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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Long shot, medium view and closeup

As we put together each of our projects I design for three views. Long shots, medium views and closeups. In our large current project we were able to do it for every element (and there are many) of the park.

The long shot of the setting needs to grab people's attention and hold their interest. The entire scene is carefully composed to draw visitors in. Background clutter is minimized as much as possible. I try to limit the angles of viewing to the best attainable. This is done by positioning the pathways. As we enter the park this view of the project is evident. The giant steel ride (yet to be installed) is framed by the background trees of the park. In the foreground is the operator's booth and the horse and wagon which is to be used as a photo opportunity.

As guests approach they see the middle view. The sign is now readable but not the primary point of interest. The operator's booth perched high on the rock with the stairways is now the focus. In the foreground a stream will tumble between the rocks. The barrel and cactus on each side work like parenthesis to frame the picture. Landscaping will complete the story.

As guests come a little closer they now can easily read the sign. The exquisite detail and character of the dimensional sculpture is now the focus.

Because we designed each element of the project, shaped the land and then positioned each piece we left nothing to chance. The result is everything works together to carefully and purposefully guide our visitors through the project.


Friday, May 30, 2014

There's nothing like a dimensional sign!

It is no secret that I'm a HUGE fan of dimensional signs. It's all we do. But I am also a he fan of including a sculptural element on the signs. It makes them POP! In my case, more often than not this sculptural element will be a dimensional cartoon character. It is what I love and what I have gotten very good at. (Spend 10,000 hours at anything and you'll get good).

The signs coming our of our studio currently are great examples. They sure make me smile!

The Pedal power by the hour sign is now sculpted and in the paint process.

Jenessa put the finishing touches on the Happy Horse Saloon sign yesterday.

The rest of the signs for the project are ready to install - as soon as the buildings get painted.

I can hardly wait!


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Signs install

As various areas in the adventure park are completed it is time to begin the installation of the many signs. Today was that day for three of the many signs we are working on in the shop.

In order to complete the timber and rock work under the Buckin' Bronco booth we needed to install the sign today. The crew will attach the lath around it and then we will do the sculpted concrete work. It looks pretty cool installed!

Chris, the owner of the park was delighted with the install of the entrance sign.

The Trading Post also got it's sign today.

In the next days we will install more of the signs as we finish off more areas of the park. They are the icing on a very fancy cake!


Shop day

The rain poured down today making it the perfect day to do some painting on the many signs in production in the shop.  The smaller and relatively flat dimensional signs got their first two coats of base colors today. One more coat and they will be ready for the glazes.

The Happy Horse Saloon sign received it's final touches to make it ready for installation.

The ladies also mixed sculpting epoxy for me to get a good start on the bear sculpt on the bike rental sign. I've been looking forward to getting back to work on this project for quite some time.

The project up at the lake is almost ready for all of the signs to be installed. They will be the icing on a very fancy cake without a doubt.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ship shape

I tool pathed the slices of the ship two different ways. For the middle two slices of each half I used only a 3/8" ball nose bit at 80% overlap. The large tool made short work of the hull pieces. The smaller section of the hull with the window needed a little more detail so I roughed it at 50% using the 3/8" ball nose bit and then did a finish pass using a 1/8" ball nose bit with a 80% overlap. The six hull pieces were arranged to fit onto a 1/3 sheet of 2" thick Precision Board  I started the file on the router shortly after lunch and then went outside to do some tractor work in the yard. When I went back in the shop around 4:30 the file was done.

I couldn't resist mocking up the pieces to see how it would look when it is done. I loved it!

I'll design and routed a few more pieces yet for the ship including the back window and wheel, perhaps a few more. The rest of the pieces of detail will be hand sculpted. It will have to wait a few weeks until the Cultus Lake project is done but I'm looking forward to the challenge!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Building a 3D ships hull

Building seemingly complex files in EnRoute is something I enjoy immensely. It came hard at first but as I became familiar with the program and what I could do with it I enjoyed it more and more all the time. The key is to first learn and understand the program functions. Then, if you learn to visualize what you want and what happens inside EnRoute virtually anything is possible.

