Fixtures and Fittings - March 2014

HNS Signs Ltd - Tricks of the trade

Photo of michelle henry MD of HNS signsThis hospital has been cut in the shape of an ambulance, and hung with high bonded tape so there are no visible fixture or fittings A roll of cardylon wire used for hanging heavy signsA collection of crimps used for hanging signs

Michelle Henry, MD of HNS Signs Ltd, is a third-generation sign maker. While Michelle uses a number of industry-specific tools when it comes to fitting signage, she also relies on some tricks of the trade passed down from her Grandfather to get an impressive finish.
Hanging large, heavy signs can require the use of sturdy chains, which although do the job, aren’t always the most aesthetically pleasing.
To circumvent the use of chains when fitting heavy signage, Michelle’s Grandfather utilised none other than fishing tackle. He was responsible for fitting suspended signs in hospitals, vicinities in which visible chains weren’t desirable. Kent & Co Ltd, a Liverpool-based manufacturer of rope and twine produced a trace wire that could be used instead. Doubling nicely from its intended use for angling, the trace wire was the perfect solution in the 1980s, and still works for signage application today.

Like her Grandfather before her, Michelle and the team at HNS Signs work extensively with hospital signage. “Hospitals make up about 70% of our workload; in fact, we are currently looking at re-signing 80 different hospital sites in the Midlands area. We use this stainless steel wire along with crimps and ceiling clips to fit signs of up to 45kgs,” says Michelle. “This is almost invisible, but is essential for the NHS as it can withstand deep cleaning. Kent & Co also have a translucent wire, often seen suspending the signs in supermarkets. The wire comes in spools of 100m and costs as little as £3 per spool, and can also hold a weight of up to 45kgs.”

To fit the sign, the team at HNS Signs will start by drilling a 3mm hole in the top two corners of the sign. “We then thread the wire through it and fasten by squeezing a crimp with pliers over the looped wire, and the same is done with the ceiling clip.”

The “outside-the-box” approach doesn’t just extend to hanging signage in hospitals, but also applies to the design of the signs themselves. The Birmingham Children's Hospital was having difficulty accelerating the process of handing over patients from paramedics to nurses. HNS designed an eye-catching sign, and packed the back with large squares of acrylic bonded together with tensol. To fix it to the wall, they used a high-bond tape to work around the hospital wall layout. The result was a practical, clearly visible sign without any visible fixtures or fittings.
Although Michelle favours some little-known tricks of the trade when it comes to positioning larger signs, some jobs call for the use of modern tools to tackle common problems.  

The perks of timesaving tools
When it comes to saving time, money and making the installation process smoother overall, Michelle turns to stockists Signgeer to find the tools for the job. “They have a whole host of items which save time and make the fittings process easier,” she says of her choice.
These tools can be used to combat a number of tricky issues – for example, in jobs that require a vinyl print to be layered over an existing sign, rivets can be problematic. The Rollepro can be used to neatly cover these rivets, and it takes “literally seconds” to iron out the kinks and provide a smooth finish, while another useful tool Michelle turns to is the Snake, which assists with the application of graphics onto vehicles.

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A Pizazz mount sign over a old sign to make it look nicer and newerpark with sign in the corner held on by signgeer productRed Eyepro 2 manual machineRow of Pizazz Multimounts bolts in different colours

In addition to offering a wide range of tools to assist sign makers with installation, Signgeer also stocks a variety of fixtures and fittings suitable for supporting both interior and exterior signage.

One of the newer additions to the roster is a fixing that holds signage to chain-link fences, aptly named the “Fence Fix.” Developed over the past twelve months, the durable fixing can be adjusted to fit any size fence, is totally reusable, and can be connected to most fencing types including Bastion V Type, chain-link, Heras and mesh. The system works well for common types of outdoor signage such as banners, but is not the only option sign makers have when it comes to fixing soft signage.

“At Signgeer, we have developed our own heavy duty Eyepro 2 manual machine, the only one of it’s kind on the market that gives users the option to fix metal or UV stable plastic eyelets into banners or korrex,” says Louise Gardener, Managing Director of Signgeer. “The plastic eyelets are available in black, white or a clear finish, and are more cost-effective than your traditional metal eyelets.”

To avoid the colours of the eyelets and the colours on the banner clashing, an increasing number of sign makers are opting for Signgeer’s clear fixings. But for those wanting to inject some additional colour into their signage, there are a number of unique standoff locators available that can provide a distinctive finishing touch.

Create a colourful finished project  

Signgeer are distributors of the highly successful Pizazz Multi and Mono Mount standoff locators, which allow sign makers to layer different materials with a stand off of up to 50mm. These fixings are available in a number of different textures and colours, enabling the user to create interesting signage that spares no attention to detail. With prices starting from just £1 a fixing, the Pizazz standoff locators are a cost-effective and practical solution, especially when dealing with the installation of a bespoke project.

“They’re manufactured from UV stable resin and high-quality sold brass rod, and come in a range of 11 colours in matte or gloss as well as in your standard chrome and brass and aluminium finishes,” reveals Louise. In fact, Signgeer has over 150 combinations of Pizazz Mono and Multi Mounts in stock, making it easy for sign makers to find something to suit the needs of almost any project. “We also offer traditional and standard aluminium posts and clips, Velcro, colour headed screws, and snap caps, plus Signgeer’s own manufactured range of stainless steel fixings for hanging signs.”
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Fairfield displays - Not all fixtures are the same

Store front window with fairfields LED light displayed

Janice Fairfield, Marketing Director of Fairfield Displays & Lighting, notes that there are numerous types of fittings available, ranging in the number of parts, materials and finishes. All sign fixings are not the same – which can be made apparent if used in a single installation.

