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Old 08-14-2012, 06:49 PM   #1
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Building 7 foot tall greek letters

Hey guys I need some advice on constructing some ~7ft x 4ft x 1.5ftdeep greek letters for our fraternity. The look we want is a metal finish (or at least metal in appearance) The final product will be a metal outline of the letters with the center being hollow. However instead of being completely hollow a chainlink fence or other metal mesh will act as a filler and also support the two floating pieces you see in the first letter.

There are 3 possible ways of designing this I have looked into:

1) Building it myself out of plywood.

2) Having sheet metal cut and welded at a machine shop. I have had several quotes from this and it seems to be completely out of the question price wise.

3) Have large foam pieces either covered with an epoxy or with plywood. I might question the integrity of this method however.

These letters will be outside roughly 1 week per month for 8 hours a day. The rest of the time they will be stored indoors. Where they will see the most stress is during transportation which is generally in the back of pick up trucks. Which method seems most practical? Price range for the total construction needs to probably stay under $750 with portability being the primary focus.


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Old 08-14-2012, 10:12 PM   #2
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Just to start the discussion, I might suggest making the fronts and backs out of 3/4" plywood. Cut the letters out of 2 pieces of plywood stacked on top of each other. You could use a circular saw for the longer cuts and a jig saw for the curves. Sand the curves as necessary

As for the 18" thick part, this won't take much as far as stable material. First space off the plywood with some 16 1/2" spacers made of 2x material or steel. This will keep the fronts and backs apart. Now you just need to find some 18" wide flashing and nail it to the plywood. Keeping it straight as you go might be a challenge. I would start with the letters flat on a concrete slab or floor.

This is the general idea. Then you can paint the letters whatever color metal is. They should look fine as long as you are 30' away or so.


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Old 08-15-2012, 07:10 AM   #3
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Given that you are going to have to haul these things in and out, and rescue them from wherever competing frat houses hide them---perhaps in the next town, I would make them as light as possible.

I would go with 3/4 ply or even 1/2 inch with rigid foam sandwiched to give you the depth. Wearing a protective mask please, you can easily cut everything yourself with a jigsaw. Glue all the layers together and shape as necessary. I would then lay them up with fiberglass. Sand, prime and finish to whatever metal look you want.

Make sure you plan for bases that have enough anchoring capability for these things. You will need something substantial to hold these in place! You may have to tether them with aircraft cable or something?

Last edited by user1007; 08-15-2012 at 07:21 AM.
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Old 09-01-2012, 03:17 PM   #4
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"The final product will be a metal outline of the letters with the center being hollow." Are you saying these things are going to be like giant cooky cutters? If that's so, then you could rip or have ripped, 1/4 or possibly 3/8 plywood into 18" strips, I don't think you'll get anything thicker to bend for phi and psi without getting into techniques that mite be beyond you. I think the curves on phi will be more than 8 feet long ( the math is beyond my technique, but you're in collitch, you can figure it) and you'll have to figure out some kinda splicing. With such thin stock you'll have to use some kind of corner blocking to hold it all together, paint um flat black they wont show so much at night mebbee. They're gonna be kinda flimsy, considering size. Assemble each with screws and you can break them down to a stack of strips for storage. You could use metal corner braces at right angle joints instead of blocks, hinges at weird angles, loose pin hinges are easy to take apart. Label them for per letter and which end goes where.After you're gradualized and gone, other people are gonna have to figure out how to assemble them and it could be confusing, and who knows they might be drinking beer or something while they do it. Hey,its possible. They'll lose the hinge pins too, so if you use loose pin hinges get a size where you can use a nail to replace pin. A series of holes along back edge so you can tie or wire them to fence, or front if inside fence; see sdester's caveat.
you could check on having a sheet metal shop guillotine you 18" strips of heavy gauge, some long enuff for phi. That's gonna be even flimsier, so it'll need lots of tie holes. And gonna have razor sharp edges. Heavy duty tape on edges? Then the whole frat gets heavy gloves, tin snips, band aids, drills, screws, band aids, bolts, pop rivets, band aids, wrenches , screw drivers, band aids, pliers, phone with 911 on speed dial, band aids.... NO BEER
Oh, did I mention sharp edges? Be careful.
I got some other ideas, but best wait till I know that the cooky cutter is what you are doing.
Measure twice, cut once.
Look at the nail, not the hammer. Watch the fence, not the blade.
If you hook your thumb over your belt you won't hit it with the hammer or leave it layin on the saw table.

Last edited by notmrjohn; 09-01-2012 at 03:37 PM.
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