It is hard to believe that it was only six years ago I witnessed a CNC router in action for the very first time. I was fascinated 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 I quickly found out that with the relative simplicity of EnRoute, CNC routers were capable of just about anything imaginable. This journal will chronicle that journey to date and continue each week with two or three entries as we continue to explore just what is possible with this wonderful software... -dan

Friday, August 15, 2014

Final plans are in the bag and work has begun

The entire plan for the large project in Trinidad is now approved. There will undoubtably some small changes and revisions as we go but the final plans are now being engineered. It was a long design process, with nine versions of the master plan drawn and considered before things were settled. Attractions and rides were changed and moved through the process and many things changed size along the way.

The plan as accepted includes a train ride, bumper boats, a wild adventure golf, a climbing wall and daring free fall jump, a kids play area, a wave swing ride, a pendulum ride, a spinning drop ride and a spinning coaster. All will be themed to the maximum. Yesterday I finished the last of the attraction sign designs.

The spinning drop ride will be called Crows Nest featuring Specs with his telescope.

The spinning pendulum ride is to be called KEEL HAUL. The sign features Fredrick, the enforcer.

The spinning coaster has a figure eight track so we called it 'PIECES OF EIGHT' and the sign features Tupper the pirate accountant.

I'll get into designing the signs in the next weeks and look forward to the building of each of them. In the meantime we are working on the larger pieces including a giant KRAKEN. He'll measure about thirty-five feet long with the tentacles extended.

This is going to be a challenging and amazing build and project and we'll be chronicling each step of the process here. Stay tuned...


Friday, August 8, 2014

Routed house trim

We've kept the MultiCam busy of late with the fancy house trim around the front and back doors. With the trim install the front door became much more welcoming.

The patio door and posts also got the full trim treatment

That leaves only the big front window.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Installing trim

The routed pieces were mitered and then fastened in place.  We then used sculpting epoxy to fill the holes and seams before painting.

The pieces will get three coats of base color and then three layers of glaze. The hearts will be then painted pink to match the corner block trim on the rest of the house like in the background of the photo.

Today the last of the trim was painted for around the circular windows and doors. We'll be installing that tomorrow. Stay tuned...


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Final details

We've created more than 200 routing files for the trim on the house and routed thousands of pieces over the last two years. In the last three weeks we've been working hard to finish the outside and this includes creating even more routing files and then routing a bunch more pieces. Thankfully there aren't many areas left to do.

The trim around the front and patio doors was routed yesterday and assembled today. This afternoon I created the routing files for the decorative bands around the patio posts. I thought them worth posting as they involve three different procedures that are a teeny bit tricky.

The decorative bands are 8 inches wide and are comprised of four pieces that will be motored to fit. As usual I started with some vector files created in EnRoute.

 I then created a fat relief using the large rectangle.

Next I created a thinner flat relief of the three crews that would be embossed on the final piece.

I then added domed hearts to the centre panel.

I then added some woodgrain to the rectangular shape using one of the bitmaps from my TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION. This shot shows how I stretched out the bitmap to allow the rectangle to fit into the section of woodgrain I liked.

I used a value of 0.15 inches for the woodgrain.

I then merged using the REPLACE function. First I selected the relief I wanted to modify.

Then =, following the prompts I selected the areas I wanted to merge.

 As quick as that the panel was ready to tool path. But I needed eight panels so I duplicated them and arranged them to fit onto the piece of 30 lb Precision Board I would route them from. Then I used a 3/8" ball nose bit for the rough pass with a 50% overlap. The final pass was done using a 1/8" ball noise bit and an 80% overlap.

Here's a shot of the pieces on the MultiCam.

Tomorrow the completed pieces will be mitred and then painted before they are installed on the house. I'll post a picture of the completed door and the posts as well.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The face of our business

Marketing our business is an important key to success. Marketing can take many forms and the more creative marketing is the more memorable it will be.

In our case we have a home based business. Our shop is three hundred and fifty feet off of the road while our house is next to the road. Local bylaws restrict the size of our sign to four feet square. So how do we market effectively? It's simple.

We did an award winning 3D sign that was as big as we were allowed of course.

But when we designed and built our new house we used every creative trick in the book to make it into a larger than life 'SIGN' that advertised what we do for a living. The house creatively shows the things we do in our shop. There were no bylaws to control what our house looked like.

Does it work? I KNOW it does. We are currently booked into 2016. To  suppress the daily stream of looky-loos onto the property we are installing an electronically controlled gate. A (dimensional of course) sign will offer a phone number to make an appointment if they want to come back.


The importance of samples

I often get asked how we became successful in our business. The answer to that question isn't short but if I had to answer concisely I would say the biggest reason would be the samples we display. While some of our samples are smaller copies of three-dimensional work we have done for customers, the bulk of the things you see on display are custom made - just for that purpose.

I have difficulty describing what we do but showing a sample of our wonderful 3D creations work like a charm.

The work we have on display not only shows what we can do but also is the kind of work we WANT to do in the future. From time to time we go through our displays, culling signs and 3D objects that no longer fit our vision. Some see it as brutal that we take down a piece and toss it in the dumpster but the importance of our display far outweigh any personal attachment we might harbour.

Recently our insurance company did a detailed audit of our workplace. They deemed it necessary that we provide further fireproofing in our welding area. A fireproof paint was the answer. It was the perfect excuse to clear everything from the shop, reorganize our work areas and then put the samples back up. It was time for a major cull once more.

The pepto bismol pink of the special paint was a little hard to take as it went on.

Thankfully the fire paint was an intermedial paint meaning we could top coat it with something a little more neutral.

The many 3D samples were thoroughly cleaned, and sorted, tossing samples of things that no longer were up to current standards. They are stacked in my library waiting for the painting to be done.

As we reinstall all of the samples once more you can bet we'll save a little room for some new ones. Even though we are currently booked into 2016 I still strongly believe in continuing to invest in he future.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Back on the bike

After more than two months out of the studio and away from the router I was back at my desk and programing some files and turned on the MultiCam once more. I quickly found out I was a little rusty with both the program and the machine.

EnRoute is a wonderful program that isn't too difficult but like many things technical it requires that one does things in a certain order, paying attention the whole way through. As usual there were lots of things going on out in the studio and out in the yard as well. I found that with my being out of practice it till a few tries to get things right.

The point I am trying to make is that the complex files I love to play with takes practice and regular use to accomplish with ease.

I have no doubt that after creating a few more files in the next days I'll have no problem designing and routing anything I can imagine. It's like riding a bike I suppose. A few more laps and I'll be up to first speed once more.