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

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Laminating over a welded steel frame... one TOUGH sign!

The MultiCam ran through most of the night and this morning when I came into the shop the routed sign was waiting for me. It looked great too! I then cut six more sheets of 1" thick 30 lb Precision Board for the laminations that would back up the face of the sign to make it more than 7" thick. These were simple cutouts of the sign shape - except for the three center pieces which would wrap around the structural frame. I would build the steel structure using a cut out center piece as a template. This speeded up the process and saved a lot of measuring. I simply plopped the cut steel into the routed holes and then tacked it up. A piece of 1" square tubing was welded to the top of the frame. I had previously welded a 5/8" nut to the top of this steel. And eye bolt would screw in for secure lifting and transport, then be removed when delivery was complete.
I then lifted the steel off and finished all the welds making for one tough frame. Anchor plates were welded to the bottom cross pieces. These will bolt to the concrete footing my client is putting in place before we deliver the signs. The stand will also make it easy to work on the sign without worry about damage.
I glued up three layers of Precision Board on the bench using Coastal Enterprises PB Bond-240. This is a one part glue that uses water as a catalyst. This assembly was lifted onto the frame and then further layers were glued and screwed into place - one at a time.
I was able to complete laminating the sign layers over the steel fame by myself in less than an hour. I'll let it dry overnight and then tomorrow the next phases of the project will begin.
The obvious question is why did I use seven Layers of Precision Board to make this sign? The answer will be apparent as I get into fabricating the base. I wanted the sign to be substantial - not flimsy or lightweight looking. While I would have made the sign hollow, my time is ultimately worth more than materials and from experience I have found the savings in material gained by making the sign hollow aren't that great. I used 1" Precision Board mainly because that is what I have an abundance of in the shop. The end result will be spectacular I promise!
Stay tuned...
-grampa dan