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, April 15, 2011

Anniversary sign

I was talking to my good friend Tom McIltrot, editor of SignCraft magazine. He mentioned to me that his mom really liked a small sign I did as my own personal identification for a show we attended in Toronto a couple of years ago. Tom asked whether I could do a similar sign up for his folks. It turns out they are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary tonight. Now there is no possible way I could do up the sign and have it delivered to Florida that fast... but I could get a good start on it.

I whipped up a sketch in my book to get a handle on the design. It was rough but it captured enough information to get me going.

Then I imported that rough scribble into PhotoShop and also one of my Texture Magic bitmaps which I then warped to the appropriate shape. Then I drew a vector to the correct shape.
I added in the vectors for the lettering in Illustrator and modified the name to curve to match the bottom of the sign.
Normally I wouldn't spend much time on the rendering of a project this small, but it was the McIltrot's anniversary tonight and I figured the drawing was the least I could do. I got back a reply in seconds. Mrs. McIltrot checked it out in her iPad and instantly approved it. I wish more of my customers were that responsive!
Once the approval was in hand it was time to make the sign real.  I created a relief in EnRoute using the dome relief tool. The dome shape was slight - only 13 degrees. Then I plopped on the wood grain bitmap file and formed the knarly grain. I made it deep (0.4" deep) for this was a piece of driftwood. 

Then I used the virtual sculpting tool to deepen the creases in specific areas as indicated by the red arrows. It didn't take long but the effect was dramatic.
This end view shows how the virtual sculpting tool made these areas deeper and enhanced the wood grain.

Next I outlined the letters and formed flat reliefs. I then drew an irregular curved shape and use this vector with the dome relief tool to modify the reliefs to match the shape of the wood background.

In about twenty minutes I had gone from approved sketch to the finished routing file.

I warmed up the MultiCam and then started the file.  In minutes the sign started to come to life as the router automatically carved the Precision Board. 

I was busy, taking my grand daughter Phoebe to the local nature preserve as the robotic machine did it's task. When I got back about an hour later the job was done. There is still plenty of hand work to follow. The bird and worm will all be done with the Abracadabra sculpting epoxy. And after that I start in on the paint.

I'll send Tom the link to this post so his mom can look up the progress on the sign on her iPad. She will most likely not understand all the technical stuff but she will appreciate that her sign is in production.


-grampa dan