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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Waiting for rain but not idle

Our fall weather has been exceptionally warm and dry compared to normal. This means we are able to concentrate on outside work as much as possible. It also means the MultiCam has been quieter than normal for much of the month. But the typical rainy fall weather is now starting to happen and so we will be in the shop a lot more in the coming weeks and months.

This past week we have been up at the worksite. We are working on fences and pool edges as well as preparing the main sign base for the routed sign we will soon be starting.

The guys sure were happy to hoist the last post for the front half of the park into place. These

things are HEAVY!

In the shop it is a very busy place, looking like a forest at times with all of the fence posts and trees in production.

The fun directional sign was completed today and is ready to move out of the shop at last.

Bucky the beaver  is now painted leaving only the background and lettering final coats to go. He'll be largely complete tomorrow.

There are also some very large pieces in production, including the light house (top and bottom for the bumper boat pool feature.

 There are plenty more pieces about to be started along with some pretty cool features on site. This month has been busy but next month promises to be even busier yet. Stay tuned...


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Smooth move

Anytime we move a large piece it is always an exciting day.  The day we move something this large it's over the top! My client was handling the move so it was less stressful than usual. The load towed smooth, and at reasonable speeds it was stable and easy. The good news was we only had ten miles to go.

The tight turn up the steeper hill to the lake went without incident. 

When we arrived at the ale it took a few minutes to hook up the zoom boom. Thankfully, the feature balanced almost perfectly.

It was tight maneuvering as we squeezed between the trees but it went without a scratch.

We had to lift the feature and spin it to clear the pipes and conduits to set it into place. We were almost there!

The skilled operator carefully set it down as we guided it into position at the edge of the bumper boat pool.

The first piece of this massive project is now in place. The light house that will sit on top is now underway in the shop. This week I'll begin the routing of the lettering that will fasten to the sign face. I'll be documenting that process here for sure.

Over the next weeks and months we'll be building and hauling many more to join it.

Stay tuned...


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Building and moving a small mountain

Sometimes creating a sign involves many disciplines with the routing part only a portion. One of our current projects is just such a piece. We've been working on it for more than a week and the routed portion is still a week distant. It will be the primary sign for the Cultus Lake Adventure Park. The sign will be jammed into a dirt bank. Large colorful rocks stick out. Greenery sprouts from the top as well as a tall lighthouse. Underneath the lighthouse a waterfall will tumble into the bumper boat pool below.

We started our welding in the shop but we could only take the work so far before we had to squeeze it back out the door. The balance would be done in our parking lot.

I test fir the upper structure for the lighthouse to make sure everything lined up perfectly.

Once the welding and attaching the lath was done we lifted the giant framework onto the trailer. it would be too heavy for our little forklift after we applied the concrete. At the other end of the journey they have a much bigger machine so unloading wouldn't be a problem.

Then it was time to mud. We careful applied the fiberglass reinforced concrete, carving and shaping it as we worked our way downward.

The end result was pretty spectacular - the largest piece we have trailered so far. 

 Tomorrow it makes it's journey to the worksite to be permanently installed. Our onsite work begins for real! We'll begin work on the lighthouse tomorrow and also start the routing for the lettering that will be fastened to the sign face with standoffs.

Stay tuned...


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pieces in progress

Other pieces I've documented in the last while are quickly getting polished off and moved out into the parking lot until they are transported up to the work site. Here's a few shots.

In the shop other pieces are ready for paint or in various stages of base colors.

Stay tuned for more...



Although we've been crazy busy for the last three weeks and have accomplished much there hasn't been time for reporting the progress here. It's time to catch up on things a little.

There will be a lot of pieces to design and route for this project, but along with that is a lot of other work which will be tied in. We are literally building a small mountain (large in my eyes) on which some of the routed work will attach. As onsite work begins we have largely been working in the shop, prefabricating as much as we can. Our client regularly drops off the supporting structural frameworks around which we will build our pieces.

The work accomplished each day with my growing crew is amazing. The piles of prefabricated pieces are large and growing daily These pieces will quickly transform the project when we begin onsite work there in the next few days.

Stay tuned for progress reports...


Workshop report

The last three weeks have been exhausting with my spending about 100 hours each week in the shop or on the road. The trip to Trinidad was the first adventure. I met with the project principals, engineers, , contractors and government officials to discuss how every step will be done and how the logistics might work. Site visits answered many questions and provided a ton of information for the future.

