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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


The EnRoute Adventures blog has now moved to the new EnRoute site.      

Monday, May 2, 2016

Time lapse of last Sculpture Magic Workshop

Through the years we have had numerous requests for a video of our workshops. We strongly believed that to properly experience a workshop you needed to be there, getting your hands dirty and engaging with us one on one. That belief hasn't changed. But thanks to our good friend JD who attended our last workshop we did capture much of it in a time lapse video. Even this is but a quick glimpse for it was only one room of the workshop and didn't include the meals, field trips or the things that happened outside.
There is so much going on at all times. Each time a question was asked we answered it verbally and also with a quick sketch or by referral to a handy sample. Much more than techniques are shared. My goal has always been to shake up every attendee to their core, making them question why they do what they do and what they wish to do in the future. In every workshop we've held, we immersed everyone in our unique world, surrounded and served by our extended family and staff. And we didn't throw our guests into the shallow end but right into the deep end of our pool. Our goal was to change lives and I believe it worked much of the time.
Was this truly the last workshop? Yup. At least in this format. I'll of course continue to attend conferences, teach at workshops sponsored by others and do speaking engagements as requested. I'll continue writing the blogs and magazine articles. E-books are in the works as well. This isn't the end but merely a turning of the page to go on to the next exciting chapter.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Workshop eve...

As we welcomed each of the participants to our last Sculpture Magic Workshop I found myself as eager and excited as the very first workshop we hosted almost ten years ago. Back then I wondered how we would fill three long days with things they didn't already know. This time my concern is how we will possible fit everything we want to share inside that brief time. As each student arrived today I could clearly see their eagerness to begin, their excitement to actually be here in our shop. Most have followed us for years, have seen pictures of work and our space online and in the magazines. Now they were actually feeling the magic we get to experience every day. Like the first workshop, and all of them since I seriously take the responsibility to deliver much more than we promise or what they anticipate. We of course will freely share what we do and how we do it. More importantly in my mind is our responsibility to share the excitement and the passion of what drives us and hopefully ignite that same passion inside them. It is going to be FUN!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Last name plaque for workshops

We've decided (after much deliberation) that the Sculpture Magic Workshop we are holding at the end of this week will be the last. After ten years and hundreds of eager students it's time we give it a rest. It was a difficult decision as I am aware of many who still wanted to come.

The last workshop (like most of them) will be a full house. We had a flurry of last minute sign-ups and so we are busy making a few more name plaques. That too has been a fun and learning experience with over 300 unique name plaques designed and routed through that decade. The last name plaque for the workshops belonged to Ron. Like most of the others the design is one that makes me think a little and used a variety of functions in EnRoute. The vectors were created in EnRoute of course.

I first created a flat relief that was 0.6" tall.

Then I modified this flat relief using the dome tool and a pill shaped vector that was drawn around our relief.

I then used the subtract from (flat relief) tool to drop the centre portions around the diamonds and lettering outline.

I then imported a sandblasted woodgrain bitmap (from the TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION ) and enlarged it before applying it to the sunken portion of the relief.

I then used the bevel tool to create the diamonds at each end of the name plaque.

The last step was to use the bevel tool to shape the letters.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dino permanent installation

We fabricated the raptor skeleton with the help of EnRoute and our new plasma cutter from MultiCam a while back. The permanent placement had to wait for good weather.

With the return of summer lately we are getting started on finishing a little more landscaping around the yard. A few weeks ago we prepped the ground and rolled out some turf. It sure cleaned things up in a hurry. Once the grass was down we could do a final install on the dinosaur sign. The rust patina has really evened out over the winter months and it is looking pretty fine! I'll cut in a flower bed around it in a week or two when it is time to plant the annuals. Will it encourage the look-loos to make an appointment before coming on our property? I doubt it but it does finish off the area beside the driveway very nicely.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Last chance

