It is hard to believe that it was only six 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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Treasure Quest - part three

Once the MultiCam had done it's work it was time to assemble the pieces over the welded frame.  I first used the air house to blow off the dust from the Precision Board. I used PB Bond 240 glue a one part product that is activated with water moisture. It's made by the folks at Coastal Enterprises, the same people who make Precision Board. I spread a layer over the back of the sign, aligned the middle to it and then screwed then together. I'm told it isn't necessary to screw the pieces, only clamps but I like the extra insurance the screw offer. I countersunk the heads of the screws and we'll fill in the holes before we begin painting. I then positioned the sign over the sign frame. Here's the back view of the sign.

The front view of the sign (without the front of the sign) shows how the pieces fit over the frame. I then spread a layer of glue over the reverse side of the front piece and aligned it with the other pieces. A few more screws finished the assembly.

Before we begin the painting process I'll use a die grinder to texture the edges of the driftwood sign by hand. Then I'll use some sculpting epoxy to create a stack of gold coins and perhaps a string of pearls on the top. We'll sculpt the fiberglass reinforced concrete tree branch right up to the sign as well.

I'll post further pictures of the sign profess as we proceed. Stay tuned...


Treasure Quest - part two

After creating the lettering and tweaking it to my satisfaction it was on to making the reliefs. I first opened my driftwood bitmap from the TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION.  In EnRoute the imported bitmap opens as defined by the plate.

I then stretched it out to make the shape I desired. I then used the drawing tool to create the jagged outline I wanted for the sign.

I then selected the vector shape and used the dome tool to create a relief. When you use the dome tool on an irregular shape it doesn't come out perfectly smooth. Since this would be a rough piece of driftwood that was perfectly OK.

I then applied the bitmap to the relief.

I then used the sculpting tool to deepen the ridges in the driftwood relief. The effect is subtle and not easily seen on screen but it transforms a rather flat relief into pure magic. The endview of the piece shows the effect a little better.

I then duplicated the relief three times, flipping the center one to make the back of the sign. The top one I  took back to a vector outline as it would be a offset cut to create the center portion of the sign.

I drew a vector rectangle that fit the inch and a half square tubing that would form the structure for the sign. After positioning it I used the jigsaw tool to grab the outline we would cut. This formed the middle layer of the sign. I would cut this from 1.5" 30 lb Precision Board.

Then it was on to creating the letters for the sign. I started with the outside border, creating a flat relief. This was positioned vertically and then merged highest with the original relief.

Now I modified this relief by first adding the next letter bordering.

The last step was to modify the relief one more time by adding the bevelled letters. I used the constant height option.

With that the file was ready to tool path and then send to the MultiCam.

In my next post I'll show how the sign was assembled over the armature. Stay tuned...


Treasure Quest - part one

We are now full blast into the build of the Skallywag Bay Adventure Park for Trinidad. We'll be busy for the better part of a year in our studio before heading down to the Caribbean Island for the installation of all the pieces. It is going to be both challenging and exciting every step of the way. Because the project is in many ways similar to the one recently completed, Cultus Lake Adventure Park, we will be building on our successes there and hopefully kicking things up one more notch in the process.

I designed the sign for the kid's play area some time ago.  At the time I wasn't worried about details like the font. That would come later. 

As we got into the realities of the fabrication I also knew some things had to be changed up a little. Because all the pieces have to fit inside shipping containers (fourteen in all) we are limited to about 7' 6" tall. This meant I would reshape the tree a little and then perch the parrot a little lower. I didn't redraw the design but rather did it on the fly as we built the frame and armature. In the picture below the frame is welded and the lath is almost in place. The parrot form can be seen perched on a branch to the middle right.

Then it was on to begin creating the routing file. I started with a nice cartoon font which I bought for the park logo called PiekosFX. But as usual for my style I didn't keep it looking like it came out of the box. I adjusted the angle of the downstroke of the R and shortened the top down stroke of the S. I also resized and then thinned down the T and the Q. All of the kerning was adjusted to my liking as well.  I also kept the name of the play park on one line to keep the sign a little thinner and longer than in the original design.

Then we began tweaking all of the letters. In version 5 of EnRoute we can distort the vectors easily using this tool. In the next four pictures they show the process as I went through the process twice to get the effect I wanted. The lettering was now much more fun but still very readable.

Then using the outline tool I created a double border around the letters. The outside border is a little wider than the first.

The lettering is now ready to start working with as I create the relief. I'll cover this process in the next post to the blog.


Monday, August 25, 2014

love them posts

We are down to the final details on the house project. Through the construction we did over 200 routing files and created thousands of pieces. Now we are down to the last few at last.

The side wall of the house is plain with no windows and so to break up the plainness we added purloins to the lower rock section of the wall. Into these we placed routed heart panels in keeping with the theme of the exterior of the house.

We decided to use these same panels in the fence corner posts to further continue the theme and color out to the road. For the two corner property posts I was able to use the same routing file which I had created for the house many months ago.

The driveway presented a challenge however. On one side we built a concrete tree to hold up the big gate. We will plant some vine plants to generate foliage in the upper branches.

