Dan Sawatzky's Blog "Speaking from Experience" - Coastal Enterprises
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Dan Sawatzky’s Blog
  • Dan Sawatzky and The Tottering Tortoise
    We love using Precision Board in our shop to create unique dimensional signs and we go through literally tons of it each year. Precision Board is versatile and easy to work with as it accepts almost any finish and is durable over the long haul. Even so, it is rare that we only use Precision ...
  • Dan Sawatzky’s Robot Table for Coastal Enterprises ISA Booth
    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 his debut entry, Dan tells us how he created a robot table out of PBLT-4 and PBLT-30 that ...
  • Signing off
    Back in March of 2010 I posted the very first entry to this blog. At that point I had been using Precision Board and a CNC router about four years and was still very much at the beginning of a learning adventure that continues to this day. I know that learning adventure will never end. Here's that first post. ________________________________________________________________ In this journal it is my hope that I will be able to share with you the many ways we use Precision Board high density urethane and other products from Coastal Enterprises in our projects
  • Robot table sculpt done
    On the last day of 2017 I spent a little more time in the shop finishing up the sculpt of the Coastal Enterprises' robot table. This included the robot's head, arms and hands. The fingers were sculpted in such a fashion as to hide the structure of the table top.  With the integral welded steel frame inside the top and through the hands and arms this thing is plenty strong! As I was rummaging through the electrical parts drawer yesterday I came across a spare switch which I decided to include on the back of the robot. I used a couple of chain links to build a guard on each side.
  • Topped out
    Today it was time for some more router work on the MultiCam. The upper arms were first and routed from two pieces of 1" thick 30 lb Precision Board. I routed a slot into them to fit around the 1" X 2"structural steel.
  • Details – just for fun
    I managed a couple of hours in the shop this afternoon. In that time I finished the bottom of the back of the robot. As an extra little feature I added a window hatch which some small details in side using short lengths of wire, a spare air pressure gauge and some bits of hose. The small viewing window fogged up as the fresh paint inside dried but it should clear up overnight
  • Building the body
    I've stated many times the we use 30 lb Precision Board exclusively in our shop. This is true when it pertains to CNC routing... but when we are hand sculpting high density urethane that will be coated with sculpting epoxy we sometimes use four pound foam. It is so soft I can practically carve it with my hands
  • A fun little table
    As per usual the shop is quiet between Christmas and the New Year. The crew is taking some deserved time off to be with their families. With Christmas falling on a Monday it meant we had a couple of days to do our final shopping and ready the house for two days of company. Then it was time to kick back and enjoy family and lots of good eating
  • Sign Challenge 2018 progress
    I jumped into the building of my 2018 Sign Invitational piece as soon as I returned from Las Vegas nine months ago. The theme for the 2018 invitational is 'MARVELOUS MACHINE'  I posted pictures of my progress perviously on the blog  here . The last post was July 1. Since then we've been slammed with lots of creative projects in the shop as well as numerous business trips to Trinidad, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Atlantic City and more
  • A honey of a sign
    We'll be building two copies of the HoneyPot sign. One will go on the operator's booth while the second (With a sculpted bee) will be positioned at the start of the queue. The routing file was created with three layers, rather than the two the concept art suggested. This is so the sign will better match the many others already in the park. The sign is to be fabricated in three layers with a welded steel frame laminated into the center layer
  • It’s the little things
    Our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter has dramatically changed the way we fabricate our themed pieces. In the process it has ramped up the quality and durability of our work. The handy machine has also increased out productivity in a large measure.
  • Some project take a long while!
    A like more than three and a half years ago I designed the primary sign for Skallywag Bay adventure Park. I designed he routing files a short time later but it would be another year before we started to build two copies of the sign. That process was chronicled  here . We routed he hulls of the ships from multiple layers of 2" thick 30 lb Precision Board. These were glued together and hen we sculpted the details onto the two copies of the ship.
  • More signs at Skallywag Bay
    There were a whole lot of signs which we did for Skallywag Bay in Trinidad and I'e been itching to get them installed for quite some time. During my last visit to the site we got almost all of the larger pieces placed around the site. We did it using a 60' zoom boom which is a very handy machine. I have my forklift licence for our little machine at the shop but the larger machine was a whole new experience! The key is to go slow and easy. Every move is amplified when the boom is fully extended and to reach these pieces we did just that most of the time
  • One Track Mine Co – Part two
    I routed three copies of the little One Track Mining Co. vehicle chassis. I'll make three different models as per the original sketches.
  • One Track Mine Co. – part one
    The three little One Track Mine Co. machines are so much fun I decided to build them first as some sample models. As I designed the routing reliefs I made some modifications to make them better.
  • Piece by pieceS
    It is pure magic as we install the scores of features at Skallywag Bay in Trinidad. It's been four years since we started building the fourteen shipping containers full of features. We packed the last of them into the containers more than two years ago. Now at last it is time to install everything. Today was the day to assemble two of the attraction signs.
  • One track mine concepts…
    Last month I did a step by step of building a little display tank. It was a fun little project!  Now i looks like we may just get to build a series of tracked features which use some of those ideas. A client has asked us to come up with some ideas for a mining theme adventure golf. Our first concept was pretty conventional, being a narrow gauge mining railroad car
  • Packing up the display.
    The booth showed extremely well over the last our days as about 25,000 people came by. Our display did exactly what it was designed to do and that was attract attention of all those who walked by. We handed out a lot of business cards, scanned many badges. We met so many great people in our industry! At the end of the show there is always a mad scramble to pack up the displays
  • Trade show setup
    It's been a very busy month of almost non-stop travel for me, with most of the trips to Trinidad as we wrap up the Skallywag Bay Adventure Park. It's looking very cool these days. I'll be posting some photos of that project next week on my return. This week we are attending the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO in Orlando, Florida. The trade show is massive with over 1000 vendors and 40,000 attendees from around the world.
  • One two three glaze
    With Christmas fast approaching it's a great time to do up some name plaques for those you love. They make great presents and you can practice your painting and glazing techniques at the same time. I'll show three name plaques in this post - all different colours to better demonstrate our techniques. The first is Elsie's name plaque. We started by painting it an off white colour
  • Attention getting driveway sign
    Janis loves chickens but there are no roosters allowed. (they tend to crow early in the morning and wake her up!) I believed we needed a rooster somewhere on the property and so I designed a fun fellow to perch on top of a sign Janis had been asking for in our yard to warn visitors to slow down as they passed through the the shop.  As with all of our projects we would use a variety of mediums and methods to build it. The sign portion was done on our MultiCam of course, routed from there layers of 30 lb Precision Board.
  • Monument sign start to finish – part two
    With the lath in place it was time for a little concrete work. I mixed up the sand and Portland cent at a ratio of about four parts sand to one part cement powder. Then I troweled it onto the mesh. This takes some practice. I've been doing it for decades so this part went pretty fast.
  • Monument sign start to finish – part 1
    I often get asked to talk about a 'typical sign' and how we build them. The answer is most signs we build aren't typical. But they do follow a pattern.
  • Building a mine car
    I find it a great deal of fun to design rather complex designs and then figure out a way to fabricate what I have imagined. We are currently working on a good sized theme project called the Cloud Buster. It is a drop tower ride.
  • Tank Details
    The wind up key mount was the first accessory relief to be created for the tank. I started with a flat relief 0.2" tall. The rivets were the next modification by using the dome tool.
  • Building the tank turret
    The next part of the tank we are building is the main turret.  It is pretty simple but it uses tools in ways not often done. The turret is built in two pieces - an upper and a lower half. The first step is the create a relief using the bevel tool, but we'll do it with a twist. That is to use the limit to height tool which effectively flattens the top with a nice bevel around the edge.
  • Why I chose a MultiCam CNC Router
    When I was in Salt Lake City at the EnRoute Summit I was asked to tell the story of how and why I chose a MultiCam CNC router. This is a video of that story...
  • Building a tank – part one
    I find it a lot of fun to build rather complex files in EnRoute. They are both challenging and a great way to learn the functions of the software. Once mastered the functions of ADD, SUBTRACT, MERGE HIGHEST, MERGE LOWEST and REPLACE allows us to build some pretty interesting shapes to create just about anything we can imagine.
  • Fishing boat relief – Part two
    To create the cab of the little boat I first created two zero height reliefs. I opted to create meshes and then merge them to the relief, rather than modify the reliefs with the revolve tool. Either procedure would have worked in this case. I generally use this method as it allows me more freedom to adjust the height of things before locking it down by merging it with the relief. The mesh shows red when selected, green when not.
  • Assembly in Trinidad
    It's been a busy week as I headed south from the EnRoute Summit in Salt Lake City rather than heading home. In Trinidad the work on Skallywag Bay Adventure Park is continuing, with the permanent placement of the features now beginning on a large scale. It is ratifying to be doing that job after almost four years since the project began in earnest. I was in Trinidad for four days this time and great progress was made.
  • Creating a fishing boat relief
    I built this little fishing boart quite some time ago but decided to revisit it when I was recently teaching a workshop. It's a complex but not too difficult a build which is fascinating. The first time I built these reliefs I was pretty new to EnRoute and the MultiCam. That gave me an appreciation for the feelings I knew my students would have.
  • Buster gets a coat of paint
    Im my last post about the Could Buster sign I had finished the sculpt and he was waiting for paint. As with many f our signs we started with a cot of Coastal Enterprises FSC-88 WB primer. It's a heavy bodied water base primer that is sandal. Only our intention is not to smooth things out but instead add even more texture. This paint is the perfect ticket for that task
  • Assembly of the Hazelnut Inn main sign – part one
    The center portion of the sign would be a giant oval but we didn't need the whole thing as the bottom would be tucked into a themed base and the top would be in the canopy of the tree. By cutting these off we would save a lot of Precision Board, an important consideration as this portion of the sign would be a whopping fourteen inches thick.  The centre oval would be a concave dome and routed from 4" thick precision Board. Because we were cutting the top and bottom off the oval we could get both pieces out of the same sheet.  We would build the reliefs in four pieces. First we created a four inch flat relief, the thickness of our board.
  • Hazelnut Inn main sign – part three
    The center portion of the sign would be a giant oval but we didn't need the whole thing as the bottom would be tucked into a themed base and the top would be in the canopy of the tree. By cutting these off we would save a lot of Precision Board, an important consideration as this portion of the sign would be a whopping fourteen inches thick.  The centre oval would be a concave dome and routed from 4" thick precision Board. Because we were cutting the top and bottom off the oval we could get both pieces out of the same sheet.  We would build the reliefs in four pieces. First we created a four inch flat relief, the thickness of our board.
  • Hazelnut Inn main sign – part two
    With the design for the Hazelnut Inn finally in hand we set to work in EnRoute. I had done the design using Adobe Photoshop using my iPad as an interface. I based the lettering on an actual font but modified it a fair amount. Now that needed to be done using vectors.
  • Hazelnut Inn main sign – part one
    The main sign for the Hazelnut Inn is undoubtably the most important as it will set the tone and be the first taste of the experience guest will have in this place. The final design came about after much discussion and many tries. It is said that designing for yourself is the hardest thing I'm a believer! But the end result is well worth the struggle. From the first concept two things remained the same - the tree and the lettering.
  • Under Hill delight
    As is most often the case we started off with a concept drawing. I brought this into EnRoute and traced over it to create the vectors needed to make the reliefs and for the plasma cut parts as well. The lettering was curved to the shape of the scroll using the warp tool. The only thing not settled was the ornamentation on the scroll as the debate had not yet been decided. I handed the vectors over to Peter at this stage
  • Assemblymen;ling the Copper Crown Sign
    We formed the pieces for the crown using our roller and also by hand as necessary. Then everything was welded up into once assembly. While we could have routed the end pieces it was easier and faster the do it by hand. We formed some pencil rod in the shape we wanted and then attached some metal lath.  The ring around the crown was cut from a piece of 16" diameter pipe
  • Assembling the Copper Crown Sign
    We formed the pieces for the crown using our roller and also by hand as necessary. Then everything was welded up into once assembly. While we could have routed the end pieces it was easier and faster the do it by hand. We formed some pencil rod in the shape we wanted and then attached some metal lath.  The ring around the crown was cut from a piece of 16" diameter pipe. The Curved flat bar was hand shaped and formed in pieces.
  • Copper Crown – part one
     The second inn sign to go into production is the Copper Crown. To do this sign did we tried something new. The scroll would be routed, flipped and routed once more.
  • North Star assembly
    We tool pathed the North Star sign and then sent it off to the MultiCam. We routed it from 30 lb Precision Board. There was still a little work to do in EnRoute. The piece below was cut from 0.1 steel plate. It would be the ring around the star and also act as structure  between it and the front piece.
  • Building the vectors and reliefs for the North Star sign
    The inn signs are now in full production and looking good. In the next series of emails I'll be taking you through the steps we took to create them. This will be a little different than most of my posts because Peter and I jointly worked on these files and he uses a slightly different path to production that I might. The thing with EnRoute is the the program is so powerful there are most often multiple ways to do a task. As we were designing and building with ourselves as a client we also changed things on the fly to make it better.
  • Cloud Bluster -Part two
    With the router work done and the sign assembled over the welded frame it is time to begin the hand work... my favourite part.  I used an air powered die grinder to even out the edges and add a little texture while I was at it. Then I coated the egg shape with a thin coat of Abracadabra Sculpting epoxy pressing it hard into the surface. This acted as a prime coat.
  • Cloud Buster – Part one
    This was a very fun project for a new ride at a local theme park. It's a drop tower and we proposed the name Cloud Buster. All of the other rides feature a cartoon character and for this one we came up with the idea of a porcupine shooting his shotgun at the clouds. The porcupine's name is Buster
  • Whoa, go, whistle and ring controls
    Each evening and some time on weekends I sneak back out to the shop to work on my personal project - the little rail truck for the Persnickety and Doodle Railway. Progress has been rapid of late but there's a whole lot of pieces to fabricate and then weld in place. Cables need to be hooked up and tested, fastened permanently in place and then adjusted to work perfectly. There have been a LOT of pieces of sheet metal and plate to cut for this project. In the picture below there are more than seventy different plasma cut pieces of steel visible.
  • IAAPA EXPO trade show booth almost ready
    We've had our trade show booth for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO in our show for a number of weeks now. Each time we have a few spare minutes we work on it. Our goal is to have it finished in plenty of time for the show - without having to burn the midnight oil or have to do a rush job getting ready. The show is too big an investment and far too important to do that.
  • Using EnRoute to create working files and presentation art
    We use EnRoute in all kinds of ways to help us in our work. In doing so we create accurate scale renderings for presentations and at the same time create the vectors we need for our plasma cutting and CNC routing. This saves a whole to of time at the design stage of our projects. Currently we have a project going through the design stage that is a good example
  • What can’t you build?
    Even though our shop has limited metal working tools there is little we can't accomplish with a little head scratching and ingenuity. I had great fun figuring out how to design, cut and fit the many pieces together to craft the little passenger rail car. In this case I didn't even need a sketch but instead designed as I went, imagining how it would all fit together. Once the vector drawings were done I sent the files to the MultiCam for cutting. The lower sections were cut from 1/4" steel plate and the top seat riser was done from 1/10" thick steel plate
  • Re-thionking the passenger car
    With the little rail truck now substantially complete and running it is time to turn my attention to other pieces of the railroad. The truck has room for a driver and one small passenger but when we have company that is not nearly enough capacity. The truck needed to pull a vehicle that could carry more passengers. We had previously built an ore car which seated four passengers but this was long before we had our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter
  • Re-thinking the passenger car
    With the little rail truck now substantially complete and running it is time to turn my attention to other pieces of the railroad. The truck has room for a driver and one small passenger but when we have company that is not nearly enough capacity. The truck needed to pull a vehicle that could carry more passengers. We had previously built an ore car which seated four passengers but this was long before we had our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter.
  • Out in the sunshine
    Today, it was time at last to pull Dayna's tree from the shop and get a first look at it in natural light. We've taken great care in selecting the lights in the shop to properly paint but even so things always look different in the light of day. I was pleased with the result as everything reads as we planned. We know once it is set in it's final home with landscaping tucked around it the tree will look even better
  • Inn progress
    Back in the middle of April I hinted at a project our family was going to undertake - a little inn. Peter and Hailey (son and daughter in law) purchased the property next door to us and now are going through the zoning process to make the project possible. This means we have been busy doing up the concept plans.
  • Leverage
    Now that the little trail truck is running and the bulk of the big fabricating is behind us it is time to begin all of the fun small stuff. I'm currently working on the levers which will control the functions of the vehicle. The Johnson bar which is bolted to the running board controls the forward and reverse of the variable speed hydrostatic transmission. To operate it you pull the safety back and then move the lever forward and reverse.
  • Success!
    This morning I cut the a last few pieces of steel on our MultiCam Plasma cutter, then welded them into place. Then I hooked up the throttle cable and took a link out of the chain. I welded up the bell mount as well.
  • IAAPA trade show display progress
    Work continues on our trade show booth for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO in Orlando, Florida. As I posted previously we decided to rebuild our booth which we created last year. We first stripped down last year's effort and cut off all of the structure we no longer needed.  Since this year's space is to be twenty feet wide instead of only ten we added two five foot wings to the sides of the booth.
  • Progress on Dayna’s tree
    Since the last post on the progress of Dayna's tree we've made great progress. The top portion of the structure was completed and the galvanized lath applied. A few small details were added at the request of the family like a small fairy door, tucked into the roots. We then did the sculpted concrete which was done over a period of three days.
  • Back to the shop
    I've been busy on weekends and an hour or two on weeknights working on my personal project - the little rail truck. Last week it was at long last ready for a test drive. I called Phoebe, my grand daughter, who has been waiting twelve long years for a test drive.  The throttle was still jury rigged, the drive train chain was not yet tightened, and a few other things yet to be done but I was confident the little rig would power it's way down the track without difficulty. I jumped into the cab and Phoebe into the sidecar. The vehicle was stable - despite Phoebe now being almost adult size and weight
  • Tailgate party
    It was time to fire up the MultiCam CNC plasma once more for the next stage of the little rail truck. I needed to build a functional tailgate. The truck will be powered with a four stroke gas engine which needs lots of air flow. When the weather is warm or I need to work on the drive train I can drop the tailgate. For normal operation there should be plenty of airflow with the open bed and top as well as through the logo which I cut into the tailgate
  • Amazing installation!
    This past week Peter and I flew out to Oshawa, Ontario to visit NEB's Fun World. After almost a year in design and construction the bulk of the pieces we built and transported there have been installed. The NEB's crew did a fabulous job! Our task was to do a few touchups, install some of the signs and do the texturing and faux finishing on the upper portions of the side walls.  The pieces had never been previously fitted together s our shop is simply not nearly large enough. The sheer scale of the project is amazing. Our panels, fit together, covered more than four hundred feet of wall!  As we worked I thought back to the first concept drawings done of the project.
