Hitting a Home Run with a Dimensional Sign

Coastal Enterprises, manufacturers of Precision Board HDU, is proud to host guest blogs written by some of the signage industry’s biggest movers and shakers, posted to the Precision Board Blog.  This guest blog is written by Mo Flint with Atomic Barn Studios, based just outside of Raleigh in Willow Spring, North Carolina.  Mo takes us through the steps of designing a dimensional sign for the local athletic club and giving it a classic Americana look using Precision Board HDU and TSF-45 textured surface coating from Coastal Enterprises.

dimensional sign

In Mo’s own words…

Poor field number 3 at our local athletic association’s baseball complex has been without a sign for at least as long as my son has been playing ball there. So, when the fall season donation drive came around, we knew exactly what to contribute — a major-league worthy, classic Americana 3D sign they couldn’t get anywhere else.

I started with a few different concept sketches until the perfect design revealed itself: a slightly used baseball behind an oversized, easily visible number “3” topped with a grassy green “Field”.

With the design in hand, I set to creating a 3D model in Geomagic Freeform. The final sign would be made from three layers of 2” thick, 30-pound Precision Board HDU with steel tubes sandwiched in the center. The number “3” was hand drawn with a raised border to give it some definition. Rather than mirror the stitches for the back they were laid out to line up and flow in the same direction as the front.

dimensional sign

Texture is expected around here and this sign has it in spades. I had been wanting to try TSF-45 for some time and this was the perfect project for it. Instead of adding texture at the 3D stage, I added it to all surfaces, including the steel mounting plate and tubes, after assembly.

Once the 3D work was done, the pieces were rough cut on the CNC with a ½” ball end bit. The finish pass was cut with an X-Edge tapered bit with an 1/8ball end (XTC518) which gave ample detail. When the mounting plate was cut and welded up, it was glued in place before the whole assembly was glued, screwed and left to cure. Sculpting epoxy was used to fill screw holes and finish around mounting tubes.

dimensional sign

TSF-45 was applied directly to the Precision Board urethane foam and over primer on the steel. I used a shop-made tool to comb in the crosshatch texture. The real fun came when the glazes were applied over several layers of discreet base colors. They really add depth and character to the sign.

In the end, the installation went smoothly with two U-bolts to hold everything in place. A shop name plate painted to match the sign was added just below to wrap up the “Field 3” project. This sign will be a beacon for our athletic association’s field 3 and its all-star players for years to come.

Atomic Barn Studios is an independent theming studio specializing in unique sculptural displays and signage. With over 25 years of experience developing 3D products for the biggest names in pop culture, we can bring our unique flavor of design to your project.  You don’t have to be an amusement park titan to understand the power of 3D. Sculptural signs create a feeling that flat signs just can’t reproduce. Whether you are looking to upgrade your board room, create a photo op in your waiting area to entertain and engage your customers, or just want to add some flair outside your business, we can help you stand out from the 2D crowd.  You can email Mo Flint or give Atomic Barn Studios a call at (630) 346-4288.

Coastal Enterprises offers free samples of Precision Board HDU.  Already have a project in mind for our material?  Request a quote and get started today.  Sign up for our monthly blog roundup so you don’t miss any of our informative blogs.  Have a special project fabricated with Precision Board HDU and want to know if it could be featured in a blog on our website?  Give us a call at 800-845-0745 or drop us an email with details.  We’d love to hear from you!

Adding Extra Dimension to the Precision Board Evergreen Herbs Sign

Coastal Enterprises, manufacturers of Precision Board HDU, is proud to host guest blogs written by some of the signage industry’s biggest movers and shakers, posted to the Precision Board Blog.  This guest blog is written by Kevin with  Mayfair Signs based in Chilliwack, BC, Canada.  Kevin tells us how they gave a dimensional sign some extra dimension by routing prismatic letters and attaching them to the sign afterwards.  By using Precision Board urethane foam and a powder-coated bracket, Kevin is ensuring that this sign will also stand up to the test of time and the elements.

In Kevin’s own words…

The customer came to us looking for a company to help design and create a sign with dimension.   We started off with a rough outline and progressed from there.   Using our Enroute Pro software and PBLT-30 Precision Board urethane, we got to work.  The dimensions of the sign would be 72’’ x 42’’ x 1.5’’.  The prismatic letters were cut separately from the sign itself using 1″ thick Precision Board, also 30lb density.  We would glue the letters to the sign to give it the depth we and the customer wanted.   Next up was routing the material, which took about two and a half hours.


Once everything was cut on our Multicam CNC router it was time for primer.  Multiple coats of FSC-88 WB were applied and three base coats of green then followed.

