Sign & Digital Graphics

September '19

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26 • September 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S B Y R I C K W I L L I A M S Shop Talk Wall of Honor Simple steps to a laser cut photo display S ome time back we were contacted by the principal of a nearby rural high school to see if we could produce some- thing he considered very important to his school. The young principal, and he had to be really young since he went to school with my boys, wanted to honor the graduates from his school who have served or are serving in the U.S. military. He basically left the designing of the display up to me. It would also be up to me to devise a large set of picture frames that could be produced economically and reproduced many years in the future using a laser. Since initially there would be more than 50 of them, the cost per frame would have to be low. It made no sense to buy inexpensive frames from a discount store or any store, since there would be no guarantee they could be purchased again a decade from now as they added new veteran faces to the display. The colors of the school were black and school bus yellow, and acrylic sheet certainly comes in those colors. Acrylic was the material we wanted to use because of the fast cutting on a laser, no required finishing after cutting, and fairly low cost. All the lettering was two tone, with yellow 1/8" over black 3/16" acrylic being our choice. There would be a lot of small parts, but that poses no problem to the laser—just to the person putting the pieces together, which really was not hard at all. The photo frames were at first a bit of a puzzle, but after giving it some thought we determined to make them of two rectangles, the one on top of 1/8" black acrylic (we originally assumed it would be yellow but the principal decided on black), and the bottom rectangle that was wider was made from 3/16" black acrylic. The opening in the bottom layer would be inset slightly by the retainer rectangle, and a clear acrylic lens also cut on our Trotec laser finished out the frame. The assembly of these parts was made much easier, by creat- ing a jig that held everything very accurately in place. The jig was made of 1/8" thick acrylic, with openings for assembling two frames at a time. The holes in the jig fit the size of the small trim rectangle, which went down in the jig first but would end up on top, and then small tabs of acrylic glued in place defined how the larger rectangle set over the smaller one, with 1/8" of the smaller one showing inside. Carefully and sparingly, a mix of thick and thin acrylic glue in a squirt bottle was applied where the frames overlapped, creating an inset to hold the clear lens, then the lens was also glued in place. Too much glue, or glue that was too thin, would seep around the parts and ruin the frame, leaving visible glue marks on the side that showed. We lost a few but had made extra parts to practice with and learned the correct procedure fairly quickly. Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and documenting the sign business since 1986. Contact him at ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL This all acrylic laser-cut display was designed for a local school to show respect for their veterans, and was a fun project to create. Many parts were involved, all laser cut from 1/8" and 3/16" acrylic sheet in two colors.

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