It is hard to believe that it was only seven 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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Golf sign start

We are slowly working our way through a big list of signs for Skallywag Bay. The next major sign on the list is for the adventure golf. The routed signs are actually the smaller portion of the project. Just the same the main sign was both challenging and fun.

The first task was to commit the design to vectors.

I then opened the sandblasted redwood bitmap in PhotoShop and used the warp tool to bend it to the shape of the sign. 

The spindles/handles of the ships wheel were created using the dome tool.

The rim of the wheel was next, once again using the dome tool but fairly flat.

The last step of the wheel was the flat center piece.

I then merged all the pieces of the wheel together. After the rest of the sign vectors were built I would adjust the height to make sure it wasn't higher than the sign board.

The sign board was the next piece to be created as flat relief.

The warped woodgrain bitmap was imported and applied to the flat board relief.

At this point I merged the wheel and the sign board onto a zero height flat relief. I then duplicated the relief and flipped the copy. This would be routed to form the back of the sign.

The front section of the sign then would get the lettering, starting with the letting outline. This outline was built as a separate relief. I next would position those reliefs over the woodgrain merge them with the sign board.

The main lettering was created using the bevel tool.

The smaller lettering was created using the dome tool.

With the last of the lettering in place I could then tool path the file and send it off to the MultiCam. As usual the pieces would be cut from 30 lb Precision Board. I set the machine in motion and went on to the other work.

Tomorrow morning it will be ready to glue up.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014


The last ride sign is for the Kraken's Crew (bumper boats). I decided to go for the life preserver look with the KRAKEN peeking through.

I whipped up some simple vectors which wold be used to create the reliefs/

 I first used the extrude function to create a mesh object.

 Then I used the teardrop vector to create the body of the KRAKEN. I then flattened out the sub body in the front view and sized and positioned the conning tower (mesh) to fit.

I created a zero height relief and then merged the mesh to it.

At this point I realized that I had made the square zero height relief too small to encompass the submarine body. I backed up one step and stretched the zero height relief and then merged the mesh once more. Then after deleting the original relief I merged (highest) this relief with the sub shape. Take note of how I positioned the flat relief to effectively cut off the front of the teardrop shape.

This is the resulting relief of that operation.

Next up is the slice, where we'll create the layers that will fit inside the Precision Board we are routing it form. Since we are using 1.5" thick material the sub was sliced four times.

The engine halves were created using an oval vector and the dome tool. Then I created a zero height rectangle under it. By merging highest with this rectangle I would slice the ends off the egg.

I duplicated this shape flipped the copy and then duplicated the two pieces. Four halves would make two engines.

Then it was time for the lifesaver/sign. I use the dome tool to create the basic shape.

The lettering was added using the add to command and the flat relief tool.

The four pieces necessary for one half of the sub were duplicated and flipped. Then everything was arranged to fit on a 48" x 96" sheet of Precision Board.

I created one more piece for the sign - the middle layer that would house the welded steel frame. The weird shape opening is to allow me to cut steel with a 45 degree cut on one end and then be a random length (with a square cut on the other. This meant I didn't have to be precise with my cuts and this sped up the building process.

Once the pieces were off the MultiCam it was time weld up the sturdy steel frame and then to glue them up. The sign ring and Kraken were glued up separately. Once they were dry we welded the protruding legs to the post behind. Then I drilled for a steel peg and slipped the sub over it. The tail was tied to the post structure behind.

The next step is to finish the concrete sculpting on the mast and then to add the detail to the submarine using sculpting epoxy. Steel armatures will add strength to theKRAKEN arms which will protrude out of the front of the piece. Some hand sculpted ropes will also be added to the life preserver sign.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Skull Rock sculpt done

It doesn't take much hand sculpting to make a sign go from mildly dimensional to off the wall different. In the case of the Skull Rock Scramble sign it looked pretty good with just the random shape, the texture and raised lettering. Adding Webster, the turtle Gruffle changed it in a big way without a doubt and he took only a couple of hours to create.. (This time includes my helper's time.) But we weren't nearly done yet.

I spent another twenty minutes with our air powered die grinder to extend the gnarly rock texture around the sides, top and bottom of the sign. Then it was time for another bit of sculpting.
The rocks were extended a little to create the skull eyes and the detail around the mouth. The palm tree was the final detail to take the dimension over the top.

The mast post and sail will next get their skin of sculpted concrete and then the paint will start. It's going to be a cool looking truly dimensional sign when we are done - like all of the other signs for this project.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Topographical modeling in 3D

I've wanted to use the router to do a topographical map for some time. As we get into the build of the Trinidad project I've been having some difficulty in describing the elevations of the site to the various people involved. The grades are somewhat complex without a doubt. I had done a color keyed 2D topographical map to explain things and it certainly helped. But some people still weren't quite getting my ideas. I decided it was a good time to do a 3D physical model. The area I was modeling is inside the red rectangle.

It was a simple matter to hand trace the vectors needed to establish the grades I needed. This topographical model needed to be precise but no overly detailed. I did the elevations in 2' layers.

The purpose of the model was to figure out how much rock work we would need and where to place it so we needed a little more detail. Rather than model it in the 3D software and then route it in I decided to sculpt it in by hand. This would allow for more flexibility and easier changes as I went.

The model is quick and dirty but provides all of the information in an easy to read manner. I'll probably dress it up some with some landscaping materials to help out the landscaper as well but that will be another day. Stay tuned...