Before painting the prismatic letters, we did a test fitting to make sure everything fit right.

Once all the painting was done on the sign,  we then sprayed the letters using a HVLP gun loaded with metallic gold from Modern Masters.  Every color gets a minimum of three coats to extend the longevity of the sign.

The sign was to float in the middle of two wood posts so a mounting bracket was fabricated using 2’’x 2’’ aluminum angle and welded together.  Once we sandblasted and powder coated the bracket green,  it was time to screw and glue it to the sign.

The sign was delivered and installed and the customer was thrilled,  as were we.  We love using Precision Board HDU for adding dimension to signs because it cuts like buttah!


Mayfair Signs is family owned and operated. They have been making and selling carved dimensional signs,  solid cast aluminum house signs, cottage signs, custom garden plaques and address plaques for over 30 years. They have over 40 different sign shapes and sizes and more than 450 emblems in their cast aluminum line of signs. They guarantee high quality workmanship on all the signs they produce. All work is done on site.  Visit their website, drop them an email, or give them a call at 866-823-4141.

Coastal Enterprises offers free samples of Precision Board HDU if you want to try it for yourself.  Our website offers numerous resources, including how-to videos, helpful blogs, and a newsletter sign-up so you get our Monthly Blog Roundup and won’t miss a thing!

Using Multiple Router Bits to Achieve Greater Lettering Detail

Going back and forth on the design of a sign to get it just right is fairly common.  What made the Twin Peaks monument sign different was the fact that the director (and pastor) of the conference center was a former carpenter and had very specific ideas for what he wanted.  When Adam Campos with Graphics MFG was brought in to make the design a reality, he not only got it done on time, but also added some stylistic touches.  Adam talks us through routing the Precision Board HDU, creating the powder-coated metal frame and using multiple router bits to embellish the lettering on the sign.

router bits

Adam used five sheets of 15 lb. Precision Board (4′x8’x2”) to fabricate 6 signs. He used ArtCAM for programming the cutting on his own custom-made CNC router. Campos then used Rhino 3D to render a highly detailed set of drawings, including bevels and all the small details on the signs for approval prior to the actual cut process. “I had to use a 1/4” diameter boxcore bit to give the letters and art a 1/8” radius at the base, so I carved all the letters and art out using a series of different router bits to speed up production and achieve the desired result” he says.

He started with a 1′′ Flycutter (#RC-2443) router bit to rough out all the areas. Then he moved down to a 1/4′′ Flat Mill (#51646) to do the light detail work. Finally, a Core Box (#45904) bit to make the bevels at the base of the letters and the art. All router bits were from Tools of Today.

Adam prefers to use Precision Board HDU. “It’s easy to get a smooth finish, even if you need to sand it. It’s effortless. You spend extra money up front, but you save it in the labor. Once it comes off the router, it’s almost like a finished piece,” he says. “As long as your speeds and feeds are right, you get finished edges, leaving the focus on prime, paint and assembly.”

The HDU signs were coated with Killz Multi-Purpose Primer and Sherwin Williams exterior acrylic enamel.

Campos drew up custom brackets that bolted to the sidewalls of the stone columns. The sidewalls and cross-sections were made from 2 x 2 x 1/8″ angled iron and were secured to the stone using Tapcon Anchors. All 24 custom-produced brackets & 16 pieces of 10 foot iron were powder-coated grey to help with the aesthetics and to prevent rust. For extra support he put 3/8′′ carriage bolts on the four corners of the signs, 4′′ long with locking nuts on the back.

So, how long did it take to complete the project from start to finish?

Adam says “it only took about 3-4 hours on the CNC for each of the six HDU boards for a total of about 17 hours of routing time or two solid days.”  He adds, “the longest part of the project was the back and forth with the client over several weeks to get the designs just right.”

router bits

Graphics MFG is an abbreviation for Graphics Manufacturing and specializes in just that. They turn concepts into reality, whether it be custom signage, a physical build out, print, graphic design, CAD, 3D or installation. They handle it all. Graphics MFG has the experience and machinery in- house to deal with the unique aspects of your project with an emphasis on project management. Selecting the right approach towards a job is crucial to a successful end result. Because of this ideology they can handle a wide variety of work that spans beyond just signage. You can contact Adam Campos at (760) 261-4358 or visit his website for more information.

Coastal Enterprises manufactures Precision Board HDU, a versatile, cost-effective and eco-friendly urethane sign material that is particularly effective for making professional-looking indoor and outdoor dimensional signs.  It is a closed-cell rigid substrate that does not rot, warp or crack.  You can request free samplesget a quote or sign up for periodic newsletters packed with helpful information.

