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

Monday, August 3, 2015

Finishing off the dog

We often get comments about how hard it must be to do the detailed painting of our pieces. The truth is the process is actually very simple and quick. The key is to design it so it works that way. Painting the pieces in the correct order also minimizes the cutting we need to do. While some like to paint individual pieces and then do the final assembly we like to paint fully assembled pieces most of the time. Although I posted the first two pictures previously I thought it would be best to show them once more as I talked about the painting processes. We start with a primer, FSC-88-WB made by Coastal Enterprises, the same folks who make our Precision Board. The primer is thick, between cream and sour cream...  we brush it on fairly thick with a small brush and purposely leave brush strokes to add a little more texture where desired.

When the primer dries we brush on two coats of a base color over the entire piece. Then a blended coat is done, once more using a small artist's brush. This shot show that stage. Then the dark brown was brushed on for the eyes and nose. The darker areas around the mouth, nose and eyes was dry brushed on. The brush is lightly loaded and then brushed on a towel to remove most of the paint before gently being added, layer after layer where needed. This takes patience mostly but still happens in a few minutes of work.  

Everything is then allowed to dry under a fan for at least three hours. The last stage of the dog is he glaze. We mix our own glazes using a clear base and whatever color paint we wish to use. Generally they are mixed fifty-fifty but in this case we wanted the glaze to be really transparent so we mixed three parts clear base with one part dark brown. We first got our clean, soft towels in place and made our plan of attack, for once the glaze begins to dry you are hooped. I started brushing the glaze on with a large brush and when I got partway done my helper began to gently rub it off, leaving it in the deeper parts of the texture. The key is to keep a wet line on the glaze and wipe off quickly. There is no going back for a second try. Once the glazing on the dog was done the piece is put under the fans once more to cure.

When the paint was dry I came back with the red. The only cutting was around the dog which was relatively simple. I put on three coats of red paint over a period of two hours. I let it dry overnight and then came back and painted the lettering. Because I had designed it to be raised from the background it was easy to just paint the tops. Three coats of white paint, done in about ten minutes (allowing to dry in between) did the trick. This piece is now ready for delivery.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Bailee name tag

Bailee's name tage was the next one up, fairly simple but with a couple tricky moves to make it better. As always we started with the vectors.

The oval name plaque has a border that will be plain and so the first relief we create was done using the doming tool. Everything would be built off of that.

Then I modified this relief by raising the venter portion.

Then I rased the lettering border by selecting both the base relief and the lettering border vector.

Then it was time to add the texture. I imported the wiggly line texture from my TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION. I enlarged it enough that a 1/8" balloons bit would cleanly route it. Then I carefully entered it on the plaque. Then I selected the base relief, the inside oval and the lettering outline. This controlled where the texture would go.

The last step was to create the bevelled lettering using the prismatic tool.

Then it was time to tool path the piece and send it off to the MultiCam to be routed from 30 lb Precision Board.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Revisiting cap-it

A little more than four years ago I built some fun displays for a local company called Cap-it. The stands were used too hold their catalogues near the entrance to their stores. The step by step is posted here...   Cap-it trucks posts

Now they are launching a new advertising campaign featuring a British bulldog mascot. And so I got the call for a new display. This time we are only fabricating the top portion of the display.  The beauty of EnRoute and our MultiCam is that I didn't have to build a new file for the sign portion of the display. I simply searched back through my archives and dug up the old one. It had to be resized slightly and then it was ready to go. Once routed it was a simple matter to sculpt the bulky dog behind it. That process took less than a day using Abracadabra Sculpt and my trust helper Sarah mixing for me.

Today we began the painting process and the dog instantly began to come to life.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

NANCY name plaque

As always it started with a quick rough sketch.

I decided that some rivets in the corners would be cool.

To make the type look old I used the transform tool to add jitter to the lettering. Then I added a border.

I changed my mind once I took a second look and decided on washes with bolts instead in the corners.

Then it was done to work creating the reliefs starting with the base relief.

I then selected the inside border and the lettering border to modify the original relief by subtracting from it.

Then it was time for some subtle texture over the entire relief.

Then a second lecture bitmap was applied to just the sunken background.

Then I modified the relief by adding the washers and bolts as simple flat additions.

Lastly was the raised lettering using the dome tool.

BOB plaque

Bob's name plaque was the first out of the gate. I started with a quick hand drawing to work out the basics.

 The first task in EnRoute was to work out the vectors.

I started with a flat relief. This would form the border and everything would build off of that.

I then modified this relief using the dome tool.

I decided to add a border on the lettering before we went too far.

I then used this lettering border vector to modify the relief.

I then selected the relief, the inside round, the lettering border and the lettering and the texture bitmap. I applied a value of .2".  

I then modified the relief using the lettering vector to raise the letters from the border.

The last step was the centre dome. It was created as a separate relief.

The height of the relief wasn't important at this stage. I then went to the front view and using the up arrows raised it into position.

Once it was lined up I then merged it highest with the base relief.

Once merged with the base relief I aligned it to the bottom of the plate and took a look at it in the front view. I build without a great deal of concern about the height of the final relief as it is a simple matter to grab the top node and then pull it down into the plate.

Then it was time to tool path the relief and send it off to the multiCam. The first (rough) pass was done using a 3/8" ball nose bit and a 50% overlap. The finish pass was done using a 1/8" ball nose bit and an 80% bit.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Scribbling down ideas

With the next Sculpture Magic Workshop now less than two and a half months away it is time to begin preparations. We start with the name plaques as they make great filler projects. I began tonight, scribbling ideas in my sketchbook while I watched the superman movie. I managed to nail down eleven concepts. Not all are complete but once I get this far the rest comes easy.

We do name plaques for each attendee for a number of reasons. It is a chance to stretch my mind in a hurry as I create more than a score of unique name plaques. I also use a variety of techniques to design the routing files. That's good practice using EnRoute software. We use the plaques to practice our painting techniques and often try out new things. Designing, routing and painting the plaques helps us remember each attendees name as well. Most importantly it's one more thing that takes our workshops over the top as each attendee gets to take them home when the workshop is done.

With a name like Zuzana the background begged to be zebra stripes. You can bet this won't be black and white when it is done.

Nancy is a classic name and a typewriter font came to mind.

Bailee has attended our workshops previously. Young in years she is a very creative person!

Andy needed a playful lettering style. I have some cool ideas in mind for the background texture.

BOB is a fun name to play with. The 'B's begged to be back to back and the 'O' wanted to be nice and round like a ball. I'll bet the 'O' sees some gold leaf.

Caitlyn has also attended a workshop previously. This oriental style font seemed to call her name.

I'm not finished with Jeremy yet and this will still get some serious tweaking to make the idea I have in mind work.

Same goes for Kenna but I know exactly where we are going from here.

Steve will be all about the background texture to make it pop. This is going to be cool.

I'm now more than half way through the sketching of ideas. With eleven ideas now nailed it can get tricky to come up with even more creative name plaques.  But no worries for there have been more than two hundred and fifty unique name plaques created since we began our workshops.