  • Pickup artist
    Each time I can spare a few minutes of my free time I head out to the shop to work on the rail pickup. In those minutes I build a file, fire up the plasma cutter to cut some pieces or do a little welding. Those minutes add up and I am making real progress. The pickup bed is now largely complete and the four fenders are fabricated and welded into place. The transmission is in place and will soon be mated to the motor.
  • This year’s display
    We were delighted with the display booth we put together for last year's showing at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO in Orlando, Florida. The booth was good enough to garner a first place Brass Ring Award in it's size class. The experience of displaying at the massive show for the first time taught us many things. Our idea to ship a complete display piece with all of the show pieces attached was a brilliant move. We were able to set up in mere minutes.
  • Dayna’s tree
    We received a request for a very special sign recently. A family had lost their four year old daughter to cancer and wanted a sign for a park they were dedicating to Dayna. We came up with the idea of a tree. Dayna loved ladybugs and so four ladybugs will be hiding on the tree for other children to find.
  • Metalwork fun
    More than a dozen years ago we decided to build a fifteen inch gauge railroad around our yard. Every grampa should have a model train to share with their grand kids... and mine would be big enough to ride in. I started work on the project before our fist grandchild was born
  • Painting the train
    As I finished the models Becke began the painting. She started with the elephant engine. With large detailed models the painting process is painstaking, taking almost as long as a full sized piece. The base colours are layered on, then the glazes.
  • Sculpting fun!
    I used Abracadabra Sculpting epoxy to sculpt the animal bodies of the train. Steel rods were used as reinforcement. The shapes were first bulked out and allowed to harden. Then I went back over the pieces adding detail as necessary.
  • Building the train car files
    The mechanical circus animal cars all shared the same routing file. I would sculpt the animal features on later by hand. The routing files were created in EnRoute using the drawing tools. I used the dome tool to create the first relief which formed the car body
  • Building a mechanical circus train model
    We all seem to collect tons of small pieces of Precision Board when we do lots of routing. The perfect use of these small pieces is display samples.  We are in the process of designing a very fun project for one of our theme park customers. We were asked to design up some small kiosks to be used for face painting, food carts and a character meet and greet. Since the theme is mechanical circus we decided the perfect theme for the kiosks was a circus train
  • Posts with a theme
    We used a heart motif as a theme on our house. Little hearts are routed into all of the outside trim. We created hundreds of files and then machined even more pieces. These were all painted up and gazed to form a one of a kind house which we really enjoy. This same theme extends out to the fence posts as well
  • A long time coming!
    Four years ago we started an exciting project. It's a theme park in Trinidad called Skallywag Bay Adventure Park. Three of the rides in the park were to be built in Italy.
  • Last load to NEB’s
    It has been well over a year since we did the first concept art for NEB's Fun World. The massive bowling alley was the first project to be green lighted for construction. We designed hundreds of  files using EnRoute.  Our MultiCam Plasma cutter got quite a workout as we cut scores of sheets of plate steel into pieces for the bases and tops of the posts as well as countless bolting plates, lifting lugs and braces
  • Signs should be creative and fun!
    As I look at the signs for developments it makes me wonder why there aren't more creative and fun ideas used. The sign industry is chock full of people who insist they are creative and yet most of the signs are far from it. We take a far different tack as we design developments. Imagine of we could use creativity at every turn - literally. Why do trees signs have to be a boring rectangular flat piece of metal with some boring type stuck on them
  • Making the replacement
    When I went back to measure up the signs I also had to figure out how I built them. After seven years my memories of the project had gotten very fuzzy. The photos I had of the signs in the trailer provided some information but the colours were redder than I remembered.  Once I got onsite I recalled things much more clearly. I had cut the signs from 1.5" thick 30 lb Precision Board.
  • Seven years and doing well
    Almost seven years ago we designed and fabricated the signs for an exclusive subdivision. The theme was of Japanese origin. At the entrance we built two large rocks with the subdivision name - OYAMA ESTATES. Each of the lots also received their own smaller sign which had some positive attribute Japanese symbol and a house number attached
  • Designing a bracket
    After I mounted the dynamo to the marvellous machine it had a little shake which gave me some pause. Because the piece is to travel many thousands of miles in the back of a transport truck I became worried about a failure. The solution was to create another bracket which attached to the top portion. As I looked at the space it became apparent that if I added a bracket here it would interfere with the next gear I was going to add
  • Another award
    The sign collection for the Pin & Crown Pub were honoured once again. This time it was a first place award in the Signs System category of the Sign Media - Canada.
  • Another load gone
    With everything ready to go prior to the fifty-three foot trailer arrived we had a whole day to load it. This meant we could do the task without rushing. The pallets were numbered and one by one we carefully brought them to the truck and slid them into position. Since we don't have a loading dock we instead used the forklift along with a custom designed, two piece push rig that fits onto the forks. We can reach into a trailer about thirty feet.
  • Packing for the trip
    We think carefully about how we will move our pieces in the shop as we build them. They need to be safely lifted into the transport truck and secure while they are being transported. Once on site our customer needs to easily and safely move them once more, lift them into place and secure them in place permanently.
  • Telling a story with paint
    Yesterday I mounted the dynamo armature to the largest gear on the 'MARVELOUS MACHINE'. I then designed and cut a bracket to mount the outer housing. I painted and aged the pieces prior to assembly. It was pure magic to watch it all turn. It was looking pretty good but I wasn't finished quite yet.
  • Hands-on learning
    I've known Julio Pierre for ten years, and had the chance to visit with him at sign trade shows through that time. Julio works for MultiCam as an application specialist. He does demonstrations of the various machines which MultiCam builds. Through the last ten years Julio has answered my countless questions as I sought to learn more about MultiCam CNC machines
  • Another name plaque
    With the arrival of a guest in our shop tomorrow it was time to create a name plaque. Julio wants to learn how we do our finishing and there's no better way than doing it hands on! In order to demonstrate our techniques we needed a second name plaque as well, so Grant (my soon to be son-in-law) is getting a name plaque as well. Both plaques are to be identical save for the name. I started by building the vectors for the plaque components I then selected the plaque outline and created a flat relief
  • Dimensional samples
    One of the most striking thing anyone will notice as they walk into our shop and studio is the many dimensional samples hanging on the walls. There are more than one hundred and fifty in all (so far). It's obvious that we have invested a great deal of time and effort to create them. Why would we make such an effort? There are many answers to this question
  • Dynamo
    As I thought about what my 'MARVELOUS MACHINE' would do I decided the steam engine would power an electric generator which would in turn power the next device. With a little research I discovered they were called a DYNAMO when they were invented. On further research I found a photo of one I liked. I did a sketch to visualize how it would fit on a heavy duty bracket and have a gear to drive it. Then it was time to guild the routing files
  • Gearing up for fun
    We've made plenty of projects with gears through the years but this is the first time they will actually move and interact. That meant they had to be accurate without any fudging. A friend sent me a link for a simple gear making program a while back and using it made it easy to create the DXF files for the gears.  I made five different sized gears all with the same sized teeth
  • Almost done
    It's a bit hard to believe but we are at last nearing the end of the first phase of the NEB's fun World project. We have seven more posts to assemble and sculpt to finish this stage of the project. Through the last months we've designed hundreds of CNC files. We've cut up more than a hundred sheets of plywood, tons of sheet steel and many sheets of Precision Board
  • Quick install
    I love it when installations are painless and quick - just as we plan. The four signs for the Cultus Lake Boardwalk fell into this category. To install we measured thing up and marked the beams, then walked the signs up two ladders, positioned then and bolted them into place with lag bolts. It took less than five minutes per sign to do the installation.
  • Flying at the flywheel
    The flywheel for the 'MARVELOUS MACHINE' was a fun little project. Creating the file took a number of steps but it wasn't overly difficult. The entire file was designed using EnRoute. The spoke vectors looked a lot like giant tear drops I designed one, then duplicated it and flipped it
  • Using EnRoute as a design tool
    With the bowling alley now almost complete we are ready to move on to the next phase of the NEBs project. That is the Pub area. We had done some preliminary renderings last year. The primary element was the giant still. At that time they were going to dig out a section of the floor to create a lower level and then build a mezzanine level above.
  • Paint, paint and then paint again!
    The four signs for the Cultus Lake Boardwalk are now nearing completion. Each colour of the sign gets a minimum of three coats of paint to ensure a long life and fade resistance. That's a lot of cutting of the many colours!  The ribbit ride sign now only needs one more blend coat of yellow paint on the lettering plus some eyeball details before it is declared done. The three Cultus Lake Boardwalk signs need two more coats of blending on the letters plus three coats of white on the borders. Hopefully tomorrow has enough hours to get the job done
  • instant install
    The new MultiCam tech centre and office in Langley, British Columbia opens on Friday. That meant it was time to do a special delivery today. Grant and I loaded their new sign nd a few tools into the back of the shop truck and we headed down the road. Kelsey was at the office eagerly waiting for us to arrive
  • Full throttle story telling
    A simple electrical on-off switch would have done the job of turning my MARVELOUS MACHINE on and off. But a simple switch wouldn't have told the story I needed to tell. My MARVELOUS MACHINE is 'driven' by steam. To properly control suck a divide we needed a mechanical throttle, much like what one would find in an old steam train engine. I had built a similar throttle for our train steam engine last year
  • Last of the arches sculpted
    The NEBs bowling alley project temporarily took a backseat to some other pressing projects but as they went out the door we went back to work on the last of the arches for the bowling alley. Today we reached a milestone as the last two of the concrete arches were hand sculpted today. There were twenty-six arches over the bowling alleys and another five arches down each side of the massive room, making thirty-six arches in all. We have five more beams to complete as well as twelve posts for the centre of the room.
  • 90 days and counting
    We've attended many trade hows through the years and actively participated in various shows as well. The biggest one to date is the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO which is held in Orlando, Florida. The event boasts more than a thousand exhibitors and thirty thousand attendees from the amusement park industry around the world. After attending the show since the 1990's we finally pushed the go button to be a vendor there this year
  • Very special delivery
    We build many very big projects in our shop. Building them in the shop makes good sense. Our tools are all handy there. Building in the shop means we can be efficient
  • Clear as a bell
    In the last weeks whenever we've had hung visitors to our property I've taken them into the shop to look at the train. The visit includes climbing into the train engine cab and trying out the whistle and bell - much to the delight of the kids. While I also took delight in the loud noises I was watching how the kids used the equipment, taking mental notes on how to improve things. The kids couldn't resist twisting the various taps (as intended). With the operating controls of the train on the right side the bell cord was on wrong side for the kids to pull.
  • Each day another piece
    As I work on the train project a little each day I find the modern tools make it so much easier than when I started the project more than a decade ago. Back then I was happy to use the hand held plasma cutter - a huge step up from the acetylene torch we had used up to that point. But the curves were always a little shaky and there was still lots of grinding to do - especially when I was making multiples of a piece. Now it is as simple as designing a file in EnRoute on the computer and then sending it off the the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter
  • Next load ready to ship
    It was a holiday week which meant we only had only four workdays to complete our long list of things we needed to accomplish. The shipping date for the first ship and related pieces is set for next Tuesday. That morning, bright and early a giant crane and six 40' container trucks will be waiting.  That's enough to hold one complete Viking ship, two masts, the keels and the balance of the target feature pieces. A few weeks later the final five containers will begin their journey to Dubai
  • Every day a little progress
    Each day I try to spend at least a few minutes each day to do a little work on the grampa train. Most days it is a short time but it's enough to build a file in EnRoute, cut a piece or two on the MultiCam plasma cutter, pull a couple of welds or do a little grinding. I managed to assemble and finish the train controller yesterday. Today I cut some holes in the floor of the cab and fit it into place.
  • Hand control one
    I love to design and fabricate somewhat complicated things using EnRoute and CNC tools. For the grampa train project I could have used a simple push/pull choke knob to accomplish the adjustment of the drive controls. It would have worked just fine but it wouldn't be very authentic. Now I'm not at all a rivet counter kind of builder where everything has to be prototype down to the last detail but the thing I am modelling has to appear to function as it does in the prototype but in a fun way
  • Electric grampa train
    It's long been a dream of mine to won an electric train. Every Grampa should have one to share with his grand children. Only I wanted a very large train with the tracks circling the entire yard.
  • First half of Viking ship done
    Today, we finished the first half of the Viking ship. After the painting was finished we carefully lifted the top section of the ship with the forklift and bolted the shipping frames to the bottom. These will prevent the ship from sliding in the container during transit. These ship pieces are now ready to crane into the container. The detail throughout the piece is superb and the crew is justifiably proud.
  • One more day
    All the Viking ship armatures  are now welded. Every piece (23 per ship) has been sent off to the galvanizers to get its shine coat of zinc. So far we only have enough back to build one and a half halves of the ship.
  • Ship shaped
    Yesterday and today were busy days as the crew worked hard to sculpt the skin of half of the first Viking ship hull. Those many weeks of preparation made the sculpting process straightforward. The hull now looks bigger than ever! The second half of the hull will be ready for sculpting early next week - about the same time we'll begin the painting of the first half.
  • Heads or tails?
    With the cutting, fitting and welding on the Viking ships now behind us we can concentrate on the sculpting at last. Today that work began on the first Viking ship beginning with the head and tail of the keel and the shields which hang on the side of the ship's hull. Things went well and we begin the actual hull of the ship tomorrow. While the crew sculpted I spent the day with our client on the next project
  • Last weld on Viking ship structure!
    Just before quitting time today we did the last weld on the second Viking ship. It's been nine weeks of cutting, fitting, welding and grinding to get the structures of this project done. There's still little bits of welding on the dragon keel for the front plus some stands and pallets for shipping but that won't take long. We still have to send the rest of the pieces to the galvanizer but one half of the first ship is now ready for sculpting and the rest won't be far behind
  • It’s looking like the movie now!
    It is always interesting to watch the steps of each piece we create. First, there's the development of the idea on paper and on the screen, sometimes with small scale models. Then the piece goes through the engineering stage, to make sure the structure underneath fits inside and holds everything up securely. Then it's out to the shop to begin construction.
  • Big visual progress
    Work continues on the Viking ship project for Motiongate Park in Dubai. With the deadline quickly approaching the entire crew is working hard to finish off the features.The piece closest to finish is the large target. The last coats of the base colours were painted on yesterday. That meant we could apply the glazes today. The painting crew worked in teams, liberally applying the brown and dark grey glazes and then judiciously wiping them off.
  • Viking ship progress
    There hasn't been a lot of routing done in the shop over the last weeks as we concentrate on the extremely large Viking ships and target features for Motiongate theme park in Dubai. We are making great progress however. Both ships are now out of the shop getting their final framework welded into place. They are just too large to do inside the shop building. The two big mast assemblies head off to the galvanizers today.
  • New video feature of EnRoute 6
    Todays project is a simple dimensional washroom sign. The purpose of posting it here is to show off a new feature of the newest version of EnRoute (6) =. This feature is that each function has a video attached to it. This is a huge plus for those learning the program or simply expanding their capabilities
  • Large Viking target sculpted
    The router has been very quiet of late as we concentrate on getting out the large sculpted features of the Viking project at Motiongate in Dubai. The process has been long and arduous at times. I remember well the first time I watched the movie 'How to train your dragon'. As I looked at the wonderful textures and color of all of the invented digital world in that movie I thought how cool it would be to build it for real
  • New in EnRoute 6
    I've had the chance to test drive EnRoute 6 for a while now and love it! There are a bunch of new things and many of the old things run better and faster than ever. One of my favourite things about the new software is that the dongle is now a thing of the past. This means you simply open the program and GO! Modern technology is a wonderful thing! There's lots of new symmetric textures. Text can now be copied and pasted from other programs.  The fourth axis on my router is now fully supported.
  • MultiCam plasma magic
    Today, using our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter we cut the last large piece for theViking ships designed for Motiongate in Dubai. Over the last weeks Peter has created more than 60 precise files using EnRoute software. Hundreds of pieces have been cut from heavy steel plate. This complicated project would have been much, much harder to do any other way. We love our Multicam!
  • Occasion Station
    There is a second station for the train that travels around NEB's Garden. It is called the Occasion Station. It is a fanciful and ornate creation that speaks of the formal English garden in which it rests.
  • Designs for NEB’s
    Design work continues on the NEB's Fun World project. It will involve many different projects including miniature golf, a train, a micro brewery and much more. Over the next weeks I'll be doing lots of drawings. As soon as the Viking ships for Dubai are done we'll kick into making all of the ideas come to life.
  • Dubai Viking ship progress
    Since my last post showing the Viking ship frame we have made significant progress. The engineer required us to use heavy steel members with plenty of welding. The ship has to withstand lots of moving as we put it together, it travels to the galvanizer and also the long journey to Dubai in the middle east. To facilitate it's removal from our (rather small) shop at to fit into the galvanizing vats it will break into six sections on each level.
  • Designing with EnRoute
    Almost any time I need to design something in scale EnRoute is my program of choice. The program can handle large scales without difficulty. I've designed entire theme parks using it. Currently we are in the preliminary stages of designing a new project
  • Heavy duty steel!
    We've been busy this week welding up the lower sections of the hull. The cutting files for the plate sections were all designed in EnRoute and cut on the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter. Even though there are many large pieces, they went together very quickly on account of the accuracy of the cuts. Three days into the assembly we are making good progress!
  • A very big ship!
    With the workshops now behind us we are full blast into building the Viking ships for the Motiongate project in Dubai. Between the workshops we kept the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter busy and cut through tons of steel plate. These custom cut pieces will form the shape of the hull at each level. They have been cleaned up and bevelled where they will be welded together.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Atlanta EnRoute Workshop
    Home   |   Applications   |    Contact “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. Learn More Atlanta Workshop Location 3123 Humphries Hill Rd
  • Painting techniques
    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
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Instant age
    The rules of the Sign Challenge competition require that our pieces be shipped in a two foot by two foot box and then be pulled out and displayed on top. Rather than drape the box I decided to make it a part of the display. To maximize the size of the centre piece it meant the walls of the box needed to be as thin as possible. Steel construction was the obvious answer and with our MultiCam CNC plasma  handy the job was easy.
  • The magic is in the paint
    No matter how one's dimensional work is done, whether by using software and a router or if it is done by hand the real magic happens with the paint. The current Sign Challenge piece is a good example. The routed tracks and hand sculpted vehicle body and character look great un painted.
  • Fun details bottom to top!
    I'm having a blast sculpting the details on the Sign Challenge piece. It's a chance to go wild with rivets and have some creative fun.  There's detail at every level of this little piece. The engine is a four cylinder Hemi and was a great deal of fun to do.
