Blog posts of '2016' 'March'

Light Box Signs and DIY Kits

Our most popular products sold at DIY Sign Supply are our light box signs and our lighted box sign kits so I thought it would be helpful to describe exactly what they are, what comes with our full light box signs, and what comes with our DIY lightbox sign kits.  So here you go, please feel free to Contact Us if you have any further questions or even give us a comment if we are missing information or if you disagree with our information!

Lightboxes and Materials they are Made Of

Let's start at the beginning with what a generic "lightbox" is.  A lightbox is considered to be a translucent surface illuminated from behind, used for situations where a shape laid upon the surface needs to be seen with high contrast.  Lightboxes are typically made in a rectangular or square shape, and they are built with lights behind the "translucent" surface, so most of the time each box is made with six (6) sides - the front face (with translucent surface) the back face, and then the four "sides" that typically serve to keep the light from exiting the sides and help to keep the front face the brightest, most noticable part of the sign.  Most light boxes are "single faced" with only one translucent face but "double faced" light boxes are also made when the back face is also a translucent material.  There are a few common materials used for the translucent face(s) - glass or plastic - (acrylic or polycarbonate).  Some differences between acrylic and polycarbonate are that acrylic is less shinier and less expensive, but cracks more easily.  Polycarbonate is stronger but tends to scratch more easily.  Probably the simplest way to think about it is if the plastic is "protecting" something (i.e. used on a helmet or a windshied" and you don't want projectiles coming through it then you will want polycarbonate, if you are more worried about price and scratching then you will want acrylic.  The "sides" of the lightbox typically give it the most strength and are opaque (don't let light through) so the most common type of materials that make up lightbox signs are metal - either sheet metal (steel) or extruded aluminum.  When exterior lightboxes are needed to withstand weather, hoisting, etc... they will typically be made of aluminum as it is lighter, is stronger, and is more resistant to moisture.  

Lightbox Lights

For a long time the most common lights found in lightboxes were florescent tubes.  They are inexpensive, long lasting, offer a great variety of color (Kelvin) temperatures, and were relatively inexpensive to operate compared in incandescent bulbs.  They come in a variety of sizes and efficiencies including 1.2" diameter T12 (being phased out), 1" diameter T8 (very common), and 5/8" diameter T5.  The larger the diameter typically means it is less expensive to purchase up front, but the smaller bulbs are typically more efficient than the larger diameter bulbs, and will probably more costs savings over time.  

Now that LED lights are becoming more common and less expensive, they are becoming a more popular choice to use for light boxes.  They are still more expensive than florescent tubes up front, but their expected lifespan, efficiency, and therefore long term value are making them a great option for lightboxes.  Lightboxes are by nature now typically made to be able to be easily opened up for maintenance so any time you can "extend" the time that you don't have to open up the sign for maintenance the better.  This gives the use of LED lights within lightboxes a great option over florescent tubes if are you able to afford the greater upfront costs. 

Lightbox Uses

Lightboxes are used in a number of industries.  Here are a few examples:

- Advertising - used for retail storefront signage and identifying stores

- Medical - used to view X-Rays

- Architectural/Construction - used to overlay blueprints and view "two" sheets at once on top of each other.

- Photography - used to view slides or negatives

- Photography - the term "light box" is also used to describe fabric reflectors that attach to studio lighting in order to diffuse studio lighting and minimize shadows when photographing subjects.

Lighted Sign Box

That brings us to the lighted box signs that we sell on  As mentioned above we well both turnkey, pre-fabricated signs and we sell DIY light box kits as well.  For the turnkey lighted sign boxes the most common construction of lightboxes are metal sides with plastic faces.  DIY Sign Supply signs come standard with strong 7" deep extruded alminum sides.  When ordering a one-sided light box sign the rear face of the sign will be sheet metal.  When ordering a two sided box the back side will be either acrylic or polycarbonate, depending on what you order.  The one sided signs will come with brackets and instructions to be able to attach the sign to a wall.  The two sided signs come with brackets as well. Please note that if your sign is required to be pole mounted additional support and preparation will be required for the sign.  Please let us know and we will be able to provide a quote to add a pole mount connection to the sign.

