edges would likely need a bit more, both cosmetically and for protection.

I’m desperate for good, workable ideas here. I really want to get this approved and have it complete before the beginning of the fall semester …

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi — you’re my only hope!

Qapla’

SSB
“The entire concept of pessimism crumbles the moment one human being puts aside thoughts of self and reaches out to another to minister to her suffering. The experience of either person can neither be denied nor adequately explained by a negative philosophy.”
― Michael J. Nelson, Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters

kenlilly106
Posts: 1231
Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2007 12:18 am
Location: in the mountains

Post by kenlilly106 » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:20 am

What is the sheet material that the machine shop has? There's a foamed PVC that works well for sign making but I can't remember the trade name.

How about marine plywood? Not as cheap as the regular grade stuff but far more durable, shouldn't have any trouble finding a source in FL.

Or that plastic trim? I think it's foam inside of a PVC jacket, maybe you could modify the sign dimensions as needed if the stock sizes don't fit so you leave the jacket intact? You can but it at Home Depot up here in VA.

What about sheet acrylic? Easy to get and cut, scuff the surface and it takes solvent paints well.

Sheet aluminum?

Ken

User avatar
USSARCADIA
Posts: 1827
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 7:29 pm

Post by USSARCADIA » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:58 am

I would advise against plywood for an exterior sign. It weathers quickly and looks like crap after a while. Styrene would be a good choice. The foamcore isn't too strong, bends easily. Try the local area listings for "plastic suppliers" and call and ask if they'll sell to the public, and if they have a remnants section. Good luck with the project.
Did you eat your Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs this morning?

User avatar
Umi_Ryuzuki
Posts: 3841
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 2:22 pm
Location: PDX, Oregon
Contact:

Post by Umi_Ryuzuki » Sun Jul 14, 2013 1:14 pm

The easy route would be to present the design to a "sign company" and
have them show you the best options for materials and color consistency.
They would also be able to tell you what will weather well, and show you examples of similar designs.

:wink:
What is the sheet material that the machine shop has? There's a foamed
PVC that works well for sign making but I can't remember the trade name.


It really sounds like you would want to use something like
SINTRA, KOMATEX, OR CELTEC foamed pvc board in 3/16" thickness
'
"I have to go now,... because my life is stupid and leprachans are dorks."
Nyow!
/
=^o^=

sbaxter
Posts: 6205
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 3:42 pm
Location: Tallahassee, Florida

Post by sbaxter » Sun Jul 14, 2013 3:15 pm

USSARCADIA wrote:Try the local area listings for "plastic suppliers"
As I noted in my first post, there are none locally. That's the sticking point on using styrene because shipping appears to be very expensive.


Qapla'

SSB
“The entire concept of pessimism crumbles the moment one human being puts aside thoughts of self and reaches out to another to minister to her suffering. The experience of either person can neither be denied nor adequately explained by a negative philosophy.”
― Michael J. Nelson, Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters

sbaxter
Posts: 6205
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 3:42 pm
Location: Tallahassee, Florida

Post by sbaxter » Sun Jul 14, 2013 3:44 pm

Most of the suggestions above would be perfect except that they're way out of my price range.

Qapla'

SSB
“The entire concept of pessimism crumbles the moment one human being puts aside thoughts of self and reaches out to another to minister to her suffering. The experience of either person can neither be denied nor adequately explained by a negative philosophy.”
― Michael J. Nelson, Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters

Andrew Gorman
Posts: 2339
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 4:56 pm
Location: God-forsaken suburban strip mall hell of Chesterfield County VA

Post by Andrew Gorman » Sun Jul 14, 2013 4:51 pm

MDF should work OK, and it is cheap, works with standard shop tools and is available just about everywhere. There are also bendable varieties if you need to bend a part. Otherwise, just laminate it up. Just a suggestion!

kenlilly106
Posts: 1231
Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2007 12:18 am
Location: in the mountains

Post by kenlilly106 » Sun Jul 14, 2013 4:58 pm

If sheet acrylic is out of the range then you may want to reconsider the project, I don't know of any other materials that are humidity resistant and paintable and reasonably priced.

Is your materials budget $100/sign or $100/total?

Ken

User avatar
Richard Baker
Posts: 12397
Joined: Tue Feb 07, 2006 10:23 am
Location: Warrior, Alabama

Post by Richard Baker » Sun Jul 14, 2013 9:37 pm

I have done design work for a sign company for over 23 years and I have seen so many different ways to solve any problem. A lot depends on the location and expected environment. We often use .040 Aluminum which can be bent and attached to a frame- most suppliers can shear it to spec for you.
Most suppliers are wholesale only, but we buy materials and process them as far as a person wishes instead of only producing a complete sign.

Tankmodeler
Posts: 949
Joined: Fri Jul 30, 2010 12:04 am
Location: Ontario

Post by Tankmodeler » Fri Jul 19, 2013 11:38 pm

Foamcore is likely to be problematic. The combination of heat and humidity will likely cause the face-sheets to blister and over time the paper face sheets will likely mould or mildew, even if painted. There's just no way to keep it from soaking up the moisture.

Any organic material isn't going to do well in the long term outdoors in Florida. Sheltered or not. The environment is just too extreme for it to survive too long.

And your budget it too low to get anything that's more durable. :(

Paul
The future is in your hands. Build it!

sbaxter
Posts: 6205
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 3:42 pm
Location: Tallahassee, Florida

Post by sbaxter » Fri Jul 26, 2013 6:11 pm

Tankmodeler wrote:Foamcore is likely to be problematic. The combination of heat and humidity will likely cause the face-sheets to blister and over time the paper face sheets will likely mould or mildew, even if painted. There's just no way to keep it from soaking up the moisture.
They'll last quite a while -- a couple of years, at least, especially if laminated all the way around. Speaking from ample personal experience on that. I wouldn't paint foam board, by the way, but the foam board portions will be easy to replace as needed.
Tankmodeler wrote:And your budget it too low to get anything that's more durable. :(
I know. Therefore, what I plan to do is use quarter-inch sheets of birch or oak plywood. I'll apply several coats of indoor/outdoor polyurethane, then a couple coats of high-build automotive primer, then two or three coats of the hammered metal paint. I'll get at least one full set of spare pieces made (meaning, enough to completely replace every sign once. If they don't last, I'll use that to try to get TPTB to spring for styrene or PVC.

Incidentally, I sent quote requests to three or four different plastics companies asking for quotes on sheets of PVC. Not a single one has replied after two weeks. I guess my request for a quote on two 4x8 sheets just wasn't big enough for them. :roll:

Qapla'

SSB
“The entire concept of pessimism crumbles the moment one human being puts aside thoughts of self and reaches out to another to minister to her suffering. The experience of either person can neither be denied nor adequately explained by a negative philosophy.”
― Michael J. Nelson, Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests