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

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I've loved steam trains for as long as I can remember. They just have a magic about them. I've panted a bunch of historical murals that featured them and have studied endless historical photos to get the details just right. Instead of building small scale model railroads I have fun building larger scale trains in a cartoon style.

The first train I built was about thirteen years ago. It was for Giggle Ridge Adventure Golf. The train was largely built from welded steel and was a static display and sign.

Nine years ago I started work on the next train - one that would travel around our property. It is dubbed the 'grampa train'. It's not quite done yet, put off by the construction of our new house, but one day soon we'll be riding in style!

Just after we purchased our MultiCam six years ago it was time for another train. This one was for a display piece and sign for an Adventure Golf. The golf was at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The special challenge this time was to build a train that looked like many tons of steel but actually lightweight materials because it was to be part of the golf on the third floor.  Much of the train would be routed from Precision Board.

The pieces are glued up over a welded steel frame. Many HDU components were substituted for the real thing, all routed in detail by the MultiCam. It only looked heavy.

 Certain parts were steel but they were light gauge. As we worked I painted the parts with an iron paint and then sprayed them with an oxidizer creating instant rust.

Hundreds of parts were designed in EnRoute and cut on the MultiCam from 30 lb Precision Board. This made everything still very strong but lightweight.

Amazingly, with the help of EnRoute and our MultiCam this project went from design to ready to ship in only ten days!

Today I started design work on yet another train. It also will be a static display and sign for another Adventure Golf. The theme will be logging once more. I first dug into the local history and found that in the early days of this community they used a Shay Locomotive to haul the logs out of the woods. This would be the starting point.

Like the others, the train we would build this time would be about half scale vertically but drastically shortened horizontally to give it a quaint cartoon style. I quickly drew out my ideas in my sketch book and then scanned it into my computer to do the final rendering. I used my Wacom digital drawing pad to draw freehand, using my initial sketches as a guide. In a couple of hours I had the plan in hand. Like the train for Mall of America, we'll route many of the detailed components on our MultiCam from Precision Board. All of the files will be built using EnRoute of course. It will be a while before we physically start the project but you can bet you will be able to follow it step by step here.

Stay tuned...