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 30, 2014

Everyone loves tools

Cookies tool set was a whole lot of fun to create. Since the last post on the project we've hand brushed three coats of base colors on (all acrylic house paints). Then the glazes went on the wood, starting with the lightest and working towards the darkest. After the piece is covered the glaze is gently wiped off leaving excess in the crevices and deeper portions of the texture. The tools themselves also got the same treatment.  After all the glazes were on and dry I used a dry brush technique to 'shiny up' the edges and surfaces that would be shiny from daily use. The end result is pretty cool.

The two signs make for a great pair, the first identifying the establishment and providing humor and character. The second sign which will be located inside provides the punchline.

Dreaming up and creating this kind of fun signage makes me laugh through every workday. It sure beats working!


Pieces of Eight mounting

The three pieces of the Pieces of 8 sign that were routed from 30lb Precision Board were laminated over a welded steel frame sandwiching the structure inside. The two protruding steel legs were then welded to the steel structure of the post. Once the glue had set (overnight) I used our air powered die grinder to quickly add some woodgrain texture to the sides of the sign.

I then welded the sculpture of Tupper in the crow's nest to the top. A pencil rod frame was then welded around the structural steel in preparation for the galvanized lath that will follow. The sculpted concrete will form the final skin of the post.

Because we are shipping this piece all the way to Trinidad it has to fit inside a shipping container. While we could have laid it down safe packaging would have been bulky and difficult. Instead we cut the piece in half vertically and welded a sleeve to ensure easy reassembly. The mast guide ropes will ensure it doesn't wobble when we are done. The frame we use to hold it upright as we build will simply be bolted to a footing and then buried in a planter to make for a simple and instant installation. 

There will be six of these kinds of signs through the park. All will be fun to build without a doubt. Stay tuned...


Monday, October 27, 2014

Crow's nest sign part 1

The lettering portion of the Crow's Nest (a spinning drop tower ride) is to be routed from Precision Board. The figure on top is a sculpt and the post and sail will be sculpted concrete over steel. It is truly a multi-medium project. 

As most often is the case it started with a quick sketch in my book with a ball point pen. This drawing was then vectorized (by hand) and imported into EnRoute.

I then imported a cartoon wood bitmap. Currently bitmaps are not able to be rotated inside EnRoute so the solution is to build a relief (in the orientation required by the bitmap) apply the relief and then rotate back to whatever suits. Easy enough.  I did a quick vector trace of the outline of the board and then created a flat relief. The bitmap was then applied to this relief.

O then reoriented the relief and stretch it out as needed.

I wanted the board to be arched to match the letting, a simple task with the warp tool. 

I then created a flat relief of the lettering outline. This was positioned vertically (in the front view) and then merged highest with the wood grained relief.

The addition of the bevelled lettering was the last step.

I should mention that I created a second copy of the relief before I added the lettering. This was used to create the (reverse) back piece and the centre section which had a cutout for the structural steel I will place inside when I laminate the sign together. Below is a screen shot of all three pieces just before I applied the tool paths.

I sent the files off to the MultiCam for routing from 30 lb Precision Board. Tomorrow I'll be gluing everything together with more progress shots along the way. Stay tuned...


Combining hand and machine work

Creating files in EnRoute and routing them on the MultiCam is a huge timesaver. By using bitmaps I can create wonderful textures to add dimension to our projects. But the fact is that after the parts are machines we are only about half way to finish on most of our dimensional projects. Cookie's utensil rack is a good example. I designed the concept freehand in my sketchbook and then imported the drawing into PhotoShop to create the final rendering. I then used this concept to create the vectors by tracing the outline and letter shapes.

Once the file was done the MultiCam made short work of routing the many pieces and did the job in a small fraction of the time I could have done it by hand. I like to think I'm fast but the router can do the same task about five times faster. It's far more accurate than I am too resulting in much more precise work.

I then glued up the pieces using Coastal Enterprises one part glue PB Bond 240which is activated by a spritz of water. This hue expands as it cures leaving a little squished out on the seams. No matter though for I used an air-powered die grinder to take this off at the same time I added the woodgrain texture to the tops and sides. It only took a few minutes to do a piece this size.

The two halves of each arm attachment base were also glued together and then shaped with the die grinder. Rather than try and make them perfectly smooth I purposely left texture behind as I used the die grinder. This will make the attachments more 'authentically used' as we add the paint and glazes - all in the interest of telling our story. I then drilled holes in the top of each piece and inserted a shaped and welded armature for each utensil. I would use Abracadabra Sculpting Epoxy to sculpt the utensils over these steel armatures. If you look close in the pictures you can still see the welded steel frames. I do a rough sculpt first, allow it to cure and then do a final sculpt over that. It makes things a whole lot easier as the sculpting epoxy is soft and and can sag a little as you work if it isn't properly supported.

