View Full Version : Keith, can you explain the Sign bus. more?

Shaddy Dedmore
10-01-2004, 11:24 AM
I'm intrigued but I'm not exactly following what you mean. Do you mean lasering the plaques that mark office doors and bathrooms (do you use rowmark stuff for that?). Or do you mean larger things. What materials do you use, and what other equipment do you use pre-post laser?

I saw one corian sign posted here on the board, that looked nice, but it also looked like a lot of other tools were involved (and what was used for paint, what sticks well to corian?)

Thanks for any words of wisdom.

Keith Outten
10-01-2004, 5:53 PM

Yes, I have done some office door signs from simple white plastic masked with tape during engraving then sprayed with paint for color. These were really nice since I vector cut them and they were not the same old square signs that most sign shops make. A sheet of 1/4" plastic is very inexpensive when you figure how many door signs you can make per sheet...much cheaper than buying engraving stock.

Yes, I also mean larger signs like the ones I posted earlier made from Corian and Rowmark 1/16" Laser Max materials. Corian cuts easilly with a table saw and router so large signs are possible without purchasing any new tools. The pictures I posted earlier the Corian was actually out-sourced to a local cabinet shop because I didn't have the time to make them myself. The customer gave me such a large amount of work I had to out-source to meet the deadline. In the future I will cut and prep my own Corian as long as the delivery schedule allows enough time. I designed the sign and did the engraving work the same evening that the counter top shop did the Corian work. There was no paint on this job although I have used Krylon and Rustoleum spray paints to paint-fill Corian with excellent results. I now have three more even larger Corian signs to complete in my shop right now and I just delivered two additional small signs last Friday. BTW you can use colored caulking to fill text and graphics in plastic or Corian signs, very cheap and available at the local Borg.

Part of this job involved engraving glass in color using the Thermark materials, the results were stunning. I had a local glass shop cut and bevel 1/4" glass to my customers specifications then drill a 1/2" hole in each end for the brass mounts. One glass sign with just one word engraved was worth the same price of engraving 5 black marble plaques :) Total engraving time was 15 minutes and the total Corel Draw time was 5 minutes.

Corian is a really great sign material and most of the jobs I have done to date were done with free scraps from a local shop (sink cut-outs). I just ordered a full sheet of Corian for the same customer...it was over $650 for the sheet but will provide many times that in revenue from the large signs I have been commissioned to make. Corian combined with the right engraving material will provide a sign that will last for decades without any maintenance other than cleaning. Customers like the no maintenance part.

Another customer has just commisioned me to build two exterior 8 foot long wooden radial design signs with Corian inlays.

The CNC router I referenced in the other thread is just the tool to make Corian cut-outs for large volume jobs, route text and machine inlays for laser engraved signs. CNC routers will also do 3D carving and text. The dye-sublimation printer will allow me to transfer photos and text to Corian and a host of other materials so that I can add color signs to my list of offerings. Oh and last but not least dye-sub printers will produce really high quality color T-shirt transfers.

I just know you have more questions...ask away.

Pardner, theres gold in them thar signs!

Keith Outten
10-01-2004, 6:34 PM

Look at this page and check the prices.


Most of these are Corian plaques which you can get the Corian for free and with a 3 dollar can of Krylon you can charge $454.00 like item B on the page. Outrageous but absolutely true.

Lynn Kull
10-01-2004, 8:48 PM
Hi Keith, you definately have gotten my attention....

I did some tests on corian, tried to engrave some pictures but didn't turn out very good. I do not have air assist and was told it was a good idea with corian. Do you find that air assist is necessary? thanks Lynn

Shaddy Dedmore
10-01-2004, 9:46 PM
I'm definately going to be doing some experimenting. Thanks for the new direction.

What kind of plastic did you use? I bought some 1/16 stuff from rowmark (the Value stuff, not the laserMax) and I had a hard time vectoring it. It seemed to be melting back together. I don't know how it would have handled 1/4 of the same stuff. I have a 45W 24TT.

The dye sub stuffs have caught my eye, but I need some income before I commit more outgo. baby steps.

Thanks for the description of what you can do, it really helps for those of us that are looking for different markets.

