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, May 1, 2011

Learning more about HDU - Precision Board

Last week while Janis & I were in California I had a chance to visit with the great folks at Coastal Enterprises. They make the Precision Board HDU, our primers and glues which we use on a daily basis. I spent a few hours with them, learning more about their products. And learn I did.

I was privileged to get a tour through their manufacturing facility. (And I am told this happens so seldom it could be considered NEVER) I'm not about to reveal any trade secrets but I can tell you some of what I experienced. They insisted I wear safety glasses, but it was a mere formality for there was no danger I could see. I was expecting strong chemical smells but the air in the work area was clean and fresh. I could smell nothing. I expected to see everything coated in thick dust, but I saw none whatsoever. The work area was spotless. It was fascinating to see the mixing area and where the HDU was formed. Inside the cavernous warehouse, massive blocks and sheets of Precision Board was stacked as far as my eye could see. And it was a delight to see.

Chuck Miller, the president and founder of Coastal Enterprises proudly introduced me to many of the employees as we toured and I talked freely with them. Most had been there for many years and showed the pride they took in their jobs.

I had a great visit and am now even more sure of my decision (made many years ago) to continue with this great product.

Precision Board is the greenest HDU on the market by a good percentage. Some very cool developments are underway to make it even more so as time goes on. 

I often get asked why we use 30 lb (or higher) density Precision Board in our shop. The answer is simple.

Our decision was based on real world, hands on experience. It is all we keep in stock.

30 lb Precision Board is much stronger than the lighter weight HDU's commonly used to make signs. It is much more resistant to dents, hail, birds pecking it, flying rocks or golf balls and just about anything else that might harm our signs. There is nothing more frustrating than working on a project for hours and hours, only to bump it accidentally, making a repair instantly necessary. Repairs take time and cost money. That is profits down the drain. Too much risk to take a chance in my view.

Heavier density HDU certainly holds detail well - much better than lower density boards. And I LOVE detail in our work. Textures route (or carve) beautifully in 30 lb Precision Board and I can run our router just as quickly as the lighter weight boards. With the heavier weights I can get chips instead of dust - something that keeps the work area much more pleasant to be in. Working with the heavier weights with hand tools does require more effort.

I would argue that the extra investment of the heavier weight boards more than offsets the cost of labor when it comes to priming and painting our signs. It is easier to sell too. I keep small samples of 15, 18 & 20 lb Precision Board (and other brands) handy in my sales area. When a customer is talking about a sign I'll grab one of the lighter weight samples and easily run my fingernail into it leaving a nasty groove. Then I'll hand my customer a sample piece if the 30 or 40 lb Precision Board which I also keep handy and ask them to do the same. They can't leave a mark. I explain that this material which we use on our signs certainly costs more but is worth the investment for obvious reasons. It is always an instant sale.

Most of all I love the peace of mind that 30 lb Precision Board offers. It is safe to use and will last a long, long time.

30 and 40 lb Precision Board is not common and the demand for it not very high. Many suppliers are reluctant to stock it for that reason, but I strongly believe it well worth the effort to get it in.

The last thing I wish to do is skimp on quality with the materials we use in our shop. Quality materials and tools are critical to do a job right. After all is said and done, my labor and expertise are (or should be) worth far more than any other component of a project. Trying to save a few bucks by buying lesser materials would only damage my long term reputation.

I simply can't afford anything less than the very best.