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

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Side details and other stuff

I finally had some time to return to the little submarine project which will be the centerpiece for the board room. With EnRoute and our MultiCam we had created all the surface texture in fine style. With a little planning I could have created files for the top, bottom and sides and routed them. It would have taken only a little handwork to blend them in that case. I've done this in the past with good results. On this project I wasn't sure how deep I was going to go with the sub on it and all. So I decided to do it by hand this time. The sign had been laminated up from many layers of one inch material. I had used up scraps saved for this purpose. 

To bring the texture around I like to use an air powered die grinder. Like the router it vaporizes even the 30lb Precision Board in a hurry. I used a tapered bit with a round end so I could mimic the grain on the front.  I did the top first, keeping things relatively flat. The sub has to sit there. Then I started bringing the grain over the end and around to the front - matching both grains. Diagonally works well and adds interest.

I kept things a little bumpy and rough to match the front. The object is to not be able to see where the router left off and the hand work began.

Even the bottom got the treatment. It's not likely that anyone will see it, but if they make the effort to bend over and look there they won't be disappointed. I spent about an hour adding hand texture to the piece in total.

Then it was time to add some sea life. For our sculpting we use an epoxy sculpting medium. Its a two part putty - not unlike plasticene which I played with as a kid. Only this stuff gets rock hard in a few hours. I did the biggest element first. the star fish is simple - five legs with little balls of sculpt for decoration. I twisted him up some to make it look like he is alive and climbing the side of the sign.

Then I pressed on little balls of sculpt in random clumps. These would become our barnacles.

To sculpt the barnacles I use a custom made tool...  simple really. I break off the end of a stir stick and then sharpen it like a pencil with a little flat point on the end. This is pushed into the center of each ball of sculpt and then used to push the edges down a little to create a rough texture.

And as simple as that the sculpture part is done. I let everything harden overnight and then applied a coat of Coastal Enterprises water based primer. I used my brush to apply a simple stipple pattern to the starfish.

Now the piece is ready for final paint at last. The heavy grains and textures will make it easy to add lots of rich color and aging. When we are done it will look like we brought this up from the deep and hung it on the wall. I can hardly wait!