View Full Version : New Corian Hall Signs

Keith Outten
12-20-2004, 11:58 AM
I'm not sure how much interest there is in signage but I know that there are a few of our members who have just purchased laser engravers and are looking for new ways to get their business off the ground. I have had a considerable amount of success making commercial signs and in this thread I will share the construction details of my new hall signs. Those of you who do not own or have access to metalworking equipment could find a local shop to provide these services for you, it is worth the effort to find such a source since this type of work is less competitive than lower end designs.

Made from Corian these signs are engraved on both sides as they are designed to be hung perpendicular to the wall. The design required them to be modern style and it was important that they did not look Colonial so a hanging style mount which is the most common was out of the question. My second requirement was to keep the signs as maintenance free as possible and to create signs that would last for decades. I like to use Corian whenever I can, it is easilly obtained and a great material to work with.

My sign blanks were cut on a CNC Router however in the past I have engraved blanks with a border line as a guide for cutting the outside edge on my bandsaw, then sand the edges as required. Whichever method you have at your disposal you will need to engrave a plywood guide with the outline of your blank to help you align the blank for engraving the second side. Edge treatment on these signs was a simple roundover since both sides would be visible and I needed to leave enough of the edge to drill holes for the 3/16" diameter pins that hold the sign to the hanger.

The Corian was engraved using a paper mask then painted. After the paint is dry I removed the mask and used my random orbital sander with 220 grit paper to clean up the top surface. A very light sanding will not disturb the paint and you can wash the Corian sign in water to remove any dust that settles in the subsurface areas.

Photo 1 - Hallway photo with inset showing the signs installed.
Photo 2 - Signs after engraving and edge treatment including the small cover plates.
Photo 3- Closeup of the sign for the Music department.

Keith Outten
12-20-2004, 12:48 PM
The construction of the hangers for these signs is a bit more complex than you would think. The small Corian cover plate must be installed on the 3/8" diameter bars before the mounting plate is welded. This requires that all of the holes be drilled perfectly so that the cover plate is able to slide over the bars to cover the mounting plate and screws.

I used 3/8" diameter mild steel round stock for the main support. The bar was bent on a small inexpensive parts bender available from Northern Tools. I used the benders pivot pin as a guide for the 180 degree bend as it would provide the smallest bend of any guide I had. Drill 3/16" diameter holes as required and cut two 3/16" by 1" long pins to mount your Corian sign to the top bar. This is a press fit and will not require any adhesive.

The mounting plates were fabricated from 1" wide by 1/8" thick flat bar. Take extra care to drill the inside set of 3/8" holes to match the bar dimentions and keep in mind that your cover plates will also have to be drilled to match your particular layout. The two outside holes are not critical, these are your mounting holes used to install your sign to the wall and can be scribed with a pencil when you install the sign. Make sure you countersink the two mounting holes, this will provide extra clearence for the screw heads so that your cover plate will fit flush to the wall.

Cover plates should be machined on the back side to allow for the thickness of the mounting plate, this can be done on a milling machine, drill press or router. Make sure that you either allow extra space for the screw heads or countersink them as described above.

A simple plywood jig was built to hold the bar and mounting plate in position and the back side of the plate was Mig welded to the bars then the welds were ground flat. Of course you must install the Corian cover plate before welding the bar to the plate, keep a small bucket of water nearby to cool the steel quickly before it melts the Corian :)

Your mileage may vary but 20 of these signs could easilly pay for that shiny new desktop engraver you just purchased, I sincerly hope this helps some of you and encourages you to look closely at the commercial sign business... :rolleyes:

Shaddy Dedmore
12-20-2004, 1:59 PM
You do really nice work Keith. And thanks so much for sharing. Gives me something to shoot for.

Tyler Howell
12-20-2004, 2:16 PM
They look great Keith.

Will the students be able to do chin-ups as they're known to do in institutions of learning??

