WHAT KINDS OF METALS ARE TYPICALLY USED FOR THE BASE OF A SIGN?
Known for its durability, metal has been widely used as a base material for signs. Cast iron road signs and markers with embossed lettering were standard in the 19th century and into the 20th century, particularly in Great Britain and the United States. Today, steel and aluminum are the most common metals used in metal sign fabrication. Each of these two materials have advantages and disadvantages.
One-third the weight of steel, aluminum has rust resistant properties. Colors can be dyed directly onto the surface and some dips can give the metal a highly reflective quality. However, aluminum can have some limitations when it comes to specific surface treatments. But, overall, it is a popular and flexible material for signs and sign systems.
WHAT IS THE BEST FINISH FOR CUSTOM METAL SIGNS?
Because metal needs protection, a basic finish is standard in the sign fabrication industry. Finishes also can make a metal sign eye-catching, a desired feature for environmental signage.
Overview of Enamel Finishes
|Air Dry Enamel||Baked Enamel||Porcelain Enamel|
|How it's applied||Sprayed on (procedure similar as baked enamel)||A melamine-base coating is sprayed on using an air fluid or airless spray method||A mix of inorganic material (frit) and water is sprayed on to the surface|
|Catalysts||Air dry (kiln heating can be done, but requires precision to avoid vaporization)||Heat (kiln at 250° F)||Heat (kiln at 1000° F)|
|How it sets||Surface film on metal||Surface film on metal||Integrates into the structure of the metal, which becomes porous when heated|
|What it’s best on||Aluminum and steel (often used for metal signs that cannot fit in a standard sized kiln)||Aluminum (a rust-inhibiting primer is needed for steel)||Steel (aluminum may lose its shape at the high temperatures required to bake the porcelain enamel)|
|Hardness||Less than baked enamel||Very good||Very good|
|Color matching||Can use most paint matching systems||Can use most paint matching systems||Can use most paint matching systems, with some limitations|
|Tendency to fade||Variable. Lighter colors last longer than darker colors||Variable. Color and gloss are factors, with semigloss considered best finish. (High gloss and matte are less resistant to fade, therefore not recommended)||Minimal to none. Some fade possible with reds, oranges and yellow when used outdoors, but known for its overall uniform longevity|
|How long it lasts||5-12 years||5-15 years||20-30+ years|
If you are interested in custom metal signs, it is best to consult an experienced sign fabricator to discuss your needs. Because there are a range of techniques, expert advice can help you determine the process that can best achieve the aesthetic and functional results you require. At Ramsign, we specialize in porcelain enamel coated metal wall signs. We use a steel base and manufacture every sign by hand. Contact us if you have a special design request or would like to learn more about our products.
If you would like to get some more information check our Scandinavian Design, Real Estate Signs, Vintage Signs, Yard Signs, and Door Signs inspiration posts.