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, December 15, 2010

More questions and more answers

Other questions I received this week concerned the sculpting medium we use for our projects. There are many on the market. We use Abracadabra Sculpt. It is a two part epoxy putty (much the same consistency as plasticene I used as a kid).  www.abracadabrasigns.com/smooth_and_sculpt/home It is mixed in equal quantities and then sculpted. Once it cures it is rock hard and durable! The sculpt is sold in kits in various sizes from two pounds to a hundred pounds (two five gallon buckets).  The more you buy the less expensive it is per pound. We use a fair amount of it in our shop, so we buy it in one or two thousand pound lots (ten - twenty 100 lb kits) at a time. Is it expensive... I don't think so. A few dollars of sculpt will do many times that in sign work, making it a worthwhile expense!

I put a thin coat over the mesh, and then allow it to cure. The next day the sculpting layer is done. For the tree bark I pressed on a layer of sculpt, then using crumpled tinfoil I pressed in the bark texture. Lastly I used a sharpened stick to draw in the lines.v One hint is to wet your tools (or the sculpt) with water before working it. This will prevent your tools from sticking.

The last question we fielded this week concerned our paints. We use100 percent acrylic paints in our shop - all hand brushed. We tend to put the colors on nice and bright, then tone them down with glazes. We mix our own glazes using a clear base (without tint). We mix this clear base with the acrylic paints we have on hand at a ratio of 50% clear to 50% paint and then add a teen bit of water to make it flow. We slop this on and then wipe it down with a soft shop rage to remove the glaze from the higher areas, leaving it in the crevices and dips. We like to work from dark to light adding as many layers of transparent glaze as we need - generally two - five coats of color. The brighter the base coats the more vibrant the piece will be when it is done. Below is a picture of the horse sign with the base coats on. It's just too much as it is now. In a day or two it will look great as the other colors are layered on. 

Stay tuned...