DIY Lighted Sign Box Kits

Our DIY lighted sign box kits are very similar to our full signs but some of the "assembly" is left for you to complete and allows us to pass the savings on to you!  Rather than assemblying everything ahead of time we will give you all of the pieces for you to do it yourself.  

The outdoor sign box kits include an Aluminum Sliding Frame System (mittered), 4 Heavy Duty Corner Key, a Set Of Easy Removable Retainers, Light Ballast, LED lights (pre-wired), a Picture Graph -color coded wiring diagram, and a Single Or Double Sided Option with Frame (no Charge).  The only item you will have to procure is the back panel and the front translucent panel.  These can be ordered from our website as well, along with custom lettering or artwork, or you can procure these easily from local sign or banner companies.  
Please feel free to Contact Us if you have any questions!
DIY Neon Sign - How Our Sign Shop Builds Them

We are rolling out a new product shortly that is a DIY Neon Sign Kit.  It have been a bit of a journey getting the DIY Neon Signs going so here is what we have been doing so far in preparation for releasing the sign kits:  

Neon Signs

Neon signs are cool, they have been popular since the 1920's and can still be seen (and are still made) pretty frequently.  We wanted to make our own DIY Neon Signs but unfortunately we don't have the ability to bend glass or have the time to learn how in addition to working with all of the inert gases AND MERCURY involved, and if we wanted to buy a custom neon sign the price is WAY over our budget.  So we set about to make our own sign that LOOKS like a neon sign but that is more reliable, doesn't break easily, doesn't use a lot of electricity, and uses readily available materials.  Here is what we did:

Show Me the Light - EL Wire DIY Signs

Ever been to big the Burning Man Music Festival?  

Burning Man DIY LED Signs

Well we haven't, but these people have: 

Burning Man DIY El Wire Signs

They are "wearing" EL Wire.  After reviewing articles on wikipedia and the like, EL wire is pretty cool stuff.  EL wire is a thin flexible cable that radiates light at a 360 degree angle. Most traditional lights.  EL wire produces a constant stream of light the runs across the entire length of the cable. The EL wire is surrounded by a transparent or colored PVC outer sleeve which determines the light’s color.  EL wire is great because it is safe, flexible, bright, and inxpensive (compared to neon).  Now that we found our "light" material we began to think about the next step - incorporating it into a nice, professional sign.

DIY EL Wire Neon Sign

DIY Sign Supply is not the first ones to begin using EL wire to make signs.  There are plenty of pinterest articles on the subject and they have produced a number of great signs.  The most popular DIY Neon Sign with EL wire is to bend wire into whatever word you want, then superglue the EL Wire onto the wire and viola, you have a cool DIY Sign!  We really like this look and are selling DIY kits to achieve it.  Contact Us and we will let you know when we get more in stock!  

DIY Neon Sign for Businesses

Our approach is going to be a little different.  The DIY signs mentioned above are great and fit a nice need within your home or for an event but we wanted something that really looks like a NEON sign - one that has straight, thicker letters, and one that won't look out of place with being hung in a retail store, a restaurant, or a bar.  Here is what we did:

Do It Yourself Neon Sign Supplies

First we went to our local plastic supply store (Denver is convenient that way, we have local plastic supply stores), and picked up clear acrylic tubing.  We wanted the ability to make small 6" tall signs and larger 12" high signs so we picked up a .5" ID clear acrylic tube for the 6" letters and a .625" ID tube for the 12" letters.  We also picked up an 1/8" thick acrylic board (for the back of the sign), some medium thickness acrylic glue, and some "Chicago posts" that we could use to connect the letters to the acrylic board.  I do realize the irony that our website name is "DIY Sign Supply" but that we had to go to another supply store to pick up DIY neon sign materials!  

