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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Almost done

It's a bit hard to believe but we are at last nearing the end of the first phase of the NEB's fun World project. We have seven more posts to assemble and sculpt to finish this stage of the project. Through the last months we've designed hundreds of CNC files. We've cut up more than a hundred sheets of plywood, tons of sheet steel and many sheets of Precision Board. All those pieces have been fitted, welded, screwed and glued into place.

This project simply couldn't have ben accomplished without the help of the high tech materials like Precision Board, EnRoute software and our MultiCam CNC machines. It has been both challenging and fun!

As the crew finishes this job I am busy designing for the next phase. That too will require the help of these marvellous tools.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Quick installation

I love it when installations are painless and quick - just as we plan. The four signs for the Cultus Lake Boardwalk fell into this category. To install we measured thing up and marked the beams, then walked the signs up two ladders, positioned then and bolted them into place with lag bolts. It took less than five minutes per sign to do the installation.

The signs added a dash of colour like decorative icing on a fine cake.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Flying at the flywheel

The flywheel for the 'MARVELOUS MACHINE' was a fun little project. Creating the file took a number of steps but it wasn't overly difficult. The entire file was designed using EnRoute.

The spoke vectors looked a lot like giant tear drops I designed one, then duplicated it and flipped it. The two spokes were aligned and then grouped. These pairs of spokes were then duplicated rotated at intervals of 60 degrees, arranged and aligned around the wheel. 

The first relief to be created was the outer rim. I made it a flat relief at 1.5" tall.

Next up was the rounded inner rim. I created it as a separate relief using the dome tool.

After I created the relief I checked it in the front view and nudged it upwards until I was happy with the look.

The spokes were next, created once again using the dome tool. These too were checked in the front view and nudged upwards to suit.

The inner hub was created as a flat relief. I then created a new round vector and created a zero height relief. I then merged all of the reliefs to this relief.

I duplicated the relief and flipped it to create the back of the flywheel. then modified this new relief by creating two depressions to accommodate the mounting hardware.

To bore the hole for the shaft I created a zero height relief. This was then MERGED LOWEST with the flywheel relief.

The files were then ready for tool pathing. The routing was done in two passes. The first rough pass was done with a 3/8" ball nose bit with a 50% overlap while the finishing was done with a 1/8" ball nose bit at 80% overlap.

Because it was to be a moving part I machined the flywheel from forty point Precision Board.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Using EnRoute as a design tool

With the bowling alley now almost complete we are ready to move on to the next phase of the NEBs project. That is the Pub area. We had done some preliminary renderings last year. The primary element was the giant still. At that time they were going to dig out a section of the floor to create a lower level and then build a mezzanine level above. The tall still was to have been the centrepiece straddling both levels of the seating area. Those plans have been abandoned.

The still survived the changes but now needed to be shorter and located in a different place. We started with the CAD drawings of the pub area. I imported them into EnRoute and then did the new plans over top. Our new idea was to create decorative beams/arches from the back wall. They would come up to a row of posts which were in the same line as the still. The beams would serve as brackets for heavy industrial piping which would go from the still to the bar area.

Once I had the ideas worked out in scale I grabbed a screen capture. This was taken into PhotoShop to do my freehand rendering using different colours for the various elements and sections.

Once I had the ideas sorted out it was back to EnRoute to create a new scale drawing of the still and beam system.

A screen capture of the drawing was then used as the basis for the freehand rendering, once again done in PhotoShop using my iPad Pro and pencil.

The back expansion area got a slightly different style beam with a post on either end and the pipe down the middle. It too was redrawn freehand and coloured on the computer.

One more drawing was necessary for the presentation. That was a typical post with one of the pub signs attached. It matches the posts we created for the bowling alleys.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Paint, paint, paint!

The four signs for the Cultus Lake Boardwalk are now nearing completion. Each colour of the sign gets a minimum of three coats of paint to ensure a long life and fade resistance. That's a lot of cutting of the many colours! 

The ribbit ride sign now only needs one more blend coat of yellow paint on the lettering plus some eyeball details before it is declared done.

