A nameplate made of acrylic sheet guarantees a fun afternoon of DIY that you can enjoy for years. You create maximum effect with minimal means, especially if you opt for coloured acrylic and LED lighting. It is different, it is striking and it is fun! In this blog, you will find all the instructions and explanation you need when creating an acrylic nameplate. A nice little job, especially for the novice handyman.
Acrylic sheet and much more
In our webshop you will find a large variety of acrylic: we have clear, opal and coloured acrylic sheet in stock. Acrylic is available in the budget version and the slightly more expensive cast acrylic. Because a nameplate is attached to the wall, you will have to drill holes yourself. Budget acrylic is less suitable for this, it will break quickly. Our tip: choose cast acrylic to avoid disappointment. The minimum plate thickness is 5 millimetres. If you want to add lighting, choose 8 millimetres.
What do you need to make a nameplate?
A set of standard tools will get you a long way. A jigsaw and a variable speed drill are the only electrical tools. An HSS drill is great for drilling holes in acrylic sheet, for the jigsaw you use a fine-toothed saw for soft metals, such as aluminium. You need a roll of masking tape for marking, sawing and drilling. If you are going to saw it, it is important to finish the edge neatly, this is possible with fine sandpaper grit 120-240, but also with a propane burner. The latter can be used for flame polishing, but this is only necessary if you are going to illuminate the nameplate. In that case, a hot melt glue gun also comes in handy.
Then there’s the question of how you are you going to apply the lettering. You could paint it and for this, you need a brush and acrylic paint. You can also choose to engrave the lettering, you can do this with a Dremel (or a similar machine from another brand) and an engraving drill. A non-erasable marker or fineliner comes in handy when marking out the lettering. In this blog, we explain how to make an engraved acrylic nameplate.
Drill first, then saw
You can, of course, order your acrylic cut to size, but it may be useful to order the plate a little larger than needed. Then you can also make a unique nameplate for friends and acquaintances. You can easily cut several nameplates from a large sheet. Because we want the holes as much as possible at the corners of the nameplate, it is important to drill the holes before you cut the sheet. This prevents the borehole from tearing to the edge.
Before you start sawing and drilling, you must mark the saw lines and drill holes. And before you begin, first stick masking tape on the sheet. The acrylic comes with protective foil on the front and back, this should be left. Simply stick the masking tape over it on one side.
We are going to drill holes of 5 millimetres and the centre of these holes must come at least 10 millimetres from the edge of the sheet. You place the acrylic on the wooden base plate so that the drill can run into it. Drill gently and do not let the drill turn too hard. After drilling, you can cut out the acrylic nameplate (if necessary). If you do not illuminate the nameplate, you can round off the corners nicely. After sawing, smooth the rough edges and saw marks away with the sandpaper. You start with grain 120, then go over it again with grain 240.
Lettering and engraving
Now you can begin the real craftsmanship: marking the lettering. The lettering, regardless of whether you are going to paint or engrave, will be at the back of the plate. That means that you will have to work in mirror image later on. This is easier if you have a good template: then you can simply mark the lettering on the foil on the front. So you can simply print out your design, place it under the nameplate, and mark it on the front.
When you have marked out your design, turn over the acrylic nameplate and remove the foil on the back. Time to apply the engraving! Because of the high-frequency sound and the fine dust that is released, it is highly recommended to use earplugs and a respirator. The engraving starts with the outlines of your design/lettering, for this, use an engraving bit with a convex head of 1-2 millimetres wide. It often takes a while to find the ideal speed for your multitool. Because acrylic starts melting or sticking quickly during machining, you have to maintain a low to moderate speed. Our tip: first practice on a piece of spare material until you have found the ideal speed. Use a soft cloth or a soft brush to wipe away the dust if you can not see the lines.
Do you want to illuminate the nameplate? Then read our tips in the blog ‘Lighting acrylic with LED‘, which contains all sorts of useful tips for engraving.
Illuminating a sawn edge? Then flame polish!
Acrylic sheet has a higher light transmittance than glass. For that reason, it is often used for signs and signposts that are illuminated. The acrylic is then illuminated from the edge, it is important that the edges are as smooth and transparent as possible. If the edges are sawn, the edges must be polished. With flame polishing, this is a piece of cake.
Flame polishing is done with a propane burner. You can buy small burners in lighter size at the hardware store. Often this contains a lighter gas holder, which you can easily refill. If you have a larger burner, it must have an adjustable end that forms a ‘pencil flame’. This is a tapered flame shape.
Remove the remaining protective film before you start polishing! Place the nameplate on a suitable (fireproof) surface, if you moisten the wooden base plate, this is also helpful. Light the burner and adjust the flame so that a stable and not too large flame is formed. The format must – as the name suggests – correspond to the end of a pencil. In the case of flame polishing, the cone of the flame (the brightly lit core) must not touch the acrylic. Aim the flame at the edge and move the burner in one gentle movement (certainly not too slowly) along the edge. The acrylic melts and will then set to a crystal-clear surface. We recommend that you first practice this on a piece of scrap.
Don’t have a propane burner? Then polishing can also be done with this polishing set.
Install LED lighting
Led strips are on sale everywhere: at many large hardware stores, you will find very suitable strips that can often be cut to length. If you want to mount the acrylic nameplate outside, then your LED strip must be waterproof, this is indicated on the packaging. Tip: test the LED strip before gluing it to the acrylic.
The LED strip is glued against the acrylic nameplate with melt cartridges and a glue gun. Place the LED strip against the bottom edge of the acrylic and ensure that the LEDs are exactly in the middle of the sheet thickness. Fix the strip with masking tape so that it does not shift. Then glue the LED strip against the acrylic, you place a glue edge on the front and back of the acrylic. Try to avoid glue between the LEDs and the acrylic! In principle, your nameplate is now ready, now all you have to do is to finish it and attach it to the wall. You can conceal the LED strip in a pedestal, or in a profile. You will find countless ideas for this on the internet!