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

Friday, February 25, 2011

Saving the best for last?

Almost 30 years ago I read of a new technique to sandblast wood to raise the grain on the background of signs. The article was written by Mike Jackson. I rushed out and bought a large compressor, a sandblast pot and the gear I needed. I remember watching with AWE as the softer wood melted away leaving he raised grain behind. The very first piece I did was a sample that hangs in my shop to this day.  Five years ago as I explored what was possible with EnRoute and our MultiCam router I looked up at that old sample on the wall and wondered...  could I duplicate the magic of so long ago?  It took me  while to figure out the best way to light and photograph the ancient wooden sample. It took a while longer to figure out how to manipulate and enhance the photograph to best work as a bitmap in EnRoute. I remember well watching in AWE once more as this magical machine turned a sheet of Precision Board into that same beautiful raised woodgrain. More experimentation with modern acrylic paints eventually meant that we could duplicate the rich colors of the original wood as well. Only this time our sample would not split, weather, lose it's finish or deteriorate like the wood did so quickly. This was better!

The last name started with the sandblasted redwood bitmap.

Because our name plaque was relatively small I first stretched out the bitmap vertically. Then using the drawing tool I created some board shaped vectors.

I created flat reliefs from the vectors and then added the texture with the bitmap. 

Then I used the rotate tool to build the letters of Don's name. Since he's a cabinet guy (who most likely builds very accurately most of the time) I decided to loosen things up some. Lastly I used the dome relief tool to create some routed nails to 'hold' it all together. I then merged it all together over a zero height background.

In retrospect the back board should have been stretched out a little to the left but it will be OK. We'll use our glazing techniques to build up the rich colors of my sandblasted redwood sign of old.

The name plaques got their base colors today. Over the next few days Rebecca will work her magic on them to bring them to life. Stay tuned...