November '22

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S I G N A G E & P R I N T I N G S I G N D E S I G N | M A T T C H A R B O N E A U Y es, raceways and wireways are a moving target of "Always, sometimes and never-ever," rules that have been either re-invented to satisfy some internal production process or were re-re-modified to fit the way it's used at a high-volume sign shop. Over the years I've watched various companies create inventive reasons as to why they consider a wireway a raceway and vice versa. But, the reality is (and make sure you are sitting down for this) it doesn't really matter what someone calls it, as long as you and they understand the purpose of whichever is being used and to know for sure that it is the best option to implement. Let's take a quick look at the original intent and spirit of the wireway and raceway as it's been most typically used by sign shops and fabricators over the years. But first... Let me qualify this by saying that for this article, I am ref- erencing the design, fab and install of outdoor channel letters. ey are subject to a host of challenges that affect every aspect of the letter in ways that prevent the use of many processes and materials that can be used in a controlled environment. e raceway is simply a long square-shaped box that's typi- cally about 7 1/4" tall and 7 1/4" wide and comes in 10-foot lengths. e removable top cover is included as part of the extruded raceway. ese offer a structurally strong and easy to work with method of providing a place for the channel let- ters' guts. It is typically painted to visually blend in with the wall color, sheen and texture. You simply cut it to size, cap the ends and "ta-da," there you go. Mount your letters to it. I want you to think of that raceway as a box of Velveeta. We are most likely all familiar with it and have seen it in the stores. (I included a photo just in case you needed some clarification). But, that restrictive squared-up raceway shape is limiting at best and doesn't do much for the creative visual designer who sees more opportunity to make this letter set something really memorable -- to use creative design to reach out and speak to the store's customer in a memorable way. THE WIREWAY If a raceway offers the same function as a box of Velveeta, then the wireway is that big tall can of Cheez Whiz that lets you be really creative with fancy designs on crackers and hors d'oeuvres. e wireway is the raceway's crazy, free-spirited, some- times non-conforming but always creative "bad girl second- cousin" of the Velveeta cheese box shaped sign wiring enclo- sure family. Phew, that was a mouthful (a stupid pun for sure, but hey...) So here is the easy-peasy way to remember which one is used for your channel letter project: VELVEETA BOX = RACEWAY If the channel letters can- not be mounted directly to the wall as flush mounted, and if budget and efficient installa- tion are a factor, the raceway is the least expensive, easiest way to provide a place to hide all the guts and wiring for the channel letter set. is is the basic rectangular raceway, like a block of Velveeta! e channel letters are mounted to it, and the raceway is then mounted to the wall. CHEEZ WHIZ = WIREWAY If you have to design a custom place to hide all the wiring components, even if it's just a small housing used to hide the wires, it's con- sidered a wireway. When the budget allows for a creative solu- tion, wires and components are hidden within a visually complementary structural element of the channel letter set. By designing an exagger- ated or expansive structural element that makes the entire channel letter set look more like a dimensional "sign" rather than just a set of letters all in a row. I created a basic graphic exercise that explains how a raceway can be replaced with a creative wireway. It can be designed to accomplish the same function as the cheese box-looking raceway, only with more creativity and visual interest. Now that we have a good idea on the differences between Velveeta and Cheez Whiz, not it's time to better understand why they are welcomed by the installers of this project. First, let's consider the "oh, that makes sense" mechani- cal logistics of channel letter installation. Here are a few key points that must always be remembered: Every channel letter with LEDs (or other illumination) will have wires protruding out the back of the letter, and they RACEWAYS AND WIREWAYS WHEN TO USE EACH, AND THE REASONS FOR THE DIFFERENCE 2 6 G R A P H I C S P R O • N O V E M B E R 2 0 2 2 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M

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