Standard rectangular plaques can vary from 3” x 5” to as large as 36” x 48,” or even larger. Historical markers, which are intended to provide information, are typically larger in order to accommodate the amount of text. Building markers, on the other hand, may have only a name and the date of dedication, therefore requiring less text. Some of our plaques come in standard sizes. Others are fully customizable. Please check the product pages for details.
Depending on the type of plaque you choose, there may be a limit to the number of characters you can fit on the plaque. Metalphoto plaques can accommodate a considerable amount of text because the plaque is made photographically. However, cast aluminum and bronze are limited by the minimum letter size (1/4” in height when using all caps; 3/8” when using lower case letters). Etched magnesium, zinc, copper and brass plaques lie between these two extremes.
Additionally, you want the text to be legible, so it needs to be large enough to read from a few feet away.
Before designing a plaque, decide what material to use. Each plaque material has its strengths and weaknesses that must be taken into consideration. Chemically etched plaques, like magnesium, zinc, copper and brass, are capable of reproducing higher resolution images and characters than cast metal plaques, like bronze and aluminum. Sketches and logos must be scaled accordingly. Photographs can only be reproduced on Metalphoto, or by UV printing on a flat material (see FAQ, below).
Most of our plaque materials are suitable for outdoor use. However, magnesium is intended only for indoor use because high humidity can cause damage. Both indoor and outdoor plaques have a variety of mounting options, depending on where the plaque will be located.
Once the plaque material has been chosen, create a rough sketch of your idea. Experiment with different shapes and sizes on sketch paper in order to decide which style you like the best.
Finally, look at different fonts and colors. Schools and historical sites generally use block letters in all caps. Small, bronze plaques typically require the use of all upper-case letters. Generally, small, lower-case letters (< 3/8”) do not cast well. Classic and traditional plaques tend to have darker background colors that complement the brushed bronze lettering. More contemporary plaques often have vibrant background colors, such as deep greens, reds and navy blues. However, these color paints are generally less durable to weathering over time.
If you’re not comfortable creating your own design, simply provide us with your specifications. We can design it for you at no extra charge. Most customers prefer to do it this way.
Cast bronze is an alloy. An alloy is created by mixing at least two or more molten metallic elements that result in a harder, stronger and more durable metal compound. Our cast, silicon, bronze comprises copper (90%), zinc (6%) and tin (4%). It does not rust, weaken or erode under harsh weather elements.
Some cast bronze pieces have been dated as far back as 2500 BC. The Victorious Athlete (300 BC–100 BC) is a bronze cast of a triumphant athlete wrapping a ribbon around his head as the winner of the Ancient Olympic Games. Winners of the ancient games were permitted to cast bronze statues of themselves (doing so sometimes cost them 10 times their annual wage).
Other historical pieces include, The Charioteer of Delphi, which was sculpted around 470 BC, and Tōdai-ji Daibutsu (aka Vairocana Buddha), which is perhaps the most famous cast bronze statue known today, dating back to 752 AD.
Modern foundries use pattern-making machines to create 3D polymer patterns (similar to 3D printing). These patterns are used to make the mold, which contains a sand-clay mixture. The molten metal (bronze or aluminum) is then poured into a “green” sand mold. Once cool, the plaque goes through an extensive finishing process that includes fettling, sanding, painting and drilling.
For more information on casting, see the “Life of a Casting Series: A trip through a foundry from pattern to product”: https://www.reliance-foundry.com/blog/sand-casting
We all know that a bronze medal is given out in the Olympics for third-place winners. However, we beg to differ. When it comes to plaques, bronze finishes in first place, having a resiliency and aura all its own. Though bronze is less expensive than precious metals like silver or gold, it is harder and more durable than most metals, including aluminum. The patina that forms on bronze does not flake off like rust, so the plaque maintains its structural integrity over time. This is why bronze is the number one choice for outdoor applications. Bronze plaques are “forever plaques.”
All protective coatings, including paints and clear coats, gradually wear off over a period of time. The aging process is determined by the local climate. The end result is the traditional, green patina of aged bronze and copper (bronze typically contains 88%-90% copper). The patina actually forms a barrier against further corrosion. Since the patina does not flake off like rust, the plaque maintains its structural integrity over time. The Statue of Liberty, which is made of copper sheeting, has only lost 0.1 mm in thickness since 1886!
Patinas, by their very nature, will differ from plaque to plaque and place to place depending on the level of sulfur and humidity in the air. For example, older cemetery plaques will feature varying degrees of patina on their surfaces. This characteristic of bronze and copper has been known for thousands of years. It is a look prized by collectors of ancient bronze art.
For more on the nature and chemistry of patina, see this article by the Copper Development Association: https://copperalliance.org.uk/knowledge-base/education/education-resources/copper-reactivity-patination/
When unprotected bronze is exposed to the elements, it becomes oxidized over time, eventually forming a patina. Some prefer the greenish hue of a patina finish, which is a thin layer of hydrated, copper carbonate resulting from exposure to the air.
If you prefer your bronze plaque to look more polished, with a gold and copper hue, it’s important to care for it properly. Our clear coat, which is applied to the plaque at the foundry, will preserve the original finish for several years. However, it is important to note that all coatings eventually weather, leaving the metal unprotected.
To extend the life of the exposed finish, wash your bronze plaque with a soft cloth, mild soap and warm water. There is no need to buy expensive cleaners. Some of these products may actually do more harm than good. If the finish is beginning to tarnish, you can lightly sand the letters and the border with a fine grit paper, always sanding in the direction of the brushed finish. Use a toothbrush to get into any crevices and corners. Rinse with clear water to remove any soap residue.
Use a clear paste or carnauba wax, which can be found online or at most hardware stores. Avoid using car wax, as it tends to dry white and can be difficult to remove from nooks and crannies in your plaque.
If you’d prefer to have your plaque refinished professionally, please contact us. Sacred Engraving can fully refurbish, paint and recoat your plaque, prolonging its life and beauty.
Metalphoto offers one of the highest graphic resolutions of any metallic substrate. This includes graphics, pictures and text, all of which are imaged in black and white onto photosensitive anodized aluminum. The result is a sharp, durable image that is weather-, UV- and abrasion-resistant. Anything that can be printed on paper can be made as a lasting image on metal. Metalphoto is defined as the most durable of aluminum identification plates by GPI, the National Association of Graphic and Product Identification Manufacturers Inc.
Most materials used in the Recognition/Plaque & Award industry have poor resistance to sunlight. Metalphoto is different. The silver-halide image is trapped beneath a sapphire-hard anodic layer. As a result, Metalphoto is resistant to abrasion, heat, salt spray, cleaning agents, fluids and, most importantly, sunlight. Field experience proves that Metalphoto images survive outdoors for 20 years or more. (The actual lifetime will vary depending on the amount of exposure to sunlight.)
UV printing can transfer full color, text and images onto materials like aluminum, wood, ceramic tile, plastics and glass, up to 18″ x 24″ in size. Photos, corporate logos, government seals and more can be printed on plaques, signage and nameplates. UV flatbed printing produces crisp, vibrant and highly durable images that are resilient to abrasion and solvents. They are designed primarily for indoor use. Plaques intended for outside use receive an additional protective coating to guard against fading and the elements for 2-5 years.
Both Metalphoto and UV-printed plates are typically mounted to a wooden backer or incorporated into a zinc or magnesium plaque.