Keith Outten
12-20-2004, 2:30 PM

I hope that the students will not try to use the signs for physical training, the sheetrock definately will not be able to withstand the abuse :)

The bar design does allow for another use by the way. During certain events the University can hang custom banners over the bottom bar. For instance they may have a custom banner made for graduation day with the phrase "Congratulations Graduates". I'm sure they will be innovative and put the capability to good use :)


Thanks for the kind words. I hope in the coming months to be able to share some other work that is much more innovative and challenging. I see lots of inlay work and Corian heat bending in my near future :)

As a point of interest the blanks for these signs were the first production job for my CNC Router and it took 90 seconds per blank to cut them. The match line guide I setup for engraving the second side of the signs matched the CNC blanks perfectly. Ya gotta love those cool machines!!!

Kevin Huffman
12-20-2004, 4:11 PM
Very good work Keith,
The design is simple but very effective. Thanks for sharing.

mike wallis
12-20-2004, 5:10 PM
Very nice work Keith! How is the learning curve for the CNC router? When I was looking at them months back it was steep, especally if you didn't have CAD experience.

Keith Outten
12-20-2004, 10:41 PM

Based on my limited knowledge of sign design and what I have read on the subject simple designs are the best, especially when they are small in size. I do have some larger projects in the que and I plan to use multiple colors of Corian, inlays and some detailed design. I like to incorporate laser work on each sign, it adds an element that is unique and makes a huge difference.


The learning curve on the Router is steep but I can't say that it has anything to do with CAD since I'm not using any CAD program for the Router yet. The ShopBot comes with two programs, one does simple design work and is used to develope tool paths and another that is used to control the machine. Of course you can design in CorelDraw or any software you prefer such as CAD programs and import your work into the ShopBot software.

My ShopBot training has been infrequent to say the least lately. The situation is a catch-22 in that I have a ton of work to do and can't spend the time I would like learning to use the ShopBot. If I was up to speed it would sure help with the workload :) I also haven't had the time to build a plywood box for my PC to run the Bot and I have designed an overhead arm to support my DC hose to the Bot and can't find a block of hours to get it built. My current plan is to be patient and not worry about it now, over the Holidays I should be able to tie up the loose ends.

It will be awhile before I will be able to do detailed work with the ShopBot.

Charles McKinley
12-21-2004, 12:02 AM
Hi Kieth,

Everything I have seen you do is of intrest due to the quality workmanship and the ideas behind it. Were the designs yours or did they say what shape they wanted them?

Keep the busines growing! It is terrible not to have enough time to get the bugs worked out of the new tools and all of the little things to make it just the way you want it. I'm sure you will have it mastered shortly as you use it.

Thanks for sharing,

Keith Outten
12-22-2004, 5:23 AM

The shape of these signs is a design that Aaron worked out months ago when we started making signs for the Ferguson Center for the Arts. Whether the signs are portrait or landscape we have used this same basic shape for all of their signs. After I finish the hall signs we will be working on directories for all of the hallways.

The ShopBot is truly an amazing machine, I should be able to build a simple plywood box for my shop computer this weekend and have the new swinging arm welded and mounted to support the DC hose in the overhead. Last but not least will be a large steel box to catch the chips which will sit outside the shop. I don't use bags on my DC system, normally I just blow the chips outside in a pile. Now that I am routing Corian it is necessary to catch the chips for disposal which I used to do with a shopvac on small jobs.

I'm looking forward to the first wooden signs we make and hope to be able to do some relief sandblasting soon as well.

Aaron Koehl
12-22-2004, 9:57 AM
The basic shape of the face we worked out a few months ago, specifically for freestanding signs. However, the face design was done specific to this job with the existing motif in mind (the notched rectangles). This was my first attempt at using the ShopBot. Everything went smoothly as the routed signs matched perfectly when placed in the laser engraver--especially nice since both sides of the sign were to be engraved.

The design challenge for these signs was to "not look colonial". The problem is we still had to match what is inherently a colonial styling (the notched rectangles). This precluded the use of any painted black iron, as well as any metal scrolls typical in hanging signs. The hanging signs themselves had too much of an antique feel to them which wouldn't work in such a modern structure, so Keith elected for a "sitting" sign with the hardware painted gold.

The hanger and matching wall mount were all Keith's ideas, and I think he did an outstanding job.