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Author Topic: Lettering on panel signs (BGSes)  (Read 406 times)

hbelkins

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Lettering on panel signs (BGSes)
« on: April 05, 2019, 12:57:04 PM »

Kentucky uses demountable copy for lettering, route markers, arrows, borders, and other markings on its panel signs, as the engineers call them. Our slang is "BGS," for "big green sign." These elements of the sign are attached to the sign panel with small rivets, and can be removed and replaced if necessary. Kentucky uses extruded panels for its guide signs, not the incremental panels used by North Carolina, New York, most places in Virginia, etc.

Other states, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia, use some method of applying the lettering, etc., to the sign in such a manner that it cannot be removed. This requires the use of "greenouts" when changing an element of the sign, such as exit numbers (a lot of the signs along Virginia's I-81 have evidence of this from where some signs that were in use when Virginia used sequential exits were converted to mileage-based exits) or route markers (Pennsylvania's conversion of I-279 on the Parkway West to I-376).

What is that direct method of lettering called? I've heard it referred to before as "silk screening" but I know that's not accurate.

For non-panel signs, in the past Kentucky used cut-out letters and numbers, arrows, borders, etc., and they were affixed directly to the sheeted sign. Now, Kentucky uses a white sheeted sign and cuts out the lettering on a piece of green film that is overlaid on the white sheeted sign, and the green letter outlines are removed from the film. There are no individual elements that can be picked or peeled off.
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roadman

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Re: Lettering on panel signs (BGSes)
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2019, 02:07:11 PM »

Kentucky uses demountable copy for lettering, route markers, arrows, borders, and other markings on its panel signs, as the engineers call them. Our slang is "BGS," for "big green sign." These elements of the sign are attached to the sign panel with small rivets, and can be removed and replaced if necessary. Kentucky uses extruded panels for its guide signs, not the incremental panels used by North Carolina, New York, most places in Virginia, etc.

Other states, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia, use some method of applying the lettering, etc., to the sign in such a manner that it cannot be removed. This requires the use of "greenouts" when changing an element of the sign, such as exit numbers (a lot of the signs along Virginia's I-81 have evidence of this from where some signs that were in use when Virginia used sequential exits were converted to mileage-based exits) or route markers (Pennsylvania's conversion of I-279 on the Parkway West to I-376).

What is that direct method of lettering called? I've heard it referred to before as "silk screening" but I know that's not accurate.

It's called direct applied copy.  Considerably faster to apply to sign panels than demountable copy is.  As you point out, it does require that an overlay panel be applied if/when it is desired to change legend.  However, most agencies that use demountable copy on signs normally use overlays when legend is changed or eliminated, as it is a less intensive procedure than demounting the individual letters.  Applying an overlay also can be done in the field with no need to remove the sign panel and take it back to the shop for revision.

"Silk screening" is a process used to fabricate standard regulatory, warning, and route marker signs.  A pattern template is created for each standard sign, and used to quickly make multiple signs of the same design.

Quote
For non-panel signs, in the past Kentucky used cut-out letters and numbers, arrows, borders, etc., and they were affixed directly to the sheeted sign. Now, Kentucky uses a white sheeted sign and cuts out the lettering on a piece of green film that is overlaid on the white sheeted sign, and the green letter outlines are removed from the film. There are no individual elements that can be picked or peeled off.

The process, which has been around since the 1970s, is commonly called ElectroCut.  Most commonly used on street name and smaller guide signs.
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Scott5114

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Re: Lettering on panel signs (BGSes)
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2019, 02:35:37 AM »

Kentucky uses demountable copy for lettering, route markers, arrows, borders, and other markings on its panel signs, as the engineers call them. Our slang is "BGS," for "big green sign." These elements of the sign are attached to the sign panel with small rivets, and can be removed and replaced if necessary. Kentucky uses extruded panels for its guide signs, not the incremental panels used by North Carolina, New York, most places in Virginia, etc.

Other states, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia, use some method of applying the lettering, etc., to the sign in such a manner that it cannot be removed. This requires the use of "greenouts" when changing an element of the sign, such as exit numbers (a lot of the signs along Virginia's I-81 have evidence of this from where some signs that were in use when Virginia used sequential exits were converted to mileage-based exits) or route markers (Pennsylvania's conversion of I-279 on the Parkway West to I-376).

What is that direct method of lettering called? I've heard it referred to before as "silk screening" but I know that's not accurate.

