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, January 23, 2016

Endless inspiration

Even if you aren't a fan of Disney theme parks I would highly recommend a visit. You don't have to ride the rides - just bring a camera to record endless inspiration at every turn. You even get to claim the trip as a business expense!

We like to attend at least one Disney park every year. So far we've been to Florida's Disney World (four theme parks), California's Disneyland (two theme parks), Disneyland Tokyo (two theme parks), Disneyland Paris (two theme parks - although I've only seen one)  plus there's one theme park in Hong Kong and a new one in China that opens in mid-June. (Those last two are still on my list) Add in all of the themed resorts and restaurants plus the water parks in Disney World and there is enough inspiration to last a lifetime.

Each time we go I take a ton of pictures, make some sketches and just generally get inspired. The signs and theme work is second to none. Some might argue that they don't do much of this kind of signs in their market...  and I would ask why not?

I include a picture of only one sign (of the thousands of great signs I saw) for this blog entry...  it's a low key sign that identifies the hotel building we are staying at. The sign features laser or water jet cut metal bracket, sandblasted wood (although I would just as easily make it from routed Precision Board) and some shaped sheet metal for lighting. This site also featured a small digital print for the bird logo (I would hand paint it).

Most of these signs I see could have easily been designed in EnRoute Software.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Rusted beauty

The recent plasma cut gates have been given an initial sports of mild acid and set outside to start their patina. Once they are in place we'll further chemically add different value colours (subtle shades of brown) to the different layers to further differentiate them from each other. In only a couple of days outside the rust colour evened out on the metal and it now looks vastly different than when we pulled them from the shop.

As an update to the post I include two pictures of the gates mounted in their permanent home. The first is from outside the yard and the second from inside the yard.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Final pics of Sign Odyssey piece - Sign Challenge

We also took some studio pictures of the Sign Odyssey piece for your enjoyment. I sure am looking forward to seeing fourteen of these crazy creations lined up in a row in Orlando at the ISA show in a few short months!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Final pics of Peter's Artistic Android - Sign Challenge piece

We've now taken proper pictures of Peter's Artistic Android. It is an amazing piece and when we take away the background clutter and add proper lighting the piece really comes alive in glorious detail. What is more amazing is that Peter used this piece to learn the ins and outs of EnRoute to create both the routing and plasma cutter. This was also the first time he operated both the MultiCam router and plasma cutter. I shadowed him a little to make sure he was doing things in a logical order but he asked few questions and mostly figured it out on his own. Enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Pics of recently completed projects

I learn a great deal of what I know by looking at pictures (and real projects by others). I love to see step by steps too of course.  Two of the projects of late are now complete and I thought readers would enjoy seeing how they turned out when all painted up. When we last saw the Hornswaggler's sign and the food boat they were just at the end stages of the sculpting process. The pieces of the sign got the usual three coats of base colours and then a series of glazes to age them. Now at last they are ready to head out the door and into the shipping container.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

NICE pictures of completed trade show booth

The trade show booth is now complete. I carry a small pocket point and shoot camera for the pictures I take several times each day. With the small point and shoot camera handy in my holster on my hip it is easy to whip it out to grab the shots I need to illustrate the blogs and magazine articles I write. Although I used to use an expensive digital SLR camera in the past it just wasn't practical in the dirty shop environment.

Because we want to enter the pictures of this project into a contest, feature it an article and some other uses on our website we decided to put a little more effort into some better quality pictures. I asked my daughter Becke to take some good shots with her professional equipment. We moved the booth into the centre of the shop, hung some new tarps behind it to block out the busy background, and set up some proper lighting. While we were at it we built a second smaller booth to take some pictures of a few of our other recent projects. It was a lot of work and took the better part of a day to complete but the resulting photographs were spectacular. The pictures on this blog are low resolution at only at 100 DPI but soon we'll be launching a new gallery on our website that has much higher resolution pictures of our sculpting projects. I'll be posting some of the other projects soon. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Trade show booth near completion

Our trade show booth for IAAPA is now fully mocked up with all of the artwork we will display. Second copies of all the artwork are being laminated for durability and these will replace the  temporary mockup artwork as we permanently fasten it in place.

The upper portions of the display have concept art and plans for many past projects as well as some in progress photographs. Models, sample signs and sculptures abound. All this is combined with the faux painted metal work and sculpted concrete showcase much of what we do. The TV monitor will showcase our recent videos. The display is an accurate slice of our studio on display.

