Glossary of Industry Terms
There’s a lot of lingo in the sign trade! This glossary covers many of the terms we use when manufacturing architectural signs.
Abrasive Blast (a.k.a. SandBlast)
A process for preparing letters for other finishing operations. Satin edges are treated before faces are grained. Painted faces and edges are treated prior to application of primer and paint. Polished edges are treated prior to polishing.
Acrylic PolyUrethane (APU)
A two-part coating that is extremely durable with a high color retention in paint form. Used when painting all products. Can be baked to allow for same day shipping.
Antique Swirl? (Special FX)
An orbital oxidized finish adds another dimension to horizontal grain. Stands out as unique appearance. Available on all red metals.
Acrylic polyurethane that contains no pigment. Used in place of lacquer only in special cases when requested by the customer. More durable and longer lasting than lacquer, but difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Available in three levels: flat, semi-gloss, gloss.
Aurora? (Special FX)
Overlapping scallop shapes produce pleasing highlights and hide light scratches. Stands out as unique appearance. Luster changes as you move past letters.
Birdseye? (Special FX)
A one-step process of spraying oxidizing chemicals on polished red metals, creating a random, splattered finish. Customer preference. Can be applied to all red metals.
Backlight (Halo or Silhouette lighting)
Fabricated letter consisting of a clear polycarbonate backer 3/16″thick, illuminated by customer or LED illumination by Steel Art.
A mechanically applied edge treatment. Mirror polish or satin finish are usually applied.
Used as mounting for fabricated letters usually for neon or backlight applications.
A forming process where a piece of material is bent or folded to specified dimensions. All fabricated letters are constructed utilizing breakforming methods.
Akzo-Nobel or Matthews acrylic polyurethane paint. Available in three shades: Light #311, Medium #312, Dark #313. Specify as light bronze, medium bronze, or dark bronze.
Refer to Satin or Satinbrite? finishes.
Buffed Edges – Plate Letter
A mechanical, hand-done process applied to edges of letters to produce a #7 quality mirror polish finish (striations left).
A process in fabricating a letter that is too big to be made in one piece. Two pieces are butted together, as tightly as possible, and can be bolted together on the backside upon request. Material or design restrictions. Must be specified by customer.
Fabricated letter manufactured with a backer made from a solid piece of metal. By customers request (see mounting methods).
A process where fine glass bead is used to create a graphic image. See Crystalmatte?.
Selectively applying a glassbead finish. This procedure creates a luster, or sheen, to the blasted area where standard blasting media leaves a flat finish. Used in our Contrast? product line.
Hollow constructed letter to allow for neon or other illuminating devices to be inserted.
Diaphragms (a.k.a. Straps, Bridges, or Brackets)
A metal strap soldered across the width of the back of a fabricated letter. Diaphragms are specified for certain mounting applications or when the size of a letter (normally 30” and up) requires more strength and stability.
A hand-polishing process that eases the sharp edges of a plate letter.
A mechanical process applied to edge of letters, where the face and sides meet. Slightly rounds the edges and blends the seam into a mirror polish.
Edgeblend? (Plate Letters)
A process employing hand craftsmanship, applied to edges (sides) of letters to produce a mirror polish finish.
Non-Acid Etched Graphics
An environmentally friendly process created at Steel Art that uses an alternative means to etch a graphic image into metal. Can be applied to any material or finish.
Can either be brushed horizontal or vertical. Horizontal is standard grain direction for satin finishes.
Refers to a step in the etching process where the image is filled with a colored enamel. Colors my be selected from PMS offerings or custom matched.
A clear coating applied over red metals and aluminum to retard the natural process of oxidization. Not guaranteed for exterior exposure.
A mounting bracket used for attaching the letter to the wall. Shaped in an angular “L.” Manufactured with a type of threaded attachment for assembly. Commonly used to assemble polycarbonate backs, projection of a fabricated letter, etc. See mounting details.
Matthews Acrylic Polyurethane paint system.
Matte Edges (abrasive blasted edges)
An abrasive blasted finish used to blend mechanical marks from filing and sanding.
The unprepared metal finish as it comes from the vendor. May have travel marks and light scratches. Most basic finish. No additional finish work has been done other than fabrication: customer to finish.
Mounting Type A-1
Used for fabricated letters. Polycarbonate back mechanically attached through the sides of letters. Commonly used for letters illuminated with neon or fiber-optics. Sometimes used to keep debris out.
