View Full Version : Help With Wooden Sign and Painting...

Scott Erwin
07-25-2008, 5:35 PM
I have a customer that wants to replace their existing weathered wooden sign. I have very limited (actually exceptionally limited) experience in wood and paints. So much so that I don't know exactly what I need to prep the sign. I have a sole owner, part-time/hobby vinyl sign business with laser engraver. I usually work with metal, glass, plastic, and normal MDO (pre-painted) substraits for the vinyl signs but this one is a little different for me.

Here is what I have. The existing sign is a 14" x 36" x 3/4" plywood sign that appears to have been painted and then vinyl lettering applied. It does not look like the standard color (white) for pre-painted MDO plywood. Also the edges are not painted thus leading me to believe this is not what I am used to working with.

Here is my question: Since I don't usually use wood as my substrait when making vinyl signs, I have a few concerns that I can make this sign last and produce a good product.

1. What is the best wood to use for an outdoor sign of this nature? If I dont have to use MDO, that is good, then what plywood (customer wants to stay with this as this is what they used in the past.)

2. What is the best prep work to make the final product? Vinyl letters are goind to be applied to the finished product and I want them to stick correctly...duh...:confused:

3. I need to have it painted. What is the best type of paint and how should it be applied? Again, vinyl lettering is going to be placed on the item so it has to accept the vinyl and stick good. Customer says last sign lasted 10 years, so they are expecting the same. (I use Arlon, 3M, and Oracal for my vinyl.)

4. Please be as detailed and specific as you can, like I said, I have NO experience in this field, but would like to learn so I can expand my business also.

Thank you in advance for all your suggestions and help,:D


Joe Pelonio
07-25-2008, 7:02 PM
I'll tell you what I do. Yes, if it has to be plywood then use MDO. Seal any voids in the edges with a good exterior wood dough, sand and prime. Also prime the MDO if you don't buy it pre-primed. For the paint, if it cannot be pure white, use the best quality exterior paint you can find and spray, or use a foam roller. Look for paint with a lifetime or 25 year guarantee.
Take a paint chip book or pantone book with you to the old sign to find a match. Make sure also to prime the back.

Vinyl lettering will stick fine to any smooth surface, but gloss or at least semi will hold them better and also repel dirt better. For the vinyl just make sure it's premium (cast) vinyl, normally 2 mil thickness.

All that being said, think about up selling to provide a better looking product and at the same time make more money using the tools you have there. In other words, think about a design where the major text (company name and phone perhaps) is laser cut 1/8" or 1/4" acrylic letters, the rest of the graphics vinyl. Show them samples and quote both ways.

Are you installing? If so, don't just use screws in the corners, but go for some in between too, to limit the warping that may come with age and exposure to the elements. You could provide a longer lasting sign with one of the aluminum on plastic core products such as dibond, but you'd still be subject to the aging of the paint since you would not be able to buy it already in the correct color for this job.

Brian Stoddard
07-28-2008, 10:47 AM
I cat remember the last time I used MDO for a permanent sign - but plenty for temporary stuff. When I used to use it a lot the there were some tricks to make it last.

1. As Joe says - fill the voids on the edges.
2. I like to very slightly round the edges to allow water to run off and then coat them with epoxy.
3. Acrylic Latex works well - semi gloss or gloss
4. If you can spray, I suggest Matthews or other urethane paint

I very rarely have had anyone argue with upgrading to DiBond or similar after explaining the benefits but if it has to match it may be your only choice - I have seen signs I have made over ten years ago from MDO that still look good although I would never try to guarantee a ten year warranty on any sign.

Joe Pelonio
07-28-2008, 11:26 AM
II have seen signs I have made over ten years ago from MDO that still look good although I would never try to guarantee a ten year warranty on any sign.
I only give a guarantee when asked, and I make it one year, with a disclaimer about vandalism. The only claims I've ever had were aluminum signs that were posted near at a mountain pass ski report area. The snow was piled up against them for a few weeks and sucked off the vinyl lettering.

Scott Erwin
07-28-2008, 8:37 PM
Thanks for the call and the information you gave me in addition to the posted info. Nice to know someone from down here and can talk about some of the same things in this area.

Thanks for the re-enforcement of Joe's input and I will see about rounding the edges a bit, didnt think about that idea. I am going to see about DiBond, and try to get the customer to agree to it, but like you indicated, they are replacing and existing sign and we may have the 'Why change now?' thought process....but we will see.

The customer has been told that I will not give a 10 year warranty on the sign but I will warranty it for 4 years, for material and workmanship, not outside influences. (Someone else painting it for me after it is up with some graffiti that I cant read..)