Solid surface material has always worked well for lettering. It makes
good use of scraps and it is fun. Fiddling is therapeutic.
I have some signs to make for a dentist office and I sent a bunch of DXF
drawings to my CNC jobber for a quote. OUCH. It seems he anticipates
difficulties with the hold-down of the smaller letters whilst routing
through 1/2" of acrylic.
To make a long story short. he wants too much money and can't guarantee
results. I have worked with this guy for years and trust he's being up
front with me.
I can buy a reasonable band-saw, cut the letters myself and still make
out okay on the money side. I have Googled and Googled and there seems
to be a variety of 14" units which will be fine.
I understand that the Delta, Powermatic and General will all take the
Carter guides and run bi-metal blades at lower speeds. I have done this
type of thing (on an old 3-wheel 16" Delta) in the past so I know 1 HP
is adequate for my application.
Budget is between 500 and 700 Can$ (350-500US$) plus the guides.
Here's my request:
Am I missing a brand I could be looking at? Are the Carter guides really
that good? Or are some standard guides good enough for now? Do I buy a
fence with the saw or hold off till I can afford an after market/better
I have no intentions to get into ripping.
Dust control is important.
We have a brand here called King... worth looking at?
Thank you fine gents in advance, I remain
If I were going to make letters, and having done a few, I'd prefer to
decline, it would be on a scrollsaw. Good parallel-arm brands out there,
I'm sure. I've got an antique Delta "C" arm for what I do. Main reason for
the scroll is to do insides, secondary to minimize edge cleanup, though as I
learned from my experience - viewing distance is your friend.
I agree that doing lettering under 1.5 inches thick, a scroll saw is the
tool to look at.
Doing Acrylic (Corian, nairoc, etc) on scroll saw takes special techniques
(as well as blade), and involves a learning curve that may impact your
However, your original post stated that Dust control was important. Scroll
Saws, at least the ones I know about, don't have that in your budget.
Noticed from your email address that you might be located in Canada. There
is a web forum http://www.workshopbuzz.com/forum/ sponsored by Canadian
magazine HomeWorkshop. You might be able to post a "scrollsaw
sub-contractor wanted" post at that site and exchange forum member's private
mail with a scrollsaw hobbyist local to your area.
There are also web sites that craft show people sign up at that could also
give you leads to scrollsaw sub-contractors. The ones I know about are
focused to USA crafters. A new thread on this NG might give you Canadian
crafter listings web sites.
I have the king industrial model of the 14". So far I am quite pleased.
See my web site.
We also have a Delta scroll saw.
Send me some small samples and, if you can, a blade recommendation. I
will try the material and give you the results. That should save a few
I use the tufftooth blades -- so maybe you can look at them and see what
would be appropriate.
Does this stuff require a metal cutting blade?
Actually, you'd be surprised but many plastics and composites cut
better with skip tooth wood blade than metal blades. The metal blades
don't go anywhere, they just drag back and forth. You actually need
something with sharp teeth. I learned this the hard way when trying to
cut a large block of composite plastic on a horizontal metal cutting
band saw. Nothing happened. What I needed was a sharp skip tooth wood
Remember that with a band saw you're either going to have to make letters
with hollow centers (a, b, d, g, o, p, q, 0, etc) in two parts or you're
going to have to cut and reweld/braze the blade for each letter.
Sneak into the centre of the letter and close up the kerf with a sliver
of solid surface material and colour matched adhesive...you won't see
the seam. With the exception of the Oo's, you can put the kerf next to
the de/ascenders and really hide it nicely.
I made a bunch of routed wooden engraved signs a couple years ago and I
always fantasied having them CNC'd...
Did you look at Jet? There kinda pricy though. Seperately, I would
definately recommend a scroll saw for any kind of complex shapes.
Remember: most letters have interior cuts and you can't do that on a
bandsaw. Scroll saws were in fact developed for cutting intricate
scrollwork. However, since the scroll saw is rather slow and noisy, I
would rough out the shapes first on the bandsaw, then finish up on the
scroll saw. I would take a look at the Dremel models. They aren't
huge, but very accurate and not as noisy as some of the larger models.
On the dust collection side, I would outfit the scroll saw with an
aftermarket dust collector which is simply an acrylic or wood box that
attaches to the bottom of the saw and catches all the dust. You can
even buy or make them with a fitting for a shopvac or dust collection
Hope you can get it done.
For cutting 1/2 acyrlic, I would look into a qualiity scroll saw. You
are NOT going to be able to cut the holes inside letters like A, B, D,
O, P, Q, etc with a bandsaw. There is NO NEED to use bi-metal blades
for cutting plastics, and quality scroll saws are adjustable speed
I don't know anybody with that kinda gear. A whole new bag of research.
But the 'hold-down' requirements would likely by less stringent,
certainly with lasers. Lasers will likely 'burn' the cut, to the point
of charred edges. I'm guessing here. The water jet might be a solution.
I will look into it. But the prices of that kind of equipment will be
higher or as high as CNC/spindle and the technology is relatively new so
most of that stuff hasn't been depreciated much.
Shouldn't. Lasers are hot in a way that nothing else in your experience is
likely to be hot. Surface of a star hot. Heat transfer is so rapid that
they vaporize the target spot without significantly affecting the
surrounding material. If they charred anything the wouldn't be useful for
surgery because the surgeon would have to clean out the damaged tissue
before he closed, which kind of defeats the purpose.
Actually, I have seen some incredible lasercam work in acrylic,
polycarbonate, etc. I am on a robotics team and many teams in the
competition cut the team numbers out with a lasercam. As I understand
it, the lasercam works by vaporizing the material, not burning it.
Also a lasercam will produce a polished edge, while a waterjet will
leave a slightly ground looking edge. Steve Knight is correct. The
lasercam and waterjet hold the the sheet material on a flat bed, while
the cnc holds it in a vise like normal metalworking machinery. With
lasercam and waterjet, you can just cut all the letters at once, each
letter dropping free as it is cut.
My first thought about making lettering is to use a router and a
lettering template kit. There are several letting templates available
for routers, and reasonably priced. Or, use a scroll saw--high
quality scroll saws can be expensive.. My third choice is between a
bandsaw or jigsaw. With a bandsaw you can't cut inside, as in making
letters a,b,d,e,g,o,p, and q. A router can cut into material or
through it. With acrylic, you need to be concerned about the speed
of the bit which needs to be a little slower than for wood, and to cut
through 1/2" at least 2-3 passes are needed.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.