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, July 30, 2016

Every day a little

Each day I try to spend at least a few minutes each day to do a little work on the grampa train. Most days it is a short time but it's enough to build a file in EnRoute, cut a piece or two on the MultiCam plasma cutter, pull a couple of welds or do a little grinding. I managed to assemble and finish the train controller yesterday. Today I cut some holes in the floor of the cab and fit it into place. I'll now work on the electric motor throttle (which will resemble a steam throttle) and fake firebox.

The backhead of the 'steam engine' is a beauty and should be a lot of fun for the younger riders who ride in the cab with me. I'll run the functional controls while they of course will be able to ring the bell and pull the whistle cord. There are also plenty of (non-functioning) taps to adjust to make the engine run perfectly.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Hand control one

I love to design and fabricate somewhat complicated things using EnRoute and CNC tools. For the grampa train project I could have used a simple push/pull choke knob to accomplish the adjustment of the drive controls. It would have worked just fine but it wouldn't be very authentic. Now I'm not at all a rivet counter kind of builder where everything has to be prototype down to the last detail but the thing I am modelling has to appear to function as it does in the prototype but in a fun way. The throttle of a steam strain is a lot like an old fashioned lever hand brake and I considered using an old one. But as I looked at historical pictures I decided it was just the kind of fun project I love. Using EnRoute to build the file and the plasma cutter to do the work would be relatively easy. Best of all I could easily scale it down to our train size and yet keep it chunky and slightly cartoon in keeping with the style of the grampa train.

The pieces would be cut from 1/4" and 3/8" steel plate. I designed it as a single piece and then broke out the different pieces and separated them according to thickness.Everything was designed entirely in EnRoute using the various vector tools. The MultiCam CNC plasma cutter made quick work of cutting the files and they were plenty accurate enough. A little touchup with a sanding dis is all that will be required before I begin assembly. The quarter inch thick files looked like this.

The 3/8 thick files were these.

As soon as the pieces were cool enough to handle with my bare hands I mocked up the pieces to see how it looked.  It's going to be very cool and should work real well to control the train. Now it's time for a little grinder work and then I'll light up the welder and wrenches to fasten the pieces together.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Electric grampa train

It's long been a dream of mine to won an electric train. Every Grampa should have one to share with his grand children. Only I wanted a very large train with the tracks circling the entire yard. I started the train project back before our first grand child Phoebe was born, almost eleven years ago. I made great progress on the engine and two rail cars - all built out of steel using nothing more than a hand held plasma cutter and a welder. We even managed to lay about four hundred feet of track down the driveway when we put that in but things slowed down as we did all kinds of big projects for customers, built the new house, landscaped the yard and a thousand other things.

With the grand kids and other important young kids in my life growing up so very quickly it is time to get in high gear on the electric train.  This past winter we gathered enough rail to get the rest of the way around the yard which will make the track about 1,100 feet long. That will go in as soon as the Viking ships are sent on their way. But the little engine was still without power. Through the years I had considered many power options and decided electric was the way to go. An old electric golf cart that didn't work donated the electronic controls. A friend brought us the thirty-six volt DC motor. Our good neighbour Gord sourced an old, variable speed hydrostatic drive. The necessary cables, gears, chains, batteries and other bits I could buy fairly inexpensively. With our CNC plasma cutter and welders I would easily make the needed brackets and custom controls.

The only thing I needed was to make the time and get in gear. With the shop finally empty of Viking ship pieces and me all rested up I decided today was the day. I used the forklift to lift the engine off the tracks and take it to the shop. I then crawled underneath the train and undid a few bolts and lifted the body off the chassis so I could take some measurements. Then it was off to the parts store to get some gears, chain and pulleys. Time flew as I worked on the train but by dark I had bolted on all of the new parts and created the cut files to create some exciting new pieces. These pieces would mount the controls, motor and the drive mechanisms. I also created the cut files for a custom scaled throttle bar and brake lever. It won't be long until we head down the track at long last!

I'll be posting the progress on the plasma cutting and fabrication in coming days. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 22, 2016

First half of Viking ship done!

Today, we finished the first half of the Viking ship. After the painting was finished we carefully lifted the top section of the ship with the forklift and bolted the shipping frames to the bottom. These will prevent the ship from sliding in the container during transit. These ship pieces are now ready to crane into the container.

The detail throughout the piece is superb and the crew is justifiably proud. It's the biggest single piece we have built in the shop.

The view from the end of the ship shows how the keels will bolt on to secure the two halves together once it arrives on site in Dubai. The ships will sit in a pool about 30" deep. The galvanized mesh on the bottom is to allow the water to flow in and out of the bottom of the ship around the frame.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

One more day.

All the Viking ship armatures  are now welded. Every piece (23 per ship) has been sent off to the galvanizers to get its shine coat of zinc. So far we only have enough back to build one and a half halves of the ship. As wait for more ship structures we are concentrating on finishing the paint on the first. We sandblasted the exposed metal bits to ensure the paint would stick permanently. Then we began to lay on the paint. Three base coats and then the glazes - all put on by hand. This thing definitely is huge. After two days of painting we hope to polish it off tomorrow. Then it's on to the second half of the ship.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ship shaped.

Yesterday and today were busy days as the crew worked hard to sculpt the skin of half of the first Viking ship hull. Those many weeks of preparation made the sculpting process straightforward.

The hull now looks bigger than ever! The second half of the hull will be ready for sculpting early next week - about the same time we'll begin the painting of the first half.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Heads or tails?

With the cutting, fitting and welding on the Viking ships now behind us we can concentrate on the sculpting at last. Today that work began on the first Viking ship beginning with the head and tail of the keel and the shields which hang on the side of the ship's hull. Things went well and we begin the actual hull of the ship tomorrow. While the crew sculpted I spent the day with our client on the next project. It won't be long until we are back to lots of designing and routing once again.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Last weld on ship complete!

Just before quitting time today we did the last weld on the second Viking ship. It's been nine weeks of cutting, fitting, welding and grinding to get the structures of this project done. There's still little bits of welding on the dragon keel for the front plus some stands and pallets for shipping but that won't take long. We still have to send the rest of the pieces to the galvanizer but one half of the first ship is now ready for sculpting and the rest won't be far behind.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

In and out

As we get into the final days of welding on the last Viking ship the focus  of the crew is quickly shifting. In the shop they are putting the last paint on the giant masts. Out in the yard we are still keeping three welders going pretty steady. There are sections of ship strewn through the parking lot in preparation for loading. They look random but there is a definite method and system to the layout. Space is tight. We are keeping our hired trucker busy with trips in and out of the city to take pieces of the ships to the galvanizers. We loaded the truck first thing this morning with half of one level of the ship. He was back in the afternoon with a load we had sent last week.

With newly galvanized pieces now at the ready, the crew can begin attaching the lath and soon we can begin sculpting the Viking ships - something we have been looking forward to for a long, long time!