It is hard to believe that it was only seven years ago I witnessed a CNC router in action for the very first time. I was fascinated with what I saw and simply had to have one! Although I had been in the creative end of the three dimensional sign business for most of my life I didn't really know what I would do with one - but I just knew it could do fantastic stuff.

Through extensive research and LOTS of hands-on practice I quickly found out that my MultiCam router was capable of just about anything imaginable.This journal will chronicle that journey to date and continue each week with two or three entries as I continue to explore just what is possible with this wonderful tool... -dan

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mechanical wonder

I wonder how we ever managed without our MultiCam CNC machines in the past. We use them a lot these days and the mechanical wonders allow us to do things we previously could never have achieved.

In the last couple of days I've been working on the flutterbye - a mechanical bug for the ride sign. The customer specified that the metal components be powder coated. This meant the various assemblies needed to disassemble easily for the coating. The bug also needed to come off of the branch for shipping as it made the feature too high.

This is where the software and CNC come in handy. I designed the parts in EnRoute and then sent them off to the MultiCam for cutting. The feet are made from sections of pipe and plasma cut pieces. These were welded together as sub assemblies, ground up nice and then welded into larger assemblies. The bottom section will be welded into the tree branch and then sculpted up to. This will allow the feet to easily bolt on. We'll sculpt the bug body around the square tubing. I have yet to weld up the pencil rod frame for that.

Today it was time to design, cut and mount the wings. As we test fit Peter came up with the idea of mounting faux hydraulic cylinders to the top of the wings. it would add to the mechanical look and they would also act as additional braces, making the assembly far stronger in the process. None of this would have been possible without the CNC machines!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Since my last report on the large stump/base we've made great progress. We first applied the galvanized mesh, carefully tied into place so there was no wiggle.

Then over a period of two days the crew applied the fibreglass reinforced concrete and skillfully sculpted it. The large drum perched on the top is made with 'wood' panels with big 'steel' bands holding it all together. Underneath is an enormous stump. We tried sculpting a new bark technique with great success. It will be allowed to cure until next week and then the painting process will begin.

Tomorrow we'll pull the giant steel plate off the top and begin building the frame of the next section. Because it was accurately plasma cut on our MultiCam CNC we know it will fit perfectly with all the other pieces when we are done. It will not be assembled until it gets to the final site.

Another load down the road

We loaded twelve large arches along with two large pallets of smaller pieces into the trailers on Monday and sent them on their way to NEBs Fun World in Ontario. We have more pieces finished and waiting until a few more are done before we send along another truckload.

We've completed two of the ten side arches. That leaves only eight more large pieces (of thirty-eight total) to go on this project. The side arches are a little different than the ones over the lanes as the bottom section is filled in. They also have oversize pennies instead of the number plates. The crew did an awesome job sculpting and painting the pieces!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Deadline met - thanks to a hard working crew!

Our meeting in Florida went great. While we were away the crew kept exceptionally busy. They did a fabulous job Too.

All the pieces for the front of NEBs bowling lanes are now finished. There are fifty-two lanes in all which makes for a lot of pieces! The details look superb!

The pieces for the bowling alley fronts are made up of a number of materials and building processes. The MultiCam plasma cutter got a good workout for this project with many hundreds of pieces cut from sheet stock. These were welded into larger assemblies which were then welded to square tubular steel frames. We screwed 3/4" plywood to much of the surface and then stapled expanded metal mesh to these areas. They all were covered in Fiberglass reinforced concrete and then hand sculpted to look like brick and plaster or wooden beams.

Detailed pieces like the number plates or carved 'wood' inserts were routed on our MultiCam. There were hundreds of these pieces. Everything was skillfully hand painted and then carefully aged with glazes. When the pieces are all joined together they will form more than 400 feet of wall!

In the next days we will fill the second semi trailer bound for Oshawa, Ontario. I can hardly wait to see it all together!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A bit of a rush

Generally we don't fight deadlines in our shop. We like to plan our jobs carefully so we can finish ahead of schedule on most occasions. But every once in a while the world seems to conspire against us.

We looked over the things we needed to do prior to our next shipment to NEBs in Ontario. We consulted with our client and then scheduled a truck for the delivery. All was good. Then we had a three day snow and ice storm. That cut last week's schedule a little short as we lost staff for those days. This week is a short one as Monday was a holiday in British Columbia. At this point our relaxed schedule is no more. The truck leaves next Monday in the early afternoon.

It meant that the whole crew has been painting and will continue to paint for the next couple of days. We cranked up the heat in the shop and broke out all of the large fans to move the ir around in a big way to help dry the paint.

With everyone helping with the painting it is going quick and looking good. Some of the pieces are already finished, some nearly so and the rest need their final coat of paint plus the glazes. It's going to be close but I'll bet they will finish on Friday afternoon with five or ten minutes to spare.  :)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Paint, more paint and then more paint still!

Our MultiCam is good at creating part after part when it needs to. We just throw a sheet of 30 lb Precision Board onto the table, turn on the vacuum hold down and set the machine in motion. It faithfully cranks out part after part. I only need to check on the machine once in a while. When a whole sheet of Precision Board is routed I take off the pieces, blow off the point board and then repeat the process.

In the case of NEB's Fun World we created more than a hundred dimensional signs. The routing was easy as the machine did the bulk of the work. Then we have to assemble and finish them.
Routing plywood backer plates was again easy. Because if the tight tolerances of the machine all the pieces came out perfectly and fit together easily. Because there were so many of each it did take some time. There were 52 number plates, 35 name shields and ten giant pennies plus the pub signs. More than a hundred signs in all.

Painting all these pieces took the time - or I rather should say is taking the time. We use it as a filler job, tucked in between other time sensitive tasks.

The pub signs are done. The fifty-two number plates are also finished. Half of the pennies are complete with the balance down to final detail paint and glazes. Nineteen name shields are finished with five to receive final paint. Eleven are yet to be started. Much has been accomplished with a fair amount yet to be done.

While most of the crew have helped out with the painting it fell to Jenessa to do the bulk of the final steps. I suspect she'll be glad when they are ll done!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Flutterbye - part one

It is always an exciting day when we can start a new project. Today was such a day. We began the second feature/sign/operator's booth for a new ride at Playland at the Pacific National Exhibition.

The concept was done previous to our receiving the technical information for the ride, especially in regard to the orientation of the booth and the sizes required. We'll be adjusting things a little from the concept as we go but it will be substantially like the drawing.

I started by creating the cut files for the half inch plate steel. The MultiCam plasma cutter made short work of the cuts. The plate is much thicker than normal because the feature will be moved a number of times through it's life. Over the next ten years the entire park will be transformed and the rides rearranged as necessary. Initially the tree will be placed on tarmac without being bolted down. Because the upper portion is cantilevered a fair amount we needed to compensate with a broad base. The heavy steel will help as well.

The hollowed out inner portion of the tree will serve as an operator's booth. The dimensions were mandated by the ride manufacturer and are quite large. To ensure the bottom portion of the concrete survives all of the moves we built a three trusses which span the three closed sides. More braces fro out to the portions of the roots which will extend from the center. Heavy steel uprights and cross members were welded into place. A fourth truss forms the large trunk of the tree which extends out.

We made great progress on our first day of fabrication. This is going to be a fun project!