It is hard to believe that it was almost ten 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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Paint, paint, paint!

The four signs for the Cultus Lake Boardwalk are now nearing completion. Each colour of the sign gets a minimum of three coats of paint to ensure a long life and fade resistance. That's a lot of cutting of the many colours! 

The ribbit ride sign now only needs one more blend coat of yellow paint on the lettering plus some eyeball details before it is declared done.

The three Cultus Lake Boardwalk signs need two more coats of blending on the letters plus three coats of white on the borders. Hopefully tomorrow has enough hours to get the job done. In any case by week's end we'll be bolting them into place up at the park.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Instant install

The new MultiCam tech centre and office in Langley, British Columbia opens on Friday. That meant it was time to do a special delivery today. Grant and I loaded their new sign nd a few tools into the back of the shop truck and we headed down the road. Kelsey was at the office eagerly waiting for us to arrive. I measured up the wall and located the studs while Grant brought in the tools. 

It took seconds to mount the bracket to the wall, making sure it was dead level. We then carefully brought the large dimensional sign into the office and hung it on the bracket. Kelsey was all smiles as we piled back into the truck and headed back to the shop.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Full throttle story telling

A simple electrical on-off switch would have done the job of turning my MARVELOUS MACHINE on and off. But a simple switch wouldn't have told the story I needed to tell.

My MARVELOUS MACHINE is 'driven' by steam. To properly control suck a divide we needed a mechanical throttle, much like what one would find in an old steam train engine. I had built a similar throttle for our train steam engine last year. I had considered using the same file but I didn't need a reverse on this machine.

To build the throttle I first needed a segment of a cogged wheel. I built the teeth which I would use to cut out the sprocket. I then used the jigsaw tool to create this vector.

I then drew up some lines using the drawing tools. This would form the outline of the base of the unit. I positioned this over the partial sprocket I had previously created. By adding the various circles and sections and using the jigsaw tool I created the final shape.

I built up various shapes using the drawing tools and then combined them to create the long handle, pull lever and various other bots and pieces.

I was originally going to use a tapered base but opted for a box design because of space considerations. In the screen shot below the shapes for the pieces are created. A few last pieces still need to be merged together.

This shot has all of the final vectors. The five boxes on the left were plasma cut from 1/8" thick plate steel. The pieces on the right side were all cut from 3/16" plate steel.

I cut the box pieces first on our MultiCam plasma cutter simply because the machine was already set up for 1/8" thick material. As fast as the pieces came off the machine I ground up the edges and tacked them together. I then welded the corners up and used a sanding disk to smooth the welds.

The throttle lever was assembled with a combination of bolts and welding. It too went together in a hurry. There is a bolt on access panel in the bottom box to facilitate mounting an electric micro switch inside which will be actuated by the lever.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Last of the arches sculpted

The NEBs bowling alley project temporarily took a backseat to some other pressing projects but as they went out the door we went back to work on the last of the arches for the bowling alley. Today we reached a milestone as the last two of the concrete arches were hand sculpted today.

There were twenty-six arches over the bowling alleys and another five arches down each side of the massive room, making thirty-six arches in all. We have five more beams to complete as well as twelve posts for the centre of the room.

The many pieces for this job required that we designed files and routed more than a hundred sheets of plywood and scores of sheets of plate steel. It's been a big challenge to get it all right so it fits together seamlessly on the job site - more than 2,500 miles distant.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lots of pieces to this puzzle

Designing and then making our creations move is not something we typically do in our shop. This is why I took it on as a challenge for my piece for next year's Sign Invitational. Making display or  portfolio pieces is always where we take the biggest risk instead of on a customer's project.

Yesterday, I took a trip to one of my favourite stores that stocks every manner of bearings, sprockets, fittings, motors, gear reducers and the like. Everything is displayed on shelves. I spent better than an hour wandering the isles seeing what was available. As I looked at the hardware I developed a plan to make my entry move convincingly. I bought a whole bunch of pieces of hardware, and brought it all back to the shop. Then I started designing the next stage of the 'MARVELOUS MACHINE' build. I designed the files for dozens of brackets and other bits and pieces which I then cut on our MultiCam plasma cutter. As the pieces came off the machine I fit and welded up a storm. As I fabricated the parts I often went back to the drawing board to tweak the design and then recut the part. By the time I was done for the day, the electric motor and gear reducer were securely mounted inside the firebox. A camshaft and vertical steam cylinder were also mounted to the steam dome on top of the boiler as well.

This is of course only the basic design. Think of this (so far) as the first layer of a cake without any fancy icing. A whole lot of eye candy is yet to be added.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The build begins...

This afternoon I began the assembly of my 'MARVELOUS MACHINE'. As the pieces came off the MultiCam plasma cutter I began welding them together. I like to think of todays portion of the build as the 'sign post'. Everything from here on out will fasten to this sturdy structure. It's going to be a whole lot of fun! Stay tuned for more developments...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Marvelous Machine

The International Sign Association EXPO is to be held in Orlando during the third week of March next year. That means we only have ten and a half months until the Sign Invitational 2018. It is time to get busy once more as I am determined to have my entry ready early this time and not be rushed in any way.

So today I began designing the cutting files for my version of the 'MARVELOUS MACHINE'. I previously posted the quick sketch I had done while still at this year's event. It will serve as my blueprint. There will of course be many changes along the way as I do the final design as I build the piece.

It is no secret that I love steam driven machines and so the machine I choose to model will be such a contraption. With the design constrained by the contest rules to two feet wide by two feet deep and six feet tall it had to be a vertical engine.

I started with the base of course.It measures 24" square. It will have three layers of plasma cut steel. It of course will provide a way to fasten to the shipping pallet and also will serve as a visual feature. It will be plenty strong and be bolted together with no less than 24 half inch bolts.

From the base upwards things will get a whole lot more interesting. The first large component will be the boiler. I had a lot of fun designing all of the components in EnRoute. The design process involved taking careful measurements of known components of the pipes I would start off with and then designing the components which would fit to them. All of these pieces were to be cut from steel plate on our MultiCam Plasma cutter. There are many more pieces to come of course along with many routed pieces as well.

Tomorrow, the real fun begins as we start in on the assembly. Stay tuned...