By Ron Sherry
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) asked Composite Concepts, Inc. to build a three dimensional version of the SAE logo for the SAE International Congress Banquet in Detroit, Michigan. An easy feat, until you consider the size of the letters. They are 22′ tall, 56′ wide and 4′ deep, with a horizontal 2′ high split down the middle. Add some projection and neon lighting, and you have an impressive back drop for the engineers receiving their awards at this black tie dinner. The speakers entered the stage from under the letter A before they approached the lectern.
Composite Concept’s first step was scaling out the SAE logo to the proper size on graph paper. Using the drawing, we generated a material list with minimal scrap. We laid out each letter on the top of two layers of 1/4″ lauan plywood placed edge-to-edge on the floor. The front face of each letter was drawn on the top layer. We clamped the two layers together to cut the front and back of each letter at the same time. Then we spliced the sections of plywood together using 6″ strips of 1/4″ lauan, WEST SYSTEM epoxy and staples. To give the letters depth, we epoxied and screwed 2″ x 2″ x 4′ frames between the back and front of the letters. Then we skinned the sides of the letter with1/8″ lauan plywood.
We made holes to access the inside of the letters, and added extra reinforcing where they were to be hung or bolted together. We mixed WEST SYSTEM 105 Resin, 205 Hardener and 403 Microfibers for filleting all of the edges together. This was the key to the strength and integrity of the letters. We routered and sanded the corners of the letters to prepare them for painting. The end result was a light weight set that looked like solid marble.