Fabricating the EL Wire DIY Neon Sign

After we purchased our materials we were ready to beging production of our first prototype DIY neon sign. The plastic supply store had offered an "acrylic cutting knife" that appeared to be no more than a straight razor blade attached to a cheap piece of plastic so I ended up passing on that cutting tool and decided to stick with my Dewalt Compound Miter Saw  I originally started with my "normal" wood blade but now that we are fabricating these signs more frequently I went out and bought a circular blade with about 90 teeth on it as recommended for cutting acrylic.  Now that we have our correct saw blade it is important to note that you have to find the "sweet spot" in cutting the arylic.  Cut too fast and you may "catch an edge" and spur some of it off.  Cut too slowly and you may melt and eventually burn the acrylic.  Try cutting some "spare" acrylic as tester pieces before you dig right in!  For our signs we decided to miter the clear acrylic tubes at each end and return it back to the acrylic backing piece.  We did this becuase it creates a nice, clean return to the back and will allow us to eventually cut a hole through the back acrylic and return our EL wire back behind it.  After the letters were cut we used our acrylic glue to attach each of the returns to the main letters and they we were ready for final assembly of the signs Here are some examples of what our letters look like:

DIY Neon Letters

Assembling the DIY Neon Sign

After the letters were fabricated the last step was to assemble the DIY EL Wire Neon Signs:  First we traced out exactly where the letters were going to go on the acrylic.  Luckily the acrylic sheet came with a protective layer of paper on both sides so we could draw right on the acrylic.  After laying out the letter we drilled small holes in the center of each return to allow the EL wires to be strung back behind the acrylic backing sheet.  After the holes were drilled and cleaned up we then attached the letters back to the sign.  We ended up using the acrylic glue for each return but another option, and what we will be sending in our DIY Neon Sign Kits are the clear "Chicago Posts".  These Chicago Posts will be nice because you will not have to glue any acrylic to acrylic if you don't have to, they are a "snap" fitting that allows you to just pop the letters onto the backing acrylic board!  One final decisiion that you will have to make it whether you want the sign to be hung at a window with the letters pointing out the window or if you want the sign hanging on a wall with the letters toward a room.  Depending on your specific configuration you would either install the "stand-offs" on the same side as the letters (window) or on the opposite (wall).  

Inserting and Turning On the EL Wire

After the DIY neon sign was fabricated the last step for us was the EL Wire.  We ended up measuring the letters with string to gauge how much wire we needed.  Then we ordered a length of EL Wire (cut to size) and also ordered a battery powered transformer.  Please note that the EL Wire can be cut to size to whatever size you want so we recommend that you make sure to buy more than enough and then you can always cut the wire size down later.  Please ALSO note that DIY Neon Signs with EL wire must be installed with AC current transformers - trust me I found this out the hard way by trying to connect DC batteries to an EL wire for about AN HOUR before I got start and read up on wikipedira that it wasn't going to work.  We chose battery operated but you also go the "plug in" route as well - just be careful when ordering becuase a lot of the "plug-in" types are made to convert AC power to DC power and you want to keep it AC power!  

Once the wire arrived then we threaded it through the letters, hooked up the wire to the transformer, turned on the light, and BOOM!  We had a DIY NEON SIGN!  One nice effect of threading the EL wire back behind the acrylic backer is that there is a "backlit" look at the sign as well!  

We are currently in the "protoype" stage of our DIY Neon Signs but please Contact Us if you want us to let you know when we begin selling our DIY Sign Kits for this product!



Welcome to DIY Sign Supply

Welcome to DIY Sign Supply!  We are currently under new management and renovating our website but we are looking forward to going live again VERY SOON.  We appreciate all of our customers' past business and look forward to continuing to service our customers looking for lighted box signs, wall signs, channel letters, LED lighted signs, T8 lighted signs, acrylic sign boards, and diy do it yourself lighted box sign kits.  Please feel free to contact us via our Contact Us Page should you have any questions.  Please stay tuned for future "how to install a DIY light box sign kit" and "do it yourself channel letters" articles soon!  Thanks!  Dan