“I have frequently seen buildings with a real mismatch of fittings from different suppliers, and the co-ordination of the scheme has been completely spoilt,” says Janice. “The way a sign is fixed to the wall can make a tremendous difference to the visual appearance and the perceived value of the sign.  Sign makers are always looking at ways to increase profit, and simply using a professional looking sign fixing can make a huge difference.”

Fixings may appear to be just a perfunctory part of sign installation, but opting for the right part for the job at hand can make a significant difference to not only the finished look, but also ease of installation. Fixings can be made in two parts or three parts, with three-part fixings offering many benefits to sign makers. “One huge advantage is that they are so much easier to fix,” says Janice. “The back section is a brass boss, which is quick and easy to screw to the wall. It will take up to a no.10 screw, which means you can get a good fixing in a brick or breeze block wall.” As the fixing can be implemented without using a screwdriver, it’s a useful choice when working on ladders and is a quick and easy option for most signage jobs. When working with wooden display panels or doors, small, two-part fixings are ideal. “The hole size will vary from supplier to supplier, but they normally start from around a no.6 to a no. 8 screw size,” says Janice.

Suspended banners in window front

Suspended cable vs. standoff fixings

The two types of primary fixings are standoff, which holds a sign away from a wall, and suspended cable, which can hang signs from numerous different surfaces. These two primary fixings can help create very different finished effects, and can be used in a number of different settings.

A standoff fixing holds a sign away from a wall, and can be used indoors to create signage in places like reception areas, and outdoors to promote things like menus. Small and large signs can easily be fitted with standoffs, and are supplied from 12mm diameter up to 25mm diameter, and in depths from 14mm up to 75mm.

Standoffs are versatile and easy to use, and can be used in conjunction with a single sign or mounted on a wall in a group to create directory signage. “Standoffs are used when you need a fixed position sign which can be mounted to a flat wall, desk or display unit,” says Janice. “One advantage of using this type of fixing is that it is easy to change a sign at a later date. Another is the overall appearance; as the sign is away from the wall, dust will drop down behind which means it will always remain smart and clean. Standoffs are a great way to turn an ordinary wall mounted sign into something that looks absolutely stunning compared to an ordinary screw, which gets rusty.”

Suspended cable systems (also referred to as rod systems) are a great choice when it comes to fixing multiple signs, giving the end user more control and flexibility.

A suspended cable doesn’t need to be fixed to a flat wall, and can be hung instead from a number of surfaces.  This system works well for a multi-sign project, as well as in cases where the sign may need to be changed frequently. Removing and replacing a fixed sign is time-consuming, and can leave behind holes and other structural damage in the process. A suspended sign, however, can be simply swapped in and out while being hung at any height on the vertical cables or rods. “In cases where information is constantly changing, opt for an acrylic pocket, and then signs and graphics can be dropped in without the need to use any tools.  The cheaper it is to change the sign, the more opportunities there are for repeat business,” affirms Janice.

Quality is key

As with most signage components, cheaply made fittings are likely to break sooner, and those that don’t will age and make the overall signage look old and untidy over time.

“Cheap fittings tend to be made from aluminium, while quality fittings are made from solid brass and are finished in an elegant satin chrome or high gloss polished chrome,” says Janice. “While aluminum standoffs or cables may look similar, they will have a much shorter life span and are not suitable for use in a moist environment, as the dampness can affect the threads. Something as simple as damp umbrellas being stored in reception could affect the them, which is why if these fittings come with  guarantee at all, it’s only usually for one year.” Brass fittings, on the other hand, have quality smooth threads that come with a lifetime guarantee, and are easy to replace to keep signage looking fresh and polished for years.

At Fairfield, Janice is noticing that clients are demanding more from even simple signage and display units. “Lighting is becoming more and more integrated even in very basic signage – it’s now extremely easy to add a touch of sparkle by using LEDs.” These lights can be used behind panels mounted with standoffs to add an attractive glow, or alternatively sign makers can clip LED Light Pockets™ to a cable or rod system to create an illuminated sign at any height, without any complicated wiring.

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FK Moore

FK Moore is turning attention towards improving value in 2014, looking for ways to help sign makers find quality tools and products for fitting signage at reduced costs.

"We are strengthening our drive to offer our customers value, whilst refusing to compromise on quality," reveals Paul Farrant, Director of FK MOORE. "Whilst many companies look at how to reduce product prices by altering the product itself, we have been very successful in the past at looking for efficiency savings, allowing us the flexibility to keep prices down."

Get the most for your money

When it comes to return on investment, Paul recommends metal sign locators on account of their tried-and-tested performance. "The longevity and secure nature means that sign makers can have as much confidence in the finished product as the client." He recommends that sign makers steer clear of selecting fixings on price point alone, pointing out that like anything, you get what you pay for. Selecting cheaper fittings may seem like a cost-effective way to source materials, but it doesn't guarantee the fixing will last, and almost certainly won't result in repeat business.

"We find when the quality of the fixings are shown to the end user, using the correct material and paying attention to the quality of finish, even if that means at a small increased outlay, it is appreciated," says Paul. "In our experience, clients will choose having the job done right the first time over the cost every time."
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