Here's a tip, that might work for some people without tools. I have all the woodworking equipment to do the corian (just not the skill to use it ;) )... but for those wanting to enter the corian market without a lot of pay out upfront for tools, I think you can get by with a router (in the begining). All you need is a carbide router bit (corian is rough of the sharp edges I hear, so it needs to be strong). And a router.

There are pattern following bits, such as the ones on the attached pic. Notice the ball bearing. You can create a pattern using your laser with 1/4 wood or plastic, then attach it to some corian (with adhesive or using clamps, with clamps, do half then move clamps and do other half). The ball bearing will follow the pattern and cut out the shape to match. Poof, there's your shape.

I'd suggest using a straight cutting bit (not pictured) first, then follow up with a contoured one, or one with a simple chamfer. The shaped ones have a lot of surface cutting area and will bog down your machine when plowing through all that hard corian in one pass.

You can make straight cuts just by using a straight piece for a pattern.

I think a Sander would probably be the next on the list, for beautifying the edges and for the overspray from color filling.

I just added that tip because it sounds like there are a few people with different backgrounds here, not everyone has a shop full of tools.


Keith Outten
10-02-2004, 12:33 AM

I always use air assist, it came installed on my machine and considering the amount of dust involved engraving Corian I would guess it is a necessity. You could stop your engraving job to clear away the dust periodically when engraving materials like Corian.

I use PhotoGrav to engrave photos in Corian because they must be dithered and PhotoGrav does a great job that manually is tough to accomplish. Although Aaron has had some success manually processing photos for Corian engraving in PhotoShop I choose to stick with PhotoGrav.


I purchase 1/4" AcryLite, simular to Plexiglass, from a local plastics dealer in 4' by 8' sheets. AcryLite vector cuts and engraves well by my 35 watt Legend 24 with clean sharp edges. In solid colors it is about $80.00 per sheet. It also is a nice inlay material to use with Corian. Door type signs at $30.00 each cost you about 3 bucks including paint...at $27.00 each in your pocket they are proffitable. My competitors sell signs of lesser quality for 50 dollars each.

You can pattern route Corian or another technique is to engrave the outline and cut it with your bandsaw. Next sand the edges smooth and route them using whatever bit you feel looks best. Sometimes a simple quarter round is best, my favorite is a roman ogee for most projects.

Bill Karow
10-18-2004, 10:24 AM
Keith -

Can you expand on what equipment is needed to make the laser-cut signs (not the WW stuff, but the laser setup)? I've looked about for a FAQ on laser equipment, but didn't find one. If there's a better place to ask these questions, or if you have a link to a site that covers basics for curious newbies, please point me at it!


Keith Outten
10-18-2004, 9:50 PM

Equipment Required - Well its relative to where you want to start, where you want to go and how much money you are willing to invest. Honestly you can do very well with a small desktop laser engraver, several of our members have purchased them recently. A desktop machine will perform probably 90% of the work I normally do with my Epilog Legend 24 and in some ways may even be a better machine.

You should shop around and visit the web sites of each of the main manufacturers of Laser engravers like Epilog, Universal and Pinnacle. Ask them each to send you their literature and samples. Once you have their literature you can compare the options and prices, then you should come back here and ask your specific questions. It can be very confusing shopping for a laser but don't get frustrated just ask your questions here and you will get good advice. There are plenty of SMC members who would be willing to answer questions about their particular models. Get the largest power supply you can afford, more power means you can vector cut thicker materials. Also make sure you get air assist but I would not recommend auto-focus as I believe it is a waste of money and never use mine anymore.

In your workshop you need a means of cutting sheet goods like plastic, Corian and of course wood. You will need a router and bits to prep the edges of your projects and a few buffing wheels for the Corian, a subject I intend to post more about in the near future. The truth is that you could get by with a skill saw and router, other machines just help you get the job done faster and easier.

I doubt you could find a better place to acquire information about lasers than here at SMC. Most of our members who own lasers are more knowledgeable than I am, they will jump in here and offer you some valuable advice and they will tell you the truth without the sales pitch.

Bill Karow
10-19-2004, 11:14 AM
Thanks for the reply, Keith. I'll get some literature and samples, and come back with more questions.