In the next couple of days we'll finish the electrical hookups and do the last patina on the base to finish off the display. It is undoubtably a very busy environment with plenty to look at. It is our hope that it sparks lots of interest at the show.

Friday, January 8, 2016

That's a GATE!

This afternoon Jack and Peter finished welding and grinding the major pieces of the gate. With the help of the whole crew in the shop we tipped them up vertically for the first time and took a look. They looked pretty cool!

The boys still have to do a little tweaking and also install the latching mechanism and then next week we can install them. They will be allowed to acquire some surface rust and then we'll apply various coloured patinas to allow the five layers to really stand out.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hornswagglers cutlass - part two

The cutlass took about three hours to run on the MultiCam. Late yesterday I pulled it off the machine and glued up the two halves. This morning I removed the clamps and used the air-powered die grinder to add some serious character to make it look battle worn. While I could have built the file that way it was far faster to do it by hand.

Then we used sculpting epoxy to create the leather wrapping on the handle. A thin layer of sculpting epoxy was applied over the skull and form other details  such as the teeth and the undercuts on the eye sockets. The mounting board was glued up today and tomorrow it will all be ready for paint.

Stay tuned...

A gate like no other - part one

Ever since we first started talking seriously about getting the MultiCam Plasma cutter Peter has been wanting to build a gate. As per usual at our shop this would be no ordinary gate. We've long used a hand held plasma to cut shapes from steel. We built our first curved gate a long time ago. This gate would push the boundaries for sure by layering five layers of cut sheet steel and welding it over a curved frame to create a double sided forest scene, complete with wild life.

Peter designed the gate layers by first sketching out the idea on paper and then creating the final version in PhotoShop in five layers, each a slightly lighter shade of grey. These were stacked up to give an approximation of how the gate will appear when assembled.

The layers were imported into EnRoute in separate files and then using the trace function to create the vector files for the gate. EnRoute's tracing function is the best I have ever used and extremely fast.

Once the Vector files were done Peter drew up the centre join of the two halves and then used the jigsaw tool to create the two vectors.

Since the gate halves were larger than the steel sheets we were using he then had to decide where the cut lines would be so the pieces were easiest to weld together. Each of the five layers was done in this fashion.

The files were then tool patted and sent to the plasma cutter. While the pieces were being cut Peter and Jack started bending the steel and welding up the structural steel frame for the gate. Then they tacked the pieces in place and flipped the gate for final welding. The frame was built in one piece to be cut apart after the first layer of steel was welded on.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hornswagglers cutlass

We've been asked to create a sign for the game area of Scallywag Bay. We settled on the name Hornswaggler's which offered lots of fun possibilities. I decided an oversized cutlass would be perfect. The sword will be sit in a wood sign mount and we'll hang a sign just below asking all patrons to 'stow yer weapons before entry'.

I created the vectors in EnRoute, tweaking the text and warping it to suit the slight curve of the cutlass blade.

The skull shape, handle and knuckle guard were created as separate reliefs using the dome tool. Compare to the original drawing above and you can see I got a better idea as I proceeded and made the hilt into a bone. Once I was satisfied with the shape of the handle I combined the five handle pieces into one relief.

Then, using the dome tool to make negative reliefs for the eyes. I checked the front view and after nudging them up into position merged (lowest) with the handle relief to make the eye sockets.

The blade of the cutlass was created using the prismatic tool. Again compare the blade vector to the original one and you will see I pulled the 'V' shape back a little further into the handle to make it work. Once the handle and sword were complete I combined the two reliefs.

The lettering was created by creating a negative shape (subtract from) using the prismatic tool into the original cutlass relief. I should note that before I applied the lettering I created a second copy of the sword relief. This will be flipped to form the back half of the sword.

Next up is the sword bracket and other details. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Routing magic

We used EnRoute to create more than 200 routing files to design components for our house when we built it. Those files were used to create thousands of components, both in the construction of the structure and the finishing inside and out. For the trim we used about a hundred sheets of 30 lb Precision Board (mostly 1" material) and many more than that of MDF. The MultiCam router was used to create all of the round window trims, wainscotting crown mouldings, the bridge sides and the corner blocks on the windows and doors throughout the house. The CNC tools allowed us to incorporate details which would have been impossible to do by hand.

The house has now been in progress for almost four years, and now at long last we are down to the tiny details. We've been living in the house for more than two years and when that happens the finishing details seem to take even longer than they should. In the last months a little more work was done and we took delivery of the long awaited dining room furniture. This afternoon the light was perfect as the sun shone through the giant round window to the south and I captured a good shot of the finished dining room at last.