It's called direct applied copy.  Considerably faster to apply to sign panels than demountable copy is.  As you point out, it does require that an overlay panel be applied if/when it is desired to change legend.  However, most agencies that use demountable copy on signs normally use overlays when legend is changed or eliminated, as it is a less intensive procedure than demounting the individual letters.  Applying an overlay also can be done in the field with no need to remove the sign panel and take it back to the shop for revision.

Kansas, historically a big user of demountable copy, would always simply remove any unwanted legend. There were even a few instances where they removed the entirety of the legend from an irrelevant sign and just left the blank sign posted during a construction project (and reinstalled new legend later). This tendency might be explained by a post I saw on MTR from a roadgeek who had fooled around with a sign left in the ditch after a collision—apparently the legend was held on by breakaway rivets that allowed the legend to be removed by hand, with a firm tug.

It should be noted that button copy is a specialized form of demountable copy.

Quote
"Silk screening" is a process used to fabricate standard regulatory, warning, and route marker signs.  A pattern template is created for each standard sign, and used to quickly make multiple signs of the same design.

I would be surprised if any agency still uses actual silk screens anymore. I would expect that method has been replaced by digital printing—i.e. a big inkjet printer.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Lettering on panel signs (BGSes)
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2019, 03:39:59 PM »

This tendency might be explained by a post I saw on MTR from a roadgeek who had fooled around with a sign left in the ditch after a collision—apparently the legend was held on by breakaway rivets that allowed the legend to be removed by hand, with a firm tug.

That was probably me in 2002.  (I posted to MTR under handles that were variations on "Argatlam.")  The sign in question was (IIRC) one of the advance guide signs for the K-23 Grainfield/Gove exit, and it was in the ditch (where it had already killed grass) because it had not been hauled off after it was replaced.  (Notwithstanding anything I said in 2002, I don't now think replacement had anything to do with a collision; KDOT advertised a signing contract in 1999 that covered pretty much every sign on I-70 west of Salina, and recent experience here in Wichita suggests it is not atypical for KDOT to take two to three years to turn around this type of project.)  It was of extrusheet construction, which KDOT was using in the 1990's along with demountable copy, but I believe the replacement was extruded aluminum.

The sign in the ditch had horizontal stiffeners but no vertical bracing, so it was folded over with half of the message side down.  I don't think I touched the K-23 shield, though it was demountable, because it would have been like handling a circular sawblade--if it had not been thoroughly deburred, I could have ended up with cuts.  However, the fold ran through one line of the text message, so the rivets above the fold were already under stress and were perhaps not designed to go all the way through the top aluminum sheet to the stiffeners.  I could indeed pop the rivets by hand, without applying a great deal of force.

When I posted this to MTR, I attracted an angry-sounding response from Richard Moeur, who more or less accused me of making the story up and said that the rivets he specifies for demountable copy (in Arizona) cannot be popped by hand.  I think at the time Arizona DOT was using extruded aluminum more or less exclusively, and for that it does make sense to specify sturdy rivets, since the retroreflective sheeting is applied directly to the structural element of the sign.  (Arizona DOT has used laminated panel signs in the past, but I cannot remember having seen such a sign in the field there--my first roadtrip there was in 1998.)

It should be noted that button copy is a specialized form of demountable copy.

This is true of what I call "framed" button copy, to distinguish it from different ways of using button reflectors that involve gluing them to the signface (as with Caltrans' epoxy retrofits for old porcelain enamel on steel signs) or somehow integrating them into the structural support for the signface (as with an older method, also involving porcelain enamel on steel, that involved fastening them to an underplate in such a way that they were visible through holes cut into the top plate).  AIUI, a typical button copy frame was stamped with die-cut holes for rivets and button reflectors.  The outer edges (seen as letter outlines by day) were curved so that they would sit more or less flush against the signface once the rivets were in place.  A typical button reflector was plastic, consisting of corner-cut prisms (similar to bicycle reflectors) on the top and a white base with "ears" that allowed it to snap from behind into an appropriately sized hole in the frame.

Impact damage could snap rivets or bend the frames or the underlying sign substrate in such a way that reflectors could be removed by pushing them with a finger and then pulling them out from underneath the frame edge.  I used to have a reflector that I lifted in this way from a long-since-replaced supplemental guide sign for Camp Madigan (part of what is now called Joint Base Lewis-McChord) on I-5 in Washington state.
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Scott5114

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Re: Lettering on panel signs (BGSes)
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2019, 03:53:04 PM »

This tendency might be explained by a post I saw on MTR from a roadgeek who had fooled around with a sign left in the ditch after a collision—apparently the legend was held on by breakaway rivets that allowed the legend to be removed by hand, with a firm tug.

