What type of metal can be used for in-ground plaques?
Often times for walk of fame projects, interpretive trails and other installations, our clients may prefer to install a custom plaque project underfoot and inset into the ground, rather than installing on a wall. Can this be done? Absolutely, however special requirements will apply if you choose to install a plaque in this way.
The plaque material is very important. Some metals (such as aluminum) are too soft to be installed underfoot. Aluminum is less dense than other metals and can chip away and corrode too easily when exposed to the constant wear and tear of foot traffic. Stainless steel is a strong and non-corrosive metal, however because stainless steel can only be created as an etched plaque, the relief depth is too shallow and the painted areas will not last if installed in the ground. Cast bronze plaques are stronger and more durable than most other metal types. This makes cast bronze ideal for projects inset into cement, pavers, terrazzo, sidewalks, etc. Cast bronze plaques hold up very well against heavy foot traffic, as they share many of stainless steels durable qualities. In fact, inset custom bronze plaques installed in cities and busy areas will enhance the luster and quality of the design over time - keeping raised areas buffed and looking good.
In addition to the metal choice for inset plaques, it is important to color and finish these projects in a particular way. Masterwork Plaques uses a real chemical patina to color all of our studio's inset bronze plaque projects. This is a more expensive process than what most plaque makers would like to use. Many other companies use products with names like chem-col, polychrome patinas, and graphite sprays which are really just fancy words for "paint". If the bronze work is set in a horizontal position, i.e. in the pavement, these other products will start to peel in a few years. Sometimes getting a “great deal” with a painted plaque seems more appealing upfront, but the cost and hassle of refinishing the painted plaque changes minds quickly!
Real patina finishes chemically change the surface color of the bronze. This technique ensures that no coloration will peel away when the plaques are set in the paving. Under heavy foot traffic, the patina will stay bright and buffed, so that the bronze work looks highlighted and burnished, as opposed to looking peeled and badly maintained.