Introduction: Welder's Wife Makes a Steel LED Sign
At my shop we used a CNC Plasma Table which is a computer controlled gantry that moves a Plasma Cutter around the metal to make precise, repeatable cuts.
We used 16ga Cold Rolled steel which cuts well and is a nice balance of weight and strength. After cutting out the logo, all that is left is to gather the parts, which is made easier by the water in the table, which cools down the metal as it is cut.
Step 1: Grinding Dross
Dross is the remnants left of the work piece from plasma cutting. As you plasma cut, the metal is liquefied and some sticks to the surrounding metal and cools, so we take a grinder with a flapdisk and clean everything up. Flapdisks are tough layers of sandpaper arranged like a splayed deck of cards around a disk.
After the flapdisk, a die grinder was used with a sanding pad to give the face of the sign a marbled or swirly texture.
Step 2: Welding the Studs
When we plasma cut the letters and back ground we included small holes that line up between both layers. Now my wife welds some 1/8" rods into the background from the rear to attach the letters to. as you weld, the protruding end of the stud can be broken off easily while it is hot.
Step 3: Welding the Letters
With the sign flipped back to face up, the studs can be seen. Each letter is slipped over its matching studs and welded down from above, filling the holes we plasma cut and binding the letter to the stud.
The background of the sign is covered with a soapy liquid that acts to stop spatter from the weld from sticking to and marring the background my wife just cleaned up.
Step 4: More Grinding!
Just like always in the shop, it's Grinder Time!
Jessica cleans up the welds she just made and leaves the surface of the letters with a nice, brushed finish.
Step 5: Final Shield Touches
We then welded down the decorative border in a few places, cleaned up those welds (hint: more grinding!) and Set the sign on fire (but you'll have to watch the video to see that!). My wife then spent some time cleaning up the face of the sign before we moved to painting.
Step 6: LED Support
The RGB LEDs that will light up the back of the sign need to be mounted in a circle facing perpendicular to the sign, so we grabbed a ring roller and rolled some 1/8" x 1/2" flat bar into a ring.
The ring roller works by squeezing the metal through 3 rollers with varying distances apart to create different circle diameters.
Step 7: Finishing the Mount
The LED ring is welded to a metal circle along with a hook that will be used to hang the sign over the edge of a cubicle.
Step 8: Paint and Clear Coat
Everything got a clear coat and after that dried we covered the shield in sand to act ask a masking material so we could paint just the letters purple - the color of the team this sign is for.
The sand is a great way to save time as trying to tape off that whole background would be a mess and hand painting risks dips on the background.
The final step is to remove the sand and give everything another clear coat.
Step 9: Mounting the LEDS
The ring we made earlier and attached to a a circle now makes sense. The self-adhesive Battery powered LEDs are mounted around the outside and a small gap we left is used to hide all the wires inside the cavity created. LED strips like these can be cut along the marked pads to make custom length light strips.
Step 10: Finishing Up
We used 3M VHB tape to attached the shield to the mounting/LED ring so that no heat discoloration from welding tainted the look of the front of the shield. This tape is SUPER strong once it has a few days to set up, in fact on Instagram I shared a video from when the tape was stronger than steel:
Even though the tape needs some time to cure, it has instant holding power to keep these two pieces together. With a simple push to seat the tape, this sign was done!
I encourage you to check out the youtube video to see all the hijinx we got up to in the shop and some bloopers!