Mounting Type A-1a
Used for fabricated letters. Solid back mechanically attached through the sides of letters, normally with the same finish as the face and sides. Used to provide a more finished look to the backs of letters or to keep debris out.
Mounting Type A-2
Used for fabricated letters. Polycarbonate back with no visible fasteners through the sides of letters. Mechanical assembly provided through the backs of the letters. Commonly used for letters illuminated with neon or fiber-optics. Sometimes used to keep debris out.
Mounting Type A-2a
Used for fabricated letters. Solid back with no visible fasteners through sides of letters. Mechanical assembly provided through the backs of letters. Backer material is normally the same finish as the face and sides. Used to provide a more finished look to the backs of letters or to keep out debris.
Mounting Type B-1
Used for fabricated letters. Slightly recessed diaphragms positioned at backs of letters with 3M 4949 VHB tape applied for surface mounting. Used when mounting to surface that is not designated for stud mount, usually glass.
Mounting Type B-2
Used for fabricated letters. Slightly recessed full-backer diaphragm positioned at backs of letters with full backing of VHB tape applied for surface mounting. Used when mounting to surface that is not designated for stud mount, usually glass.
Mounting Type C-1
Used for fabricated letters. Projection-mounted brackets mechanically mounted through sides of letters. Commonly used for letters illuminated with neon or fiber-optics. Otherwise as a method of spacing off corrugated surfaces.
Mounting Type C-2
Used for fabricated letters. Projection-mounted brackets with no visible fasteners soldered to the inside of letters. Commonly used for letters illuminated with neon or fiber-optics. Otherwise as a method of spacing off mounting surface.
Mounting Type C-3
Used for fabricated letters. Projection-mounted brackets mechanically mounted through sides of letters with diaphragms located on inside of letters near faces to allow for double-line neon. Used for letters illuminated with neon or fiber-optics.
Mounting Type C-4
Used for fabricated letters. Projection-mounted brackets mechanically mounted through sides of letters with diaphragms located on inside of letters near faces to allow for single-line. Used for letters illuminated with neon or fiber-optics.
Mounting Type E-1
Used for fabricated letters. Keyhole mount for double-line neon. Keyhole diaphragms are recessed from back of letters. Neon mounting diaphragms are located on inside of letters near faces. Used for letters illuminated with neon or fiber-optics.
Mounting Type E-3
Used for fabricated letters. Keyhole mount hollow letter. Sometimes used for letters illuminated with neon or fiber-optics or for letters without any lighting.
Mounting Type F-1
Used for fabricated letters. Diaphragms are soldered to returns of letter. Diaphragms have threaded rivet nuts for stud mounting.
Mounting Type G-1
Used for fabricated letters that require bottom mounting. Refer to mounting diagrams.
A hand-applied finish using fine abrasive in circular motions. Can be applied to any material.
A hand-applied finish using coarse abrasive in circular motions. Can be applied to any material.
Titanium coated (PVD) stainless steel. Guaranteed eight-year exterior exposure. Available in bronze color, in satin or mirror polish (super #8). Used where low maintenance is required. Will not tarnish or flake off.
Titanium coated (PVD) stainless steel. Guaranteed eight-year exterior exposure. Available in brass color, in satin or mirror polish (super #8). Used were low maintenance is required. Will not tarnish or flake off.
Open Channel (a.k.a. Channel Letter)
A fabricated letter with an open face. Normally used with neon visibly mounted or for “Trim cap” application, (light showing through acrylic face).
Oxidize Aluminum (Special FX)
Chemically created old grey coating, will continue to darken in exterior use. Stands out as unique appearance. Letters may vary in texture and color. Available in aluminum only.
Oxidize (Light, Medium, and Dark)
A process for staining red metals. Produces a satin statuary oxidized finish.
A painted finish applied with spray equipment primarily to aluminum or stainless steel. Typically available in four gloss levels: matte, semi-gloss, gloss, high gloss. Standard gloss level is semi-gloss.
Stainless steel perforated with round holes of various diameters. Hole patterns are available either in different sizes, staggered, or straight pattern as inventoried.
Butyrate plastic pads with threaded center hole to accept 10/24 studs – for exterior use. Applied to letter with epoxy. Use for fabricated letters. Use depends on style/height/depth of letter.
Pantone Matching System. Initially developed for the printing industry as a system for classifying printing ink colors. Today it has more universal meaning. The system uses numbers and letters to further classify colors. Used commonly by customers to specify paint colors.
Polish Edge of Face (fabricated)
A mechanical and hand-done process applied only to the edges of the face to produce a polished edge. Leaves slight seam between the face and sides. Used due to price considerations.
