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

Friday, June 28, 2013

How to hang a fish

The mechanical fish needed some substantial hangers to look convincing. I decided some hefty I-beams were the order of the day but they needed to be a little fancy of course. Some swoopy curves and some drilled holes would do the trick nicely in a steampunk, victorian sort of fashion.

The files were created in EnRoute using the drawing tools. I first created the basic shape and then used the offset line tool to create what would become the flange of the beam. I wanted a solid piece at the top end to put an eye hook into. On the bottom end I created a thick mounting block. The rectangle around the beam is for sizing purposes. The angled line at the top will serve to cut off the inside hollow.

I used the jigsaw tool to create a new vector, then deleted the original inside line as well as the angles line.

I then modified this line using the point edit tool to add a curve to the top. Some circle vectors would form the cutouts when I created the reliefs.

The bottom block was then made into a relief one inch tall.

The I-beam flange was made into a 0.55" tall relief

Then I created a 0.2" tall relief of the inside web of the beam.

All these reliefs were then merged highest with a background zero height relief.

I made four copies of the beam shape, flipping two because it would take one of each to make a beam. The file was then ready for tool pathing. I did a rough pass using a 3/8" bit and a 0.1" offset. A final pass with a 1.8" ball nose bit finished things off nicely. 

As quick as it took me to check my email and write one reply the MultiCam had done it's work. After cutting the columns to length and at the right angle I used a 5 minute epoxy to glue everything into place.

It's looking pretty spiffy already. There's still lots to do but the mechanical fish is coming along nicely. 

Stay tuned for a brilliant development tomorrow...


Thursday, June 27, 2013

More fishing adventure

Every submarine needs a dock and the Mechanical fish sub is no different. In fact this dock will be as imaginative as the fish itself.

The mechanical fish and dock use just about every trick in the book. As always, the vectors were first. Everything except the letters were created in EnRoute. I could have done the lettering in EnRoute as well but I've gotten used to doing it in Illustrator.

ALthough the file wasn't overly complex it did make me scratch my head a little as I worked it all out. The sign required that I routed it in six layers.There will be a fair amount of hand sculpting to finish things off. The layer for the lettering was first as everything else would relate to it. The lettering would be carved into the face while the rivets would be raised. The two pillars will feature hand made stone work. The first task was to build the vectors for each layer.

I created an offset to the base vector and first made a zero height relief from this new vector.

Then I started creating the submarine dock. I modified the relief by adding a half inch thick flat section.

 Then I raised the center section and kept the lettering sunken.

I also dropped the two portions under the lettering the same amount.

The columns which will eventually be stonework were created as separately and then merged highest with the base relief.

The rivets were domed up with a base of 0.1" This makes a pretty tall rivet at this scale but they will look great when I paint up this piece. This made the first layer ready for tool pathing and routing.

To maximise use of material I tucked the center door into the open space in the middle of the oval. The MultiCam made one rough pass with a 3/8" ball nose bit and a 50% overlap. then a final pass with a 1/8" ball nose bit.

The next file to get created was the bak piece which featured a deep textured dish in the middle. To create the dome I used the oval vector and the doming tool with a negative value. Then I added the SLOTCHES bitmap from the TEXTURE MAGIC Collection I used a value of 0.2" wish generated a good sized texture. I enlarged the bitmap so it was deep but subtle.

I had previously created an oval with a cutout by using the jigsaw tool. I created a zero height relief using this vector. Then I used it as the base relief and MERGED HIGHEST with the dished relief I had just created. This gave me the shape I needed for the piece.

I also created two middle layers to accommodate the hidden LED lighting modules. Two more upper layers were also added to the stone posts and one final layer to the bottom as well, totalling six layers. An oversize base is also in the works to finish things off.

Now the assembly, sculpting and painting can start at last. This is going to be fun!

We are still waiting for some indication from Jamie that he has even started (although he talking very big talk) He sent a picture of himself on Barney (his jet ski) most likely desperately looking for inspiration in the lake beside his house.

Doug has posted one sketch of what he says 'is an image that expresses his plan for Dan". 

Noella Cotnam, a talented and award winning sign maker from Ontario has joined our little fishing expedition. She has posted an image that shows promise... 

At this rate Noella is going to beat the two big talking boys without hardly even a scrap.

Well...  I guess I had better go do a little more work on the piece. The end of summer is coming fast.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It needs wings to fly!

I jumped the gun on my last entry forgetting to first post the creation of the wing fins and the motor on each end. I used two functions in EnRoute to create the files...  sweep two rails and the revolve functions. As always I started with the vectors, created in EnRoute.

