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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

French cleat

We use many creative ways to hang our signs and projects. If it's heavy we'll resort to steel brackets or lag bolting it to a structure. But sometimes the sign isn't too large or heavy. In those cases we often use what we refer to as a french cleat. Most often we use 3/4 plywood to make our cleats. It's ripped on the table saw at 45 degrees.

We often fasten the cleat to the back of our work to purposely space it off the wall (by the thickness of the cleat) to provide an extra shadow line. In this case I wanted the work to be flush with the wall. This meant I had to route a space in the back of the bottom layer of the sign to accommodate the wall fastener. I routed it 1.5" deep (for two thicknesses of 3/4" plywood) The first was screwed and glued into place. The top hanging cleat was then screwed to this plywood.

The second cleat was screwed to our easel. This will eventually be fastened to the wall when we install the sign.

 The Cookie shelf is now ready to attach the utensils and finish.

The rest of the pieces were routed from 30 lb Precision Board as well. The arm attachment pieces were routed in two halves and then glued together. The rest of the pieces will be hand sculpted.

It's going to be a fun piece to do! Stay tuned for the next installment.


Cookie's Galley done

With a large crew to keep busy and big projects in planning it's not too often I get to spend time with a paint brush in my hand these days. But Cookie has been a pet project from design, sculpt, creating the routing file and through the paint process. Other members of the crew did work on the project a little but the bulk of it has been mine. I decided that I would personally finish the paint job on the lettering portion as well as the the highlights and touchups on.

The Cookie character, lettering style and colour choices are pretty much over the top for sure. Since this is a theme park project we could go a little out there (make that a whole bunch out there!) In the context of the landscape, building and activities the park will offer it really fits in perfectly.

I hope the sign makes people smile and adds to the experience they will enjoy at Skallywag Bay Adventure Park.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sign paint under way

We are now beginning to assemble and finish the signs for the Trinidad project, starting with Cookie's Galley sign. In the last few days we've done the finishing and laid on the base coats of paint. We use premium exterior house paint for all of our finishes and glazes with good results. Today it was time for the first glaze to bring out the woodgrain textures.

Tomorrow the painters will do the letter borders and the copper bands. Next week the lettering will get it's final paint to finish things off. Stay tuned...


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pieces of eight redo

Sometimes, after I complete a design I just know I could have done better. There's only one thing to do. DELETE. Then start over. The Pieces of Eight design I did yesterday was just such a piece.

Yesterday's design was far too ordinary. So today I started over with a brand new sketch. This one would be more fun and suited to the park.

The sketch was translated into some quick vectors - all freehand of course. The top board was just a placeholder for I would trace a bitmap to create the final version.

The new vector was used to create a flat relief and then I modified this relief by adding the cartoon woodgrain.

The other two smaller boards were created in the same fashion. Because the bitmaps can't be rotated in EnRoute we had to rotate the vectors.

Once I had all of the reliefs (with textures created I rotated them back and positioned them the way that suited my fancy. Before I went further I duplicated them as I needed similar boards for the back - without the lettering.

Next up were the flat reliefs of the letter outlines. These were built independent of the board reliefs.

I positioned them properly with repeat to the boards underneath (in the front view) and then merged them highest with the boards. Once I was done that task I combined the three board vectors (of both the front and back)

Last up was the addition of the bevelled letters.

The center layer of the sign will be cut from 1" thick Precision Board. The centre shape will be cut out to allow for the metal framework to be laminated inside.

Tomorrow I'll send the file to the MultiCam and we'll get this show on the road.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pieces of Eight sign

The small roller coaster I described a few posts back needs a sign of course. The 'owner' of the ride is Tupper, the pirate accountant. He will be featured on the sign. I did up a quick concept to 'sell' the idea to the client knowing I would still play with the design and lettering style as I created the sign.

Some of the most popular bitmaps in the TEXTURE MAGIC collection are the woodgrains. I've been working on a whole new collection of just woodgrains and I decided to give one of them a test drive on this project. It still needs a little work but one section in particular looked promising for this project.

I enlarged it significantly and positioned the lettering vectors over the section of the bitmap I wanted to use.