  • Mud magic
    The Viking ship project for Motiongate in Dubai continues. The galvanized frames were wired using galvanized lath and special order galvanized tie wire.  Then we could begin the sculpting process.
  • On track…
    My grand daughter Phoebe and I managed a little sculpting time this weekend. We finished the base of the sculpture and mounted the tracks. We even got a good start on the lower portion of the vehicle. I'm happy so far. I've designed the box and stand as well as the upper portions of the imaginative vehicle.
  • Sign Challenge SURPRISE
    There's only seven weeks to go before the 2016 Sign Challenge in Orlando at the International Sign Association Expo. I'll bet there are a bunch of sign makers now scrambling to finish designing and building their entries. Peter and I were a little smug in the knowledge that we had our entries ready to go for some time now.  Then I talked to our friends at Coastal Enterprises.
  • TEDx Talk by Dan Sawatzky
    Last week I was privileged to give a talk at a local TEDx event. My talk was titled "It's time to RETIRE!"  For those interested in seeing the video I include it here...
  • Going from the gold
    The 2016 Sign Challenge to be held at the International Sign Association Expo is coming fast! Peter's and my entry pieces have been ready since the new year but before we sent them off we had one more piece to build. It's the trophy that all of the entrants are hoping for. The design of the prize is meant to reflect the competition itself. The dimensional letters are stacked up inside a crate.
  • Some serious bling!
    Normally the welded steel armatures we build for our sculptures don't get any treatment. Most of the the frames never see the light of day and are hidden inside our sculptures behind a thick layer of sculpted concrete. The pieces going to Dubai are going into a water park environment and the client asked the they be galvanized to ensure they don't rust. Today the galvanizer phoned to tell us they have some out of the zinc vat and were ready for pickup.
  • Six more routed
    With all of the other things going on in our shop these days we manage to design and route three or four name plaques each day. There are still six weeks until the workshops so we will have time to do them at a somewhat leisurely pace. Six more are now ready for paint.
  • Simon
    Simon's name plaque was all about using texture bitmaps to manipulate the relief in cool ways. I wanted the finished name plaque to resemble two plates riveted together with the lettering raised over the top. The first step was to create the necessary vectors. I then created two separate fat reliefs. When I hit the render button they appeared as one relief but this is because they were the same height.
  • Dustin
    Dustin's name plaque was the next to be done. I used a method and tools that I don't often use in EnRoute. The vectors were designed (as usual) in EnRoute. To create a chamfered edge I used the bevel tool and the 'limit to height' command. By defining the base (0.35") and the height of the finished relief (0.75") as well of the angle of the bevel (45 degrees)I had full control of the results
  • Viking arsenal
    Work has begun in earnest on the first of the features for the Viking project. The crew has created quite the arsenal of Viking style weapons! Using EnRoute to create the files and the MultiCam Plasma cutter saved countless hours in creating these pieces. The same is true for the ships yet to come! We used the plasma cutter to cut the bases for the features from half inch thick plate steel. The structural frames were then welded off of this base.
  • Lorna’s name plaque
    It's that time once more. With the Sculpting Magic Workshops now just over seven weeks away it is time to begin preparations. That means it's time to do the name plaques which we present to all attendees. That's more than thirty different pieces to create
  • Glad you axed
    With the plans, models and engineered drawings now behind us it is time at last to begin actual construction. The first bit to get the green light was the dock barrels, boxes and weapons. We decided for maximum reality we would build the axe heads and sword blades in steel.
  • Ready… aim…
    The Viking ship project has now grown to include a thirty foot and six foot wide targets (for water guns and the like) as well as some crates, barrels and weapon features for the dock. We first had to go through an extensive design process which involved models, concept drawings and many pages of engineered plans.
  • Branding
    We have now produced five videos and we find they have really boosted our marketing efforts. These videos represent a large investment but have proven their worth already. This month we had the opportunity to add another to the series. We wanted to talk about ( and more importantly show) how we can make place of business stand out from the crowd. The video features MultiCam's Western Canadian technical centre
  • Massive plans
    Our current big project is the design and fabrication of a pair of forty foot long Viking ships. We started with a scale model built at one inch to the foot. The model proved handy in our talks with the client, building confidence in our abilities to handle the project. The model also proved to be a great reference as we discussed how everything would go together. Then we sat down at our design desk and started work on the plans
  • New bitmap magic
    Our  TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION  of bitmaps works really well, allowing us to achieve a whole lot of fancy and creative textures in a hurry. But many have asked me to work up more woodgrains for the next collection which will be released soon. I'm all ears. But I also wanted to take things a whole lot further to make the textures do much, much more. It is exciting to watch the new collection come together.
  • Viking delight
    Our next big project looks to be a fun one. We've been asked to build two forty-foot long viking ships which will go to Dubai. It's a challenge as they will have to be built in sections to fit inside shipping containers. And the assembly has to be simple enough for someone else to do the install. Our job will end when the pieces are loaded into the truck on our property.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Final pics of the 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!
  • 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.
  • 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
  • NICE pictures of 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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 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
  • 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'
  • 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.
  • Sign Challenge piece done
    I had made it my goal to finish my Sign Challenge piece before the New Year. But like all goals the world conspires to keep you from them. I had made a good start early on, bringing the piece very close to finish. Then I got sidetracked with all manners of other projects.
  • Rolling start
    I've loved working with metal since I learned to weld more than two decades ago. Almost anything we can imagine can be fashioned with welded steel, or at least the structural framework to go inside. Using EnRoute to design files and the new MultiCam plasma cutter to cut the pieces has raised the art to a whole new level. It takes minutes to design the cutting files and only minutes more to cut the pieces
  • Magic chairs – just for fun
    Many people who know me well claim I do things far too fast. It's sims not true. The truth is I have so many ideas and projects I simply need to hurry to get them all done. 🙂 In my studio I have two office chairs which are well worn and somewhat broken.
  • More plasma cutter eye candy
     Peter's Sign Challenge piece would have been almost impossible to accomplish without the new MultiCam plasma cutter. At the very east it made things ten times faster. The speed of the design in EnRoute and the precision of the cutting made fitting the pieces dead easy. The plasma cutter also allowed a complexity which wouldn't have been possible any other way. The top section of the box is removable and slides up into the box from the bottom
  • Plasma cutter ease
    When we took delivery of our MultiCam plasma cutter we weren't sure how much we would use it. Prior to that acquisition we had many base plates cut and the occasional shaped piece but it wasn't too often. Having the plasma cutter handy close at hand changed the way we do many things in the same manner that the CNC router did ten years ago. Few projects are done with the plasma cutter alone but rather the many cut metal pieces are integrated into larger projects which also use other tools along with our hand methods
  • Trade show booth – part six
    Work continues on the trade show booth. The last of the sculpted concrete was done yesterday. This meant we could get on with the final coats of paint and glazes. Once the glazes were done we started fastening the shelves onto the backdrop.
  • Wired to the MAX!
    Peter is making great progress on his Sign Challenge piece. He's now finished glazing and aging the top section and has moved on to the wiring.  It is amazing to see how the addition of the various coloured wired changes the piece in such a dramatic fashion. The wires ties everything together beautifully and give the impression of incredible detail
  • Trade show booth – part five
    As we design any project I feel that two things can do a great deal to make it stand out. These are colour and texture. On the trade show booth we will use both to best advantage in a variety of mediums. Warm rust and weathered patinas will play against cool worn teals and smooth riveted steel against the deep gnarly texture of weathered wood. We are still in the early stages of the finishes but the project is already starting to look pretty cool.
  • Trade show booth – part four
    With addition of the top faux I-beam along the top of the back wall the welding done on the front of the booth and it was time to begin the painting process. We had originally planned to have the steel all exposed and rusty but changed our mind to have it a weathered teal green instead. Before we got to that we first had to add the rivets and textured primer coat to make the back paneling look live steel. We used Abracadabra Sculpting epoxy to fashion the rivets. I carefully laid on three coats of teal green on a steel shelf and allowed it to dry
  • Sign Challenge progress
    Peter has now finished the sculpting on his Sign Challenge piece and has moved on to the painting process. It is looking pretty amazing!By the end of day tomorrow he should be into the glazing and aging process. My piece has most of the base colours finished but we still have to do a little sculpting on one small element. Once that is painted we will move on to the aging and glazes
  • Trade show booth – part three
    The current large project underway in our shop has used our MultiCam plasma cutter in a large way. It has in fact caused me to fall in love with the handy, dandy machine and the ease in which we can create custom metal parts. We've taken the design/build approach. Each piece is first sized up visually.
  • Trade show booth – part two
    I drew up concept plans for an entire West Coast town more than five years ago. Every building and structure was styled in an energetic, steampunk/nautical flavour. I had a lot of fun creating the concepts but unfortunately the group was not able to get the funding necessary to proceed and the plan died. Those concepts (which I still own) have lain dormant in my files ever since.
  • Train model done
    Today Jenessa glued on the last small bits and and painted on the last brush strokes to finish both train models. They look spectacular! As soon as we get the final measurements from the train chassis builder we will start in on the full size version.
  • Arms and legs
    Each time I get a few minutes I add more pieces to the Sign Challenge piece. It is largely hand sculpting at this point. The latest additions are the rocket legs and the rocket engine. The piece is a parody of the sign making industry and makes commentary on two long standing issues. The first is the old time 'snapper'.
  • Starting the sculpt of the vehicles
    Once the accurately routed vehicle forms are securely anchored in place, it is relatively easy and quick to apply  thin coat of sculpting epoxy and sculpt in the fine details. The character armatures are first built from twisted wire, over which I press on a little sculpting epoxy to form the basic shape. Once cured a final layer is again pressed on and the details are sculpted in. The motor cycle was first along with the form for the girl hanging on the back
  • Building the vehicles – part four
    When we left off the vehicle was looking pretty good but now it was time to start in on the customization to make four different vehicles. The vehicles would be a pickup, a long flatbed truck and a short flatbed cab over. Behind the bar were three round corner rectangles. I selected them and made them into a 1" tall relief.
  • Building a 1930’s vehicle
    One of the things I love about EnRoute is how I can combine all kinds of shapes to form anything I can imagine. Sometimes it is a matter of adding things together and sometimes it is about taking things away. By changing things up just a little I can modify the shapes and change them at will to make something different. On the vehicles I started with the headlights.  The first step was a simple oval using the dome tool
  • Building the vehicles – part three
    One of the things I love about EnRoute is how I can combine all kinds of shapes to form anything I can imagine. Sometimes it is a matter of adding things together and sometimes it is about taking things away. By changing things up just a little I can modify the shapes and change them at will to make something different. On the vehicles I started with the headlights.
  • Building the vehicles – part two
    The bodies of the car were both a great deal of fun and also very challenging. I had to imagine all of the different shaped building blocks which would form the various body panels. I first created the vectors for half of the vehicles, duplicated, flipped and aligned before combining them. In the first screen capture we see the front and rear fenders, the passenger cab and the hood of the little truck The square shape will form the box of the pickup. The outside oval , which is the chassis base was only used to guide my sizing of the vehicle
  • Building the vehicles – part one
    The Sign Challenge sculpture will have five hover vehicles circling around a central rocket. I built some common part files and then modified them to make each vehicle unique. I began by drawing up the concept art for two of the vehicles. The file was built entirely in EnRoute. I built the vectors and then the reliefs as individual pieces, and then nudged them up or down in the front view to make everything work
  • Anchoring the Dinosaur
    The plasma cut dinosaur is definitely a bit top heavy. We needed him to be somewhat movable and thus a sturdy (and heavy) base was required. We decided he would be perched on a well weathered log made from concrete. Matt had been bringing in some pretty cool samples of gnarly wood which would serve as the perfect inspiration.
  • Pirate train model
    We are building a pirate train for  Scallywag Bay. We have partnered with one of the best train builders in the world for the project. Hillcrest Shops, from California is building the chassis of the engine and rail cars. It all started with a concept drawing.
  • Starting the color
    Before I could do the final assembly of the 'SIGN' letters and the rounded top of the planet I needed to do the painting and gilding. It would be impossible to do once they are in place.  I started with  two coats of plain copper metallic over the entire letters and background. I allowed things to dry in-between coats. Then I did a blend coat of black cherry on the bottom, through copper and into a metallic orange on the upper portions.
  • Assembling the sign planet
    It's not often we do simple cutouts with a fair amount of assembly in our shop but because this is a detailed display piece that will live out it's life indoors I tackled things a little different this time.  The 'sign' portion of the sign will be fastened to the top of the lid, and then turned upside down and slipped inside for transport. The lid has a raised oval which will house the transformer for the LED lights. The plasma cut 'steel ODYSSEY' letters were positioned and welded to this raised oval. The letters are simple cutouts with a dropped center
  • That’s a box!
    With all the pieces perfectly cut on the MultiCam CNC plasma it was a snap to fit them together, tack everything in place to align all the pieces and then weld things up solid. Once everything was welded it was time for some serious grinding and polishing. It is now a serious and heavy duty box. Once the grinding was done and the lid was fit I sprayed on the reacting acid and watched the rust begin to form instantly.
  • A box with a whole lot of ‘space’
    Today I fired up EnRoute to build the files for the sides of the box. Building files for the Plasma cutter is so much simpler than the CNC router. I only have to think in two dimensions.
  • Finished at last
    Some projects, particularly those we do for ourselves can seem to take forever. We've been slowly but steadily working on finishing all of the details on the new house, which we moved into more than two years ago. Inside we have things pretty much wrapped up but on the outside there was a little more to do. The last area that needed it's trim was the giant front window
  • Crustacean creation complete
    Painting the crab submersible was fun from beginning to end. I began with two coats base coats of gold. Then I did a blend coat with the gold on the bottom and a blend to a deep red on the top. The model instantly came to life.
  • Spring 2016 Sculpture Magic Workshops
    Dates set for Spring 2016 Sculpture Magic Workshops My email box has been full of late with requests for the dates of the next workshop. So full in fact we've decided to host TWO Sculpting Magic Workshops this coming spring. After looking over our schedules we have set the dates. The first Sculpting Magic Workshop will be April 15, 16, and 17, 2016.
  • Bottle cap
    I was asked just how I might create a bottle cap in EnRoute. While I suppose there are many ways to go about it here's my method. First, depending on how accurate you wish to be you would need to measure a bottle cap to get the proportions.
  • Feeling crabby!
    Peter had first dibs on the sculpting of the crab submarine but he was called away to do other things. With the deadline quickly approaching that meant the fun job fell to me. I wasted no time in getting busy! I was feeling crabby! Peter had done a little work and set the direction of the project.
  • Scribbling ideas
    When I received my invitation to the 2016 Sign Invitational it didn't take very long for me to think up a great idea. Not long at all. I quickly grabbed my sketchbook and over the next hour filled ten or twelve pages with scribbles (to most) of ideas.
  • 2016 Sign Invitational
    I absolutely love a challenge and when this arrived in my inbox I jumped at the chance!  Of the twenty invited sign makers there have been twelve of the world's best respond already. The competition is going to be incredibly intense and fun! Best of all of the entrants will be gathered in Orlando at the International Sign Show for everyone to talk to and perhaps garner some great tips. I look forward to seeing the entries all lined up in a row.  MultiCam has stepped up as a sponsor of the display space for the entries. Precision Board (Coastal Enterprises)  has also signed on as a sponsor
  • 2016 Sign Challenge
    I absolutely love a challenge and when this arrived in my inbox I jumped at the chance!  Of the twenty invited sign makers there have been twelve of the world's best respond already. The competition is going to be incredibly intense and fun! Best of all of the entrants will be gathered in Orlando at the International Sign Show for everyone to talk to and perhaps garner some great tips. I look forward to seeing the entries all lined up in a row.  MultiCam has stepped up as a sponsor of the display space for the entries. Precision Board (Coastal Enterprises)  has also signed on as a sponsor.
  • Adding a little color
    Two of the models are now in the paint stage and coming along nicely.  It won't be long until they are finished. The little tugboat is sporting all of it's base colors and is ready for the first of it's glazes.
  • Start of the sunken ship sculpt
    Angie and I made good progress on the sunken ship model today in two one hour sculpting sessions. She mixed the epoxy while I sculpted, except what I was called away and she got to do the little crab on the rock beside the ship. In an hour or two at most tomorrow we should have this thing ready for paint.  Since its a study model to be used to talk to sponsors of the attraction I didn't overly fret about detail, instead concentrating on capturing the story and mood. It's coming together nicely and should paint up pretty nice
  • Sub model – part one
    The second project study model we are building is a submarine. But it's not a typical sub. This one is designed to appeal to kids... something they would imagine to explore the deep
  • Four pound delight
    I've been a vocal advocate for thirty pound foam for a long time. For CNC routing that isn't about to change. But occasionally we build small study models which require lots of hand work. Thirty pound Precision Board, our material of usual choice, is tough to work by hand - especially at this scale.
  • Imagine the possibilities
    When we installed our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter last week we weren't sure exactly what we would do with it. We just knew the things that are now possible in our shop will be very cool and unlimited in scope. It was the same with the MultiCam CNC router ten years ago. Today Peter designed the brackets for the gutters they will install on their house. The image was drawn by hand and then imported into EnRoute for vector tracing which only took a second
  • Dino comes to life
    The dinosaur bones were slipped over a bent steel pipe to form the backbone of the velociraptor. I spaced then out and took a look to see how it would work. It needed a little tweaking and twisting to get things looking right. To give the skeleton more life I cut both ends of the pipe and added more bend before welding them back on at a slightly different angle.
  • Pile of bones!
    Once we got the new MultiCam plasma cutter set up and tested it was time to give it a spin. Russell asked me for a file and I was happy to oblige. It was time for Phoebe's mailbox to be cut at last! It was pure magic to watch it run through the file! It ran flawlessly - right out of the box! We had quite the pile of pieces when the machine was done.
  • Digging up some old bones
    Yesterday, Russel Boudria, the head trainer from MultiCam in Texas arrived to set up our shiny new CNC plasma cutter and train us how to use it. He was eager to get started even though he had spent most of the day in transit. That's dedication! We worked a couple of hours levelling the table, sorting out wires, hoses and cables, and testing things out. We got to the point where we could move the gantry and test fire the machine. Tomorrow we'll begin some serious cutting
  • Complex robot arm – part two
    Now it is time to move on to the brush and pedestal of the robot arm. We use the create mesh/revolve tool for this operation. Open the dialogue box and simply follow the steps to create the mesh. I entered 100 for the values in the stacks and slices - this creates the resolution (number of facets) of the mesh. As always it is important to do a render (in multiple views) to make sure that what happened was what you wanted.
