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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dayna tree progress

Since the last post on the progress of Dayna's tree we've made great progress. The top portion of the structure was completed and the galvanized lath applied. A few small details were added at the request of the family like a small fairy door, tucked into the roots.

We then did the sculpted concrete which was done over a period of three days. The first day we did the branch tips and large knotholes in the lower sections. By doing smaller areas it afforded us the luxury of taking our time and adding lots of detail. This was especially important in the heat of the summer when concrete kicks fast.

On the second concrete day we did the bulk of the tree area.  Since the bark has less detail we could be more ambitious. On the third day we did the roots which were tricky as it was hard to reach the back side and underneath.

The sculpted concrete was allowed to cure for a few workdays and through the weekend. Much of our staff is on holidays and so it was just Grant and Jeff who began the painting process. They managed to get a first coat of base colours on by the end of the first day. From here on the process will speed up as each successive coat of paint becomes easier. Stay tuned for more progress...


Back to the shop

I've been busy on weekends and an hour or two on weeknights working on my personal project - the little rail truck. Last week it was at long last ready for a test drive. I called Phoebe, my grand daughter, who has been waiting twelve long years for a test drive. 

The throttle was still jury rigged, the drive train chain was not yet tightened, and a few other things yet to be done but I was confident the little rig would power it's way down the track without difficulty. I jumped into the cab and Phoebe into the sidecar. The vehicle was stable - despite Phoebe now being almost adult size and weight. The goal was to do a couple test runs un and down the completed track and then do a video pass - which I would post to the blog for all to see. 

Things did not go quite as planned. The drive chain was far too loose and jumped the sprockets continually. Then as we approached the first corner things went awry. The tandem rear wheels bound badly as the front of the car negotiated the corner. My design simply wasn't going to work. Phoebe took it all in stride for she knew I would come up with a solution.

As we used the rig back towards the shop I puzzled how to do a fix. By supper time I had the solution.

The answer was to pull one of the axles in the rear. It didn't take long. Once the axles were pulled I cut off the bolts and welded in a new set. The single axle was then bolted into place, entered under the fender. I was almost happy but thought things looked a little sparse. It was time to do a little research...

I decided I would add a single spring to the back axle and a arch bar suspension to the front truck. Using some historical pics from the web I designed the steel components in EnRoute. The pieces would be cut from 3/8" and 1/8" plate steel. The screen grab below shows the file for one side of the truck. It took a couple of hours to assemble, weld and grind each piece.

As I worked I was amazed at how fast and efficient the Plasma cutter made the operation. Everything fit perfectly and little grinding as necessary. This little all steel vehicle has been in progress for twelve years and much of it was done without the benefit of our MultiCam CNC plasma. Things are much better now!

The springs and archer setups are actually non-functioning as the axles are supported by pillow block bearings off the frame. The spring assemblies look massive and fill in the fender space nicely. Visually and in actuality they add weight  to the lower half of the chassis. 

There are still a few more details to add to the chassis of the rail truck but I am pleased with the result. It should function a whole lot better on the rails. In the next couple of days I'll put it back on the track and call Phoebe for another test drive. Hopefully all goes well. Stay tuned...

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tailgate party

It was time to fire up the MultiCam CNC plasma once more for the next stage of the little rail truck. I needed to build a functional tailgate. The truck will be powered with a four stroke gas engine which needs lots of air flow. When the weather is warm or I need to work on the drive train I can drop the tailgate. For normal operation there should be plenty of airflow with the open bed and top as well as through the logo which I cut into the tailgate.

The logo is to identify the pike's name... Persnickety & Doodle Railroad. 'Persnickety' is a nod to Janis, my loving wife of 43 years. She has an eye for detail (and accuracy) which she regularly employs. Janis is in charge of quality control. The 'Doodle' part references my drawing - which is one of my passions.

The files for the many pieces of the tailgate were created in EnRoute. They were cut from 3/16" and 1/18" thick steel plate which makes the tailgate sturdy enough to handle anything that might be thrown at it! With the tailgate on it was time to celebrate with a tailgate party.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Amazing installation!