The wind portion of the file was a mesh created with the sweep two rails command. The top line is the profile I used. The bottom egg shaped motor was created with the revolve tool. Both meshes were them merged highest with a zero height relief.

One other part of the equation I didn't show earlier was how I sliced the fish sub relief in EnRoute. I was machining it from 1" thick Precision Board so I created four slices, then copied them, and flipped one set to create the second half of the sub.

Next up is the background/stand for the submarine. It's going to be just as cool as the sub. Stay tuned...


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sub started

The thing I love most about our MultiCam is that I can set it up to run in a few minutes and then go away and do something else while the machine turns out the most wonderful pieces and do it more accurately and faster than I ever could.

Today I tool pathed the fish submarine and then worked on other things and even took a little time off and visited some friends. When I poked into the shop the pieces were cut perfectly and ready for gluing. I couldn't resist mixing up a little five minute epoxy and putting it together. I wasn't super fussy about how things went together for this is merely the base shape. I'll be applying and sculpting a detailed layer of sculpting epoxy over this shape. You can bet there will be lots of fun surprises as that process happens. But for now here's some pictures of the progress so far...

I've been getting a whole bunch of emails asking me to post links to Doug Haffner's blog and Jamie Oxenham's so they can see how the other subs are coming along. The truth is I'd be happy to do just that, and will hopefully soon, but sadly to date Jamie and Doug haven't made any progress or are simply afraid to post any pictures of their efforts. I'm not sure what is going on in their workshops but I am still hopeful they will work up the courage to participate in our little challenge. :) 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Building a fish file.

In between all of the paying and house projects I've managed to squeeze in a few minutes here and there to work on the mechanical fish challenge project as well. Although the end of summer is still a ways off I've learned to push on the front end to avoid all nighters at the back end. I suspect my 'competition' has yet to learn that. :)

Rather than use a high end 3D program I love to build complex files using EnRoute. With a little planning and some creative use of the available functions some pretty cool stuff can be imagined and then built. As always it started with the vectors. I Imported the original drawing and then traced the outline and basic shapes by hand. It didn't take long to achieve the vectors I need.


While I was at it I also created some vector profiles with which we would form the body using the sweep two rails function in EnRoute.

When you open the menu the prompts lead you through the steps. You have to make sure your vector lines are going in the same direction of weird things happen. The little arrow heads on the lines make it easy to see what is going on. The flat profile was for the tail end of the fish, the egg shape for the middle and the round shape was for the nose.

I created a mesh first. I would later merge highest to combine it with zero height relief.

THe tail section was created as a flat relief. Then the eyeball was next using the done tool and as a separate relief.

I duplicated the eye and then created a zero height flat relief which I would use to slice half the second dome off with using the MERGE lowest command. I then distorted the half circle by merely stretching it out. I positioned it behind the round eyeball and merged highest with the two separate pieces and the body of the fish.

The conning tower/hatch was next. I would use the revolve tool to create a mesh.

I then created a zero height relief which I would use to create a separate hatch. I repeated the process with the bottom section and then merged highest with the base relief (fish body).

The teeth of the mechanical fish was next. Once more I created a mesh file using the sweep two rails. I then merged it with a zero height relief. This was tweaked to fit, positioned and merged highest with the fish body.

The fin and tail were created by making flat reliefs and the ast step was to create some wing mounting point

There's a few more bits but it is looking pretty cool. The file is now largely ready for slicing and tool pathing. I'll be posting more as we get some routing time in over the next while. Stay tuned...


Rail plates

The rails for the train require plates and spikes to make them look authentic. These will be glued into place but once finished with the rust paint will look pretty convincing.

 The vectors were pretty easy and all created inside EnRoute.

I created a flat relief with a bevelled edge using the bevel tool by limiting the height.

Then the spike was added using the dome tool. Once again I limited the height to give it a little flat top.

I needed enough pieces to fill a 4'x8' sheet of 1" thick 30 lb Precision Board and EnRoute makes this easy with the duplication tool. I set the spacing to suit the tool size I was using.

There wasn't much detail so I got away with using a 3/8" ball nose bit and an 80% overlap. Some minor tool marks are visible but it's no big deal in this application. Once the tool paths were done I sent it off to the MultiCam.

The two halves of the rails will be glued up and painted. The rail plates will be added on top of each wooden rail tie.

I'll post some pics of the finished product when we are done. Stay tuned...