Sawatzky Guest Blog: Zoe’s Pizza, Part 2

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 each month. This month Dan Sawatzky gives us a look into how he incorporates sturdy welded steel armature into his laminated Precision Board signs.
In Dan’s own words…
In our previous blog, we discussed the design and initial routing of the Zoe’s Pizza sign, including insight into how we constructed the welded steel frame. Today we’re going to look at how we create the final textures, colors, and glazes for the finished piece.
Once the PB Bond-240 adhesive had cured, it was time to add extra texture. Most people use their CNC machines to make everything perfectly square, perfectly straight, or perfectly smooth. We instead like to intentionally add texture to make our signs look handcrafted. This adds extra value and extra profit to our product. When we add texture to the edges (the CNC does a great job on the faces) we use an air-powered die grinder. It makes quick work of this dusty job.

In about twenty minutes I’ve finished about half of the edges, getting rid of the glue that expands out of the joint, while adding a beautiful random texture to the surface. We use a little sculpting epoxy to fill in the screw holes before we begin painting.

After one day of work (plus routing) we have made great progress. Another hour or so will have this portion of the sign ready for painting.

While our crew worked on that, I welded up a steel armature using 1/4” pencil rod. Steel lath was formed and tied over this framework. Then the sculpting process began using a polymer sculpting epoxy. Each feather and detail were formed individually and then pressed into place.

We prime each section using Coastal Enterprises’ FSC-88WB thick-bodied primer, and by not reducing with water we can purposely leave brush strokes in place. Once this has dried properly (with a fan) we triple coat using a good quality acrylic house paint. We use Sherwin William A-100 semi-gloss.
We do our blends on the second and third coat, followed by a series of subtle glazes to bring out the textures and make things really pop.

The finished sign was very striking with a lot of kid appeal. This was important as the pizza restaurant is situated next to a large play structure at the farm. The sign is now ready (we’ll bolt the sign to a sturdy steel pallet) for shipping along with a trailer load of other projects bound for our client in Nebraska. The signs will be installed at the end of July, well ahead of their season which begins on Labour Day.

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.

The design agency had a concept, but their idea of using MDF was shot down by the building engineer. The proposed installation location wasn’t a load-bearing wall and it wouldn’t be able to handle the weight of MDF. The project was nearly scrapped, but then Adam suggested Precision Board HDU, since it is only about a third as heavy as MDF.

With a new plan in place, Adam got to work designing the wall. They would use four sheets of 5’x10′ 1” 25lb Precision Board (PBLT-25) to make the final 20’ x 9’ piece. He drew the texture in Rhino 3D software to map out where the panels would need to be cut so there wouldn’t be any noticeable breaks or inconsistencies in the texture. Once this process was completed, the 3D files were ready to be imported into Vectrics Aspire and the CNC tool pathing began. Graphics MFG spent 1 1/2 days CNC-routing the HDU with a 3/4” Amana bull mill from Tools of Today #46387, running at a speed of 800 IPM with a plunge of 400 IPM. The rapid Z gaps were set to 1/8” to achieve lower run times per sheet, which was followed by a 3-stage sanding process to remove the tooling marks. The next step was priming with multiple layers of Kilz primer to seal the surface and prepare for paint. They finished it off with a coat of Sherwin Williams acrylic paint in a satin finish.

Due to the intended final location of the wall in a corporate setting, Graphics MFG thought it best to complete the entire project at their facility as a “plug and play” piece. The routed Precision Board was attached to a 1”x1” welded aluminum structure that was fabricated in house. Strategically placed 3/4” plywood panels were then attached to the back of the HDU so that barrel stand-offs for the acrylic artwork frames, as well as the studs on the back of the wall, could be securely fastened into place.

After strengthening the intended installation location at WMWD, Graphics MFG delivered the textured wall and dropped it in with a boom crane and began the installation process.

Each element on the wall was manufactured and installed by Graphics MFG, including the lettering and acrylic displays for the artwork, which can be changed out. The total project took about six to seven weeks to complete, and everyone was very happy with the results. 

If you’d like to learn more about Graphics MFG and their capabilities, visit their website at or take a look at some of their work on Instagram: @graphics_mfg.

If you have any questions regarding Precision Board, please call Coastal Enterprises at (800) 845-0745 or send an email to