It was time to start coming up with a plan to put some lettering on the BMW technician award. The basic components were all cut out but the sign lacked the info that was going to define what the sign is going to represent. In keeping with the German BMW theme I decided to shift from the “M Tech” theme to a “M Tek” theme.
The plan was to cut all the lettering out of the same aluminum sheet I used for the base. Now if I had a CNC plasma then the cutting of the letters would have spared me of some ingenuity. Since I don’t have a CNC plasma, yet, I was faced with having to cut all the lettering by hand.
I decided that multiple steps would be required in order to ensure that the lettering would come out looking that of CNC quality. It all started on the computer tracking down font that was similar to that of the BMW line. The “M” font was not an issue as I was able to AutoCAD the dimensions using an actual “M” emblem as a reference. The issue was with the “TEK” font and after reviewing many different fonts I finally settled on one that was similar. The only concern I had was that the font would eventually be increased by approximately .170” around all the edges. Since the font would be acting as a plasma guide I needed to ensure that the space left between the plasma cutting tip and the plasma cutting tip guide edge (sort of like a kerf) would not alter the look of the font too much.
The “TEK” font then was scaled to size and printed out on multiple sheets of paper. So after a bit of arts and crafts I was able to tape and cut paper that would leave me with a full scale version of my lettering. So with the paper templates in hand I was off to the garage.
So as the second step to the cutting process I traced all the lettering out on 1/8” MDF hardboard. With a jigsaw in hand I trimmed all the letters out. Using multiple sanders, including a drum sander on the drill press, I was able to work all the lettering down to precise dimensions. It was important to ensure that the lines were all straight and the radiuses were all smoothly rounded. Since the templates were going to be the actual guide for the plasma torch any imperfections in their shape would surely transfer through onto the aluminum.
With the MDF templates built the rest of the job was quick and easy. The letters were Vise-Gripped down onto the plate of aluminum and then trimmed out using the plasma torch. The edges only required light touch up with the belt sander and flap wheels. As far as the “M” letter goes there was no MDF template made. The “M” was all measured out and then straight edges used to provide the guide.
With the letters all cut I was able to lay them out onto the rest of the sign and verify that the image I had in my head was the image that was now sitting in front of me. Now that all the components of the sign have been cut the next phase will involve layout and some sort of method to attach all the pieces into unity.