What we Manufacture
Q If you are a manufacturer, why do you sell other companies products?
A Simply stated, to give you choice. We directly manufacture about 60% of what we sell. Most internet retailers manufacture nothing at all, but they rarely disclose that unless you ask, and even then you may not get a straight answer. Others do manufacture some products yet sell Gemini products as well, leading the buyer to believe they are buying direct., which strictly speaking is dishonest.
Gemini Inc., is the largest manufacturer of sign letters with 5 plants across the USA, one in Canada and another in Mexico. They have been doing business for 40 years and are the low cost leader in the industry, yet even they do not directly manufacture everything they offer in their catalog. We have been a distributor of their products for many years. We buy many of our raw materials from them and use our own laser and cnc equipment to cut letters and logos. Gemini Inc., only sell to the trade. We sell to the trade and the end user, offering discounts to repeat customers on orders that we can produce here.
Do you sell wholesale to sign companies?
A Yes we do but we value our relationship with Gemini Inc., and we have a non-compete agreement with them when it comes to sign companies.. Therefore we will not offer wholesale pricing to sign companies that would undercut Gemini's published rates on similar products. Due to our smaller business size however, we can often produce products faster than Gemini's published production times, and though we do say so ourselves, our cut, paint and finish quality is as good or better. So the answer is yes we will sell to sign companies, but not for anything less than they can buy from Gemini.
What about Quality and Materials?
A Like Gemini, we use Matthews/PPG Paints, 5052 & 6061 Aluminum, Naval Brass, Commercial Bronze, 304 Stainless, and we also purchase some colors of acrylic sheet from Gemini. Our machinery is all modern CNC and Laser equipment and our operators are highly skilled. While we do not yet offer waterjetting, our letters and numbers do not suffer from large cormer radius effects. We have cut letters as small as 1" tall from 1/8" thick aluminum, brass, and bronze using mills as small as 1/16" diameter which leave a .032 radius in 90 degree corners. That's as close to a waterjet cut as you can get on a mill and the finished edge is semi-polished. Much has been touted about waterjets and while it is true that the finished cut leaves sharp definition in the corners, it is also true that the frosted edge produced by waterjets is not to everyone's liking. A mill cut letter will have a smooth shiny edge which can be easily polished and lends itself well to painting. Unlike Gemini, our brushed satin finishes are applied with a Timesavers™ Wet Sanding system which produces a truly random "Brushed" effect to the metal. Gemini's brushed satin has a straight line effect. Our clearcoats are more than just clear paint that is quite noticeable on the finished product. Instead we use a very high quality and very expensive, metal preservative that the manufacturer Guarantee's for outdoor use to last 10-15 years before it needs re coating. In comparison, Gemini's clear coats only have a few years of protection, as specified in their catalog. Our clearcoat preservatives are virtually invisible on anything other than polished letters. Our metal laminates incorporate Chemetal™ anodized aluminum. These are the same materials used in downtown hi-rise buildings where the walls look like they are made from huge sheets of stainless steel.
We cut this in true 3D using enroute 3d software on a hurco horizontal cnc mill. Tooling utilized a ball end mill to climb the prism's and create a true 3d prismatic letter. The large logo 'R' is 7" tall and the smaller letters were 4" tall, cut from solid 1/2" thick, commercial bronze, then buffed to a near gold shine. A very, VERY long milling operation and very, VERY expensive, in case you wanted something similar.
Are your products guaranteed?
A Anyone can say their product is guaranteed. The fine print is the real guarantee.
We state this: A product that is used for it's intended purpose (meaning not using indoor products outdoor), fails in service due to fading, cracking or chipping during the lifetime of the sign, in it's original location, installed properly with the correct mounting hardware, meaning you have not hung it with a nail or screw through its face, have not placed it in a position where it is likely to get damaged, we will replace any defective product, free of charge, for ever and a day, or until google buys us out for 10 billion dollars. or until the sun goes super-nova ... WHICHEVER COMES FIRST!
What more can you ask from a $30 item ?
Q What art files can I send in for quotations or orders?
A The best files to send us are Adobe Illustrator .ai or .eps or any vectorized EPS file. Corel CMX and Gerber Graphic Advantage-PLT (V 6.21.5), and we can often get vector art from pdf files if the pdf was created or converted from an adobe illustrator file.
EPS and .AI files should be saved to illustrator version 8 before sending to us. These files can be sent to the address listed on our contact page
Q What if I only have flat image files like .jpg (JPEG)?
A These files cannot be read by our cutting software but we can often use them to create the sign you want. If you want a specific font that we don't have (we have thousands), then you need to send us the true type font. We can also try to match your image to a given font. Send a picture of the letters you have taken straight on and close up. We will try to best identify the font used and make recommendations.
Q Can you make custom art for us?
