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, August 23, 2014

Samples for success

If I were asked for the single most reason for our success I would have say our samples. Samples alone weren't the reason but they play a very important, I would say critical role.

Samples do many things for us. First they provide an opportunity for us to learn new things. Back when we got our MultiCam and EnRoute software I could do little more than open the program or turn on the router. I had much to learn. Rather than learn on customer's work I did samples. LOTS of samples. I started with the alphabet, making panels less than one foot square. Each panel features a different letter and style. The first ten samples were pretty easy. But my goal was not to simply blast through the alphabet but instead raise the bar with each letter. We didn't just create files and route. Along the way I experimented with textures, shapes and layers. Each routed sample was also finished perfectly allowing me to experiment with different paints, glazes and gilding.

Making all these samples took time - a little each day while I continued production in the shop but after about there months I had twenty-six samples hanging proudly on the wall. My journey to success had begun. We didn't stop there of course. This was but the beginning. My personal goal was to create one sample a month. Some were larger and took more time, others were quick and easy. Slowly the walls of our studio and shop began to fill with this new exciting work. Customers took notice and we began to sell the kind of work I wanted to do in the future. My skills also improved. With each success (and sometimes spectacular failure) I learned new things.

We also take stock once in a while during shop deep cleans. We with prejudice go through our samples and cull the ones not up to our current standard. We only want to show work we want to do in the future. Currently, we have well over a hundred samples of our best work on display. The collection represents a significant investment over almost a decade but is worth it's weight in gold.

Recently a fellow saw our sign out by the road and stopped in. He was the leader of a large institution in the city. (60 miles distant) They were looking to revamp their facility and had a significant budget to work with. He asked for a tour of our studio which I happily provided.

As we toured the shop he was impressed. He took note of our projects and the sample pieces on display. But as we entered my studio he took a special interest in three samples on display.

He looked each sample over closely, saying little but after he studied the last he turned to me and told me that our shop would indeed play a large role in his project. He committed on the spot to a large design fee for a project worth well over half a million dollars. He told me that the samples he had seen in my studio were the reason.

This is a scenario that is played out in our shop on a regular basis. The sample pieces on display both here and on our website work extremely well for us. Despite having a very busy schedule we still take time to build even more samples. We want to raise the bar for our work ever higher and in the process attract clientele that desires the kind of work we wish to do in the future. I am convinced that we can't have too many. I simply can't afford NOT to invest in samples.