Brewing up the 3D Coffee House Sign

When Aversboro Coffee approached Steve Kolacz with GrafiXhouse Design Studios, they needed a 3D sign that could work both as an indoor wall sign for their business and as a trade show display.  The catch was, they only had a week to get it done, so they fabricated a dimensional sign out of Precision Board HDU, Corex and insulation foam, tossed a few lights in and a smoke machine.  The result?  A happy customer and a multimedia sign that doubles as a trade show display.


The sign is made out of PBLT-15, Corex and expanding insulation foam and stands 6′ tall, 3′ wide and 1.5″ thick.  “They were going to a trade show and wanted something they could use for the trade show and then hang on the wall,” says Steve. “They wanted the sign to look like their coffee cup and originally wanted it to be 360 degrees, but we only had a week.”

The main body of the cup was routed from 15 pound Precision Board HDU on their ShopBot CNC using Adobe Illustrator and ArtCam Insignia.

Steve scanned the coffee cup sleeve, digitally printed it and attached it to Corex. He flipped the material so that it would bend like cardboard and put slits in to let it take some bends and curves.  The Corex was then attached to the Precision Board and a red light was added behind the coffee sleeve to backlight it.

The top part of cup that appears to be a frothy foam was actually expanding insulation foam secured on top of the HDU. “I tried out expanding foam to give the froth some texture,” Steve added.

Because the sign also had to work as a trade show display, Kolacz added a back piece it that could be folded out or also hung up on a wall.  Steve says, “I made a French cleat that could be opened up into an a-frame.”

Steve used One Shot and Createx Colors airbrush paint on the high-density urethane.  It wasn’t a super labor-intensive project, but Steve says it took them about a week to rout, paint, airbrush and light.  Just in time for the trade show, but he had one more trick to complete the effect.  They hooked up a smoke machine behind the sign to give the appearance of steam.

Steve and GrafiXhouse Design have done a lot of 3d work with Precision Board HDU and there’s a reason for that.

“I like the ease that you can cut, rout and shape it.  You can use grinders, all kinds of dremels and tools to give it different looks.”  He adds, “try using really heavy grit sandpaper and you can get into some very unique shaping.”  Above all, he likes the uniformity of surface when working with high-density urethane.  “You don’t get knots.”

GrafiXhouse Design Studios is located in North Carolina and is staffed by professional artists that have degrees in fine art and advertising.  They do everything from logo design, company branding and marketing to 3d signs, tradeshow props and banners.  We are very impressed with their work and highly recommend them.  Give them a call at (919) 329-5743 or visit their website.

Coastal Enterprises manufactures Precision Board HDU, a versatile, cost-effective and eco-friendly urethane sign material that is particularly effective for making professional-looking indoor and outdoor dimensional signs.  It is a closed-cell rigid substrate that does not rot, warp or crack.  You can request free samples, get a quote or sign up for periodic newsletters packed with helpful information.

How this Black Panther Clawed its Way through Precision Board HDU

We came across this great article in the May issue of Signs of the Times magazine from Mike Bethune of Bethune Signs.  He talked about using Precision Board to create a dimensional sign for a Florida high school.   When a storm destroyed the sign at the entrance to the football stadium, officials got in touch with Mike and asked him to make a new sign.  They wanted it to feature a panther, the school mascot.  He had designed the original sign in 1998 and wanted to make something this time that would withstand the harsh Florida weather.  Mike used Precision Board HDU, a closed-cell, rigid substrate which would not warp, rot or absorb moisture.  In addition to its durability, Mike really liked the creative flexibility of working with Precision Board as seen here in this excerpt from his article:

When I first designed the sign, I put gashes at the top so it would look like the panther was clawing at it, trying to get through. But when I was carving, I looked at the gashes and realized they, too, were missing something, so I added folds to make it look like the panther was bending the metal outward.

I reached a point where I knew something was off but couldn’t put my finger on it, so I asked a friend what she thought and she noticed it right off. I had the nose too wide, so I carved some off and sure enough it looked better, but something was still off. Finally, I noticed what it was – I had the top fangs too far apart. Now you might be thinking, “That’s a shame. He’s already carved the fangs where they are.” But this sign is made of HDU, not Italian marble, so I cut the fangs off, glued and screwed them back on, only closer together. I had the look I wanted.

Precision Board HDU is a great material for carving, whether by hand or on a CNC machine.  Bethune Signs in Thonotosassa, FL can be contacted at (813) 982-2300 or through the website at www.bethunesigns.com.  Great story, Mike!  You can read the full article on the Signs of the Times website.