  • Complex robot arm – part one
    One of the projects I'll be sharing at the workshop is a fancy name plaque I did a couple of years ago for Jeff Hartman, one of the authors of EnRoute software. Their company is called Artistic Automation and so this seemed like a fitting idea. The projects used a bunch of the wonderful features of EnRoute Pro. The vectors were all created using the draw tools in EnRoute
  • House number
    As we were renovating Peter and Hailey's house they decided they wanted a little different approach to the house number on the outside. The house was built in the 60's and at the start was very plain and basic. With the addition of the fancy porch, wide overhangs, large timbers and custom hand sculpted rock work it is really becoming a showpiece these days. The number is small in this picture and is partially hidden by Peter. They hand sculpted the rock work along the bottom third of the wall
  • The magic of color!
    The name plaques are amazing as dimensional pieces, fresh off the MultiCam but as we apply the paint, glazes and gilding they become spectacular. Becke did the bulk of the painting on this year's workshop plaques and after so many years of applying her magic touch she has become a master carts man at the task. I'll briefly describe the techniques she used for each attendees plaque. All plaques first got a hand brushed Coastal Enterprises waterbed primer hand brushed on to achieve a subtle texture coat
  • Slicing a relief
    Slicing is really simple once you understand what is happening and how it works. Getting there was confusing to me but then again I have to bumble through something a few times to get a handle on it. The six foot tall spark plug was almost nine inches deep and our material was only two inches thick. Hence the need to slice.
  • Modifying an existing relief
    A friend of mine recently sent me a file they had created some time ago. It only needed a small modification to make it usable. They had someone make the file for them a few years ago.
  • It’s like waiting for Christmas morning!
    This morning a giant eighteen wheeler pulled up in front of our drive. We had been excitedly waiting for it! Tied to the deck was our brand new MultiCam CNC plasma cutter! It didn't take long to untie and pull the tarp off. I then gingerly poked the tangs of the forklift into the bottom and removed the heavy machine from the deck. It was a four hundred foot journey to the back of the shop where we lifted it into position in the new addition and lowered it into it's new home - a metal building still in progress at the rear of our property
  • Denver Workshop SOLD OUT. Two more workshops still available.
    The Denver Workshop is now sold out. There is a great group of eager participants signed up for the workshop in Denver. Preparations are well under way and travel plans are all made. We are looking forward to a great time of learning! • Hackensack NJ, October 8-9 @ Multicam Technology Center • Anaheim, CA, December 3-4 @ Multicam Technology Center   “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
  • Cam
    Cam is a returning workshop attendee. Last time I made him a riveted 'metal' panel. Cam is an engineer (among many other things) and so I decided to make him something techy this go around. The panel is relatively simple but I used a couple of tricks to add more dimension. I drew the piece entirely in EnRoute
  • Joel
    It's both challenging and fun to come up with a different name plaque for every attendee of our workshops. While there are some that are somewhat similar there have been well over two hundred original name plaques created so far. creating the name plaques has been a great exercise that sharpens my skills as a designer and using EnRoute.
  • Steve
    For the next name plaque I wanted to achieve the look of a cast manhole cover. EnRoute's drawing tools made this effect very easy. I first drew a long vertical rectangle and then used the duplication tool to make copies and space them perfectly. I duplicated the multiple rectangles, rotated them 90 degrees and placed them over the vertical ones. Then I used the combine tool
  • Caitlyn
    Caitlyn's name plaque was next up. The typestyle I picked had some pretty sharp and thin ends. If the letters are routed this way the letters become pretty fragile. The solution is to thicken the tips up. For me the quickest way to do it is to draw new ends and then merge these new shapes with the letter vectors.
  • Andy’s name plaque
    Andy's name plaque is relatively simple. I created a circle vector using the drawing tools and then did the type and created an outline around these vectors. I selected the circle vector and created the base relief using the dome tool. I then imported the log end texture (from the  TEXTURE MAGIC  collection) and applied it to the relief. I wanted the lettering border to follow a similar contour to the domed relief so I used the offset tool to create a new circle vector
  • Ready… Set…
    We've been busy for the last year working on hundreds of signs and features for the Scallywag Bay Adventure Park in Trinidad. Over the last six months we carefully packed those features into shipping containers and sent them on their way. Now, at last the onsite construction is set to begin. I travelled down to the Caribbean this week to oversee the final checks. The first order of business was to do a site survey, confirming all boundaries and forty-two critical points in the park in order to locate the buildings, rides, pools and other key features
  • Denver Workshop Agenda
    We are getting excited about the Denver workshop and have signed up quite a number of eager attendees. There is still room but time is quickly running out. If you are interested please don't miss out. Denver, CO VIP event Sept 16-18 Meet the EnRoute developers at this special 3 Day "EnRoute Pro" event in Denver, CO.
  • Laura
     Our painting crew always enjoys painting a more feminine name plaque. These days our workshops have more ladies in attendance and so I happily oblige. For Laura I picked a font called curlicues. I modified the letters to fit in with an elongated 'L'. A suitable border for the plaque was designed in EnRoute.
  • Jeremy
    There are certain tools I love to use in EnRoute to get the results we need. One is the outline or offset tool. On pretty much every name plaque I create (and there have been hundreds) I like to have a border around the lettering. I do it on most of our signs as well
  • Kenna’s name plaque
    Kenna's name plaque was next up. I decided on a simple oval with a casual, brush style lettering. Once the vectors were done I created a flat oval relief to start with.  The flat oval relief was then modified by dooming up the centre portion. To add texture with a batman I imported the bitmap which sized automatically to the bounding box
  • Finishing off the dog
    We often get comments about how hard it must be to do the detailed painting of our pieces. The truth is the process is actually very simple and quick. The key is to design it so it works that way. Painting the pieces in the correct order also minimizes the cutting we need to do.
  • Revisiting Cap-it
    A little more than four years ago I built some fun displays for a local company called Cap-it. The stands were used too hold their catalogues near the entrance to their stores. The step by step is posted here...    Cap-it trucks posts Now they are launching a new advertising campaign featuring a British bulldog mascot. And so I got the call for a new display
  • NANCY name plaque
    As always it started with a quick rough sketch. I decided that some rivets in the corners would be cool. To make the type look old I used the transform tool to add jitter to the lettering. Then I added a border
  • BOB name plaque
    Bob's name plaque was the first out of the gate. I started with a quick hand drawing to work out the basics.  The first task in EnRoute was to work out the vectors. I started with a flat relief
  • Scribbling down ideas
    With the next Sculpture Magic Workshop now less than two and a half months away it is time to begin preparations. We start with the name plaques as they make great filler projects. I began tonight, scribbling ideas in my sketchbook while I watched the superman movie. I managed to nail down eleven concepts. Not all are complete but once I get this far the rest comes easy
  • anticipation
    There is much to do before we receive our new MultiCam CNC plasma cutter including building some new shop space to house it. But we'll get started on that next week. This week we are still dreaming up our first project for the new machine. I believe I know what it will be but I'm not quite ready to spill those beans yet
  • 2016 TEA Award Nomination Video
    We are pleased to announce that Cultus Lake Adventure Park has been nominated for a THEA award via the Themed Entertainment Association. We had to submit photos and a video to support the nomination and here's the video. It shows the park at it's best. There are many nominations for this prestigious award and it will be some time before we find out the results
  • Going all out from the start!
    It isn't often we underwhelm a customer but once in a blue moon I submit a design that doesn't achieve what our customer is looking for. A recent project is a good example. Two factors influenced my design. One was the work we had done for them previously and the second was a concern for their budget. The project was the rebranding and main sign of a small campground
  • Visit to the many factory
    We love to be creative. We also love tools that allow us to go as far as possible in this regard. Today we got to visit the ultimate candy factory - where they make MultiCam CNC machines in Texas.
  • Visit to the candy factory
    We love to be creative. We also love tools that allow us to go as far as possible in this regard. Today we got to visit the ultimate candy factory - where they make MultiCam CNC machines in Texas.
  • Main signs finished at last
    One of the first pieces we designed and routed for Scallywag Bay Adventure Park was in fact among the last to be finished. I designed the hull shape for the small ship and posted it back in May of 2014. Here's the two step by step entries of that process...    Entry one     Entry two The sign was designed as always by hand and with the computer to create the vectors.
  • Hells Gate revisited
    Almost ten years ago we built a new proscenium for the Hells Gate Airtram attraction. The airtram is situated in a spectacular river canyon and features a 500 foot drop from the highway to the far side of the river. The canyon narrows to just over a hundred feet wide at that point and is well over a hundred feet deep. More than twice as much water flows through this narrow canyon than over Niagara Falls.
  • Cultus Lake Adventure Park finished!
    The Cultus Lake Adventure Park project is now wrapped up and operational. After so many months of work on the project it is great to see the park in operation. The signs look great in their intended setting! The rides in this section of the park are much more extreme and the theme work is a little more sparse.
  • Denver Workshop coming fast!
    We are now putting together the agenda for the three day Denver Workshop in mid-September where I will be presenting along with Jeff Harman and Thad Staples. We'll be covering everything from basics through fully dimensional pieces. There will also be plenty of hands-on in the evenings including how we finish our pieces.  It promises to be a great workshop.
  • Why not in the real world too!
    In the last four days I've grabbed more than twelve hundred photographs of everything Disney. What I've seen is nothing short of breath taking. Such wonderful attention to detail and story telling at every turn.
  • Trip for inspiration
    This week Peter and I are in Tokyo visiting the two Disney parks here. The Disney Imagineers are the very best in this industry and these two parks demonstrate that at every turn. This week we will observe and record as much of that creative work as possible.  In two days I've taken more than 900 photos. Wonderful design abounds with great examples of CNC routing.
  • Paint paint paint
    The last few weeks have been largely all about paint as we near the end of the second phase of the Cultus Lake Adventure Park. For that project there were three main signs. I've posted the various phases of the project in the last weeks. Here's a series of pictures showing the painting of these projects by our talented crew.
  • Skallywag promotional video
    Our client in Trinidad asked us to do up a short video of the project to aid them in promoting it as it is built. Because many of the big pieces are already shipped we decided to focus on the wonderful characters that will populate Skallywag Bay.
  • Looking back ten years
    I was looking through old posts on this blog and came across one I posted five years ago. It was reviewing my decision of five years before that about the jump to purchase a MultiCam CNC router and EnRoute software. It also meant learning to use new materials such as Precision Board.
  • Why 30 lb Precision Board?
    The most often question I get asked is why we exclusively use 30 lb (or higher) density Precision Board High Density Urethane in our shop. The answer is simple. It makes sense. Our decision was based on real world experience. It's all we keep in stock.
  • Drawing by hand
    These days I know many designers go right to their computer to work on a design. I like to start in my sketchbook with a good old fashioned pen. Even simple signs are designed this way.
  • My design tools of choice
    It is important that as we design we use tools that allow us to concentrate on the task rather than what we use. I don't know much about computers nor do I wish to. I just want what I use to work without problems. My solution is to use an Apple computer (running with Parallels for EnRoute). I also grew up with a pencil in my hand.
  • Saving the best for last
    The last sign for the Cultus Lake Adventure Park was designed and routed earlier this week. Similar to most of our signs it was routed in there layers to allow us to laminate a welded steel frame inside. Then it was time for a little hand sculpting fun. A 5/8" steel rod was formed and glued up into the top of the sign and then we used Abracadabra Sculpting Epoxy to do the snake. To save some material I crunched up some heavy duty tin foil to bulk out the body
  • Just one more little thing
    We take great pride in taking each and every one of the signs we craft way over the top. Often this means putting in more than the original design called for. We've found that by building to our personal standards (and raising the bar each time) we always exceed the expectations of our customers. It also keeps all of our projects exciting and FUN! The Runaway Mine Train sign is a good example.
  • Runaway Mine Train sign part 3
    Once I had the parts all routed it was a simple matter of gluing up the three layers with the welded steel framework encased inside. Two tubular arms stuck out the back for mounting to the building structure. I used the die grinder to even out the edges, purposely leaving a little texture of course. This same texture was done to the back of the sign as well.
  • Mine car wheels (Revisited)
    About three years ago I started a demo sign project that featured a mine and mining car. Just about then we got really busy and it languished until last year. Then I used the parts to create a little mining car that became the weather vane for the water tower of the Cultus Lake Adventure Park. Now with the addition of the Runaway mine train I needed another set of mine car wheels
  • Runaway Train sign
    The next project to be created is the Runaway Mine Train sign. The file wasn't difficult but it had a lot of pieces.  The first step was to decide what would be on each layer. Much would be built as separate reliefs and then merged at the end. I then made a vector around the outside
  • Wheels
    I enjoy building complex files that take lots of individual steps to accomplish. I find them to be a real challenge and I LOVE a challenge! Today's complex files are the wheels and tires for this jeep. Save for the raised lettering I built the entire file inside EnRoute. The tires will be extreme lug mud tires and so I first created the chevrons that go around the outside of the tire. I only had to build one and EnRoute automatically does the rest.
  • More drawing the old fashioned way
    I thought I might show another project's development in sketches. These were done in my sketchbook on a plane ride as I traveled home on a business trip. The drawings were quick and I filled there pages of my sketchbook in about half an hour or less. You can see the drawings were far from perfect. The client would never see them as they were just to guide our building of the feature.
  • Exploring ideas with pen and paper
    One of the keys to coming up with a great and original designs is to learn to draw. While many may say they simply can't draw I believe it is a skill we can develop to a great degree. The key is to practice, practice practice. I buy inexpensive blank hard bound books (Staples) and fill them with ideas. I keep them handy and stashed wherever I might need one.
  • oops! I make mistakes too.
    The artwork for the Blasting Barrels sign was done months ago. A second sign which is mounted to the ride was to be built by the ride manufacturer in Italy and the owner ordered that sign spelled with a dropped 'g'. I got the memo to change ours to suit but promptly forgot. When it came time to create the file to route the sign I looked at my original artwork and then set to work
  • International Sign Association show
    Today was the first day of the International Sign Association convention/show in Las Vegas. The display we created for MultiCam arrived safe and sound and their people had everything perfectly set up for me. It was with great pleasure I was privileged to show and talk about how we use EnRoute in conjunction with our MultiCam machine to do our dimensional work using Precision Board. It was with great delight I talked to hundreds of wonderful people, greeting old friends and new.
  • Another huge honor
    Almost thirty-five years ago I picked up Signs of the Times magazine's annual contest issue at my local sign supplier. As I perused the glossy pages of the magazine I wondered at the winning entries. I promised myself that some day our work would be good enough to be judged by my peers and be good enough to appear there. I first worked up the courage to enter our shop and signs in the Sign Systems category. To my amazement we were awarded first place that year
  • Instant old tiki
    The MultiCam CNC router is a wonderful tool. It works fast and accurate every time. But every once in a while it is fun to do a project the old fashioned way. The good people at Coastal Enterprises are to have a booth at the International Sign Association show in Las Vegas
  • ISA is almost here…
    We all know that Dan Sawatzky is a talented man that loves his Multicam CNC, Enroute software and Precision Board Plus PBLT-30. But this time, he took a different approach to a sculpture he made for our booth which will be displayed at the ISA show April 9th, 10th and 11th. Dan told us that he dug ...
  • Packing for the ISA take show
    I'm really looking forward to attending the International Sign Association show in Las Vegas in less than two weeks. I'll be at the MultiCam booth # 712 on the showroom floor. I look forward to meeting a lot of people and sharing my passion for creating dimensional signs. Today in preparation for the show I began packing.
  • MultiCam TV
    The last piece to get it's final coats of paint was the TV stand and surround. Like the others it got its light and dark silver coats of paint. The flexible hoses got their bright green metallic.
  • Robot router
  • Ready to speak
    As I designed the MultiCam trade show display my goal was to infuse three mechanical pieces with personality. While they are largely machine made and very precise the end goal was to make them look used and full of character. The three pieces are now complete. The last time we looked at the lectern the pieces were beginning to go together.
  • Awesome mesh tool
    EnRoute has many cool tools that can be used individually or together with other tools to create anything I can imagine - and that's a lot. Last week I was building some faux hydraulic cylinders for a display and the mesh tool proved to be the simplest and quickest way to get exactly what I needed in a hurry. The cylinders are a small part of the MultiCam display for their booth to be held at the International Sign Association trade show in Las Vegas next month.
  • Rapid Texture
    Rapid Texture is another unique feature of EnRoute software. With this function you can cover a whole lot more surface in a hurry and achieve some very cool surface and textures. It uses the tool shape to create the texture.
  • Parametric Textures
    There are a number of ways to create textures in EnRoute. One of the methods offer unlimited possibilities. This is called Parametric TEXTURES. They are created by mathematical equations and go in all directions infinitely.
  • Learning LIMIT TO HEIGHT
    There are often a number of ways to accomplish any given task in EnRoute, sometimes with subtle differences in the results. To be an accomplished user of the software we need to become familiar with as many as possible and then use the one that suits us best. Today I wanted to show how I like to use the 'LIMIT TO HEIGHT' function. As with all of the lessons so far I first drew a square vector to create the base relief
  • Creating shaped letters
    This lesson is on creating shaped letters and by that I mean letters with a dome or bevel top. If the strokes of the letter are relatively even and the angle of the bevel or dome is shallow how you use the shaping tools is not as critical but for many lettering styles it matters a great deal. I started with a square shape and a letter 'a' once more. Then I selected the square and created a flat relief that was 0.3" thick. Then I selected the box and the letter 'a' vector and used the bevel tool to modify the base relief by adding the beveled letter
  • Merging highest and merging lowest
    As we get into these lessons about how to use EnRoute it is important for those new to the program to start at the beginning and learn the basics before jumping to the harder stuff. Repetition is critical to learn it well. As you do each step predict what is about to happen and understand why. Then after each step take the time to render and look at all four views.
  • Let’s get started
    First we need to make note that there are different versions of EnRoute. To create 3D files you need EnRoute Pro. I use the latest version EnRoute Pro 5. Earlier versions will do most of the things the later versions do but the speed of the program has really gotten much better of late.
  • Learning EnRoute – from the start
    Next to the type of CNC machine we buy the next biggest decision will be the software we choose. Like the hardware we first have to educate ourselves in order to make the choice that fits our needs. In my case I was first advised by my MultiCam dealer who sold me the machine. He looked over the type of work we were currently doing and then asked me some questions. What did I want to do with the machine
  • Another train engine
    Trains are one of my favourite things and any time I get a chance to build one there is no hesitation. The second phase of Cultus Lake Adventure Park is now underway and one of the new rides is a Run Away Mine Train coaster. There is a good sized mountain we are building as part of the attraction. A train engine balanced precariously on some blown out mine tracks will be part of it.
  • Denver 3 Day Workshop
    There has been a change in the workshops. Our Sign Magic Workshop (formerly to be held in our shop in Chilliwack British Columbia, Canada) is now to be combined  with the EnRoute Denver 3 day workshop. The final schedule is still to be worked out but this workshop will include much of what we teach in our workshops plus the techniques taught at the other EnRoute workshops.