This afternoon we converted our work space into a learning space. Our crew did an amazing job, excited to greet our visitors. In the late afternoon our guests began to arrive, eager to begin the Sculpture Magic Workshop. We have a wonderful and diverse group. This is going to be fun!
In two weeks we'll be holding a second Sculpture Magic Workshop. There are still a couple of seats available in that workshop. 
We have decided it will be the last one. We've thoroughly enjoyed hosting these workshops for the last ten years and have met so many wonderful people from around the world. Our current workload and project schedule into next year and well beyond simply doesn't allow us to continue hosting these events.  It's been a most marvellous and fun ride!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Strong bones

The pieces we are building for Motiongate in Dubai are the most engineered we have ever done. We created the first drawings of the incredibly strong frameworks that go inside the features. The target feature frame is a giant triangle truss that measures six feet wide by thirty feet long and three feet high. Our engineer then reviews our drawings, calculates the proposed forces and adds what he feels necessary. Our client's engineers then reviews these drawings, before they are sent on to the client in Dubai. They send their notes back to our client and then on to us and our engineer for final changes. After the lengthy process is done we can at last begin the build.

All of the drawings were created in EnRoute full size. This ensured accuracy and also allowed us to create the cutting files for the plasma cutter at the same time. We exported the drawings as DWG files so the engineers could work on the plans in AutoCad. We gave our MultiCam plasma cutter a good workout on the heavy plate steel. Today we finished the true framework for the base.

Then it was time at last to begin the fun stuff. We prefabbed the head and tail of the Viking shipwreck and then placed them with the forklift before welding them firmly in place. This thing is pretty massive and will get a lot bigger yet as we add the rockwork and other bits of the ship around these first two elements.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Ten tons of skulls!

I'm not big on skull imagery but Scallywag Bay Adventure Park is all about pirates and the pirate logo features a skull. The tall fence around Scallywag Bay needed a little bling and we decided to weld in the skull and crossed wrenches logo into each panel. The logos will also be featured on the building posts. This meant we needed two hundred and twenty logos cut from half in chick plate steel It was time to give our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter a real workout.

The steel arrived this morning - all twenty thousand pounds of it! The forklift would get a real workout as well!

I created the files in EnRoute and then sent the cutting files off to the machine. The parts nested well with only a little waste. We'll cut some brackets on the bigger bits and recycle the rest.

The plasma cutter handles half inch plate well as long as everything is kept nice and clean. Once the pieces were cut it took a quick pass with  the grinder to clean up the back side and they are ready to send off to Trinidad where the fence guy will weld them into place.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Laying the base

Our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter got it's most thorough workout since we took delivery of the magical machine last fall. We were cutting the base plates for the targets for the Viking ship project. Eight 5/8" thick sheets of plate steel were precisely cut to the shapes we required for the base. Four more sheets of 3/8" thick steel were cut for the dragon head and tail of the keel. We then moved them with the forklift into position and began the process of welding them and many other pieces together.

The accuracy of the files we created in EnRoute made the fitting and assembly of the base quick and easy. That means we can get through the structure part quicker and then move on to the theme work which it holds up. This is going to be a fun project!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Weapons to fight for

The crew have been busy painting the first of the features for the Motiongate project in Dubai. As always it starts with a minimum of three base coats of color. The last base coat was blended down from light to dark to give the features some weight. Instead of going straight to the colours we kept to the wood colours. A first light glaze was painted on and wiped off judiciously. Then we went back in with some dry brush for the paint colours on the box. It created an instant old look.

The colours were added to each piece. The key is to keep things complimentary so the individual pieces didn't compete with each other.

Then all the colours were on the boxes and barrels it was time for some details to make things special. In the How to Train Your Dragon Movie (which the features are based on) the dragon journal is written in a unique cryptic alphabet. With a little web research we could add the lettering to the box. It translates to read HAGGIS.

The boxes were polished off yesterday. Today it was time to put the finishing touches to the swords and axes. The crew worked their magic with the glazes and a little silver dry brush.