The three Cultus Lake Boardwalk signs need two more coats of blending on the letters plus three coats of white on the borders. Hopefully tomorrow has enough hours to get the job done. In any case by week's end we'll be bolting them into place up at the park.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Instant install

The new MultiCam tech centre and office in Langley, British Columbia opens on Friday. That meant it was time to do a special delivery today. Grant and I loaded their new sign nd a few tools into the back of the shop truck and we headed down the road. Kelsey was at the office eagerly waiting for us to arrive. I measured up the wall and located the studs while Grant brought in the tools. 

It took seconds to mount the bracket to the wall, making sure it was dead level. We then carefully brought the large dimensional sign into the office and hung it on the bracket. Kelsey was all smiles as we piled back into the truck and headed back to the shop.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Full throttle story telling

A simple electrical on-off switch would have done the job of turning my MARVELOUS MACHINE on and off. But a simple switch wouldn't have told the story I needed to tell.

My MARVELOUS MACHINE is 'driven' by steam. To properly control suck a divide we needed a mechanical throttle, much like what one would find in an old steam train engine. I had built a similar throttle for our train steam engine last year. I had considered using the same file but I didn't need a reverse on this machine.

To build the throttle I first needed a segment of a cogged wheel. I built the teeth which I would use to cut out the sprocket. I then used the jigsaw tool to create this vector.

I then drew up some lines using the drawing tools. This would form the outline of the base of the unit. I positioned this over the partial sprocket I had previously created. By adding the various circles and sections and using the jigsaw tool I created the final shape.

I built up various shapes using the drawing tools and then combined them to create the long handle, pull lever and various other bots and pieces.

I was originally going to use a tapered base but opted for a box design because of space considerations. In the screen shot below the shapes for the pieces are created. A few last pieces still need to be merged together.

This shot has all of the final vectors. The five boxes on the left were plasma cut from 1/8" thick plate steel. The pieces on the right side were all cut from 3/16" plate steel.

I cut the box pieces first on our MultiCam plasma cutter simply because the machine was already set up for 1/8" thick material. As fast as the pieces came off the machine I ground up the edges and tacked them together. I then welded the corners up and used a sanding disk to smooth the welds.

The throttle lever was assembled with a combination of bolts and welding. It too went together in a hurry. There is a bolt on access panel in the bottom box to facilitate mounting an electric micro switch inside which will be actuated by the lever.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Last of the arches sculpted

The NEBs bowling alley project temporarily took a backseat to some other pressing projects but as they went out the door we went back to work on the last of the arches for the bowling alley. Today we reached a milestone as the last two of the concrete arches were hand sculpted today.

There were twenty-six arches over the bowling alleys and another five arches down each side of the massive room, making thirty-six arches in all. We have five more beams to complete as well as twelve posts for the centre of the room.

The many pieces for this job required that we designed files and routed more than a hundred sheets of plywood and scores of sheets of plate steel. It's been a big challenge to get it all right so it fits together seamlessly on the job site - more than 2,500 miles distant.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lots of pieces to this puzzle

Designing and then making our creations move is not something we typically do in our shop. This is why I took it on as a challenge for my piece for next year's Sign Invitational. Making display or  portfolio pieces is always where we take the biggest risk instead of on a customer's project.

Yesterday, I took a trip to one of my favourite stores that stocks every manner of bearings, sprockets, fittings, motors, gear reducers and the like. Everything is displayed on shelves. I spent better than an hour wandering the isles seeing what was available. As I looked at the hardware I developed a plan to make my entry move convincingly. I bought a whole bunch of pieces of hardware, and brought it all back to the shop. Then I started designing the next stage of the 'MARVELOUS MACHINE' build. I designed the files for dozens of brackets and other bits and pieces which I then cut on our MultiCam plasma cutter. As the pieces came off the machine I fit and welded up a storm. As I fabricated the parts I often went back to the drawing board to tweak the design and then recut the part. By the time I was done for the day, the electric motor and gear reducer were securely mounted inside the firebox. A camshaft and vertical steam cylinder were also mounted to the steam dome on top of the boiler as well.

This is of course only the basic design. Think of this (so far) as the first layer of a cake without any fancy icing. A whole lot of eye candy is yet to be added.