I arrived home late Sunday after eighteen hours of travel. Monday morning we went into full gear on the Cultus Lake project , continuing through Thursday when we switched to workshop mode. The Sign Magic Workshop gathered some very eager students who soaked up everything they could in the next three days. Jim's smile (below) as he showed off his 'bug' piece summed up the feelings of everyone who attended.

Here's the entire class and my staff who helped as we briefly stopped for a picture.

Monday morning we put away the tables and chairs and went into full blast production mode once more until mid day Thursday. Then it was time for the Sculpture Magic Workshop. Once again we had a great group of folks from across Canada, the USA and Australia who were eager to learn all we could teach them. A good time was had by all!

Monday morning we cleared the shop once more and started production once more.

We are now up to six full time employees and five part timers. It is a busy time with plenty of creative work done each and every day!

Stay tuned for reports of progress.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Instant classroom

Just after first break today we packed up the tools and switched to get ready for workshop mode. The shop was tidied and swept, benches cleared, tables and chairs were brought out from storage and the setup began. In less than two hours the shop was transformed into a classroom one one more time, in readiness for our guests to arrive.  Our Sign Magic Workshop group was travelling from far and wide including, New Brunswick, Ohio, Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Australia.

The group this time is small with some last minute cancellations but as enthusiastic as ever. This afternoon the cameras were clicking, and the questions were many which we happily answered. Officially it doesn't begin until tomorrow morning at eight o'clock but the learning has already begun.
Tomorrow morning I be out to the shop bright and early. It's my bet most will be waiting by the door when I put in the key. I'm looking forward to another wonderful Sign Magic Workshop.

Seeing double

There was some quick hand sculpting on the sign, particularly the edges and scrolls to even things up, get rid of glue lines between the layers of Precision Board and add some woodgrain to the sides of he boards. Then it was time to sculpt the beavers using sculpting epoxy. The two beavers took about two hours per side to sculpt. I also sculpted the two 'metal' tabs on the side and added epoxy rivets.

I still have to add the rivets around the oval and do a little more die grinder carving to finish things off.
Then we are on to paint. Stay tuned for more...


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Leaning Bucky

The Bucky Beaver sign post is partially chewed through and is to lean precariously over the bumper boat pool. Doing this was relatively easy. I just cut a wedge our of the post and then welded the square tubing back up.

The sign structure is all hidden inside. I first welded up a frame while the steel was inside the sign, but with one side open for access

Here's another closeup showing how the eye bolt was welded to some flat bar which is turn welded to the square tubing.

And here's the sign glued up and ready for some hand work. I'll be installing the permanent hanging clasps tomorrow and also welding the heavy steel rod (that is glued into the side of the sign) to the post when the sign is at the right angle.

Then we can attach the galvanized diamond lath to the post in preparation for the fiberglass reinforced concrete. The sculpting of the beaver and detailing of the sign faces will be the next step. Stay tuned...


Monday, October 7, 2013

Starting Skallywag

I was in Trinidad for five days last week doing preliminary work for a very large project there that is due to start next year. It is going to be both fun and challenging to say the least. I am currently involved in developing all of the artist conceptions and preliminary plans.


You can count on a whole bunch of posts as this project proceeds.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Building Bucky

As I mentioned in my last post building a sign with modern software like EnRoute and using a MultiCam makes the task of building this sign a whole lot easier and faster.

As always we started with vectors of the various components of the sign.

I first created flat reliefs of the two boards that go through the sign.

Then I added bitmaps to each board (from my bitmap collection)

 Then it was on to the center oval. I first created a tall (2") flat relief... then  I dropped the center section and added a woodgrain bitmap o this portion.

I forgot to grab some screen shots but the scroll was built up in layers with the center section being 2" tall. Bucky's body was also added at 2" tall.

All these bits were merged together or combined to form one relief. This created the first layer of the sign to be routed from a 2" thick piece of 30 lb Precision Board.

The next layer of the sign to be created was also 2" thick but was shaped nicely/ The scroll top was first created as a flat relief and then modified using the dome tool and the circle vector. The beaver's body was also made into a relief using the dome tool.

The lettering outline and lettering were the next modifications  to the scroll relief.

The bumper boat lettering was the last step on this layer.

The last layer was a 1.5" thick flat piece with cutouts for the square steel tubing that will be laminated inside.

And with that the pieces were ready to be sent to the router.