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Signs Win in a Route

(May 2017) posted on Tue May 09, 2017

Dimensional signs broaden offerings and sales margins.

By Mark Kissling

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“Our router is our best friend and employee,” joked Manfred Didier, owner of Timber Signs OHG (Ofterschwang, Germany). With most of the work produced by his company being dimensional signs, you can understand why. “We mostly do 3D signs,” Didier said. “This means that we design most signs from the very beginning as 3D projects. These are [always destined] to be router jobs.” Didier estimates that around 80% of Timber Signs’ jobs are routed from CORAFOAM® HDU from DUNA-Corradini, with the rest spread among Corian, Sintra, Dibond, plywood and laminated wood.

Last year, Timber Signs designed and fabricated a dimensional projecting sign for Kessler, the local hardware store of a small town. Didier and his colleague, Marcus Goebels, designed the sign with the capabilities of their router in mind. “The shape isn’t straight,” Didier said. “This would take way too long by hand and the router does everything perfectly.” Therefore, the letters of the main copy were routed, and all the letters underneath the oval were engraved into the background. They did use chisels to clean away some of the HDU by hand. “Because of the diameter of some tools, the router leaves some marks we don’t want to have,” Didier added.

Timber Signs runs their Gerber Sabre 408 router on Gerber Omega software. Upon completing the routing, they coated the HDU with Jay Cooke Primer, then applied acrylic and 1 Shot paints. They mounted the sign to a smithed, welded and galvanized steel bracket and installed it above the main entrance to the store. The smooth, clean dimensional sign should welcome customers for years to come.

Because Timber Signs uses their router for almost every project, it’s always a major part of the workflow. “After the design is proofed and all necessary files are prepared, we start with routing,” Didier said. “Every other step comes after.” Didier figures around 30-40% of an average project’s time is devoted to routing. “HDU can be routed very fast and easily,” Didier continued. “Some other much harder materials are very sensitive, which can end in damaged edges or even broken router bits.” Timber Signs’ pricing is based on the square feet and “elaborateness” of the design and it always includes the routing time.

“Many mistakes can be made by preparing the router files,” Didier said. “The router just follows the lines you create.” Choosing the right bits and parameters can make a huge difference, making the router and programmer a valuable team member, almost as much as the router itself.

Didier concurs that plenty of research both into the potential market for routed signs as well as routers and software themselves should precede any purchase. “Look for the right dimensions and quality,” Didier advised. “Price is always an issue but a cheap router with bad components can cost you much more over the years than a high-quality router.” Didier also suggests that a tool changer is nice to have, especially if you work with many different bits. Finally, a vacuum pump is a must-have to handle the prodigious dust and other material shavings created in the cutting process. “Use your router as much as possible,” Didier said, “and you will become best friends!”


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