Searching For The Right Tool On An Interior LED-Lighted Sign

Having the right tool for the job is a pretty important aspect of being a sign maker. Sometimes that tool can cost $10,000 or sometimes it could cost $10. The thing is, when you need it, you need it. Talking with Steve Kolacz, owner of GrafiXhouse Design Studio in Garner, NC, about a recent sign he made, revealed a situation we believe all sign makers can relate to.

Steve’s job was to build an interior sign for a church that could light up at the flip of a switch to let kids know when it was time for them to go into the service. His first step was to design the sign in Adobe Illustrator, followed by selecting the materials he would use for the job: Precision Board, PVC, Dibond and Lexan.


Each substrate was cut in turn on Steve’s ShopBot CNC machine, and put together with a combination of VHB tape and 3M Epoxy.


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Wedge-Cut Quandary

Needing to make a wedge cut on a piece of Precision Board to create a downward-sloping, faux stoplight, Steve found himself in a tough spot – he couldn’t make the cut with his bandsaw because the piece was too big, and he didn’t want to do it on his CNC machine because that would have meant creating a file and spending much more time than necessary on a piece requiring only a single cut. He even asked his neighbor (which is a custom cabinet shop) next door, the ones with the giant table saw and wood working equipment if they would cut it, but they didn’t want anything to do with it.

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Diagram showing the wedge cut Steve needed to make

Bow Saw To The Rescue

In his own words, “after running out of options, and wanting to get this cut over with, I did a slow look around my shop and saw my bow saw in the corner of my eye. I picked it up, walked over to the table and one-handed cut that wedge no problem. All I needed to do afterwards was sand it smooth with my disc sander. The whole process took about 5 minutes. It would have never worked with wood,” says Kolacz.

photoSteve’s bow saw

This mid-sign incident, while not catastrophic, really says a lot to us about what it means to be a sign maker – an unforeseen circumstance needing to be remedied by some quick thinking.

Since the stoplight needed to light up so the kids would know it was time to put the blocks down and get ready for some churchin’, Steve wired LED’s into the yellow stoplight housing and covered each opening with a translucent piece of Lexan.

The entire sign was primed with Kilz Latex Primer and painted with a combination of acrylic and enamels, with the “Quest” portion being airbrushed with a Behr Latex paint. All in all, a beautiful multi-media sign!

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Steve Kolacz has owned GrafiXhouse Design Studio since 2002. Additional works of art, signs and illustrations can be seen on his website at:

We’ve also featured Steve in two previous articles:

 The Art of Hand-Carved Signs/Grafixhouse Design Studio

3-D HDU Signage: To Rout or Carve?



3D Sign-Making DVD: Watch 18 Signs Come To Life

Dayna Reed, owner of Sign Art Signs in Hood River, OR, has been making signs for over 30 years and recently released a signmaking DVD in collaboration with SignCraft Magazine, “More Super Cool 3D Signs.”

Dayna is a huge fan of Precision Board HDU and after telling us about his DVD, and how many of the showcased signs were made with Precision Board, we couldn’t wait to see what he had put together. We received our copy of “More Super Cool 3D Signs” last week and were quite impressed at the amount of knowledge packed in this video. Set to some rockin’ tunes, the DVD shows Dayna as he works on 18 different signs.


Watch Dayna on camera as he demonstrates many interesting techniques such as:

  • Mounting HDU letters to a flatbed printed surface
  • Combining different substrates and media (Alupanel, Dibond, HDU, PVC, etc.)
  • Adding an Iron Oxide finish to HDU
  • Adding texture to 3D HDU letters
  • Gold leafing
  • Airbrushing
  • Repairing a damaged (by a tree) HDU sign
  • Installations

If you are new to Precision Board HDU, 3D signmaking, or simply enjoy watching beautiful signs being made, order your copy of “More Super Cool 3D Signs” at:

Dayna’s website can be seen at:

Here are some of the signs shown in the video:




Signs With Authority – A 55′ long Precision Board Sign

Talk about a sign with some authority! Jeff Wisdom, owner of Oregon SignWorks in Springfield, OR, sent in some pictures of a particularly impressive project he recently completed.

Suspended under a massive 11,000 lb., 85′ long, 36″ diameter Douglas Fir timber is a 55′ long Precision Board Plus sign. Built for the Oregon Garden Resort, the sign consists of 6 full 4′ x 8′ sheets of 1″ thick PBLT-18 and one additional 36″ wide piece. The words “Oregon Garden” were spelled out using 1″ thick PBLT-18 letters cut on Jeff’s MultiCam CNC router. Dibond was used as a core material for additional strength.


Using some critical thinking and elbow grease, Jeff was able to hand-carve realistic looking wood grain into the sign. To accomplish this, several custom tools were used: a 3-prong garden hoe Jeff bent into a custom shape for the larger grain lines and a Nu-Pride Adhesive Spreader with the teeth filed down for the finer grain lines. The knots were shaped using a traditional v-groove wood carving tool. After the wood grain simulation was finished, Jeff primed the sign using FSC-88WB Primer/Filler and painted it with Sherwin-Williams acrylic paint. As you can see, the sign turned out beautiful.

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Supporting the sign is a massive timber structure that was constructed by Nash Logworks, located in Cottage Grove, OR. Each upright log was held in place by two 1/2″ thick x 6″ wide and 8′ long metal plates attached to each side. For structural strength, 4′ of each metal plate was tied down into the concrete and secured with rebar. Coats of Sikkens exterior stain provided weatherproofing and coloring. Total dimensions of the timber structure are 22′ tall x 85′ wide!

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Not to be overlooked is the beautiful 3-d sign located beneath the larger, hanging sign. Cut on Jeff’s CNC router out of PBLT-18, there was a whopping 6 different layers of Precision Board used to create a sharp 3-d look. The finer details were carved into the CNC cut sign with hand tools, and it was finished with the same primer/paint process as the larger sign.

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Jeff started making signs out in Los Angeles, CA in 1987 and eventually opened his own sign shop in his home state of Oregon in 1994. After spending a couple of years making vinyl signs, a visit to a trade show sparked his interested in dimensional signwork and he has specialized in them ever since. As a big fan of hand-carving, Jeff likes Precision Board Plus because of the absence of wood grain and the ease of cutting/carving.

Be sure to check out his website at: to see more amazing signs!