A That depends on the degree of complexity. We cannot produce 3d artwork for sculptured logos. We can produce flat artwork from provided drawings or images given the scale or true dimensions of a known object in the picture. For instance, where you have a window or doorway that you can measure top to bottom and side to side, you can send us a straight on digital image of the window, give us the dimensions and we can create artwork for letters that might arc above the window or door. See artwork fees below.
Q What is clean art?
A Clean art is defined as any vectorized art file of custom letters or logos, that has used a minimum number of control points, while still retaining the integrity of the style or design.
Q What is vectorized artwork?
A It is a 2 dimensional outline path of the object that needs to be cut. A single line with several adjustable control points that can be digitally manipulated. These types of files can be created in Adobe Illustrator and Corel draw and also in cad programs. All control points need to be closed and the paths exported with the file.
Q How or when do art charges apply?
A If the art is fairly clean, requiring minimal clean-up, no art fee will be charged. If you do not want to pay any art fee, please advise us when you place your order. We will then call you if cleaner art is required. To create artwork from flat images such as JPEG's a fee of $5 per letter or $30 per simple logo will apply. Complex logo's may be more. To create letters from supplied font files a one time charge of $10 applies. These fees will be added to your final order. All artwork created in-house remains the property Montana Lettering Inc.
Q What do you charge for mounting or installation patterns?
A Mounting patterns cost $2.50 per letter. Patterns are not sent with orders unless ordered. All stud mounted letters or combination mounted letters will require some type of drilling template to install.
Q Why are patterns difficult to make for your exact application?
A Easy installation requires careful considerations of many options. Issues such as available space, visible restrictions, building obstructions, and artistic interpretation play a part in determining the best layout for your letters. For Gemini to space a mounting pattern, that meets all of your specific requirements, a detailed drawing is needed. Spacing, or kerning of letters is an art. Please be advised that no two patterns will match due to this considerations.
Q Can I return a pattern for credit?
A Mounting patterns, like letters, are custom made to your specifications. If you have a problem with a pattern, please call us to discuss available options. In order to make a new pattern, we will need you to return the letters as the mountings are all custom placed in each letter per order.
Should a pattern be spaced or spelled wrong, contact us for further instructions.
Please note that most letter installations will require some adjustments to letters once the holes are drilled, even with a perfectly punched mounting pattern.
Q What is the difference between a Pounce Pattern and a stud mounting pattern?
A A stud template is a full size drawing of your sign with stud positions marked for easy drilling. This kind of template is only useful for stud and combo type mounts. A pounce pattern is also a full size drawing of your sign but the letters are perforated allowing you to do a chalk rubbing through the paper and leave out lines of the letters on your mounting surface for perfect alignment with pads or no mount options.
Q So why is a free spacing tape not the best solution?
A Spacing tapes are used to roughly show proper horizontal spacing for pad mounting letters. It does not address vertical alignment or correct letter placement in relation to the baseline. Note that on many fonts the "O"s and "S"s and other curved letters are larger vertically than are the flat top letters like "E" and "H". This is because the human eye perceives curved letters or shapes to be smaller than square letters and shapes. These curved letters usually float vertically between the square letters. In most cases, sitting all letters on a straight line will not achieve a visually good looking sign. Mounting and Pounce patterns are full size reproductions of your sign on kraft paper and do all the alignment work for you.
Q What size letters will fit in a given area?
A Most of the product pages have a built in line length estimator based on the letters you are ordering. For a sign in either all capitals or mixed upper and lower case letters all you need to do is enter your sign copy the way it should be with spacing and available punctuation, then look at the display where your typed letters are shown. A line length and height will be shown that approximates stretching a rectangular box around all the letters shown from the very lowest character to the very highest. These lengths are pretty accurate in the real world if your spacing is done the same way as the display shows. It is important to remember that the chosen font controls the width. Every font will by its very nature provide a different length for a given set of words.
Should you need more exact line lengths feel free to call us.
Q How long does it take to get my order?
A Lead times, or the days needed for production, vary by letter product. Generally, formed plastic letters take around 2-3 days to make, injection molded around one day, and cast, cut metal, or metal plaques take around 7-10 days.
Keep in mind that your order will ship from one of five strategically located plants. However, not all plants carry all products. Here's a general list:
Formed Plastic: Minnesota -Texas - Virginia *Not all fonts and all sizes carried by every plant.
Injection Molded - Snaplok: Iowa only
Acrylic - Gemlite: Iowa and Montana
Flat Cut Metal: Texas - Nevada - Virginia - Montana
Cast Metal Texas - Iowa
Q How will my order be delivered?
A Most orders will ship via UPS or FedEx ground, unless otherwise requested by you. We pay ground shipping charges on order values exceeding $99.00.
All expedited shipping is at your cost and does not alter production time. It is your option to ship via air freight if you need your order sooner. All air freight orders are charged after shipping. Warning.. expedited shipping on large items can be very very expensive.
Many overnight, 2-day and 3-day options are available. Larger letters over 30" may have to ship via truck freight. These orders will ship freight collect with a carrier of your choice.