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, February 27, 2014

Critter sign number 3

Dusty's dry goods was the last sign in this critter series. The desert tortoise is about the dustiest and driest thing I could think of and it seemed fitting for this sign. As with the others the critter would be added as a separate hand sculpt.

We would route this sign in two layers of 2" thick. This would allow room to build a nice tortoise. I started with the background of the oval. I wanted it to be dished inwards. Since it is not a complete oval I needed to use a few tricks to make it the right shape. I first created a flat relief.

I then modified this relief using an oval mask and the dome tool.

 I then added the thin oval border outline by raising it slightly.

 The oval would be routed using an island fill while the outline of the sign would be an offset cut. This completed the first layer of the sign.

The top layer of the sign was next. I first created a flat relief.

The next step was to modify the relief by adding the lettering border.

The last step was to add the bevel letters. I used a base of 0.2" and constant height.

This sign will also be cut from two layers of 2" thick Precision Board but I put the laters together so we could see how the sign would look.

The good news is that my old compressor was fixed today AND the new one arrived as well. I'll be hooking them up on Saturday and begin routing once more at last. Stay tuned...


Critter sign 2

For the second critter sign I chose the apothecary store. This is what they called drug stores in the olden days. In the wild west some unsavory druggists sold 'snake oil' - a cure for whatever ailed you. The motor & pestal was also a universal symbol of the drug store. I added the rattle snake as our critter - just for fun.

When I made up the vectors I added a background oval behind the snake to make it stand our a little better.

The first step was to create the flat relief. I made it 0.8" thick

The oval top was then dropped into this relief by using the subtract tool.

The lowest lettering border was then added to the base relief.

Then I added the next layer of lettering border.

The lettering was created using the bevel tool and I used the constant height option so the tops of the letters were all the same no matter how thick the lettering stroke.

With the body of the sign complete it was time to make the mortar and pestal. I first recreated the curves of the bowl.

I then created a mesh using the revolve tool.

 I created the vectors in the same fashion for the mortar and then created a mesh of that piece in the same fashion.

I then created a zero height relief and merged (highest) the meshed to it.


I then squished the bowl vertically to 3.8" using the precision input tools. I made sure the proportional box was unchecked so it only altered the thickness of the piece.

Then I used the slice tool to create two slices that would each fit in a 2" thick piece of Precision Board.

The sign will be routed in three layers but for the purpose of showing how it will look here's a shot of the pieces stacked.

Next up is the final critter sign. Stay tuned...


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Critter sign number 1

We finally finished enough large pieces to remove them from the shop to make the way clear to take out our broken screw compressor. I loaded it into the truck and took it into the neighboring town for repair. They called me a few days later saying it was as good as new. I picked it up and plugged it in. I decided I would give it a couple of days running time to make sure everything was good before I ran a big file on the router. I didn't want to risk it breaking down in the middle of a file. The sad news is the compressor only ran four hours before stopping once more. While the repair guys may have gotten the compressor running again they didn't fix the source problem. So back into the truck it went but it didn't go back to that repair shop. They won't see me ever again. Instead I took it to a different shop, one I trusted to make a permanent repair.

So the stack of prepared routing files continues to mount.

Todays build is the first in a series of very fun signs. They serve no other purpose other than decoration - eye candy. The signs will go in the theme park project on the Western building facade above the porch roof.

Like in the rest of the park the signs will feature critters of all kinds. The first is for the center facade. The armadillo will be hand sculpted in a slightly cartoon style.

I created the vectors in Illustrator and imported them into EnRoute.

The sign background would be created as a series of layers with dimensional beveled lettering. The first step was to create a flat relief.

The base relief was then modified by adding a second layer which would act as a letter outline.

Then I selected the next smaller letter border and modified the base relief again.

The curlycues was the next modification to the base relief. I used the bevel tool with a 0.2 base.

The lettering was the last item to add. I wanted the bevel the edges of the letters but keep the top flat. To do this I again created a 0.2" vertical edge by adding a base to the letters. I used the limit to height function to create a flat top on the letters. The bevel was created at 45 degrees.

 The file was now ready for tool pathing.

Hopefully the old compressor is fixed by the end of the week. The new one is also due any day so hopefully we are routing again soon.