I also used the epoxy to fill the screw holes in the woodwork. The piece is now ready for paint. For scale reference, the shelf is about 30" long.

Stay tuned for more fun...


Saturday, October 25, 2014

French cleat

We use many creative ways to hang our signs and projects. If it's heavy we'll resort to steel brackets or lag bolting it to a structure. But sometimes the sign isn't too large or heavy. In those cases we often use what we refer to as a french cleat. Most often we use 3/4 plywood to make our cleats. It's ripped on the table saw at 45 degrees.

We often fasten the cleat to the back of our work to purposely space it off the wall (by the thickness of the cleat) to provide an extra shadow line. In this case I wanted the work to be flush with the wall. This meant I had to route a space in the back of the bottom layer of the sign to accommodate the wall fastener. I routed it 1.5" deep (for two thicknesses of 3/4" plywood) The first was screwed and glued into place. The top hanging cleat was then screwed to this plywood.

The second cleat was screwed to our easel. This will eventually be fastened to the wall when we install the sign.

 The Cookie shelf is now ready to attach the utensils and finish.

The rest of the pieces were routed from 30 lb Precision Board as well. The arm attachment pieces were routed in two halves and then glued together. The rest of the pieces will be hand sculpted.

It's going to be a fun piece to do! Stay tuned for the next installment.


Cookie's Galley done

With a large crew to keep busy and big projects in planning it's not too often I get to spend time with a paint brush in my hand these days. But Cookie has been a pet project from design, sculpt, creating the routing file and through the paint process. Other members of the crew did work on the project a little but the bulk of it has been mine. I decided that I would personally finish the paint job on the lettering portion as well as the the highlights and touchups on.

The Cookie character, lettering style and colour choices are pretty much over the top for sure. Since this is a theme park project we could go a little out there (make that a whole bunch out there!) In the context of the landscape, building and activities the park will offer it really fits in perfectly.

I hope the sign makes people smile and adds to the experience they will enjoy at Skallywag Bay Adventure Park.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sign paint under way

We are now beginning to assemble and finish the signs for the Trinidad project, starting with Cookie's Galley sign. In the last few days we've done the finishing and laid on the base coats of paint. We use premium exterior house paint for all of our finishes and glazes with good results. Today it was time for the first glaze to bring out the woodgrain textures.

Tomorrow the painters will do the letter borders and the copper bands. Next week the lettering will get it's final paint to finish things off. Stay tuned...


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pieces of eight redo

Sometimes, after I complete a design I just know I could have done better. There's only one thing to do. DELETE. Then start over. The Pieces of Eight design I did yesterday was just such a piece.

Yesterday's design was far too ordinary. So today I started over with a brand new sketch. This one would be more fun and suited to the park.

The sketch was translated into some quick vectors - all freehand of course. The top board was just a placeholder for I would trace a bitmap to create the final version.

The new vector was used to create a flat relief and then I modified this relief by adding the cartoon woodgrain.

The other two smaller boards were created in the same fashion. Because the bitmaps can't be rotated in EnRoute we had to rotate the vectors.

Once I had all of the reliefs (with textures created I rotated them back and positioned them the way that suited my fancy. Before I went further I duplicated them as I needed similar boards for the back - without the lettering.

Next up were the flat reliefs of the letter outlines. These were built independent of the board reliefs.

I positioned them properly with repeat to the boards underneath (in the front view) and then merged them highest with the boards. Once I was done that task I combined the three board vectors (of both the front and back)

Last up was the addition of the bevelled letters.

The center layer of the sign will be cut from 1" thick Precision Board. The centre shape will be cut out to allow for the metal framework to be laminated inside.

Tomorrow I'll send the file to the MultiCam and we'll get this show on the road.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pieces of Eight sign

The small roller coaster I described a few posts back needs a sign of course. The 'owner' of the ride is Tupper, the pirate accountant. He will be featured on the sign. I did up a quick concept to 'sell' the idea to the client knowing I would still play with the design and lettering style as I created the sign.

Some of the most popular bitmaps in the TEXTURE MAGIC collection are the woodgrains. I've been working on a whole new collection of just woodgrains and I decided to give one of them a test drive on this project. It still needs a little work but one section in particular looked promising for this project.

I enlarged it significantly and positioned the lettering vectors over the section of the bitmap I wanted to use.

I then drew up the panel vectors and created a flat relief.

 The bitmap was then applied to the relief.
 Once I had closed the bitmap I created a new flat relief of just the lettering outlines and then Merged Highest with the wood grained background.

Then I modified the relief by adding the lettering, once again as a flat relief.

The last step was to drop the center of the letters using the subtract command. this would make the border of the letters much easier to paint.

The Tupper character was done as a separate sculpt using Abracadabra Sculpting epoxy. The barrel and post structure will be sculpted concrete ver a welded steel frame.

I'll be posting more as the sign is routed and assembled. Stay tuned...