Dan Sawatzky’s Time Piece for ISA 2019

Coastal Enterprises, manufacturers of Precision Board HDU, is proud to announce a series of guest blogs written by Dan Sawatzky of Imagination Corporation, which will be posted on the Precision Board Blog at the end of each month. In this month’s entry, Dan Sawatzky talks about getting a head start on next year’s Sign Invitational entry (and smaller piece for the Coastal Enterprises ISA booth!) made from steel, plywood and 30 lb. Precision Board HDU.


I strongly feel that there needs to be a lot more creativity in the sign industry and believe the Sign Invitational contest is a great way to encourage this and hopefully inspire others. Next year’s contest will have a theme of ‘TIME’ with two categories…one with the same build envelope as in the past 2 x 2 x 6 ft.) and a smaller, wall-mounted dimensional version which will measure 3 x 3 ft. max.

Movement, lighting, and other effects are allowed. Contestants may have their name/shop name on the piece. No other sponsor IDs are permitted. Each contestant must transport their piece to the 2019 International Sign Association Sign EXPO to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada. They must also attend the show.

To be considered for the Sign Invitational or for more information, visit their website.


Pro tip: One of the ‘secrets’ to my success is the many samples we display in our studio. More than one hundred and fifty elaborate samples line the walls. These samples showcase the magic we are capable of better than I could ever explain to my customers. These samples are an important investment in our future success.

With the theme determined for next year’s event and the clock ticking it there is no time to waste.

I’ve long known that no matter the creative project it will always take longer than I think. Things will go awry, and I’ll get better ideas along the way. I know our schedule will get busy as well. The solution is to start work immediately and then as I find time along the way I’ll work on the piece a little at a time. This isn’t a billable project and so it needs to fit around our regular work.


I did my first sketches of next year’s entry on the plane ride home from this year’s event in Orlando, Florida. I worked on ideas for the large project first. These rough sketches informed my presentation concepts when I got back to my studio. Once I had the idea and basics nailed, it was time to begin cutting and welding up some steel. I used EnRoute Software to design the files. Then our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter made short work out of cutting the ten-gauge steel to size. An hour of welding and grinding made it ready to build on. I then bent the structural tubing and welded it to the frame. Smaller structural elements for various components such as post, railings and signs were then welded to this frame. After that, I fastened on some flexible 1/4” plywood. From here I’ll rout various architectural details such as windows, doors, trim, signs and other components. These will be glued into place. Then I’ll sculpt in the detail.

I’ll be doing a second piece to enter in the smaller category which will be showcased in the Coastal Enterprises booth at the trade show. They have been a proud sponsor of the Sign Invitational since its inception.

I wanted this piece to relate directly to the first. I decided to build a large steam powered clock. Only I’d take a slightly different tack and so I designed the piece to view the clock from the inside rather than from the front.

I did the concept design first, then used this drawing as a basis for the vector version I designed in EnRoute. With the cutting file in hand it was time to route some 30 lb Precision Board. It took a full sheet of 1.5″ material and a second sheet of 1” thick board to create the files. I cut the clock structure first. Then while the gear file was being routed I assembled those pieces.

There are of course many more fun details to be added as I build which will be revealed in a future post. Stay tuned…

I encourage as many as possible to consider entering a piece of their own in the Sign Invitational. For more information, visit their website.

Sawatzky’s Imagination Corporation is a small family company that specializes in the design and creation of dimensional signs and environments. They tackle projects of any size from small signs to entire theme parks. Their work has garnered numerous national and international awards.

Dan Sawatzky is best described as a creative force and visual storyteller extraordinaire. His art career spans almost fifty years of magic. Dan’s passion is to design and create imaginative places that take people from the normal world to a setting of delight and wonder.

You can get free samples of Precision Board HDU, request a quote, and sign up for the monthly Blog Roundup from Coastal Enterprises.