This past week Peter and I flew out to Oshawa, Ontario to visit NEB's Fun World. After almost a year in design and construction the bulk of the pieces we built and transported there have been installed. The NEB's crew did a fabulous job! Our task was to do a few touchups, install some of the signs and do the texturing and faux finishing on the upper portions of the side walls. 

The pieces had never been previously fitted together s our shop is simply not nearly large enough. The sheer scale of the project is amazing. Our panels, fit together, covered more than four hundred feet of wall! 

As we worked I thought back to the first concept drawings done of the project. The first drawing is one done by Peter as we started to work out he logistics. It is of the left corner.

The picture below is of a similar angle and it is amazing how close we came as we designed. Once the ceiling panels are ct and installed it will look even more like the concept.

A second drawing which I did a little later worked out more of the details for presentation. A few things changed as we proceeded. The archways had to be flattened out a little to keep things legal for the serious bowlers. We were still working on the colors at this point as well.

Since our client had his own CNC router it didn't make sense to do all the pieces in British Columbia and then transport them across Canada. We simply provided the cutting files and he took it from there for the grass, tree and mountain silhouettes.

Despite the pieces being loaded, transported more than 4,000 kilometres, unloaded, and lifted into place they were in almost perfect shape. We created more than a hundred pieces in all and they fit together almost perfectly. We did only a little caulking to fill a couple small gaps. Two days of on site painting finished our work.

The NEB's crew was still lifting the last of the posts into position as we worked and has yet to cut and install the ceiling flats but it is coming together quickly. The tough part of the job is that they did it without shutting down more than a few lanes at a time. While they worked guests were still bowling around them. Below is a panorama shot showing the immense nature of the job.

There is more to come as well. Special lighting is being tested and will be installed across the entire back wall. The owners will be able to create special lighting effects and shows which will be spectacular!

We now head back to our studio to begin design for the e=next phases of the project. This is going to be fun!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pickup artist.

Each time I can spare a few minutes of my free time I head out to the shop to work on the rail pickup. In those minutes I build a file, fire up the plasma cutter to cut some pieces or do a little welding. Those minutes add up and I am making real progress. The pickup bed is now largely complete and the four fenders are fabricated and welded into place. The transmission is in place and will soon be mated to the motor. A test drive isn't far away. This is fun!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

This year's display

We were delighted with the display booth we put together for last year's showing at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO in Orlando, Florida. The booth was good enough to garner a first place Brass Ring Award in it's size class. The experience of displaying at the massive show for the first time taught us many things. Our idea to ship a complete display piece with all of the show pieces attached was a brilliant move. We were able to set up in mere minutes. Take down at the end of the show was just as fast.

The display garnered a whole lot of positive attention during the show but in retrospect the display was a bit cluttered and busy. We learned that people are overwhelmed at a show of this type and scale with wall to wall eye candy everywhere they went. We needed to get our message across simply and in a hurry. We had many fine dimensional signs on display but these signs confused some people. We made a note to have no words in our next display except our concise message.

We needed to answer only two questions. 'Who are we?' 'What do we do?'

This year's display will be twenty feet wide instead of ten feet. Rather than scrap last year's effort we would rebuild in a simpler fashion. The booth will effectively be divided into three areas. The left hand side will be 'our design studio'. It will be labeled DESIGN in bold letters. The desk area will be smaller than last year's effort. I'll be sitting here drawing up some digital drawing concepts during show hours with a TV screen behind me showcasing my drawings. Pinned on the wall behind me will be concept drawings of various past projects.

The center area will be our 'fabrication shop'. We'll have a single large piece 'in progress' in the center. On the back wall in large dimensional letters will be 'IMAGINATION CORPORATION'. We will have some 'tools' handy in the display. The purpose of this area is to show our name boldly and that we build what we design. We will dress in 'work clothes' to further tell our story.

On the right side of the display will be an area with some concept study models. Above, on the back wing wall in bold letters will be the word 'BUILD'.

Today we began work on the new booth, first gutting last years display and then beginning the new fabrication. As with last year's display the structural elements are all heavy duty plasma cut and welded steel.