You see a lot of flat signs, and you see a fair amount of 3D signs with flat layers — but you don’t see very many signs with curved panels or curved faces. It’s a great-looking effect Peter Poanessa from Keene Signworx in New Hampshire uses very successfully to add extra visual kick to an already appealing layout. This article appears in Sign Africa Journal

The centre panel is 3mm aluminium composite material on a 12.7cm (5 inch) arc with cut-out 1.9cm (3⁄4 inch) PVC letters, mounted on an oval panel of 5cm (2 inch) thick 8kg (18lb) SignFoam high density urethane board. The secondary copy is incise carved lettering with a carved outline and finished in 23K gold leaf. The shirt is an actual shirt encapsulated in epoxy and finished with latex paint.

‘Most signs are flat,’ said Poanessa, ‘so a curved face is immediately unique and interesting to the viewer. When you couple that with other dimensional elements, you can create something that is really appealing to look at. And that’s the critical task of a creative sign.’

There’s a little engineering involved, of course. Today’s materials and assembly methods, though, make curved faces easier. At first, Poanessa made curved faces using ‘cold forming’. He built a form, then laminated layers of material over it. Once the glue dried and the material was taken off the form, it kept that shape. He often used this approach to form SignFoam high density urethane board over two layers of 6mm (1⁄4 inch) plywood using epoxy to laminate it. He also did a few by cutting curved PVC supports and laminating the HDU board over that.

The main panels are on an arc and were carved from 3.8cm (11⁄2 inch) SignFoam high density urethane board that was laminated to 1.27cm (1⁄2 inch) overlaid plywood with epoxy to form the arc. The star is raised 3D and set into a pocket on the face. The tooth is made from 10 layers of 5cm (2 inch) thick 8kg (18lb) HDU laminated with epoxy with a tubular steel frame through it.

‘As time went on,’ he said, ‘I moved towards using a curved thin-wall tubular aluminium frame with aluminium composite material over it. I bond the face to the frame with Lord adhesive, which chemically welds it to the frame. It’s very strong.

The ampersand is copper sheet on aluminium composite material, mounted on a curved panel of perforated stainless steel over a 1.9cm (3⁄4 inch) overlaid plywood panel.

‘I now have a Baliegh R-M7 radius manual tubing bender. I run the aluminium tubing through it and get nice consistent long arcs. It’s a fairly inexpensive tool that uses a hand crank to feed the tubing between rollers to bend it. Once I have the tubing bent into the arc that I want, I just laminate the aluminium composite material over it. It’s super rigid and super strong.’

The Veterinary panel uses cut-out letters on a curved aluminium composite panel with LEDs behind it. The ‘wood’ on the base of the pylon is a synthetic decking material from the local lumber yard, which comes in a wide range of beautiful colours.
How about using cut-out gilded letters on an arc?
The curved aluminium composite panel at the top carries the cut-out PVC letters, and the image was hand painted on the aluminium composite panel. The spun .100 copper background panel was clear-coated then isolation mounted to the tubular aluminium frame to prevent contact between the copper and the aluminium.
This sign was done using the cold forming method. Two layers of 0.6cm (1⁄4 inch) plywood and one layer of SignFoam high density urethane board were laminated together over a mould using epoxy. Once dry, they were removed from the mould and retained their shape.

Simplifying the production method makes creating curved sign faces a practical option. Whether it’s a simple curved panel that carries all or part of the primary copy or the entire sign face is curved, the added dimension and drama make it another tool in the sign designer’s bag of tricks.

This article was republished with the permission of SignCraft magazine.