Here at Channel Letter USA, channel letters are our specialty. If you’re clueless as to what that means, just take a look around any shopping plaza or restaurant by you. Those giant glowing signs spelling out the names of businesses? Channel letters.
Each channel letter is comprised of a face, a back, and returns. The face is just what you’ve guessed – the front of the letters. The back is just as self-explanatory, and functions as the back of the letter. The returns of the letter are the sides.
Components of Channel Letters
Channel letters are fabricated with sheet metal – here at Channel Letter USA we use aluminum to ensure the channel won’t rust. The sheet of aluminum is cut using a computer-controlled router, based on a vector-based art file. The file sends from our computer, straight to the router, cutting out the back of the channel.
Once the back of the channel is cut, the basis of the letter shape is formed and we can move along to the returns. The returns are formed using an Accu-Bend, a machine that incorporates the same vector-based files used while making the back. The files send to the Accu-Bend and the machine will notch, flange and bend complete letters. The result looks similar to a cookie-cutter, and provides a solid casing for the channel letter to slip into. Returns are then typically painted to match or compliment the face of the letter.
Faces of channel letters can be versatile, but common materials include acrylic or vinyl. The face is cut to fit the returns, and is attached using a trim cap border. Trim gives the channel letter a finished appearance, and is typically matched to the face or returns.
Lighting the Channel Letter
To optimize the effect of channel letters, face colors are normally matched with their closest corresponding LED color. For example, if the face of a channel letter were yellow or orange a warm white LED would be used. Another option is to us black perforated vinyl for the face of the letter, so the signage appears black during the day and glows white when lit at night.
Mounting the Channel Letter
Channel letters can be mounted numerous ways, depending on where they will be placed. Channel letters can be flush mounted, or mounted on a raceway or wireway.
A flush mount is when the channel letter is attached directly to the façade of the building. This used most optimally when the letters themselves are kept at a wider distance apart, or an extreme angle.
A raceway is a rectangular mounting structure that functions as a container for the sign’s electrical components and a mounting structure. Channel letters can sit atop of, or attached to the front of a raceway. Occasionally when the channel letters top the raceway, they will overlap onto the face of the raceway. When this happens, the raceway is typically covered in a molding to optimize design. To check out an example of top-mounted raceways, check our most recent gallery image.
A wireway is similar to a raceway in that it serves as a mounting structure for the channel letters, however, true to its name, it typically contains only wiring. For this reason, wireways are thinner than raceways and can be used as a back panel for the channel letter set.
Another option for mounting channel letters is to rest them on top of a building. In this case, rails are attached to the top and bottom of the letters and are supported by metal arms.
Are Channel Letters an Option for your Business?
Curious if channel letters are right for your business? Contact Channel Letter USA with any of your questions, and preview our gallery for examples of our high quality signs.