Edge Lit Acrylic: Big Production Run

A boy scout has chosen to put in a new playground on the church campus for his eagle scout project. It entails lots of brush clearing, digging, concrete work, mulch spreading and other physical labor. Included in the project is securing funding. I thought that we could make some edge lit acrylic signs and sell them to raise funds. We put out 100 order sheets and they were gone in two weeks, plus some more that we added on, plus a few custom designs. I have a massive supply of 1/4" cast acrylic that works so well for these signs.

They are all handmade from parts that are laser cut, engraved, 3D printed, or hand soldered for the LEDs and the USB cables. I donated about $100 worth of materials for the project. $25 a sign.

There are four choices of base color: blue, red, green, purple. Four choices of a veneer top: walnut, cherry, maple and birch (this one I got from Inventables). They can choose from four different sayings.

Lots of bases. I used the cheapest luan that I could find at the hardware store. It works great with a veneer top.

Here is how the base looks before assemble. The scouts learned some hot glue skills, soldering skills, 3D printing, and gluing, and most importantly, the chore of weeding text engraved in acrylic. This project did prompt me to buy a one of the new USB connected solder pens from Sains Mart. Very nice to have.

The design uses a bit of wood that you have to glue together so the base top and bottom snap into the PLA collar. This is the glue up.

For one off simplicity you could just make a top and bottom piece of proograde plywood and engrave a margine around each that would snap into the collar. I’ve done that before. Engraving time is a bit long though, so it’s faster just to cut an inner piece that fits into the plastic collar.

Didn’t need so many red bases printed. Almost half of the orders were for blue. I used translucent PLA from MakerGeeks, a filament company located in Springfield, MO. They have have some great filament and good deals. Unfortunately I needed more blue and they are out of stock now. Making do with a non-translucent blue that works fine. Not quite as bright in the base.

I took the opportunity to install theVelocity Painting app. It is one of the most amazing 3D printing add ons. Did have to spend an evening trying to figure out how to use it, but once I did, it worked well.

Milk jug for scale.

Francis tied with 1 Corinthians.

Recycled the Fruits of the Spirit from the confirmation gifts.

If you like purple, this filament is perfect for you.

We should have one more evening of assembly and then we can deliver.

I’ve learned a lot from this project. One: simplify. Just pick one design and make it. I could have sold 100 blue, prayer of St. Francis with a walnut top. It would have been a lot easier to manage parts inventory. Lesson learned. Two: I am stuck with this project for a while. Folks are yammering that we need some more order forms for a second production run. Three: I much prefer doing one distinct project and then move on to something else. This is a real act of charity. Not sure how folks manage this for making a living. I’d need a couple more Glowforges I think.


Great that you were able to help out with a project that not only supports what they are working on, but is engaging and educational as well. Nicely done!


NIce work. Great project(s) all around.

And yes, hard to keep up with all of those orders… No more than 2 choices for the “public” for me. Friends get whatever they want, but “the people” get what I sell. LOL


Nice work Marion!
I know you had to clear the table for enough room.
Take up some donations to replace your tube. you will probably be able to buy another machine…


Yes. This project put about 60 hours on Zatoichi. Luckily I had almost all of the acrylic cut and engraved before he died.


These are beautiful! I am particularly fond of the base design – great looking plus a great learning opportunity for the Scouts. :sunglasses:


Omigosh…seriously impressive project, Marion. I would be so burned out on making those, so I hope if you are as well, that you can recharge your brain and move on to the next exciting thing. What a great job!


I hear you…

Most things are easy to mass produce, but I have had a couple that came out nice but were a bit of a hassle to get right without any of the flaws showing.
Then about a week or two after delivery, the call comes. Need one for Mom and Grammy. Can you help me?

You groan inside and get to work. Making plans on how to make it smarter without making it look different.

Big advantage to not making this a retirement job. You can pat the finished project and walk away feeling proud while pondering what you will make next.


Amazing project! You hinted at a large one earlier and you did not disappoint. I get tired of a project if I have to make more than 15 of anything. What a wonderful learning experience for the kids! And the playground building will be great for them too. I think your area is going to turn out some exceptional scouts with such great mentoring.


I hear you. I just finished 240 HD tile coasters. The engrave time was about 20 minutes each (I did them in batches of 8) but then I needed to Sharpie them, magic eraser off the excess, Sharpie the edges, cut & stick felt on the bottoms and then pack them up to ship out. So done :slightly_smiling_face:

Cranking out piecework isn’t as satisfying as seeing a new design come to life.


Absolutely. Just returned from a D.C. trip, and now I dive back into the last 1,000 of a 3,000 piece order. Luckily they are simple 2 sided tokens, nothing as elaborate as Marion’s project.


Wow! That is some production! Thank you for the walkthrough on building the bases. They’re cool.


Excellent job. AND congratulations to the young man for getting to this point. (You don’t accidentally stumble into Eagle Scout…)
It always is painful when in the middle of a project…for both of you…but So well worth it. (As an ex scoutmaster…is there such a thing? …or Like a marine, a marine for life…like old coaches… ha ANYWAY… my rear still hurts from sitting atop a gazebo nailing shingles… yep still worth it … (just maybe not today! Ha!):sunglasses:


Love all Edge Lit projects … But wow! Love your base! The colors really make them pop!

What a wonderful sacrifice of your time and material!

I’m with you … Detest duplicate projects, so boring. Which only elevates all your work even more in my eyes!


Great project and well managed!

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