WELCOME!


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

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Exploring ideas with pen and paper

One of the keys to coming up with a great and original designs is to learn to draw. While many may say they simply can't draw I believe it is a skill we can develop to a great degree. The key is to practice, practice practice. I buy inexpensive blank hard bound books (Staples) and fill them with ideas. I keep them handy and stashed wherever I might need one. Rather than work on loose paper I prefer to keep a record of my drawings for later reference. There's one by my bedside, one in the truck, in my briefcase and another by my recliner. More reside on my desk and all handy for when inspiration strikes or when I need to work out an idea.  I've filled more than fifty with another ten on the way to being filled.


So many designers go straight to the computer when they design. Rather than work out the rough or basic ideas they go straight to the details and in the process are limited. Let's look at a project I designed a while back to show my process of design. 

My client wanted a sign/entrance to a large development that was by the ocean. The proposed name was 'Lighthouse Village'. I opened one of my sketchbooks and began work. I wasn't concerned about fonts, nor colors. We were only exploring ideas in the broadest sense. I started with some sign ideas.


By the second page I was refining things a little 


Then I used that same idea in a different shape


Once I was a little satisfied it was time to veer off to explore some new ideas. This was a little simpler, perhaps a little more modern. 


This idea morphed into the beginnings of a monument sign. It had some potential.


Before I went further I decided to explore what the welcome/information center might look like. I explored these ideas for some time before deciding they were far too predictable and common. In my next meeting with the client I showed them these sketches but also some new ideas which were much more fun and interesting.


 So where did we end up when the drawing was done?
  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

oops! I make mistakes too.

The artwork for the Blasting Barrels sign was done months ago. A second sign which is mounted to the ride was to be built by the ride manufacturer in Italy and the owner ordered that sign spelled with a dropped 'g'. I got the memo to change ours to suit but promptly forgot.


When it came time to create the file to route the sign I looked at my original artwork and then set to work. The framework was welded and the sign routed, glued and mounted before the mistake was caught. The owner told me to just grind off the 'g' but I couldn't do it.


Instead I built a new file and redid the sign. This is much too cool a project to compromise on quality. Yesterday we mounted the new sign and finished the sculpted concrete. I'm in the process of sculpting three stacked sticks of dynamite for the top of the sign and then it will head into the paint department.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

International Sign Association show

Today was the first day of the International Sign Association convention/show in Las Vegas. The display we created for MultiCam arrived safe and sound and their people had everything perfectly set up for me. It was with great pleasure I was privileged to show and talk about how we use EnRoute in conjunction with our MultiCam machine to do our dimensional work using Precision Board. It was with great delight I talked to hundreds of wonderful people, greeting old friends and new.

If you are at the show in the next few days please drop by - MultiCam, booth 712!




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Another huge honor


Almost thirty-five years ago I picked up Signs of the Times magazine's annual contest issue at my local sign supplier. As I perused the glossy pages of the magazine I wondered at the winning entries. I promised myself that some day our work would be good enough to be judged by my peers and be good enough to appear there. I first worked up the courage to enter our shop and signs in the Sign Systems category. To my amazement we were awarded first place that year. Since then we have been honored many times in various categories.
This past year we only finished one project which I entered into the contest. Today it became official. We were again honored with a first (tied) place award in the Sign System category for the Cultus Lake Adventure Park signs.

First Place (Tie)
Fabricator/Designer/Installer
Dan Sawatzky
Imagination Corp.
Chilliwack, BC, Canada
(604) 823-2216
www.imaginationcorporation.com
Client
Cultus Lake Adventure Park
British Columbia-based theme parks, miniature-golf courses and other regional attractions are fortunate such a gifted artisan as Sawatzky is available to build their signs. His combination of whimsy and craftsmanship is a rare treasure. Sawatzky worked with Chris Steunenberg, Cultus Lake’s owner, to build the infrastructure and substructures required for the signs. To build the signs’ foundation, they constructed ¼-in.-thick, steel pencil rod that’s welded into armatures, which were installed over structural-steel subframes. Installers tied galvanized-steel lath over the armatures, and then troweled on Sawatzky’s proprietary mix of fiberglass-reinforced concrete. Dan sculpted smaller elements using Abracadabra sculpting epoxy. 
After the concrete cured, the team brushed on three coats of General Paint’s acrylic house paint, and, later, three coats of custom-mixed, acrylic glazes. Sawatzky designed the sign panels using SA Intl.’s EnRoute software, and cut the panels with his MultiCam 3000 CNC router.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

BITMAPS!

My most favourite way to create textures in EnRoute is to use bitmaps. The possibilities are literally endless. The principles are simple. The bitmaps are read, pixel by pixel and then the EnRoute Program assigns a value to each. In normal settings (add to) black does nothing, white raised the relief to the full height of the number you enter and greys do something in between depending on their value.