Today's project is the pirate ship boat hull for the Skallywag Bay primary sign that will be installed in Trinidad. I started with the drawing I had come up with some time ago. The sign will be a full 3D boat

I first created the boat as vectors. I also created a variety of vector shapes I would use to cut away certain sections of our base relief.

 The funny looking sphere is that shape for a definite reason. I know from experiments that this shape minus the zero height cutouts will work just fine for what I need. I used the dome tool to create this base relief.

I then created a zero height relief of the shape I want to cut away from the giant egg.

I then merged (LOWEST), first selecting the egg and subtracting the zero height relief and shape the top of the hull. I then created a zero height rectangular relief which will be used cut off the bottom of the hull.


When I was done these procedures the hull looked like this.

The slice tool was then used to slice the zero height portion off of the ship relief.

I then added the small front deck as a separate relief which I then combined with the hull shape.

 Next I used the slice tool to cut the half ship hull into three slices, each of which would fit into a 2" thick piece of 30 lb Precision Board. As a last step I modified the top slice of the relief by adding the window detail.

I'll duplicate and flip the sections to create the other half of the hull. It will be a foot thick by two feet long and about fourteen inches tall when it is all glued up. Well sculpt the detail over this form using sculpting epoxy.

We'll be building to of these ships at this size and another slightly smaller for the signs in Trinidad. I am looking forward to the project with a great deal of anticipation! First we have to wrap up our current project which will take another eight weeks or so. Then the fun begins anew on the next project. Stay tuned...


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Last sign files for Cultus Lake

It is hard to believe but after almost a year of work, the concession and ticket signs are the last signs to be routed for this project. 

As always we started with vectors for the signs. I did a little kerning of the lettering to get things spaced right and then drew up the broken board border.

The sign chaps were created as a flat relief.

Wood grain was then added using the sandblasted wood bitmap from the TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION.  The letters were then created as separate reliefs, nudged into position vertically and then merged (highest) with the base relief. As quick as that the files are ready to have tool paths and be sent to the MultiCam.

I'll be showing lots more pictures of this project as it all comes together in the last six weeks. Stay tuned...


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Which way to the bathroom?

We are down to the small utilitarian signs. The first are the washroom signs. These are the most important signs and hopefully by making them easily readable the staff won't have to constantly answer the most common question guests will ask. 

I did a search online to locate the symbols and then hand vectorized them in a few minutes. I sized them and placed them on a rectangle of the right size.

I then replaced the rectangle with a rough cut board shape as the signs are for the western area of the park.

First I created a flat relief.

I then imported a sandblasted woodgrain bitmap from the TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION. I stretched it vertically to fit the sign face onto the section of grain I liked.


The symbols were made into separate reliefs that were higher than the background. The original relief was 0.6" tall plus the woodgrain which raised it 0.15" for a total of .75"/ The symbol vectors were 0.9" high or 0.15 higher than the background (at it's highest point)

The symbol reliefs were then merged (highest) with the background relief.

As quick as that the file was ready to tool path and then sending off to the MultiCam.

The signs for the concessions and ticket area will be next.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bucky's sign post now ready for paint

One of the most fun signs of our current project has been a very long time in building. I first conceived of the design about twelve years ago. I reworked it a little for this project adding the leaning pole that had been chewed by Bucky.

I designed the sign in EnRoute ad laminated it over a welded steel frame. The post was welded up in our shop. 

Bucky the beaver was hand sculpted and then we attached the wire mesh to the frame.

We didn't apply the concrete to keep the piece manageable weight wise. It was installed last gal and then it sat through the winter. 

When the weather warmed enough to begin concrete work we started on the bigger sections of the park. Today at last it was time to do the post that held up the Bucky's Bumper Boat sign.

 The sculpted concrete work on this side of the park is now complete and looking pretty cool! Here's a shot of the team working hard a day or two ago.

Now, while we continue with the concrete work in other areas of the park the painting team will work hard to bring color through this area of the park.