On the other side of the gate we have a tower which houses all the services (water, power and telephone/data for the house and shop. The gate post on this side is a taller version of the fence corner posts. Since we wanted a heart panel on this piece it meant I had to create a new one to be routed.

I started by opening the old file of the shorter panel. I had save it with some of the right sized heart vectors just in case I needed them later. I created a rectangular vector around the plane.  This was used as the starting int for the new taller panel.

I then angled the sides of the vector to align with the sides of the old one Then I stretched it out to be 42" tall.

I then used the outline tool to create an inside vector that formed a 2" border.

I then rounded the corners of the panel using a 1" radius.

Then I created a flat relief of the center portion of the panel. I would merge(highest) the different layers of hearts to this panel in later steps. I then pulled in the three different angles hearts arranging them down the center portion of the panel. These hearts would be the highest of the three levels of when we were done.

I then added enough heart vectors to fill the panel. Before I went on the the next step I merged highest the heart shapes to the original rectangular relief. Once merged, the original hearts were deleted. With those hearts out of the way the next steps were easier.

I then went down the panel selecting every second heart which I then created as the next tallest eight reliefs. These too were merged highest with the background relief.

The second heart reliefs were eliminated.

This same procedure was repeated one last time on the lowest level of heart reliefs.

The panel was then ready to be tool pathed in EnRoute. I used an island fill and 1/8" ball nose bit with an 80% overlap. The last step was to use an offset cut to trim them to shape.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Samples for success

If I were asked for the single most reason for our success I would have say our samples. Samples alone weren't the reason but they play a very important, I would say critical role.

Samples do many things for us. First they provide an opportunity for us to learn new things. Back when we got our MultiCam and EnRoute software I could do little more than open the program or turn on the router. I had much to learn. Rather than learn on customer's work I did samples. LOTS of samples. I started with the alphabet, making panels less than one foot square. Each panel features a different letter and style. The first ten samples were pretty easy. But my goal was not to simply blast through the alphabet but instead raise the bar with each letter. We didn't just create files and route. Along the way I experimented with textures, shapes and layers. Each routed sample was also finished perfectly allowing me to experiment with different paints, glazes and gilding.

Making all these samples took time - a little each day while I continued production in the shop but after about there months I had twenty-six samples hanging proudly on the wall. My journey to success had begun. We didn't stop there of course. This was but the beginning. My personal goal was to create one sample a month. Some were larger and took more time, others were quick and easy. Slowly the walls of our studio and shop began to fill with this new exciting work. Customers took notice and we began to sell the kind of work I wanted to do in the future. My skills also improved. With each success (and sometimes spectacular failure) I learned new things.

We also take stock once in a while during shop deep cleans. We with prejudice go through our samples and cull the ones not up to our current standard. We only want to show work we want to do in the future. Currently, we have well over a hundred samples of our best work on display. The collection represents a significant investment over almost a decade but is worth it's weight in gold.

Recently a fellow saw our sign out by the road and stopped in. He was the leader of a large institution in the city. (60 miles distant) They were looking to revamp their facility and had a significant budget to work with. He asked for a tour of our studio which I happily provided.

As we toured the shop he was impressed. He took note of our projects and the sample pieces on display. But as we entered my studio he took a special interest in three samples on display.

He looked each sample over closely, saying little but after he studied the last he turned to me and told me that our shop would indeed play a large role in his project. He committed on the spot to a large design fee for a project worth well over half a million dollars. He told me that the samples he had seen in my studio were the reason.

This is a scenario that is played out in our shop on a regular basis. The sample pieces on display both here and on our website work extremely well for us. Despite having a very busy schedule we still take time to build even more samples. We want to raise the bar for our work ever higher and in the process attract clientele that desires the kind of work we wish to do in the future. I am convinced that we can't have too many. I simply can't afford NOT to invest in samples.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Final plans are in the bag and work has begun.

The entire plan for the large project in Trinidad is now approved. There will undoubtably some small changes and revisions as we go but the final plans are now being engineered. It was a long design process, with nine versions of the master plan drawn and considered before things were settled. Attractions and rides were changed and moved through the process and many things changed size along the way.

The plan as accepted includes a train ride, bumper boats, a wild adventure golf, a climbing wall and daring free fall jump, a kids play area, a wave swing ride, a pendulum ride, a spinning drop ride and a spinning coaster. All will be themed to the maximum. Yesterday I finished the last of the attraction sign designs.

The spinning drop ride will be called Crows Nest featuring Specs with his telescope.

The spinning pendulum ride is to be called KEEL HAUL. The sign features Fredrick, the enforcer.

The spinning coaster has a figure eight track so we called it 'PIECES OF EIGHT' and the sign features Tupper the pirate accountant.

I'll get into designing the signs in the next weeks and look forward to the building of each of them. In the meantime we are working on the larger pieces including a giant KRAKEN. He'll measure about thirty-five feet long with the tentacles extended.

This is going to be a challenging and amazing build and project and we'll be chronicling each step of the process here. Stay tuned...