As always we start with a vector outline. I then create a relief (in this case a flat relief). It can be any shape you wish.



If you are new to the program it is best to render what you create after every step. This will let you know what happened. If it is not what you expected then you have to change something.


I then imported a bitmap from my TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION. I make all of my own bitmaps and have amassed more than a hundred so far. These are sold on a DVD collection. In this case the bitmap is called addition. It is a black and white bitmap with hard edges. The bitmap will open to the size of your plate. In most instances this is far too small and so I then resize it as per my needs. The relief is visible as a greyed area. To see it clearer merely hit the render button.



Once you have the bitmap sized and positioned correctly you need to open the correct box. I keep this tool bar at the top of my screen. To make the button active you will need both the relief and bitmap to be selected.



When you open the dialogue box with the button you will see this box.  I put a vale of 0.2"  This means the white area of the bitmap will raise the relief areas 0.2" The black will do nothing,]


When you hit apply the results are instant. If you render it you can see what happened.


Even  after eight years of doing this I still check multiple views to make sure it happened as I knew it would.


If the edges of the bitmap are blurred the relief will reflect that same thing. The transition from black to white is very soft on this texture.



We can reply;irate any texture I can imagine using bitmaps. I just have to keep in mind what the bitmaps do. Dark is nothing while pure white raises the surface. In this case I have a mostly texture with some dark wiggly lines. It is called 'CRACKED UP' and looks a lot like dried mud when we are done.



This is a new one which will be on the next TEXTURE MAGIC DVD collection. It is called 'DOUBLE WEAVE'.


This one I use often and it is called 'driftwood.'



The next one I also use a lot. It is made from a heavily tweaked picture of sandblasted redwood. I did the sample blasting more than twenty-five years ago. You can see from the picture that the bitmaps can be enlarged a great deal and still look right.



The next one is fun! It is a digitally tweaked bitmap of a fossil fish. Applied to my flat relief it looks good but we aren't finished yet.
 After the fish bitmap was applied I imported a second bitmap called splotches. This creates a wonderful texture that is also one of my favourites. The application of a second (or even a third) layer of bitmap is a technique I often use to get a believable texture.

I also like to create certain effects using bitmaps such as a waving flag. This is done using a blended or graduated bitmap. To get a more dramatic bend in the surface simply type in a bigger number. In this case I used a value of 0.5" which is a fairly large number on a piece this small.




Any number of things can e created using bitmaps. This one of called 'spaghetti' with predictable results. It was inspired by my grand daughter's scribbles when she was young.


As I stated above anything you can imagine is possible. I encourage you to experiment and create your own. If you are too busy to do your own there are 101 bitmaps on the first TEXTURE MAGIC DVD  which we sell and I am well on the way to having another 101 new and different bitmaps for a new DVD to be released soon.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Instant old tiki.

The MultiCam CNC router is a wonderful tool. It works fast and accurate every time. But every once in a while it is fun to do a project the old fashioned way. The good people at Coastal Enterprises are to have a booth at the International Sign Association show in Las Vegas. I offered to whip them up a little sample for their display. 

The sample piece had to demonstrate the qualities of Precision Board. It's easy to work, holds detail well and when painted can resemble whatever we imagine. 

I chose a TIKI as the subject - just for fun. I decided to do the piece by hand to demonstrate it's ease of use. I drew some quick guidelines on the block of 40lb Precision Board, then fired up my air powered die grinder.  It took less than an hour to carve the block into the rough shape.


Another half hour with the grinder filled in the detail. The next stage was a coat of FSC-88 WB primer. I used a small brush and purposely added just a little more texture.


When the primer was dry it was time for three coats of the base color.


Once the base colors were good and dry it was time for some fancy magic. The glazes were started with a warm orange/brown. I slathered it on and then wiped it off judiciously.


Then it was time for a red/brown. This time I wiped it off just a little harder leaving the darker color in the cracks to show off the texture to it's maximum advantage. The tiki was already looking pretty fine.


I then used some green, red and white paint to add in the color needed to bring it to life. Some missed spots and brush strokes were purposely left in place.


The last step was to add a dark glaze. It instantly added character and age to the piece.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Packing for the ISA sign show

I'm really looking forward to attending the International Sign Association show in Las Vegas in less than two weeks. I'll be at the MultiCam booth # 712 on the showroom floor. I look forward to meeting a lot of people and sharing my passion for creating dimensional signs.

Today in preparation for the show I began packing. My personal suitcase has to wait a little while yet but it is time to get the show pieces down south so we built a giant crate for each piece. It took eighteen sheets of plywood to fabricate the sturdy crates and they weighed in at almost 2000 lbs in total when they were all loaded.

See you soon in Las Vegas!