That was probably me in 2002.  (I posted to MTR under handles that were variations on "Argatlam.")  The sign in question was (IIRC) one of the advance guide signs for the K-23 Grainfield/Gove exit, and it was in the ditch (where it had already killed grass) because it had not been hauled off after it was replaced.  (Notwithstanding anything I said in 2002, I don't now think replacement had anything to do with a collision; KDOT advertised a signing contract in 1999 that covered pretty much every sign on I-70 west of Salina, and recent experience here in Wichita suggests it is not atypical for KDOT to take two to three years to turn around this type of project.)  It was of extrusheet construction, which KDOT was using in the 1990's along with demountable copy, but I believe the replacement was extruded aluminum.

This was indeed the post I was thinking of. I'm not sure what exactly you said at the time, as I posted my summary of it from memory (I ran across the post when it was fairly recent. While on a trip to Kansas, 12-year-old me was using my grandmother's Internet to look for information on Kansas signage practices. I think this was the same Google binge that led me to discover the MUTCD for the first time, the Roadgeek font set, and the existence of Clearview.)

Quote
When I posted this to MTR, I attracted an angry-sounding response from Richard Moeur, who more or less accused me of making the story up and said that the rivets he specifies for demountable copy (in Arizona) cannot be popped by hand.  I think at the time Arizona DOT was using extruded aluminum more or less exclusively, and for that it does make sense to specify sturdy rivets, since the retroreflective sheeting is applied directly to the structural element of the sign.  (Arizona DOT has used laminated panel signs in the past, but I cannot remember having seen such a sign in the field there--my first roadtrip there was in 1998.)

Because the thought of different states having different standards for things like fasteners is so outlandish. :rolleyes:

Quote
It should be noted that button copy is a specialized form of demountable copy.

This is true of what I call "framed" button copy, to distinguish it from different ways of using button reflectors that involve gluing them to the signface (as with Caltrans' epoxy retrofits for old porcelain enamel on steel signs) or somehow integrating them into the structural support for the signface (as with an older method, also involving porcelain enamel on steel, that involved fastening them to an underplate in such a way that they were visible through holes cut into the top plate).  AIUI, a typical button copy frame was stamped with die-cut holes for rivets and button reflectors.  The outer edges (seen as letter outlines by day) were curved so that they would sit more or less flush against the signface once the rivets were in place.  A typical button reflector was plastic, consisting of corner-cut prisms (similar to bicycle reflectors) on the top and a white base with "ears" that allowed it to snap from behind into an appropriately sized hole in the frame.

Impact damage could snap rivets or bend the frames or the underlying sign substrate in such a way that reflectors could be removed by pushing them with a finger and then pulling them out from underneath the frame edge.  I used to have a reflector that I lifted in this way from a long-since-replaced supplemental guide sign for Camp Madigan (part of what is now called Joint Base Lewis-McChord) on I-5 in Washington state.

I have a new-old-stock button copy "S" that my wife got me off the Internet as a gift (I was incredibly impressed), and it is indeed constructed in this way. I could answer any questions about its particulars, if anyone has any.
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hbelkins

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Re: Lettering on panel signs (BGSes)
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2019, 08:00:57 PM »

I've never inspected any West Virginia or Ohio button copy up close, but passing glances while traveling at highway speeds seem to indicate that the reflectors are riveted on to the letters, and then the letters are riveted onto the signs. Regarding Richard Moeur's comments, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Arizona was still using button copy, which by definition would be heavier than non-button demountable copy and thus would require stronger rivets.
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roadman

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Re: Lettering on panel signs (BGSes)
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2019, 10:49:37 AM »

I've never inspected any West Virginia or Ohio button copy up close, but passing glances while traveling at highway speeds seem to indicate that the reflectors are riveted on to the letters, and then the letters are riveted onto the signs. Regarding Richard Moeur's comments, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Arizona was still using button copy, which by definition would be heavier than non-button demountable copy and thus would require stronger rivets.

The reflectors are held in the embossed frame with adhesive, not rivets.  The frame is then riveted onto the aluminum panel.
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ClassicHasClass

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Re: Lettering on panel signs (BGSes)
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2019, 02:04:23 PM »

I miss button copy. You still see some porcelain enamel-on-steel with 80s button copy signs on California roads and they look like they would last decades more. I won't argue the nighttime visibility question much, but in terms of durability, the aluminum retroreflective crap seems to delaminate and wear much worse.
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