  • EnRoute Workshops
    The 2015 Workshop Series EnRoute Workshop Schedule for 2015 • Phoenix, AZ, March 5-6 @ Multicam Technology Center • Atlanta, GA, March 19-20 @ Madera Arts • Dallas, TX, April 16-17 @ Multicam Technology Center • Chicago/Great Lakes, May 14-15  @ Multicam Technology Center • Denver, CO VIP event Sept 16-18* • Hackensack NJ, October 8-9 @ Multicam Technology Center • Anaheim, CA, December 3-4 @ Multicam Technology Center *Meet the EnRoute developers at this special 3 Day "EnRoute Pro" event in Denver, CO. This will be a more advanced, three day class focused on 3D surfacing, carving and texture creation specifically for the sign and woodworking industries     “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.
  • Lectern – Part four
    I've long believed that if we come up with better ideas as we are building something the plan needs to be adjusted. Sometimes it means a little more time or materials but the whole idea of doing this kind of work is to do the very best we can possibly do. After the weekend off I came back into the shop to work on the lectern.
  • Lectern – Part three
     The upper portion and motor base of the lectern stand was a challenging piece to build. There were a number of ways I could have handled it but I chose to do it with a combination of domed reliefs and one mesh. The piece we were building today was shaped a bit like a funnel with a horizontal tube in the middle and a lightbulb shaped thing on the top. An axle would go through the top part for the big gears and through the horizontal tube ('motor') for the smaller gears
  • Lectern – Part two
    Building rather complex objectss is something I enjoy immensely. As I designed I knew from experience just how I would accomplish building the files in EnRoute, how I would machine them with our MultiCa, and how they would then be assembled and finished. Because Precision Board has certain limitations as far as structural strength I knew just how we would weld up a steel frame to go inside. Because the lectern would have to travel many, many thousands of miles and stand up to use in many trade shows we had to get it right from the start. As I started building the files I first decided in my mind how many pieces we would build and how these pieces would be layered.
  • Lectern – Part one
    Building rather complex objectss is something I enjoy immensely. As I designed I knew from experience just how I would accomplish building the files in EnRoute, how I would machine them with our MultiCa, and how they would then be assembled and finished. Because Precision Board has certain limitations as far as structural strength I knew just how we would weld up a steel frame to go inside. Because the lectern would have to travel many, many thousands of miles and stand up to use in many trade shows we had to get it right from the start
  • MultiCam with all the bells and whistles
    We've owned a MultiCam CNC router for about eight years and have figured out how to make it do some pretty neat stuff. It wasn't long until the makers of the machine noticed. In the years since we've cooked up some pretty cool samples for them and have been asked to do some presentations at the International Sign Association world conference on MultiCam's behalf. This year we were asked to go to the conference in Las Vegas once more in April and do a series of presentations in their booth.
  • Picking a CNC router – Part 3
    In the first two blogs in this series about picking a CNC router I discussed learning about router specs, picking the ones we needed and then selecting a manufacturer and dealer to supply our machine. I hear a great deal of talk about routers and how much they should cost. Some of my friends have bought routers from China. Service isn't part of the package.
  • Picking a CNC router – Part two
    In my last post I talked about discovering CNC routers and wading through the technical specs and language to determine which machine was best for our needs. Once I had determined the specifications of the machine we needed it was time to go shopping. Our new CNC router would have the following specifications: Heavy duty steel construction throughout.
  • Picking a CNC router – Part one
    I witnessed a CNC router for the first time at the International Sign Show back in 2006. I was amazed to see the machine going back and forth cutting so very fast. The machines I saw at that show were all doing cuts and not 3D. Few people were doing 3D back then. Over the course of the three day show I looked at many routers and talked with the software folks at length about what these machines were capable of
  • Looking forward to a great year!
    As the New Year rolls in we like to look back at what we've done and also to the future, hoping we can do things even better. This blog is the same. I look forward to hearing comments and suggestions from our readers.
  • Lots of sculpting to finish off routed signs
    The MultiCam has been idle for a few days as we did all the other work required to catch up to what has been routed. The golf sign (with the ship's wheel got it's hand sculpted wheel. Angie got the nod for that task and did a great job! We also started applying the sculpted concrete to the tree and will finish that tomorrow.
  • Mass production
    It's not often we do multiples of any sign but the golf and park require a whole bunch of these signs - twenty eight in all. Like the rest of the signs in the park they will be dimensional. The fourteen entrance and exit signs were cleaned up with a die grinder and then the edges received their edge grains using the same tool.
  • Imaginarium sign done
    Once the gears and the background of the sign received multiple coats of paint it was a simple matter of drilling the center of the gears and then gluing them in place using some short dowels to center them. Then I popped the lid on using a little epoxy to hold everything securely in place. Once the glue had dried I used the die grinder to even out the edges and add a teeny bit of texture to the top as well.
  • Way finding signs
     To provide a seamless experience for the guests of the park most of the signs will be dimensional. This includes some normally mundane entrance and exit signs for the rides and attractions. The 'sandblasted wood' signs will have raised, prismatic letters in a cartoon font that matches the park logo. As always it starts with the vectors. I used the outlines of the sign to create a flat relief
  • Two more signs done
    The ride signs have taken a while to finish as they were worked on between other projects. Today the Pieces of Eight and Crow's Nest signs got their finishing touches at last. Two more pieces are not ready to load into the containers and send on their way to Trinidad. There containers full of pieces were sent in the last week with enough pieces now ready to fill there more in January.
  • First paint
    It's not very often we paint our signs in pieces and then assemble afterwards. Most often, especially for outdoor projects I like to route in as few pieces as possible and then securely glue and fasten together before the painting process began. In this case the piece will be displayed indoors. Compared to most pieces we build this one is fragile
  • Gearing up for a little fun
     My good fiend calls his studio the Imaginarium. I wanted to make him a sign that had some resemblance to a skeleton watch but simpler. The design had some limitations as the finished piece had to travel inside a suitcase. My friend lives in Hawaii. I first did a quick scribble in my sketchbook to work out the basic idea.
  • Golf sign start
    We are slowly working our way through a big list of signs for Skallywag Bay. The next major sign on the list is for the adventure golf. The routed signs are actually the smaller portion of the project. Just the same the main sign was both challenging and fun. The first task was to commit the design to vectors
  • Get KRAKEN!
    The last ride sign is for the Kraken's Crew (bumper boats). I decided to go for the life preserver look with the KRAKEN peeking through. I whipped up some simple vectors which wold be used to create the reliefs/  I first used the extrude function to create a mesh object.  Then I used the teardrop vector to create the body of the KRAKEN
  • Skull Rock sculpt done
    It doesn't take much hand sculpting to make a sign go from mildly dimensional to off the wall different. In the case of the Skull Rock Scramble sign it looked pretty good with just the random shape, the texture and raised lettering. Adding Webster, the turtle Gruffle changed it in a big way without a doubt and he took only a couple of hours to create.. (This time includes my helper's time.) But we weren't nearly done yet. I spent another twenty minutes with our air powered die grinder to extend the gnarly rock texture around the sides, top and bottom of the sign.
  • Topographical modeling in 3D
    I've wanted to use the router to do a topographical map for some time. As we get into the build of the Trinidad project I've been having some difficulty in describing the elevations of the site to the various people involved. The grades are somewhat complex without a doubt. I had done a color keyed 2D topographical map to explain things and it certainly helped.
  • Scrambling turtle
    The sign routed up beautifully. I welded up a frame and then laminated it inside. While the glue was setting I cut a turtle shape from some Precision Board and then did a quick sculpt of the shell. This was allowed to harden. A half inch step rod poked out of the bottom center as well as 1/4" rods for each leg
  • Rock on!
    The largest feature of Skallywag Bay Adventure Park is now under construction. It is being prefabricated by RockWerx in their studio. It will then be cut into pieces and transported to the site to be reassembled there.
  • Getting twisted
    The next sign doesn't have any routed parts but features another of the gang of Gruffles. Like the other signs it will hang on a mast. The sign is for a ride called the Yardarm Twist.
  • Specs the lookout
    The routed portion of the Crow's Nest sign was only the start. Specs would be perched in the crows nest on the top of the mast and support structure. Peter had great fun doing the sculpt. The sculpted concrete will be the next step and then this sign will get it's coat of paint as well
  • Combining methods and materials
    Using EnRoute and a MultiCam we can do amazing things without a doubt. I know lots of people who can use other programs to build amazing sculptures virtually and then use the router to make the final piece. I'm just not that good with those advance programs or more correctly I am better at doing it for real with my hands. The fastest way to do those kinds of projects for me is the old fashioned way. I let the router do the hard stuff and then have fun with the rest.
  • Adding texture to the edges
    I've shown how to make texture on our projects many times on this blog. What it possible is limited only by your imagination. When the texture runs all the way to the edge of your project it's time to do a little hand work.  In our shop we insist that the edges of our signs look as good as the front face
  • EnRoute workshop in California
    For those wishing to get up to speed using EnRoute, there is a workshop coming in California in a few weeks. I've attended similar workshops and found they are a great way to learn what this wonderful program is capable of. For those considering the program its a great way to try it as the EnRoute people will set you up with a demo version.
  • Well hung
    Once the pieces had all been routed it was time to the glue up. We used the routed slots in the center of the sign as a jig to tack up the steel frames, then pulled them out and did the final welding. Some steel eye bolts were also welded to the top of the frame. A 5/8" steel bar was welded to the post side of the sign as well. The sign was hung from the matching eye bolts on the structural steel post
  • All aboard!
    One of the signs that I have been looking forward to building is the one for the Railroad. It features Pike, the Gruffle engineer in the cab of his engine. The sign will be about 44" tall nd will hang from a mast similar to the other signs. I started with a quick hand trace of the main sign elements
  • A peek at the bigger picture
    We are now three months (of eleven) into the Skallywag Bay Adventure Park project. The shop is full of projects on the go and out in the parking lot there are enough finished pieces to fill three forty foot shipping containers with enough pieces still left to begin loading two more containers. Forty-one pieces are finished.
  • Everyone loves tools!
    Cookie's tool set was a whole lot of fun to create. Since the last post on the project we've hand brushed three coats of base colors on (all acrylic house paints). Then the glazes went on the wood, starting with the lightest and working towards the darkest. After the piece is covered the glaze is gently wiped off leaving excess in the crevices and deeper portions of the texture.
  • Pieces of Eight mounting
    The three pieces of the Pieces of 8 sign that were routed from 30lb Precision Board were laminated over a welded steel frame sandwiching the structure inside. The two protruding steel legs were then welded to the steel structure of the post. Once the glue had set (overnight) I used our air powered die grinder to quickly add some woodgrain texture to the sides of the sign. I then welded the sculpture of Tupper in the crow's nest to the top
  • Combining hand and machine work
    Creating files in EnRoute and routing them on the MultiCam is a huge timesaver. By using bitmaps I can create wonderful textures to add dimension to our projects. But the fact is that after the parts are machines we are only about half way to finish on most of our dimensional projects. Cookie's utensil rack is a good example
  • French cleat
    We use many creative ways to hang our signs and projects. If it's heavy we'll resort to steel brackets or lag bolting it to a structure. But sometimes the sign isn't too large or heavy. In those cases we often use what we refer to as a french cleat
  • Cookie’s Galley done
    With a large crew to keep busy and big projects in planning it's not too often I get to spend time with a paint brush in my hand these days. But Cookie has been a pet project from design, sculpt, creating the routing file and through the paint process. Other members of the crew did work on the project a little but the bulk of it has been mine. I decided that I would personally finish the paint job on the lettering portion as well as the the highlights and touchups on.
  • Sign Paint underway
    We are now beginning to assemble and finish the signs for the Trinidad project, starting with Cookie's Galley sign. In the last few days we've done the finishing and laid on the base coats of paint. We use premium exterior house paint for all of our finishes and glazes with good results. Today it was time for the first glaze to bring out the woodgrain textures
  • Pieces of eight – redo
    Sometimes, after I complete a design I just know I could have done better. There's only one thing to do. DELETE.
  • Phil’s Pholly
    A while back I posted a how-to on the Treasure Quest sign. In the last installment the sign had been laminated over the framework. The rest of the twisted tree had been lathed and was ready for the concrete. Since then we sculpted the concrete 'wood and bark' and allowed the tee to cure before it was ready to drag back in the shop to finish up.
  • Piece of eight
    Designing and building a theme park is a lot of fun, especially if you get to control all aspects of the design. The rides are being manufactured by a company in Italy but they allowed me to help with the design to help the ride fit into the theme of the park. Unless we want to spend a great deal of our customer's money the changes are limited to cosmetic items alone.
  • 2014 Sign Magic Workshop a success!
    We had a high energy group assembled for our 2014 Sign Magic Workshop. Our guests were from all over including Nevis - Alberta, Newark - California, Hickory - North Carolina, Jackson - Wyoming, Prior Lake - Minnesota, Invermere - Roberts Creek - Vernon - British Columbia, and Aitkenvale - Australia. Jeff Hartman, one of the creators of EnRoute came from Denver - Colorado to help with the technical side of things. This eager group soaked up everything we shared, took tons of photos and notes and did up some pretty spectacular projects during the hands-on workshop time
  • Workshop name plates 2014 – Part eight
    I covered the file creation of Philip's name plate back on September 2. It looked great after it was routed from 30 lb Precision Board. The painting crew was ready to give it a cool paint job but I asked them to hold off for I had a little more detail in mind. They had already applied some FSC-88 WB primer (thick bodied water base primer) using a small brush to add some texturing to the lettering.  Philip is attending both workshops and rather than make him two name plates I decided I would make him one that was a little more elaborate. Sarah mixed up some Abracadabra Sculpting Epoxy for me and I quickly sculpted some barnacles and a starfish that was slowly making it's way down across the lettering.
  • Workshop name plates 2014 – Part seven
    For Torey's name plate I wanted it to look like boards fastened together. I toed out the letters, learned and sized them appropriately then whipped out the rectangles that would become boards. I wasn't worried about sizes or spacing at this point. I then selected odd number boards and assigned them a height to create the reliefs.
  • Workshop name plates 2014 – Part six
    For Richard's name plaque I wanted a dimensional waving checkered flag. There's lots of ways to accomplish something like this in EnRoute but this is the easiest I can think of. It used the distort tool. I started with a bitmap from the TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION
  • Workshop nameplates 2014 – Part five
    Jim's nameplate was pretty straightforward save for one detail. I wanted the background texture to poke through the lettering border and into the lettering. I also wanted it to perfectly match what was around. Once again how and the order we do things in was the key. As always I started with the vectors
  • Workshop nameplates 2014 – Part four
    Each name plaque offers a unique challenge and is a great exercise to learn or review a tack in EnRoute. For some, like Sharon's it meant doing things in a particular order. As always I started with the vectors I needed. To combine the riveted tabs with the rectangle, the quickest and easiest way was to remove the lettering and then use the jigsaw tool to create a new vector. I then deleted the original tabs and border.
  • Workshop nameplates 2014 – Part three
    Jack's name plate was a classic style combining wood with a riveted border. I started with a formal cartoon font to which I added my raised trademark border which will set the lettering off the background.  The border was the first to be created as a separate relief. I used the dome tool.
  • Workshop nameplates 2014 – Part two
    Designing, routing and painting name plates is a wonderful exercise in many ways. The first few are pretty easy. We all have ideas in our heads. But with with each workshop (times two) there are often more than went name plaques to create. All need to be different
  • Workshop nameplates – 2114 – part one
    This year's workshops are now just over three week's away and that means we have to begin serious work to make them the very best ever. As always, the work begins with the design of the name plaques for our guests. Some use techniques that are familiar , and some will use new techniques. As we get into the painting of them we will explore new techniques and also use them to train our painters in our advanced painting methods. The first name plaque is a lot like the file I did for the last sign we made last week but we'll add some hand sculpting to make it very special for Philip - a returning guest from Australia.
  • Cookie’s Gally
    Back in April I created the first routing files for the Skallywag Bay. Now at last it is time to fire up the MultiCam and get going on these projects. Todays sign was for Cookie's Galley, the food establishment for the park. It will feature Cookie of course the Gruffle cook
  • Treasure Quest – part three
    Once the MultiCam had done it's work it was time to assemble the pieces over the welded frame.  I first used the air house to blow off the dust from the Precision Board. I used PB Bond 240 glue a one part product that is activated with water moisture. It's made by the folks at Coastal Enterprises, the same people who make Precision Board
  • Treasure Quest – part two
    After creating the lettering and tweaking it to my satisfaction it was on to making the reliefs. I first opened my driftwood bitmap from the  TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION .  In EnRoute the imported bitmap opens as defined by the plate. I then stretched it out to make the shape I desired
  • Treasure Quest – part one
    We are now full blast into the build of the Skallywag Bay Adventure Park for Trinidad. We'll be busy for the better part of a year in our studio before heading down to the Caribbean Island for the installation of all the pieces. It is going to be both challenging and exciting every step of the way. Because the project is in many ways similar to the one recently completed, Cultus Lake Adventure Park, we will be building on our successes there and hopefully kicking things up one more notch in the process
  • Love them posts
    We are down to the final details on the house project. Through the construction we did over 200 routing files and created thousands of pieces. Now we are down to the last few at last.
  • 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
  • Final plans are in the bag and work has begun
    The entire plan for the large project in Trinidad is now approved. There will undoubtably some small changes and revisions as we go but the final plans are now being engineered. It was a long design process, with nine versions of the master plan drawn and considered before things were settled. Attractions and rides were changed and moved through the process and many things changed size along the way. The plan as accepted includes a train ride, bumper boats, a wild adventure golf, a climbing wall and daring free fall jump, a kids play area, a wave swing ride, a pendulum ride, a spinning drop ride and a spinning coaster.
  • Routed house trim
    We've kept the MultiCam busy of late with the fancy house trim around the front and back doors. With the trim install the front door became much more welcoming. The patio door and posts also got the full trim treatment That leaves only the big front window. -dan
  • Installing trim
    The routed pieces were mitered and then fastened in place.  We then used sculpting epoxy to fill the holes and seams before painting. The pieces will get three coats of base color and then three layers of glaze. The hearts will be then painted pink to match the corner block trim on the rest of the house like in the background of the photo. Today the last of the trim was painted for around the circular windows and doors
  • Final details
    We've created more than 200 routing files for the trim on the house and routed thousands of pieces over the last two years. In the last three weeks we've been working hard to finish the outside and this includes creating even more routing files and then routing a bunch more pieces. Thankfully there aren't many areas left to do. The trim around the front and patio doors was routed yesterday and assembled today. This afternoon I created the routing files for the decorative bands around the patio posts
  • The face of our business
    Marketing our business is an important key to success. Marketing can take many forms and the more creative marketing is the more memorable it will be. In our case we have a home based business. Our shop is three hundred and fifty feet off of the road while our house is next to the road
  • The importance of samples
    I often get asked how we became successful in our business. The answer to that question isn't short but if I had to answer concisely I would say the biggest reason would be the samples we display. While some of our samples are smaller copies of three-dimensional work we have done for customers, the bulk of the things you see on display are custom made - just for that purpose. I have difficulty describing what we do but showing a sample of our wonderful 3D creations work like a charm.
