How to Create a Custom Metal Sign With a Plasma Cutter
July 29, 2019
The sky’s the limit when creating a DIY custom metal sign — and metal sculptor Barbie The Welder gives you all the steps you need.
DIY wall art
You are an amazing artist! Even if you don’t feel like you have a creative bone in your body, I am going to show you how to quickly and easily make metal wall art that you’re proud of. I created a wall hanging that says family with two hearts, but your design can be anything — a favorite team, an animal you love or even your truck. Your only limit is your imagination.
To make this project you will need:
- Plasma cutter
- MIG or TIG welder (if you want a 3D element)
- Hammer and chisel
- Steel or stainless steel (anywhere from 20 gauge to 1/8-inch thick)
- Small wire brush
- Paint (if you choose to paint your wall hanging)
Step 1: Template
Once you choose what you would like to make, either write/draw it by hand directly on your material — or find a font/image online and print it out in the preferred size. You can find thousands of fonts and images online that you can print out and use. For a larger sign, you can print your image or words out on multiple pages like I did. Note: If you want it to be one piece, make sure the letters all touch.
If you chose to print out your design, cut around the words/image with scissors or a sharp blade to create a template you can trace. In addition to the lettering, I wanted to add two hearts to my project, so I drew those out as well. (Don’t laugh — I’ll make them look good eventually!)
Place the template on your material and use a marker to trace around the outside. I used a black marker, but I find that a white paint marker is much easier to see when plasma cutting.
Step 2: Cutting
Using my Miller® Spectrum® 375 X-TREME™ plasma cutter, I cut around the outside of the letters and cut out any center pieces.
Step 3: Cleanup
After cutting the material there will be dross on the back. Chip it off using a hammer and chisel. You can also use a grinder to do this, but with thinner material it’s better to use the hammer and chisel so the material doesn’t become too thin.
I left the edges of my sign rough after I cut it because I like how it looks. You can use a small grinding disk to smooth the edges if you choose. A small file will allow you to get into smaller areas.
Step 4: Adding a 3D element to your wall hanging
I wanted to add a 3D element to my sign, so I cut out two hearts and finished them like I did the lettering. I cleaned everything before I welded and put the swirl on it first because once it was welded, I wouldn’t be able to put the swirl designs on it.
I laid the family sign down on the bench and held the hearts up at a 45-degree angle, putting a small tack weld on either side of the bottom of each heart where it touched the letter F. For this step, I used my Millermatic® 211 MIG welder, however, a TIG welder could be used as well. Once complete, use a small wire brush to clean any weld discoloration and a hammer and chisel to chip any spatter.
Step 5: Finishing touches
There are several ways you can finish your wall hanging. Painting, graining, swirling or even leaving the weld discoloration all will give your wall hanging a unique look. If you’re using steel, you can leave it natural and allow it to rust over time. Grinders are fantastic to experiment with to see what finishes you can get — just remember to practice on scrap first!
I chose to finish my family metal sign with a swirl pattern using my 2-inch 80-grit grinding disk and lightly touching the material with the left and right side of the pad. You can see here how it gives it a cool look.
If you want to paint your wall hanging, wipe it with a shop cloth first to remove any oil or grinding dust, and then you can use a spray paint made for metal.
Here is my finished piece. What do you think? I would love to see what project you make! When you finish your project tag #millerwallart to share your wall hanging with me!