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, January 4, 2011


 Last night we got the go signal from a new client. They had visited our shop last month, liked what they saw and asked me to design a new sign for their meat cutting business. They asked for a dimensional bull's head as their mascot.I did up a design and sent it off to them. They liked the concept but asked for two small changes. The bull needed to be a little meaner and the lettering needed to be a bright shade of yellow.

I did up the changes in a hurry and sent the artwork on it's way one more time. The response was immediate - BULL'S EYE!

The next step was to figure out just how the bull would look from the side. I threw a piece of tracing paper over a printout and did a quick side view sketch in scale. He looked just as mean from this angle!  

Then I pulled my design into Illustrator and whipped up the vectors I needed for the sign. These were imported into EnRoute pro and the design process began for real. The front view of the head was only for reference sake as I wouldn't be creating a relief from this angle. The bull's head to the left was used to cut eight 1" pieces of Precision Board which I screwed together to make two heads. 

The main body of the sign was to be routed from 2" 30 lb Precision Board. Since the sign measures 4' x 4' it needed lots of depth. The horizontal pieces will be laminated on top and are to be cut from 1.5" Precision Board. For the wood grain relief I used my cartoon woodgrain bitmap with a depth of .3".

Because the shape of the sign is not the same on both edges it is important to build the text reliefs as a separate item from the sign face. I created a copy of each and then flipped the sign face before merging everything together. In this way the front and back of the sign will fit together perfectly.

Since the whole head would be covered with sculpting epoxy I screwed the pieces together pretty rough. I used some scraps I had lying around to create the bulky nose and top of the head. Then I scrunched up some tinfoil to bulk our the nose a little more.  If you look at the photo closely you will see Sarah in the background mixing the sculpting epoxy for me. It takes just as long as the sculpting process.

I only worked on the sculpture for about an hour today. I wanted to bulk things out a little - not worrying about any details at this stage.  The head is quite large as you can see by the spray bottle beside it.

The background pieces for the sign are on the MultiCam router now and will run through the night. Tomorrow some real progress will be made on this project.