  • Back on the bike
    After more than two months out of the studio and away from the router I was back at my desk and programing some files and turned on the MultiCam once more. I quickly found out I was a little rusty with both the program and the machine. EnRoute is a wonderful program that isn't too difficult but like many things technical it requires that one does things in a certain order, paying attention the whole way through. As usual there were lots of things going on out in the studio and out in the yard as well. I found that with my being out of practice it till a few tries to get things right
  • Pictures of the finished park – part 3
    Today I have a last load of pictures of the Cultus Lake Adventure Park. The signs on the western side of the building have been featured here before as they went through various stages of construction. They were designed in EnRoute and then routed from Precision Board on our Multicam router.
  • Pictures of the finished park – part two
    Everywhere one looks in the Cultus Lake Adventure Park there is a great photo to be had. From the road the park looks inviting. We carefully layered the elements to maximize the space but also to show great from the road. Everything is designed to integrate and work together
  • Pictures of finished park – part one
    Cultus Lake Adventure Park is now finished and open to rave reviews by the public. It's great to see everyone enjoying the project we worked on for so long! Since the park has opened I've been doing my best to get good pictures. The key is to get there at different times each day as the light changes every hour. I'll be posting pictures of the final project in the next few posts
  • The magic of light
    I design all of our signs to take full advantage of daylight. The textures, with the glazes are oriented to capture the highlights and the shadows are designed to create the illusion of even more depth. But we have to go further.
  • Landscape by design
    Many sign makers I know think mainly of the signs they create. A few try to incorporate some nice posts of perhaps a base. I like to go much further. The surrounding builds, structures and landscape are often part of our projects
  • Done
    Today our team finished the creative work in Cultus Lake Adventure Park. It has been an exciting and busy ten month journey.  From the start we anticipated we would still be painting after the park opened it's gates but through the hard work (and lots of overtime) of our crew we managed to finish two whole days ahead of the park opening.
  • Last week of construction for Cultus Lake Adventure project
    The Cultus Lake Adventure project is massive by most shop standards. The project started back in the middle of September of last year. Now we are in the final week of production with the gates to swing open to the public next Saturday. That leaves five working days to complete our work. While we have been putting in about an hour of overtime per day and two saturdays of pure overtime the pace in the last weeks has been steady - not rushed.
  • More signs installed
    As the project nears completion the pace is certainly ramping up. Today the last of the concrete walkways was poured inside the park, leaving only sidewalks around to go. Our crew is now down to paint and details with eight more workdays before the gates open to the public. We installed two dimensional signs today. The first was on the Happy Horse Saloon.
  • Western eye candy
    There's only ten more working days before the park opens. This means the hours are long and the pace is quick. We have one more day of sculpted concrete work to do and then it is down to paint. The clock ticks loud each and every day. Today the crew finished painting and glazing the upper false fronts
  • Armadillo Hotel sign hung
    No matter how great a sign may look in our studio the important thing is how it looks when it gets installed. Today, it was time at last to install the Armadillo Hotel sign. We loaded it onto the man lift and then raised it into position.
  • Long shot, medium view and closeup
    As we put together each of our projects I design for three views. Long shots, medium views and closeups. In our large current project we were able to do it for every element (and there are many) of the park. The long shot of the setting needs to grab people's attention and hold their interest
  • There’s nothing like a dimensional sign!
    It is no secret that I'm a HUGE fan of dimensional signs. It's all we do. But I am also a he fan of including a sculptural element on the signs. It makes them POP! In my case, more often than not this sculptural element will be a dimensional cartoon character. It is what I love and what I have gotten very good at.
  • Signs install
    As various areas in the adventure park are completed it is time to begin the installation of the many signs. Today was that day for three of the many signs we are working on in the shop. In order to complete the timber and rock work under the Buckin' Bronco booth we needed to install the sign today. The crew will attach the lath around it and then we will do the sculpted concrete work
  • Shop day
    The rain poured down today making it the perfect day to do some painting on the many signs in production in the shop.  The smaller and relatively flat dimensional signs got their first two coats of base colors today. One more coat and they will be ready for the glazes. The Happy Horse Saloon sign received it's final touches to make it ready for installation
  • Ship shape
    I tool pathed the slices of the ship two different ways. For the middle two slices of each half I used only a 3/8" ball nose bit at 80% overlap. The large tool made short work of the hull pieces. The smaller section of the hull with the window needed a little more detail so I roughed it at 50% using the 3/8" ball nose bit and then did a finish pass using a 1/8" ball nose bit with a 80% overlap. The six hull pieces were arranged to fit onto a 1/3 sheet of 2" thick Precision Board  I started the file on the router shortly after lunch and then went outside to do some tractor work in the yard
  • Building a 3D ships hull
    Building seemingly complex files in EnRoute is something I enjoy immensely. It came hard at first but as I became familiar with the program and what I could do with it I enjoyed it more and more all the time. The key is to first learn and understand the program functions. Then, if you learn to visualize what you want and what happens inside EnRoute virtually anything is possible.
  • Last sign files for Cultus Lake
    It is hard to believe but after almost a year of work, the concession and ticket signs are the last signs to be routed for this project.  As always we started with vectors for the signs. I did a little kerning of the lettering to get things spaced right and then drew up the broken board border. The sign chaps were created as a flat relief. Wood grain was then added using the sandblasted wood bitmap from the  TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION.   The letters were then created as separate reliefs, nudged into position vertically and then merged (highest) with the base relief. As quick as that the files are ready to have tool paths and be sent to the MultiCam.
  • Which way to the bathroom?
    We are down to the small utilitarian signs. The first are the washroom signs. These are the most important signs and hopefully by making them easily readable the staff won't have to constantly answer the most common question guests will ask.  I did a search online to locate the symbols and then hand vectorized them in a few minutes. I sized them and placed them on a rectangle of the right size. I then replaced the rectangle with a rough cut board shape as the signs are for the western area of the park
  • Bucky’s signpost now ready for paint
    One of the most fun signs of our current project has been a very long time in building. I first conceived of the design about twelve years ago. I reworked it a little for this project adding the leaning pole that had been chewed by Bucky. I designed the sign in EnRoute ad laminated it over a welded steel frame. The post was welded up in our shop.  Bucky the beaver was hand sculpted and then we attached the wire mesh to the frame.
  • We can do corporate too.
    Corporate signs are something we do very seldom. They present little opportunity to be truly creative. But every once in a while we need to build such a sign. Our theme park project, Skallywag Bay Adventure Park in Trinidad is owned by a second company, Starburst Parks
  • Worth the wait
    Back in November of last year we installed the lighthouse sign at the edge of the bumper boat pool.  Here's the POST that covered that part of the project. The weather was turning cold and we had to put off the concrete work around the base until the weather warmed up in spring. We had plenty to do on the (larger) project until then.
  • Fun utensil rack
    The next routing file I am creating is for the Cookies kitchen. It will be attached to the menu board inside. For those who take a good look at Cookie outside they will see he sports a egg beater instead of a hook on his missing hand.  The joke is he has a whole selection of other implements handy for when he needs them.
  • More crazy designs
    Between working long hours onsite in our current project during the working days and spending evenings and weekends planning the next large project the MultiCam has been idle of late. That of course will change soon as we begin work on the house once again, do all of the remaining smaller signs for our current project and then begin work on the next project right after. I did the last of the concept art for the Trinidad project last night. Now the construction and engineering drawings are underway. Thankfully they are being done by others although I have a lot of input along the way.
  • Cookie gets a base
    I spent the last two days in meetings with engineers and planners working on the final plans for Skallywag Bay Adventure Park. The project is proceeding and will move from the concept stage through the detailed planning. Today's talk was of the infrastructure and buildings which we will then apply our magic to - when they are done.
  • Designing for the (near) future
    As we come into the home stretch on the urgent large project I am also full blast into the final designs for the next project due to start as soon as this one is done. The next will be a fun one with all kinds of full blast dimensional signs of course. Here's a sneak peek at a few of the designs coming off the design table... As much fun as the current project is I do believe the next will be a teeny bit better yet - as it should be.
  • How to build a Pelton water wheel.
    The Pelton water whee isn't a project we routed, nor was it made of Precision board but I thought the readers of this bog might like to see how such a project goes together. The same engineering and figuring that go into this piece apply to many of our other (sometimes) complex projects. We had all of the pieces for the Pelton water wheel ready to go but no instructions how to put them together.
  • Handy uses for the EnRoute program
    EnRoute is a powerful routing program without a doubt. I can create some pretty cool routing files using it but it is also handy for so much more. When I need to create a plan view of something to scale it is the CAD program I turn to.
  • Pedal Power – Part Four
    Once the routing was done I glued and clamped all of the layers together using PB Bond 240 glue from Coastal Enterprises. It tends to squeeze out a little on the edges of the seams but that was no problem. I like to use an air powered die grinder to take off the glue and add a little random texture while I'm at it.
  • Pedal Power – Part three
    The pedal power sign is a good size and since I routed it with a 1/8" ball nose bit with an 80% overlap the two sides took about eight hours each to do. The pieces were cut from 1.5" thick 30 lb Precision Board. They turned out great! Tomorrow I'll cut the three half inch thick inner layers and then we'll be ready to start the final assembly. Stay tuned for more... -dan
  • Pedal Power – Part 2
    Building the cut files for the Pedal Power sign was easy and quick once the vector files were complete. The sign faces were only three steps.  First I created a flat relief.
  • More awards
    We are pleased that two of our last year's projects have been honoured in the Signs of the Times annual international sign competition. Each year they receive many hundreds of entries which compete in various categories. The Institute for the Study of Mechanical Marine life piece (documented here on the blog and completed last September) won first place in the Unusual Signs category. This sign was designed using EnRoute software
  • Pedal Power – Part one
    The next critter sign is for a peddle buggy business which is a part of the park. I drew up the concept which the owner approved. It was decided to make the sign two sided which means the gear in the skeleton clock need to look good from both sides and the bear will be rotated 90 degrees.
  • Happy Horse Sculpt
    The next sign to come off the MultiCam was the Happy Horse Saloon. It was routed from two layers of 2" thick 30 lb Precision Board. The sign measures 42" in diameter. I glued up the boards with a 3/4" thick plywood backer and then cut a large french cleat to the back.
  • Three more in the series
    Today Peter and I managed to sculpt three more signs in the series. These things are a ton of fun to build. They make me chuckle each time I walk into the studio. The MultiCam continues to whittle away at sheets of 30 lb Precision Board. Tomorrow morning another sign in this series will be ready for sculpting.
  • Busy day!
    The shop is full - wall to wall with routed pieces and concrete sculptures as well in all stages of completion. The painting process is well underway on both routed signs and concrete work. As fast as the pieces are cut from Precision Board on the MultiCam and I can get them glued together we are also starting the sculpting of the fully dimensional elements. Peter finished the horse sculpt today and it is looking very fine! In between all of my other tasks I managed to do the tortoise sculpt with lots of help from Sarah. The sign is now ready the head to the paint department.
  • Let the sculpting begin
    The MultiCam has been going non-stop all weekend and today I started gluing up the pieces in readiness for the hand sculpting portions to begin. There signs are ready for cleanup,  finishing and sculpting tomorrow. Peter got the jump on the sculpting today as he fashioned the bucking bronco for on top of the sign. He is talented and also has worked very hard to hone his autistic skills
  • Overnight MAGIC
    The old compressor is now repaired and working once more at last. It will be relegated to a standby spare as soon as we hook up the giant new one that has now arrived. In the meantime the MultiCam is now busy churning out the pieces we need once more. Last night I laid down a two inch thick piece of 30 lb Precision Board, set up the MultiCam and set it in motion.
  • Critter sign number 3
    Dusty's dry goods was the last sign in this critter series. The desert tortoise is about the dustiest and driest thing I could think of and it seemed fitting for this sign. As with the others the critter would be added as a separate hand sculpt. We would route this sign in two layers of 2" thick.
  • Critter sign 2
    For the second critter sign I chose the apothecary store. This is what they called drug stores in the olden days. In the wild west some unsavory druggists sold 'snake oil' - a cure for whatever ailed you.
  • Critter sign number 1
    We finally finished enough large pieces to remove them from the shop to make the way clear to take out our broken screw compressor. I loaded it into the truck and took it into the neighboring town for repair. They called me a few days later saying it was as good as new. I picked it up and plugged it in
  • Taking a sign for a ride to town
    The great news is that we finally moved the five large features out of our shop two days ago. That meant I could finally get the old compressor out to take it to the repair shop for a rebuild. It arrived back today and that means we can soon get back to routing the long list of backlogged projects once more. Today, however was far too busy for any routing
  • Happy Horse Saloon sign – background
    The Happy Horse Saloon has a false front with and arched top. The round sign will be attached inside the round portion in-between the two light boxes.  The back of the Happy Horse Saloon sign wasn't much harder although it was critical that everything was done in a particular order to get the results I was looking for. I started with those  same vectors
  • Happy Horse Saloon – Barrel portion
    The next sign in the long series for the Cultus Lake project is for the Happy Horse Saloon. I'll be posting it in two separate posts. It is to be round, layered and feature a fully dimensional cartoon horse head. The head will be hand sculpted. I created the basic vectors for the sign in Illustrator and then imported them into  EnRoute .
  • House featured in South Africa
    Janis and I designed and built our new house for ourselves, to enjoy and be comfortable. It is also designed to showcase the things we are passionate about. Although there is still a lot of work to do to totally finish it off the house has garnered a lot of attention already. The latest was a feature in a South African architecture magazine. I was interviewed late last year by a fellow from England who was writing some articles about how EnRoute Software was being used
  • Imagine the fun of these deliveries!
    The giant cactus with the vulture has been sitting in our driveway for quite some time, patiently waiting for the time to deliver. Today was finally the day. Now imagine the fun of strapping this piece upright onto the trailer (so it doesn't get damaged) and then driving down the road.  As you can imagine I got plenty of second (and third) looks, lots of friendly waves, huge smiles and thumbs up at every turn. The installation was flawless as per usual
  • Building the Summit routing file
    The next sign to be built for the Cultus Lake Adventure Park is the Summit Trading post.  Since we elevated the ground by eight feet and the trading post in on top of the hill (and inside the mountain) SUMMIT was the perfect name. It will feature a small copy of the mountain peak.
  • Site progress
    Last week, with the arrival of unseasonably warm weather, we spent the bulk of our time up at the worksite. We are making great progress on the welding and meshing of the many armatures for the sculpted concrete. The front half of the park are largely complete.
  • Flip side
    Generally most sign shops don't worry much about the back side of signs that they make. At most the back side might get a coat of primer and occasionally a matching color to the front. We take a different approach.
  • Eureka!
    Quite some time ago I started a sample sign project.  Here's the link.  But then we got busy. It has sat in the corner gathering dust ever since. But good ideas can't stay dormant forever.
  • Painting techniques and tricks
    When I design and route our projects I always have our painting process in mind from the very start. By far the single most labor intensive part of our projects is the paint. For starters we brush paint our pieces rather than spraying.
  • Painting process
    The painting of our signs and features almost always follows the same steps and order. If we decide to prime the 30 lb Precision Board it is because the want to add a little more texture. The 30 lb board doesn't need primer to fill the pinholes or roughness normally found in lighter densities. We use the FSC-88WB primer made by Coastal Enterprises, the same folks that make the board. While most shops use primer to smooth out the work and sand it to make sure we use the heavy bodied primer to ADD texture.
  • Ready to roll
    With a large crew both in the shop and up at the worksite much of my days are spent organizing and helping crew. In between I spend a few minutes at a time doing the projects I need to do. It took me two days to complete the hand carving of the woodgrain on the wagon wheel sign. I used an air powered die grinder to remove the excess glue, get rid of the uneven edges and carve in the heavy woodgrain.
  • Big sculpting day
    This week has been a busy one. Today I finally got a little time to put the finishing touches to the beaver sculpt. He looks pretty cool swinging in the center of the circle. Tomorrow we'll begin the painting process.
  • Routing a rock
    A fellow recently set me a picture and asked me to help him out to create a routing file that looked like a specific type of rock. He sent me a bitmap file that was pretty grainy and in fact looked a bit like he had salt and peppered it. These are things that affect the results I would get but I decided to give the file a whirl to see what I would get. This is the original file I was sent
  • Wagon wheel sign glued
    The wagon wheel sign pieces have gathered dust for almost a month as we were so busy with other things. Today the shop was quiet and I finally got the chance to do some assembling. First I had to create a file and cut the center layer to accommodate the steel frame. This frame would be welded up segments of 5/8" steel rod and a piece of horizontal 1.5" square tubing. The slots for the 5/8" tubing would be cut into the material.
  • Painting faux granite or concrete
    For the big 3D globe logo the client asked to it to look like concrete or granite. There are plenty of ways to do this but the easiest is with paint. The fellow who is making the globe will most likely have the globe hard coated with a bed liner type spray. This will leave a slightly bumpy texture. The piece can then be painted a solid or blended solid color with as many coats as necessary
  • Double sign tree complete
    The double sign tree took a while to do because the sculpting and painting were fit around the many other projects underway in the shop. Jenessa did the sculpting and painting on the balloon sign and did a great job too! Amazingly, this was only the second sculpture she has done. Hailey called first dibs on painting the carousel horse. Every color got three coats - all hand painted. That's a lot of skilled cutting! The horse turned out great! Once the signs and tree were all painted up they looked pretty cool! The piece will go outside next week, ready for delivery and installation right after New Years.
  • Slicing and dicing (Creating a 3D logo PART TWO)
    With the relief creed and sliced it was time to hollow out each section. It's not hard but it does have to be done in a particular order. First I created an oval inside each section, making sure the border width took into account the slope of the side of the piece. I did this by selecting the new oval vector and then hitting render what I could see the slopes as they related to the size of the oval. I then selected all of the oval vectors and made them into zero height reliefs
  • Creating a 3D sphere logo with a banner wrap (PART ONE)
    I often get asked to create routing files for other shops. It's not a job I want to do. But from time to time the project offered is something that intrigues me.
  • Putting a skin on the tree
    With the routed signs securely mounted to the tree and the armature all prepared, today was the time to begin the application of the fiberglass reinforced concrete. It was carefully layered on and then allowed to set until it was perfect for carving. Then our skilled carvers began their work of transforming it into a gnarly and twisted tree.