Material that has been either polished, grained, anodized, or painted before cutting. Finish is factory applied and uniform. Fabricated letters are always cut from pre-finished material.
Prep for Paint
Fabricated or plate letter that has been abrasive blasted and degreased, to prepare surface for paint. Customer to apply final finish. In cases where customer wishes to apply own primer and match paint with rest of project.
Fabricated letter hand formed to a specified degree pitch around the perimeter of the letter. Can be backed with clear polycarbonate for illumination. Different material finish available.
Used as mounting for fabricated letters, usually for neon or backlight applications where spacing off mounting surface is required. See mounting drawings for applications.
Technique of connecting a two piece letter to allow for neon to be formed in one piece using one common supply source.
Random Orbital #1
A similar process to non-directional finish, using coarse abrasive in tighter circles. Can be applied to any material.
Random Orbital #2
A similar process to non-directional finish, using coarse abrasive in larger circles. Can be applied to any material.
A mounting device used for attaching a polycarbonate or other material back. Can be removed by machine screw through skirt or fastened invisibly from behind. See mounting details.
Used as mounting for fabricated letters to affix polycarbonate backs. See mounting drawings for applications.
A three-dimensional fabricated letter that has a closed face and open back. A more prominent product for exterior identification.
A non-corrosive threaded insert. Sizes offered are 6/32, 10/24, 1/4-20. Fabricated letters using a diaphragm, either for wall mount or neon assembly.
The process of forming a piece of material to a specified arc. Thicknesses up to 1” in all metals can be rollformed to a specific arc to fit the radius of a curved wall or extrusion.
A polishing process of holding a letter against a buffing wheel until the desired luster is achieved. Can be used on all metals.
A short grain finish applied by automatic machinery at the mill. Equal to approximately 180 grit. Our standard finish for fabricated stainless steel letters.
An identical process to Satin #4 using a 240 grit belt. Optional finish for fabricated stainless steel letters.
Satin 100 grit
A mechanically applied finish using 100 grit abrasives. Standard horizontal satin finish.
Satin 150 grit
A mechanically applied finish using 150 grit abrasives. Upgraded – finer horizontal satin finish.
A Steel Art Company proprietary finishing process , producing a fine brushed finish. A finer grain finish than a 150 grit. Similar to a #6 finish, but with a brushed appearance.
The process of forming a piece of thin gauge sheet metal around the perimeter of a letter. Used on all fabricated letters. Depth can vary depending on requirements.
A process in fabricating a letter that calls for a closed back. The method specifies a second fabricated piece, shaped to the back to fit within the primary skirt.
Skirt (a.k.a. Returns, Side Walls, Wrappers)
The sides/edges of a fabricated letter. Skirts can be as small as 3/8” and maximum is determined by complexity of shape.
Method of mounting a letter. Used for plate or fabricated products. Threaded non-corrosive fastener.
Hollow aluminum tubing placed over studs to project letters/sign from mounting wall.
A mechanical finish applied to edge of letter to produce a satin grain. An alternative edge finish from the normal sandblasted (matte) edge.
Storm (see NuGold? or NuBronze?)
A tornado-like shape overlaying a mirror polish finish. Stands out as unique appearance. Changes luster as you move past letters. Creates a uniform antique finish.
Extremely fine residual buff lines in mirror polish finish. Left by threads in rotary buffs. Usually vertical striations are left behind, horizontal when indicated.
Sunburst? (Special FX )
New finish. A fan-shaped directional satin grain. Stands out as unique appearance. Changes luster as you move past letters. Available in all metals.
Fabricated letter with a skirt shaped around an acrylic or polycarbonate face and assembled. Used for illuminated letters.
A polished finish with some grain lines visible. We do not offer a #7 finish for any product other than buffed edges.
2nd Edge Finish
Standard, premium, buffed or Edgeblend? edge quality. Used for appearance and cost considerations.
A fabricated reverse channel letter available in all materials and finishes. ValuFab? letters have a flawless plate letter appearance, blended edges, and mirror polished sides are available upon request. Extremely cost effective.
Verde Green Patina
A method of forcing the natural patina process of copper. Accelerates the weathering process. Green mottled appearance, not uniform in intensity and no lacquer coating. May drip greenish residue on exterior surfaces.
Wave? (Special FX)
New finish. Wavy highlights, parallel and varying from .063” to .125” on a mirror polish background. Stands out as unique appearance. Changes luster as you move past letters. Available in all metals.