PVC is hard and is the least expensive material for carved signs because it requires less labor to produce a smooth quality finish. 1″ thick PVC is generally suitable for single and double sided signs and is available in 4’x8′ and 5’x10′ panels. Finish size should be 95″x47″ or 59″x119″ so as not to use the factory edge. Larger than 95″ requires a 10′ panel. Edges should be smooth and painted.
PVC has a tendency to warp. When mounting double sided signs between posts the design should incorporate a slight arc or be flat across the bottom to allow for a .25″ color matched aluminum flat stock to be added to the top and/or bottom when possible for rigidity. Single sided signs should have a rear mounted metal angle or wood bracing across the back and/or rear mounted posts are recommended. Hot climates like Florida should not use PVC when mounting between posts. Mounting PVC to a wall surface can be done using rear mounted cleats or angle top and bottom for a blind mount. Smaller signs can be key-holed and come with a pattern or template.
PVC cannot be sandblasted. A wood grain surface effect can be achieved with milling software. It works well for shallow hand carving, cut out and dimensional letters and images. It is heavy. It can be bonded together for increased thickness but not length. Ends need to be butted together. The material needs to move. It is weatherproof and will last for years. Highly suitable for layered dimensional signs. Most profitable for shops.
HDU is a little more expensive because it requires more labor to produce a smooth quality surface. It’s porous surface requires a high build filling primer and a skim coat of filling putty and sanding to obtain a high quality surface prior to painting. It is soft so It carves nice and sandblasts much faster than wood. Sandblasting leaves an uneven pebble texture and when adding a grain frame a simulated wood grain effect is achieved.
HDU is an easy material to bond together for a seamless surface to make any size panel. The most common is 15lb material with an 18lb used for smaller detail requirements. When hanging between posts an internal steel or aluminum frame is recommended to prevent the sign from snapping if impacted in any way. Generally two 1.5″ 15lb panels will have the backs milled to accept the 1″ square frame then bonded together making a 3″ thick panel. This material can be used in any climate. It is also used for hand carved features, post panels and caps and other decorative features or embellishments. Generally sells for the same price as the PVC sign and is slightly less profitable.
Wood is more expensive because it requires a blank to be made where other products are made in sheets. There are two categories of wood for signs. Hard wood and soft wood. Wood signs if fabricated correctly and protected with finish products such as Matthews paint can look great and last for a long time.
Most outdoor signs that we fabricate are 1.5″ western red cedar. We fabricate our own wood blanks or you may drop ship ALLWOOD brand blanks to us. Interior signs are generally hardwood such as mahogany, oak or maple. Wood is harder and CNC time to produce increases. Sandblasting cedar is also quite time consuming making it much more expensive than HDU. Still, many communities in North America require genuine wood signs and if stained show a beauty only real wood can.