  • Mounting the signs to the tree
    In a previous post I showed how I added the steel structure into the routed horse. Two 5/8" thick steel rods protruded out of the back. These would then be welded into the sculpted tree structure making for a very strong but almost invisible mount for the signs. Here's the concept drawing used to sell the idea to the client.
  • Creating the Balloon Adventure sign file
    The Balloon Adventure sign looks simple but there were a bunch of steps to create the routing file. The bottom section of the song was pretty standard. As always I started with the lettering vectors. I created these in Illustrator and then imported them into  EnRoute  where the rest of the file creation would take place
  • Putting bones in the horse
    Precision Board is strong stuff, especially the 30 lb board, but it is not structural. There are plenty of ways to add structure to a sign but my favorite method is to weld up a steel frame and then laminate it into the sign layers with only the mounting points sticking out when we are done. Doing it this way means there are no screws to let go, and limited ways we can get corrosion.
  • Galloping along
    We were originally going to make the carousel sign include a half of a real carousel horse that I had salvaged a number of years ago. But as we got into the build of the park the space where were going to put the sign it was decided that the space will now be shared with the balloon adventure sign. (I'll post that entry tomorrow) The redesign of the positioning of the signs meant we had to take another look at the sign design too. I dud a search online and came up with a beautiful STL mesh file of a carousel horse. Buying this mesh file would save many hours of modeling
  • Rolling along
    The wagon wheel was created in  EnRoute  and routed in five layers which will be glued up afterwards. Because of this I created copies of various parts of the files as I went. I also created each element separately and then merged them afterwards. I started with the spokes of the wheels which were created with the dome tool
  • Wagon wheel vectors
    The next sign we are routing is the is for the wagon wheel attraction. A gopher will be perched on top of an old wagon wheel, eyes wide, mouth agape as he stares up at the giant wheel looming overhead. We'll make the bulk of the sign on the MultiCam from 30 lb Precision Board. It will be layered and have a sturdy welded steel frame inside, as always
  • Mining for GOLD!
    The old time logo was drawn in Illustrator and then imported into  EnRoute . It was a bit rough, especially on the droll but I planned to redraw that portion in any case. The first order of business was to add a border around the letters. This was done using the outline tool. A second, much wider outline was added to form part of the outline of the sign.
  • Striking GOLD at 35,000 feet
    I was in Florida last week with my client for a business conference and trade show. We gathered ideas at the trade show and it was well worth the effort. But the time I enjoyed most was riding back and forth beside him on the plane. During that time no phones rang, there was no internet. It was a chance to get to know him better and also discus at length the project we were working on.
  • Swingin’
    This past week I was gone from my studio for four days while on a quick business trip to Florida. I'm almost over the jet lag now and back at my desk once more. We are currently working our way through the signs for the theme park. Today's task was the Wave Swinger sign
  • Installing the light house
    The main sign at the Cultus Lake Adventure Park is anything but ordinary. The sign lettering is routed from Precision Board and assembled with a sturdy frame as are many of our projects. But the lettering is only a teeny part of the sign.
  • Assembling a HDU sign to hide the framework
    On the sign I last posted I forgot to take pictures of the assembly process, but luckily there was a second identical sign. Since I designed the signs to slip into the framework of the lighthouse sign they needed four legs to protrude out of the back. The signs are routed in three layers with the center one inch thick layer having slots in to to accommodate the framework.
  • Sign lettering
    The sign lettering was routed in three pieces... the face, routed from 2" thick 30 lb Precision Board, the middle (which houses the structure) routed from 1" thick material, and the back which is routed from 3/4" thick material. The sign face was routed in two passes, the first as a rough pass with a 3/8" ball nose bit. The final pass was using a 1/8" ball nose
  • Designing sign hanging hardware
    When I welded up the frame for the lighthouse mountain and sign I welded in four inch and a half square tubes that stood out from the finished sign face. These were to fasten the lettering to when we routed it from Precision Board.  The lettering vectors looked  like this. I combined them to form the outline of the sign.
  • Installing Bucky
    The Bucky's Bumper Boat sign was finished the day before yesterday and with the room needed in the shop it was time for the install.   We carefully loaded it in the trailer and hauled it up to the work site. Our client had all the big equipment we needed to the tricky install. All we had to do was unload it and hook it to the zoom boom. The skilled operator shifted the machine into four wheel drive and low range to begin the install.
  • Building the primary sign routing file
    I started design for this project about four months ago. The sign was to be a teeny part of a very large project - an entire theme park. My client approved the design of the sign holder (the waterfall, wood base, small mountain and the lighthouse but wanted a rethink of the actual logo.
  • Waiting for rain but not idle
    Our fall weather has been exceptionally warm and dry compared to normal. This means we are able to concentrate on outside work as much as possible. It also means the MultiCam has been quieter than normal for much of the month. But the typical rainy fall weather is now starting to happen and so we will be in the shop a lot more in the coming weeks and months.
  • Smooth move
    Anytime we move a large piece it is always an exciting day.  The day we move something this large it's over the top! My client was handling the move so it was less stressful than usual. The load towed smooth, and at reasonable speeds it was stable and easy. The good news was we only had ten miles to go. The tight turn up the steeper hill to the lake went without incident.  When we arrived at the ale it took a few minutes to hook up the zoom boom.
  • Building and moving a small mountain
    Sometimes creating a sign involves many disciplines with the routing part only a portion. One of our current projects is just such a piece. We've been working on it for more than a week and the routed portion is still a week distant. It will be the primary sign for the Cultus Lake Adventure Park. The sign will be jammed into a dirt bank.
  • Pieces in progress
    Other pieces I've documented in the last while are quickly getting polished off and moved out into the parking lot until they are transported up to the work site. Here's a few shots. In the shop other pieces are ready for paint or in various stages of base colors. Stay tuned for more... -dan
  • Prefabrication
    Although we've been crazy busy for the last three weeks and have accomplished much there hasn't been time for reporting the progress here. It's time to catch up on things a little. There will be a lot of pieces to design and route for this project, but along with that is a lot of other work which will be tied in. We are literally building a small mountain (large in my eyes) on which some of the routed work will attach. As onsite work begins we have largely been working in the shop, prefabricating as much as we can
  • Workshop report
    The last three weeks have been exhausting with my spending about 100 hours each week in the shop or on the road. The trip to Trinidad was the first adventure. I met with the project principals, engineers, , contractors and government officials to discuss how every step will be done and how the logistics might work. Site visits answered many questions and provided a ton of information for the future.
  • Instant classroom
    Just after first break today we packed up the tools and switched to get ready for workshop mode. The shop was tidied and swept, benches cleared, tables and chairs were brought out from storage and the setup began. In less than two hours the shop was transformed into a classroom one one more time, in readiness for our guests to arrive.  Our Sign Magic Workshop group was travelling from far and wide including, New Brunswick, Ohio, Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Australia
  • Seeing double
    There was some quick hand sculpting on the sign, particularly the edges and scrolls to even things up, get rid of glue lines between the layers of Precision Board and add some woodgrain to the sides of he boards. Then it was time to sculpt the beavers using sculpting epoxy. The two beavers took about two hours per side to sculpt.
  • Leaning Bucky
    The Bucky Beaver sign post is partially chewed through and is to lean precariously over the bumper boat pool. Doing this was relatively easy. I just cut a wedge our of the post and then welded the square tubing back up. The sign structure is all hidden inside. I first welded up a frame while the steel was inside the sign, but with one side open for access Here's another closeup showing how the eye bolt was welded to some flat bar which is turn welded to the square tubing. And here's the sign glued up and ready for some hand work.
  • Starting Skallywag
    I was in Trinidad for five days last week doing preliminary work for a very large project there that is due to start next year. It is going to be both fun and challenging to say the least. I am currently involved in developing all of the artist conceptions and preliminary plans.
  • Building Bucky
    As I mentioned in my last post building a sign with modern software like EnRoute and using a MultiCam makes the task of building this sign a whole lot easier and faster. As always we started with vectors of the various components of the sign. I first created flat reliefs of the two boards that go through the sign. Then I added bitmaps to each board (from my bitmap collection)  Then it was on to the center oval
  • Better late than never
    This is about the longest I've ever sat on a design for a sign but after twelve years it is finally time to build it. Back when I designed it I had no MultiCam CNC router and no fancy programs. I didn't use Precision Board back then either. Back then, if the sign had been made it would have all been done by hand.
  • Carving a gnarly tree
    Work continues at a busy pace in our shop. It's my job to design and weld the structure for each piece. The fellows doing the lathing (tying on the galvanized diamond lath) are only a day or two behind and catching up fast.
  • Cultus Lake Adventure Park
    Work has begun in earnest on the Cultus Lake Adventure Park project. One of the areas is a kids play area called Wilderness Trails. One of five projects started was this sign.  To create the name I first drew it quickly in my sketchbook. Because the park is aimed at young kids I used upper and lower case letters and made it as readable as possible.  I then hand vectorized the drawing in a few minutes.  I then imported the vectors into EnRoute and began building the sign file
  • HEARTS! Everywhere.
    We are wrapping up the routing on the house project for the season as we move on to begin the major customer project that will take us into NEXT summer. The crew is split right now with half finishing up the work on the house and the other half busy on the new. My job is to juggle and organize everyone, plus the final planning for the big project plus the preliminary planning for the next after that. I'm also trying to squeeze in as much physical work as I can as well. Half the shop is stacked with almost completed trim in the final stages of paint.
  • Retro Eveline
    I've always loved the retro, streamlined, modern scripts on old cars and fridges which inspired my choice of lettering for Eveline's name plaque. I decided it needed to be in a simple oval with a textured background. The vectors were created in EnRoute.
  • Guy’s name tag
    For Guy's name plaque I decided a log round would be cool. I started with a domed round relief then imported the bitmap (from the  TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION ) I created the first vector and relief round because the bitmap was that shape, but I squished it a bit to make it an oval. I then created a 1/2" tall flat relief using the lettering outline.
  • Lunar name plaque
    Doug isn't like anybody else I know. By his own description he is part artist, sculptor, painter and mad scientist. His current logo is a rocket blasting off of a moon. Designing his name plaque is a snap
  • Checkerboard name plaque
    With the  Sign Magic Workshop  now just over a month away it is time to get busy with the preparations. Each guest will receive a routed name plaque to take home with them. Through the years of the workshops I've designed and routed more than 200 of these name plaques - all different. they are a great way to learn the program! For Kyle I decided a checkered flag would be cool. I wanted it to wave both vertically and horizontally.
  • Last routed piece for inside new house
    Today a long awaited piece is on the MultiCam. It's the last piece for inside the new house. In the last nineteen months I've created more than 200 routing files in EnRoute and we've routed thousands of pieces. Now the last piece is on the router for the interior with not many left on the outside to go
  • Almost the last of the trim
    One of the MultiCam's strong suits is production routing. It can churn out identical parts all day long with little work from me. The thing is I don't often produce copies of anything we make.
  • BUSY, now and as far as we can see.
    For the last week or so the MultiCam has run twenty-four/seven, churning out the many pieces of trim for the new house. I've shown the process of building those files previously as well as the many stages of painting so I'll leave that be here. As soon as the trim is routed, painted and glazed it is going up on the house and looking very fine at that. Here's one shot of the back patio area
  • Mechanical fish is COMPLETE!
    As soon as my regular work was done I rewarded myself by packing the heavy mechanical fish sign into my office and placed it in it's permanent home on the bookshelf next to my desk. A few minutes with a small brush polished off the last of the painted details and I declared the fish officially DONE. It's been almost three months since I did the first sketches on the plane home from Indiana. I worked on the mechanical fish between other projects, seldom more than an hour or two at most in any sitting and instead of having my helpers assist did everything with my own hands - a rarity.  Although I am sure I might do some things a little differently the next time I am very pleased with the piece.
  • All done – except for…
    With the sculpting now all done it was down to paint and small details. It wouldn't take long. I spent about an hour putting on the rest of the base coats on the rocks. Then it was down to the final glazes.
  • Saturday morning fishing time
    This morning I spent some relaxing time doing the last of the sculpting on the mechanical fish. I also did some more painting of the base coats. The fish is looking pretty good now.
  • Lock it up
    One of the early signs I did just after getting my router was a giant padlock for the lockers at a mini golf at Mall of America.The sign was to mount to a wall.  I decided to weld the bracket right into the interior structure. The padlock shackle was a 2" pipe bent into a 'U'. It would be plenty strong to be sure. The sign faces were routed in layers from 30 lb Precision Board. I then glued them up with the steel frame in the middle using
  • LOTS of signs (and other stuff) in our future!
    In the last few weeks I have run the MultiCam only a little for I have instead been busy at the design table working up the ideas for a large project that will keep us busy into next summer. It's a small theme park called Cultus Lake Adventure Park. I'll be showing lots of progress here of course in the next months but for now I'd love to show some of the sign designs I am working on. Everything will be dimensional of course and our role will be to create all of the signs and the surrounding environments as well. So here's a sneak peek at some of the sign concept designs for the rides and attractions..
  • Putting up outside trim
    Late last summer I posted pictures and file creation blogs of the outside trim of the new house. As the summer weather waned we tucked all the pieces away and concentrated our efforts on finishing the inside of the house. That work took until recently to substantially finish to the point we could move in at last a few weeks ago. Then came the big job of emptying the old house and stripping it of usable items. Today it came down at last.
  • Shoppin’
    The next letter for this sign were for the word 'SHOP'. The 'S' is a length of hose, bent into an 'S' shape. A round fitting on each end looks snazzy.  These were created using the dome tool To create the fittings on each end I created a longer vector, used the dome tool to create the relief and then overlaid a zero height smaller shape, By merging the longer shape to this I could effectively clip the ends square. The 'H' is a combination of various shapes which were then MERGED HIGHEST to the base relief as a last step
  • ‘WORK’ should always be this much fun!
    The workshop/tool file was fun to do - just the kind of complex file I love to do. The key to doing this kind of work is to first have a clear idea of what you intend to do and then think about the order in which you need to do it. Understanding what a program like EnRoute can do is important. A file like this can teach us a lot in a hurry. Since there were so many steps and pictures I'll be posting this in two steps
  • Workshop gear lettering
    The gear sign has lain dormant for a week while I was very busy with other things. Today I finally had time to work a little on it but in last week's business I must of stuck the file somewhere that I simply couldn't remember. So I had to build another. Then it was on to the tool lettering. The first was the 'W'.
  • Paint!
    This weekend is a statutory holiday in our province so the crew is off this Monday. This gives me a little more time to catch up on some personal projects - one of which is the mechanical fish of course. With Labor Day now less than a month distant the 'competition' deadline is looming. Looking at my schedule for the rest of the month means I had to put a few hours in to make sure I don't get behind.
  • Workshop gear – part one
    At our last workshop one of our attendees really fell in love with our workshop door signs. He asked me for the file. Sadly it is long since gone but I offered to create another and post it here on the blog. The original sign was obviously sponsored by the movie 'Robots' which was a little more current at the time. I created the danger lettering vectors in Illustrator as I am used to the way it handles lettering
  • Outside trim
    Last fall I routed a whole bunch of outside trim for the house but as the cooler weather of the season set in we tucked it away and concentrated instead on the inside of the house. Now, with the inside largely complete we are turning out attention once again to the outside. The trim features layered heart insets and is painted with base coats and three colored glazes. It was designed in EnRoute of course and routed from 30 lb Precision Board on our MultiCam. It will take the rest of the week to finish off the painting of the existing trim.
  • To Hells’ Gate and back
    Today my grand daughter and I visited Hell's Gate Airtram, an attraction we built a large piece for many years ago. As we visited it brought back many memories. Almost eight years ago now we bought our first MultiCam Router. I remember well the overwhelming feeling of complexity of both EnRoute and the whole idea of operating such a complicated piece of machinery.
  • Looks like a fancy hubcap
    For such a small and seemingly simple piece the medallion for the Mechanical fish involved lots of steps and procedures. It also meant that I would need a 1/16" ballnose bit - something I don't use very often.
  • Finally an idea I like
    Designing projects, especially one for myself can be challenging at times. When it's for me I tend to second guess myself more. I've been trying to come up with a medallion on the frame under the mechanical fish for some time. Over the last days I've done numerous sketches and a lot of research. Finally I just buckled down, determined to come up with something cool.
  • Grand entry
    Something as cool as a mechanical fish submarine needs a dock with a grand entry system. A drawbridge is just the ticket. Today I added the hinges and mounting plates for the chains (yet to be added) The rock work also was applied today. The key to finding the time to accomplish a project like this is to do a little each day. It's a great reward at the end of the day.
  • Rockin’
    This week is one of sadness for our family as we lost my father-in-law after a long and hard fight against cancer. Spend time with those you love while they are with you. Tell them you love them often. A little work was done in the shop but only in small bits and pieces.
  • This thing has TEETH
    The new house has been dominating my working schedule in the last days, mainly laying floor tile. The good news is there are only four or five more days of work until that task is behind me. We keep work going in the shop however with various small projects underway. The Mechanical fish is on that list of course.
  • Whistle Punk Hollow Adventure Golf project done!
    Yesterday, we put the finishing touches to Whistle Punk Hollow Adventure Golf. It was a good sized project that kept us busy for a little better than five months. Many of the components were designed in EnRoute, and machined from 30lb Precision Board on our MultiCam. This allowed us to produce a better product, and much faster than if we had done it all by hand. Here's a virtual tour of the finished project.
  • More lights!
    I've been busy for the last while on other projects but tonight I managed to squeeze in a few minutes on the mechanical fish project. Todays task was to hollow out the eye sockets, inside the hatch, gill and mouth areas of the fish. In each of these areas I inserted LED lights that would add a magical glow. Ping pong balls cut in half proved to be perfect solution for the eye balls as the blue lights glow through beautifully and with just the right intensity. I still have to design and route the ramp from the door to submarine hatch but other than that the upper portions of piece are now ready for hand sculpting of the details and then paint.
  • Fishing derby for all
    Our little mechanical fish sign 'competition' is getting lots of interest. And I'm geting lots of emails and messages asking if others can play and if so what the rules are. The answer is YES! It all started as a dare of sorts. Jamie Oxenham built a nice little sign for his own studio. Doug Haffner and I were sitting with Jamie at the workshop in Indiana and we commented how we liked his fish.
  • How to hang a fish
    The mechanical fish needed some substantial hangers to look convincing. I decided some hefty I-beams were the order of the day but they needed to be a little fancy of course. Some swoopy curves and some drilled holes would do the trick nicely in a steampunk, victorian sort of fashion.