I then drew up the panel vectors and created a flat relief.

 The bitmap was then applied to the relief.
 Once I had closed the bitmap I created a new flat relief of just the lettering outlines and then Merged Highest with the wood grained background.

Then I modified the relief by adding the lettering, once again as a flat relief.

The last step was to drop the center of the letters using the subtract command. this would make the border of the letters much easier to paint.

The Tupper character was done as a separate sculpt using Abracadabra Sculpting epoxy. The barrel and post structure will be sculpted concrete ver a welded steel frame.

I'll be posting more as the sign is routed and assembled. Stay tuned...


Friday, October 17, 2014

Phil's Pholly

A while back I posted a how-to on the Treasure Quest sign. In the last installment the sign had been laminated over the framework. The rest of the twisted tree had been lathed and was ready for the concrete. Since then we sculpted the concrete 'wood and bark' and allowed the tee to cure before it was ready to drag back in the shop to finish up. I asked one of our workshop attendees, Phil to sculpt the parrot. It was Phil's fourth visit with us and I knew he could easily handle the task. Phil didn't disappoint. I did up the gold coins and pearls that were draped over the top of the sign and did a little art direction for Phil to make sure his style blended seamlessly with the rest of the pieces.

Once the sculpting was done it was time for the crew to lay on the base colors on the tee and treasure.

Phil also put on the first coats of base colors. Our painting crew did the last coat and then went at Pholly with the glazes. The result was fantastic!

Then the crew tackled the tee with the various shades of glaze required to bring the whole thing to life.

The sign and tree is a wonderful mix of various mediums including welded steel, routed Precision Board, sculpted fiberglass reinforced concrete, sculpted Abracadabra Sculpting Epoxy and many coats of paint and glaze. It will be ready to roll out of the shop on Monday, making room for the next batch of features that still need paint.

Stay tuned for more...


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Piece of eight

Designing and building a theme park is a lot of fun, especially if you get to control all aspects of the design. The rides are being manufactured by a company in Italy but they allowed me to help with the design to help the ride fit into the theme of the park. Unless we want to spend a great deal of our customer's money the changes are limited to cosmetic items alone. In this case we went a little further. 

To make the ride(s) more exciting and to maximize the space available we tucked two rides together. The concern was the safety ride envelope of each ride. This meant we had to have one end of the figure eight ride (spinning coater) enlarged slightly. Our theme in the park is Pirates so we added some theme work to the rides as well. For the spinning drop ride tower we added a crow's nest and a mast at the top- an easy addition. I also specified the colours we wanted.

The spinning coaster we went a little further. We asked the ride manufacturer to redesign the ride cars to look like the bottom portion of a barrel. Stock seats will fit inside.

After I sent off the artwork I got back a proof from the factory to confirm our choices.

We'll also build a small mountain peak inside the second loop to further bring the theme into this area. The ride will be raised substantially to add excitement and also to make it more visible as you approach the park. The very tall rock structure to the right will be Monkey Skull Rock, a world class climbing wall with a fifty foot jump out of the mouth. It will offer a cable controlled descent for those brave enough to try it.
Today's task was to design the gold medallion that will be mounted to the side of each car on the spinning coaster which is name Pieces of Eight. It features the pirate emblem we are using extensively through the park. The design is simple and is to be routed as a simple cutout - with a cool texture of course. We'll route it from 30 lb Precision Board. After it is routed we'll do a little hand sculpting on the skull to make it even more 3D. 

We started with a flat relief 1.5" thick.

I then dropped the centre portion of the coin around the skull 0.2"

I then added a texture using our blotches bitmap. Notice how far it was enlarged. I wanted the coin to have a subtle texture and not just look pitted.

As quick as that it was ready for tool pathing. I used a 1/8" ball nose bit with an 80% overlap. 

We'll make two copies of the piece. One will be sent to Italy to be a master for the mold they will make to cast the eight pieces they will need for the ride. The other piece we make will be painted up real nice and then mounted to our display wall in the shop.

It's always an exciting day to see the giant rides pulled out of the containers and set into position. Then comes the first test rides by our crew! Stay tuned to see how it turns out...