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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Revisiting Cap-it

A little more than four years ago I built some fun displays for a local company called Cap-it. The stands were used too hold their catalogues near the entrance to their stores. The step by step is posted here...   Cap-it trucks posts

Now they are launching a new advertising campaign featuring a British bulldog mascot. And so I got the call for a new display. This time we are only fabricating the top portion of the display.  The beauty of EnRoute and our MultiCam is that I didn't have to build a new file for the sign portion of the display. I simply searched back through my archives and dug up the old one. It had to be resized slightly and then it was ready to go. Once routed it was a simple matter to sculpt the bulky dog behind it. That process took less than a day using Abracadabra Sculpt and my trust helper Sarah mixing for me.

Today we began the painting process and the dog instantly began to come to life.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

NANCY name plaque

As always it started with a quick rough sketch.

I decided that some rivets in the corners would be cool.

To make the type look old I used the transform tool to add jitter to the lettering. Then I added a border.

I changed my mind once I took a second look and decided on washes with bolts instead in the corners.

Then it was done to work creating the reliefs starting with the base relief.

I then selected the inside border and the lettering border to modify the original relief by subtracting from it.

Then it was time for some subtle texture over the entire relief.

Then a second lecture bitmap was applied to just the sunken background.

Then I modified the relief by adding the washers and bolts as simple flat additions.

Lastly was the raised lettering using the dome tool.

BOB name plaque

Bob's name plaque was the first out of the gate. I started with a quick hand drawing to work out the basics.

 The first task in EnRoute was to work out the vectors.

I started with a flat relief. This would form the border and everything would build off of that.

I then modified this relief using the dome tool.

I decided to add a border on the lettering before we went too far.

I then used this lettering border vector to modify the relief.

I then selected the relief, the inside round, the lettering border and the lettering and the texture bitmap. I applied a value of .2".  

I then modified the relief using the lettering vector to raise the letters from the border.

The last step was the centre dome. It was created as a separate relief.

The height of the relief wasn't important at this stage. I then went to the front view and using the up arrows raised it into position.

Once it was lined up I then merged it highest with the base relief.

Once merged with the base relief I aligned it to the bottom of the plate and took a look at it in the front view. I build without a great deal of concern about the height of the final relief as it is a simple matter to grab the top node and then pull it down into the plate.

Then it was time to tool path the relief and send it off to the multiCam. The first (rough) pass was done using a 3/8" ball nose bit and a 50% overlap. The finish pass was done using a 1/8" ball nose bit and an 80% bit.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Scribbling down ideas

With the next Sculpture Magic Workshop now less than two and a half months away it is time to begin preparations. We start with the name plaques as they make great filler projects. I began tonight, scribbling ideas in my sketchbook while I watched the superman movie. I managed to nail down eleven concepts. Not all are complete but once I get this far the rest comes easy.

We do name plaques for each attendee for a number of reasons. It is a chance to stretch my mind in a hurry as I create more than a score of unique name plaques. I also use a variety of techniques to design the routing files. That's good practice using EnRoute software. We use the plaques to practice our painting techniques and often try out new things. Designing, routing and painting the plaques helps us remember each attendees name as well. Most importantly it's one more thing that takes our workshops over the top as each attendee gets to take them home when the workshop is done.

With a name like Zuzana the background begged to be zebra stripes. You can bet this won't be black and white when it is done.

Nancy is a classic name and a typewriter font came to mind.

Bailee has attended our workshops previously. Young in years she is a very creative person!

Andy needed a playful lettering style. I have some cool ideas in mind for the background texture.

BOB is a fun name to play with. The 'B's begged to be back to back and the 'O' wanted to be nice and round like a ball. I'll bet the 'O' sees some gold leaf.

Caitlyn has also attended a workshop previously. This oriental style font seemed to call her name.

I'm not finished with Jeremy yet and this will still get some serious tweaking to make the idea I have in mind work.

Same goes for Kenna but I know exactly where we are going from here.

Steve will be all about the background texture to make it pop. This is going to be cool.

I'm now more than half way through the sketching of ideas. With eleven ideas now nailed it can get tricky to come up with even more creative name plaques.  But no worries for there have been more than two hundred and fifty unique name plaques created since we began our workshops.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


There is much to do before we receive our new MultiCam CNC plasma cutter including building some new shop space to house it. But we'll get started on that next week. This week we are still dreaming up our first project for the new machine. I believe I know what it will be but I'm not quite ready to spill those beans yet.

I thought it might be cool to show an imaginative plasma cut project we did a number of years ago. It was the desk for our local MultiCam dealer. I remember the excitement as I watched an automated plasma cutter for the first time....  Here's a post I did back then...

For the upstairs office it was time to go way back into history. This room would showcase the MultiCam Plasma Cutter as well as the CNC router. All the files would be created using EnRoute including their just released plasma cutting software. I located a plastic T-rex model kit online and then downloaded the detailed instructions. Those instructional photos gave me the information I needed to build the files for the individual bones. There were a bunch!  I knew the height of the desk and simply scaled everything up to that size. Amazingly they nested on one sheet of 4' x 8' x 1/2" thick steel. The plasma cutting file was generated using the brand new EnRoute Fab software. Since I don't have a plasma cutter nor the new software Jeff Hartman was kind enough to generate the files for me.

To present the concept to my client I used the component file of the pieces to create this drawing. It was all that was required to sell the project. From here on in we would wing it, designing as I built.

The steel was cut using a factory fresh 3000 series MultiCam CNC plasma cutter, still on the showroom floor. I watched in amazement as it sliced through the heavy steel like butter with perfect precision. As the machine cut I removed the pieces, wearing gloves of course for they were very warm.

I ended up with 312 pounds of dinosaur pieces. They filled the trunk of my small rental car pretty good. and weighed it down in a significant fashion but I made it home safely with the dino bones tucked away in the back.

Since it had been better than a year since I had designed the dino desk, I wondered if I would remember how it was supposed to go together. It was quite the pile of parts! But after I had sorted them and arranged them in order of size it came back to me how it was supposed to go back together. I printed out the plastic kit directions just to be sure but ended up not using them.

I went through my scrap bin and found a 1" steel rod that was the perfect length. I put it though our hydraulic press to bend it to the right shape then arranged the plasma cut parts over the rod and began the welding. The easiest way to align the parts was to build the dino flat on his back.

Once the rib cage and tail of the T-rex were welded up I used the chain hoist to lift it into the upright position. An adjustable stand at each end held things steady while I did my measurements and lined things up. From here on in I would weld up the various smaller assemblies on the bench and then fasten them to the large piece permanently. It came together pretty quick!

There is still a little grinding to do and I have to figure out and source a way to fasten the tempered glass plate to the top but it is pretty much together in only a couple of hours. It's a desk like no other! The desk will dramatically display the awesome cutting abilities of the MultiCam 3000 series plasma cutter using the new EnRoute Fab software.

Here's 25 seconds of the cutting process for your viewing pleasure...

Once again I had pushed the boundaries of our experience. As I worked on the dino desk my mind was racing, thinking of all the things now possible. 

Here's a pic of the finished desk...

That was the very first project five years ago... imagine what we are thinking now...