Tomorrow, the final coats of dull clear will go on to take away the shine of the semigloss paint we use and to also make the pieces more durable for the waterpark environment they are going to.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Atlanta EnRoute Workshop

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“The EnRoute workshop was worth every cent. The instructors patiently relayed, in detail, every aspect of EnRoute’s 2.5D, 3D, Rapid Texture techniques and the many other functions of Enroute. I am now able to take advantage of the tremendous features provided in the software. Thanks!”
- Henry from H & S Marine Plastics
New York/New Jersey Workshop Attendee
Learn New Techniques
From rapid texture to advanced toolpathing our workshop will provide you with a variety of new techniques for you to get the most out of EnRoute software.
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Atlanta Workshop Location
3123 Humphries Hill Rd.
Austell, GA 30106
Workshop Agenda
Our Atlanta Workshop will be a 3-day event packed with useful information to help you enhance your skills using our software.
Click Here for Workshop Agenda

Pricing Information
Space is limited, so register early to guarantee your seat!
It's $1,295 to attend the EnRoute Atlanta 3-day workshop, but you save $200 when you register by March 15th. Attendees from 2015 save $300 when you register by March 15.

To register, contact Luke Benik at:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Painting magic

It's fun to design dimensional signs in EnRoute and pure magic to watch the MultiCam carve the sign unaided from Precision Board. The result looks pretty good. But that is really only half the way there.

The real magic is in the painting process. The first step is to introduce some mild texture where it's smooth. This subtle texture is created by brushing on some heavy bodies primer. The best I've ever found is Coastal Enterprise's FSC 88 - WB (the WB stands for water based. It comes out of the can the thickness of cream. It dries quickly and if you use a small brush and leave the brush marks in on purpose it dries with that same look.

Then come three coats of acrylic paint. We use a top quality house paint... or in the case of this plaque  a gold metallic made by Modern Masters. Three coats are important if you want the piece to last.

Then comes a series of glazes. We always work from light to dark.

For them to work properly you need texture and the more the better. We load on the glaze and then wipe it off before it dries. The glaze stays in the lower areas and wipes off the raised areas. For wiping we use soft terry towel material. It's the best and we go through pickup loads of rags each year. (We buy used towels at the thrift store.)

The first glaze on the Daniel plaque was made by mixing some gold with a teeny bit of metallic cherry and mixing this paint with an equal amount of clear. For the clear we use untainted deep base paint of the same brand. To make the custom mix deeper colours the paint stores start with a clear base. It looks milky in the can but dries clear. The paint store folks will look at you weird but this is what we buy to make our glazes.

The next glaze was made from black cherry. Like the previous glaze it was slopped on with a big brush and then wiped off with a towel. If you look close you can see a little more dark glaze was left in the middle of the panel to make the letters pop.

The panel was allowed to dry overnight and then some metallic gold was brushed onto the letters. When this was dry a little darker color was gingerly dry brushed onto the bottom of the letters to give them a little extra depth.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Five more and the painting begins

The name plaques are all making their way through the painting process now. Craig's is the last one raw off the router. Because we use 30 lb Precision Board priming isn't necessary.

Over the next while I'll be posting some progress shots of how the name plaques come alive through the painting steps. Even though pricing is not necessary we still do it to ad some subtle texture. The secret of course is to use Coastal Enterprises thick bodied FSC-88 WB primer. WB stands for water base. We brush it on. Generally we have two gallons of primer on the go. As we work our way down into the first gallon it tends to get real thick - like sour cream. This is perfect for adding texture with a brush. The second gallon is a fresh one, which brushes out nice and smooth when we need it.

Those small bumps and ridges on the edges of your CNC cuts are easily smoothed out with the primer. They recommend (and we do too) that we put the pieces under a fan for a couple of hours to drive out the moisture.

Then when the primer has cured it is time for the base colours. We always triple coat and use a top quality acrylic house paint. We allow it to dry between coats, most often with a fan blowing on the piece.

Stay tuned for more progress shots as the glazes go on.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Four more name plaques

With the first Sculpting Magic Workshop now only four and a half weeks away we are in full get ready mode. Most of the name plaques are routed and sample boards are almost done. About one third of the name plaques are making their way through the painting department with more to follow soon.

I thought a picture update of a few more of the plaques would be of interest. It is fun to come up with endless new ideas.