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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Main signs finished at last

One of the first pieces we designed and routed for Scallywag Bay Adventure Park was in fact among the last to be finished. I designed the hull shape for the small ship and posted it back in May of 2014. Here's the two step by step entries of that process...   Entry one   Entry two

The sign was designed as always by hand and with the computer to create the vectors.

I sliced the ship's hull into layers using EnRoute and then routed them from 30 lb Precision Board on the MultiCam.

The pieces were then glued up into the three dimensional hulls. This is how they sat for the better part of a year while we were busy with all of the other pieces.

When we picked up the project(s) we added a few missing pieces which we quickly cut on the bandsaw. The armatures for the ship's masts were made from 5/8" steel rods.

A thin coat of Abracadabra sculpting epoxy was formed over the two ships and hand sculpted with all the detail. 

Then the painting process began beginning with the base coats - three layers in all.

Lastly the glazes were skillfully applied by our painting crew.

The sign faces were also painted separately before being added to the sculpted fibreglass reinforced concrete bases.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hells Gate revisited

Almost ten years ago we built a new proscenium for the Hells Gate Airtram attraction. The airtram is situated in a spectacular river canyon and features a 500 foot drop from the highway to the far side of the river. The canyon narrows to just over a hundred feet wide at that point and is well over a hundred feet deep. More than twice as much water flows through this narrow canyon than over Niagara Falls. The problem was neither the airtram nor the river are visible from the highway. The solution was a faux rock wall with a half-size airtram protruding.

The sign face (with the lettering) and the tram were the first paying projects we routed with our MultiCam Router. At the time these two pieces really stretched our abilities with the software and machine. It was one of the first times we used 30 pound Precision Board as well... quite the test!

After ten years of being out in the extreme weather with very hot summers and very cold winters the bright red paint on the tram was getting a little faded. It was time for a repaint. We loaded the truck up with scaffolding and supplies and Jenessa and I headed up the road for the hour and a half trip to the attraction. Once set up it was time for a close inspection. We found the tram itself had held up well. The glue joints were still tight and with the exception of paint there was no need for repair. The worst was the vertical steel beam over the tram. It was pitted with rust. We scuffed everything up and applied two - three coats of fresh paint. It took about five hours to do the task.

For our lunch we rode down the tram to the restaurant below and enjoyed a meal on the deck overlooking the raging river below. We also took the time to look over another project we had done eight years ago to honor the two hundredth anniversary of Simon Fraser going through the canyon.

Jenessa posed like a tourist in front of the rock's other side. In her safety gear she looked ready to scale the rock.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cultus Lake Adventure Park finished!

The Cultus Lake Adventure Park project is now wrapped up and operational. After so many months of work on the project it is great to see the park in operation. The signs look great in their intended setting!

The rides in this section of the park are much more extreme and the theme work is a little more sparse. The big steel dominates the scene. This makes the sign work even more important. The sign for the roundup was mounted to the giant coaster framework.

We took this shot yesterday as the Round-Up ride was in action. The expression on the snake suddenly is very fitting!

Denver Workshop coming fast!

  • We are now putting together the agenda for the three day Denver Workshop in mid-September where I will be presenting along with Jeff Harman and Thad Staples. We'll be covering everything from basics through fully dimensional pieces. There will also be plenty of hands-on in the evenings including how we finish our pieces.  It promises to be a great workshop. I'll be doing some sessions on designing and marketing as well. If you are interested in attending this workshop don't wait too long. It's going to fill. The information and links are below...

    CNC Workshops | CNC Training Workshops
    EnRoute 5 Workshop

    The 2015Workshop Series

    Learn New Techniques with EnRoute

    EnRoute Workshop Schedule for 2015

    • Denver, CO VIP event Sept 16-18*
    • Hackensack NJ, October 8-9 @ Multicam Technology Center
    • Anaheim, CA, December 3-4 @ Multicam Technology Center

    *Meet the EnRoute developers at this special 3 Day "EnRoute Pro" event in Denver, CO. This will be a more advanced, three day class focused on 3D surfacing, carving and texture creation specifically for the sign and woodworking industries. Dan Sawatzky will also be in attendance and showing his magic.
     “The EnRoute workshop was worth every cent. The instructors patiently relayed, in detail, every aspect of EnRoute’s 2.5D, 3D, Rapid Texture techniques and the many other functions of Enroute. I am now able to take advantage of the tremendous features provided in the software. Thanks Enroute!”
    - Henry from H & S Marine Plastics, New York/New Jersey Workshop Attendee


    Space is limited, so register early to guarantee your seat. It's $995 to attend a 2-day class or $1,295 to attend the EnRoute Pro 3-day class, but you save $200 when you register 30 days before the event. Attendees from 2014 save $300 when you register 30 days before the class.
    To register, contact Terri Wright
    1800.229.9066 x114 or EnRouteSales@ThinkSAi.com


    Bring your own computer and follow along on your PC with a demo version of EnRoute we’ll provide. No key required. 
    EnRoute Classroom

Friday, June 12, 2015

Why not in the real world too!

In the last four days I've grabbed more than twelve hundred photographs of everything Disney. What I've seen is nothing short of breath taking. Such wonderful attention to detail and story telling at every turn. As I've marvelled at all of the work and especially the signs it makes me wonder...  why can't we sell and create this kind of work in the real world - in our regions. I believe the answer resides within us and I am resolved to design, create and sell much, much more. I know from experience we can do it and it has to start with our own studios.

As an example I show three wonderful signs with brackets that point the way to the washroom near Pinocchio's attraction.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trip for inspiration

This week Peter and I are in Tokyo visiting the two Disney parks here. The Disney Imagineers are the very best in this industry and these two parks demonstrate that at every turn. This week we will observe and record as much of that creative work as possible.  In two days I've taken more than 900 photos. Wonderful design abounds with great examples of CNC routing. We've observed wonderful uses of textures and dimension. There's lots to learn here without a doubt. I include a taste of what we have witnessed thus far...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Up, up and away!

The Trinidad project prefabrication is also quickly moving towards completion. Today we sent off three more forty-foot containers chock full of fun pieces. (nine now in total) Two more empty containers arrive tomorrow and more will follow in the next weeks.

Meanwhile, in the shop work continues at full speed. Today the washroom signs were routed. Rather than build a new file I looked up an old oval barrel head I had done a lot time ago and rotated it to be flat rather than vertical. I added new layers for the lettering and border to lay over it. The signs read 'FAMILY'  'LASSES' 'LADS' and 'CREW ONLY'.

Paint paint paint

The last few weeks have been largely all about paint as we near the end of the second phase of the Cultus Lake Adventure Park. For that project there were three main signs. I've posted the various phases of the project in the last weeks. Here's a series of pictures showing the painting of these projects by our talented crew. Tomorrow these signs get delivered and installed.

Each color received three base coats and then a series of glazed. The various layers of lettering and borders made it easy to paint, starting from the bottom layer and working up towards the top surface layer of the sign.