  • More fishing adventure
    Every submarine needs a dock and the Mechanical fish sub is no different. In fact this dock will be as imaginative as the fish itself. The mechanical fish and dock use just about every trick in the book. As always, the vectors were first. Everything except the letters were created in EnRoute
  • It needs wings to fly
    I jumped the gun on my last entry forgetting to first post the creation of the wing fins and the motor on each end. I used two functions in EnRoute to create the files...  sweep two rails and the revolve functions. As always I started with the vectors, created in EnRoute
  • Sub started
    The thing I love most about our MultiCam is that I can set it up to run in a few minutes and then go away and do something else while the machine turns out the most wonderful pieces and do it more accurately and faster than I ever could. Today I tool pathed the fish submarine and then worked on other things and even took a little time off and visited some friends. When I poked into the shop the pieces were cut perfectly and ready for gluing. I couldn't resist mixing up a little five minute epoxy and putting it together
  • Building a fish file
    In between all of the paying and house projects I've managed to squeeze in a few minutes here and there to work on the mechanical fish challenge project as well. Although the end of summer is still a ways off I've learned to push on the front end to avoid all nighters at the back end. I suspect my 'competition' has yet to learn that. 🙂 Rather than use a high end 3D program I love to build complex files using EnRoute. With a little planning and some creative use of the available functions some pretty cool stuff can be imagined and then built
  • Rail plates
    The rails for the train require plates and spikes to make them look authentic. These will be glued into place but once finished with the rust paint will look pretty convincing.  The vectors were pretty easy and all created inside EnRoute.
  • Riding the rails
    One of the last items we need to design and create for the WhistlePunk Hollow project are the train rails that will be up on the trestle. The train actually sits on some sturdy angle iron and the rails will be just for show. It made perfect sense to machine them from Precision Board rather than source and purchase the real thing. For the end closest to the public I decided to use 40 lb HDU and for the rest we'll stick to our usual 30 lb board. The rails are to be machined in halves from 1.5" thick Precision Board
  • Handy program
    EnRoute is a at program to generate routing files and I use it for that every time I need a piece cut. But I also find EnRoute is a great program to use when I need to create a file of any size that needs to be precise. I've used it to generate the plans for all sorts of projects including layouts for the Adventure Golfs we build and our property layout for when we were building our house. Yesterday I needed to draw a plan I would send off to the folks who were cutting us a thick glass coffee table top. We had hand sculpted the base of the table to look like the 400 year old trees of a plantation my clients had visited in Florida
  • Onsite work
    I absolutely love designing in EnRoute on the computer and then routing our pieces on the MultiCam but the truth is that this most often gets us about 50% of where we are going. It's a good thing I also love to do the hand work and finishing. The WhistlePunk Hollow Adventure Golf project is now in it's final stages after more than six months of production. All of the features except the small signs we built with the help of the software and machine are now installed
  • Final concept
    The projects I build all start with a pen and ink concept drawing (now digital). This drawing is my way to work out many of the  challenges. Even so it is kept loose - all freehand in order to allow lots of 'wiggle room' to facilitate the addition of new and better ideas as the build begins. The Institute for Study of Mechanical Fish challenge sign is no different
  • A sign challenge
    When I was in Bridgeton, Indiana last week I was sitting at a table with Doug Haffner and Jamie Oxenham. Jamie had done a nice sign a while back that we commented on. I love a challenge (probably more than almost anyone) and a challenge was thrown out to design and build a new sign that would push the bar upwards from this fine example.
  • Workshop in Bridgeton, Indiana
    Last week I was in Bridgeton, Indiana, helping to teach a 3D sign workshop there. I was one of the teachers that included Peter Poanessa, Sandy Baird and Jamie & Jody Oxenham.  Rob & Deb Jones were our hosts who did a wonderful job! With about 50 attendees it was a busy time with lots of sharing and learning all along the way. The setting was beautiful with the centerpieces of the town being the covered bridge and the old mill - both spectacular attractions! For those interested it is going to happen next year about the same time once again.
  • 25 dimensional signs in a hurry!
    The MultiCam has been kept running plenty of hours as the fronts and backs (and middles too) of the hole markers and rules signs have been cut.  The files were very large with all of the woodgrain detail and were cut overnight while I slept. While the rule signs were being cut I laminated the hole markers. Each had a piece of 3/4" plywood laminated into the center to ad strength and also provide a secure attachment for the screws.
  • Hole number markers
    May has been one of my most frantic months I can remember in some years. At long last I seem to be getting my feet under me once more. After a week of having no time to build files I have at last got back to my desk once more. The WhistlePunk Adventure Golf signs are the next thing to be done. It is not often we do batch work where multiples of similar signs need doing but a project like the golf needs just that.
  • Woodgrain bitmaps in the works
    I often get asked if photographs will work to create textures. The answer is yes but the routed results will often be something quite different than you might imagine or expected and often not at all what you want. EnRoute translates the values of the photographs into height coordinates. Black does nothing, white is raised by the value of the measurement entered. Gray does something in-between
  • More textures
    This past year has been one of the busiest in my entire career. That is saying a lot! We've been busy with the construction of our new house (which has seemed all consuming at times) as well as a large project in the shop plus our regular work. Add in the recent workshops, plus the traveling to put on other workshops and attend trade shows and it has added up to being very busy. The house is now almost finished on the inside. I have a few more files to run and we have a bit more painting and ceramic tile flooring to lay, but the bulk of the work is now done ay last
  • Why 30 lb Precision Board HDU ?
    The most often question I get asked is why we use exclusively 30 lb (or higher) density Precision Board in our shop. The answer is simple.
  • Why a MultiCam with EnRoute Pro software?
    During our recent Router Magic Workshop a number of people asked me the same question. It's one I often hear from people looking to purchase a new router
  • Small sign structure
    With the big features now largely completed it is time to move to the next phase of the WhistlePunk Hollow Adventure Golf project. And that would be the signs, which are routed from Precision Board of course. During our recent workshop one of the re-occuring questions was in regard to the framework of structure in our signs
  • Logging truck sign
    The Shay Steam train at WhistlePunk Hollow has a companion piece as well. For the seventh hole feature we sculpted a logging truck
  • Train on the trestle
    Yesterday was an exciting day as it was time for the second delivery to the WhistlePunk Hollow project. Each time we make a delivery it is a fun drive with lots of waves, wows and thumbs-up along the way
  • Sculpture Magic Workshop
    The Sculpture Magic Workshop began four days after the last. This time we had four who attended the first workshop and then stayed for the second. This meant I had to keep things fresh, not repeating myself too much
  • Spring 2013 Sign MAGIC Workshop
    The spring 2013 Sign Magic Workshop is now behind us. We had a full workshop with a class of very eager students. We changed things up a little this time with the meals taken in the new house.
  • Almost ready for the workshops
    The spring workshops are now just around the corner with the first students due to arrive tomorrow. We've been busy getting ready! The samples the students will work on are all prepared, The name plaques are getting their final touches
  • Paint MAGIC (part two)
    Here's the second batch of name plaques - ready for the workshop. There is still another bunch of name plaques in the painting process
  • Paint MAGIC (part one)
    Creating files in EnRoute is great fun! Watching the files become real as they are routed from Precision Board on our MultiCam still fascinates me, even after more than six years. But it is the painting process where the real magic happens
  • Kelsey
    The last name tag for the workshops is for Kelsey.  The file was created entirely in EnRoute. As per usual it started with vectors.
  • Dov’s name plaque
    As always the name plaques start with the vectorized design. The lettering was simply typed
  • ISA show in Las Vegas a success!
    I spent three long days in the MultiCam booth at the ISA sign show in Las Vegas. Over the course of three days I talked to hundreds of folks and showed the cool things we do with our MultiCam, EnRoute Software and Precision Board. I built some files and we kept the MultiCan busy turning out little pieces.
  • Friendship
    For our last sample I wanted to create something a little different. I first did a quick google search for 'Japanese symbols'  The symbol for 'Friendship' was nice and simple and perfectly suitable for our sample. I then did a vector trace by hand.
  • Knarly ‘S’
    The 'S' letter sample is one I've done before.
  • Rivet me an ‘a’
    The Sign Magic Workshop is now just over two weeks away.
  • Building a train – part 16
    I posted pictures and a small writeup of the log car that would accompany the steam locomotive on the Whistle Punk Hollow Adventure Golf project. That article covered creating and routing the face of the log which would act as a giant sign. Around that we welded up a framework of quarter inch thick steel bar, then attached expanded lath to that framework.
  • Assembling the pieces
    As I sorted and transferred my old files to a new computer this past week I put all of the router files I had created for the new house in one place. I was surprised to see that there were more than 200 files so far
  • Going to ISA!
    Next week is the International Sign Association show in Las Vegas. It is the largest sign show in the world with more than 20,000 attendees. I'll be there once more at the MultiCam booth.
  • Lasso another
    Don's name plaque employs a variety of techniques.  I started with a dome relief, then modified it by adding a raised center. I used an enlarged sandblasted woodgrain bitmap from the  TEXTURE MAGIC collection  to add a cool texture to the piece
  • Celtic delight
    The build of this name plaque started a little different than most. We would start with the bitmap and let it determine the shape and proportions of our plaque
  • Killer of fish
    A perfect name plaque for a fisherman on your list would be this next one. I made it for John from Colorado. There are a couple tricky steps in making this plaque as I wanted the fish texture to go through his name but not through the border around it.
  • Coming together
    The truck piecers were quickly cut on the router.
  • More lawn signs
    Three more contractor signs are in progress for in front of the new house. The Marr-Tech sign is now glued up over the welded steel frame as is the Turner Closets sign
  • Simple dimensional sign
    We continue to build dimensional signs for the contractors that are working on our house.
  • Bridge build – part one
    Routing the four, large, detailed panels from 1" thick precision Board took a long while - almost fifty hours in total.
  • One of a kind bridge
    Before the large crown molding can go up around the living/dining room area we have to finish off the sides of the bridge that goes over the same area. I've been working on countless ideas for the bridge since well before we even started construction on the house. I've filled many pages of my sketchbook with these ideas but nothing clicked..
  • More fancy
    The giant crown molding production continued today and will for a few days yet. Today we routed the first of the rounded crown moldings that will top the living and dining room windows. I had to work with the material I had in stock and so they will be done in segments and joined , most likely up on the wall
  • Giant crown molding
    We are finally at a point in the project where I can begin work on the giant crown moldings that go around the living and dining room and up and over the big round windows. We wanted them to match the smaller crown molding that is to go on the kitchen cupboards. I traced the end of the molding and then imported that into EnRoute which I then traced to create the vectors needed
  • Building a train – Part fifteen
    The last step of amy project is to ready it for shipping. In this case we get to have the fun of delivering it ourselves.
  • Finalist!
    We are always pleased and honored when one of our projects is considered for an honor in a competition. This year one of our projects has made the final round in the Signs of the Times international sign contest - people's choice.
  • Building a train – Part fourteen
    With the locomotive now almost done it is time to work on the log car. It will sport a giant log with the name of the adventure golf on the side. The rounded log back and ends will be sculpted from fiberglass reinforced concrete
  • Building a train – Part thirteen
    Tonight I installed the front number plate, the top of the steam dome with the whistle and a few of the other remaining bits. I also popped in the Heico Lighting LED modules and routed trim rings.
  • Building a train – Part twelve
    We are still keeping the MultiCam busy as we make the last of the details for the train engine.
  • Building a train – Part eleven
    That big pile of pieces of cut and carved Precision Board is getting smaller each and every day as we glue and assemble and then fasten them to the train.
  • Building a train – Part ten
    It was finally time to assemble all those pieces. The geared trucks for the locomotive were first. I assembled and glued the pieces together, then used the air powered die grinder to round the edges and add character to the 'cast metal'.
  • Building a train – Part nine
    The couplers were fun routing files to create. All the work, including the vectors was done in EnRoute. I took a look online at some photos and then set to work.
  • Building a train – Part eight
    In the old days highly skilled woodworkers would painstakingly carve patterns for castings. Years ago I was in such a wood shop and marveled at the detailed and intricate work I saw. These patterns would then be sand cast to produce the pieces they needed
  • Building a train – Part seven
    The train is coming along nicely. The bulk of the frame, tank and cab is welded steel.  Now it is time to fire up the MultiCam once more and do the many details we need.
  • Building a train – Part six
    It is always fun to dream up fanciful ideas but when it comes time to build these ideas a whole different logic takes over.
  • Building a train – Part five
    It is great fun to design and build a project like the train. A few of the components can be sourced but the bulk of the train will have to be custom built. Today I placed the order for the bulk of the steel I'll use for the project. This will be cut to length and then welded together in their rightful place.
  • Hackensack Sign Magic Workshop a success!
    The Hackensack Sign Magic Workshop is now history. It was a great workshop!  This time around EJ Nordurft from EnRoute did a wonderful job in presenting the technical side of the program
  • Ready for the Sign Magic Workshop in Hackensack NJ
    We spent the day making sure everything is ready for the Sign Magic Workshop that begins tomorrow morning - bright and early. The tables are set up, samples ready, video equipment all tested and ready. I think we are almost there
  • Building a train – part four
    Some of the truck components were built as separate components. they will be routed separately and them  assembled to be part of the log car truck
  • Wainscot up and trim started
    On January 1 I posted the text pieces of front window trim with the butterfly inserts.
  • Building a train – Part three
    The train is going to require the building of many files, most using techniques I've demonstrated  here previously. We'll use every trick in the book and probably invent a few more along the way. Todays build is the truck for the locomotive.
  • Rapid Texture wainscot progress
    Over the last while I've routed ten sheets of 30 lb Precision Board with Rapid Texture for the wainscoting. In the last few days our finish carpenters have begun trimming the sheets to size and installing them in the new house. In preparation I also designed surrounds for the plugs.
  • Building a train – part two
    I designed a second style of wheels that would be used on the back side of the locomotive and on the log car.
  • Building a train – part one
    Today I began work on the train. I like to start with the wheels, then the trucks and then work my way up from the frame
  • Service with a smile
    They say good service is a thing of the past in our modern times. In my experience this simply is not true.
  • Window trim test
    The new house interior will require many specialized and custom moldings. Today I created the first test piece. One of Janis' favorite themes is butterflies so we decided to incorporate them into the trim in the living and dining room areas.
  • Wood carver install
    Yesterday was finally time to install the wood carver figure we had sculpted. The hardest part of the install was hoisting it up on the scaffold. once we got it into position it took less and 30 seconds to slip in the routed shutters and then screw it securely to the wall
  • Whistle build
    A whistle punk was a young lad (generally) who's job it was to blow whistle signals that warned the loggers out in the bush that the steam donkey was about to tighten up the cables to drag another log out of the woods. His job was also to make sure any wayward sparks from the wood fired boiler got put out before they started any fires in the woods
  • First WhistlePunk sign
    The first file I created for the WhistlePunk Hollow Adventure Golf Project was the primary sign. It will be reproduced in various scales and so I kept this in mind as I designed the file.
  • Major project announcement for 2013
    As 2012 rapidly winds down we find ourselves beginning the planning for 2013.
  • Sculpting a carpenter
    We've been working on a fun little project that is now almost complete.
  • Rapid Texture Wainscot
    EnRoute is capable of many things. One unique feature is something called Rapid Texture. Normally routing files are created by creating a relief
  • Road trip
    There's not much routing in this project but it sure was a fun one!  I thought everyone would enjoy today's adventure. -dan
  • Designing in EnRoute
    If I have to do a scale drawing for a project I will most often start inside EnRoute. It's the only cad program I have and it is also easy to use as a drawing program. This past week I was asked to design a gate for a client
  • Batter up!
    This past week we were busy with our MultiCam. Jeff Hartman, one of the creators of EnRoute software was here in my studio. He was here to develop and test an interface to program and run the fourth axis of our router.
  • Complex pub sign – part four
    I forgot to grab screen captures of the small bottom oval but it was a flat relief, modified with a second layer using the dome tool. Then the 'Q' was added to the top of that with a 0.15" height. It was then merged highest with the previous base relief.
  • Complex pub sign – part three
     With the background of the sign done it was time to start in on the scroll and lettering.
  • Complex pub sign – part two
    The pub sign started like pretty much every project.
  • Complex pub sign – part one
    Last week I received a request to build a file for another pub sign for the same fellow I did some for a while back. It is not often I build files that I do not design and route but Dave's work is just so fine and challenging that I find it hard to resist. Dave is in the process of building a new building to house a router of his own
  • Kel-Mor signs
    Because the little dump truck is to be paraded out onto the ice between periods at local hockey games it is important that the customer's name be extra large on the side. Lettering on the doors simply wouldn't have worked
  • Just a few details on the router
    On some projects we use our router for only small bits of the whole. A current project, a small dump truck built over a golf cart chassis is a perfect example.
  • Sign Magic Workshop – New Jersey
    It is not often that opportunity knocks twice. Hurricane Sandy forced the postponement of the previously scheduled Sign Magic Workshop in Hackensack, New Jersey.
  • Ready to go!
    This afternoon I received word the truck would arrive first thing tomorrow morning. It was time to move the sign out onto the parking lot in readiness.
  • The sun shines!
    Today our LED lighting arrived from Heico Lighting. The LED lights they manufacture are unlike anything I've ever seen before. They use a contactless technology, meaning there are no wires to hook up or solder.
  • Down to the short strokes (of paint)
    The Sunshine Homes sign has been dominating our shop space for quite some time. We've walked and worked around it since fabrication began. Rebecca painted the rock work with blends of grey and back and then we added two colors of speckles to make it look like granite
  • Da plane! Da plane!
    One of our current projects is a sign for a finish carpenter. The design requires an oversized woodworker's plane perched on top of the sign.
  • Splash of color!
    Since the last post about the Sunshine Homes sign we've made great progress. The last of the welding was finished and the diamond mesh was all tied to the frame
  • Fifty ways to build a relief – Part nine
    Routing these two fish panels didn't take very long.
  • Fifty ways to build a relief – Part Eight
    I've been asked to include tool paths in this series of posts. I will be including feeds and speeds but it is important to remember that all machines are not created equal
  • Fifty ways to build a relief – Part Seven
    Before we get to tool pathing I want to show how I prepare many of my piece for routing. The standard way is to tool path and route the piece and then do an offset cut to free them from the substrate. This works well but in doing so a burr, the size of the radius of the smallest tool is left around the top edge.
  • Fifty ways to build a relief – Part six
    For our sixth version of the fish relief I did not start at the beginning. The chamfered edge relief with the sunken center was already done
  • Trains!
    I've loved steam trains for as long as I can remember. They just have a magic about them. I've panted a bunch of historical murals that featured them and have studied endless historical photos to get the details just right.
  • Fifty ways to build a relief – Part five
    For the next version of the relief we started where we left off yesterday.  To begin adding to that version I created a small circle vector and then duplicated it three times
  • Fifty ways to build a relief – Part four
    As we get into the fourth version of this fish relief it is getting much more fun.  If you've practices and memorized the steps in creating reliefs up to this point then this is where the real fun and creativity begin. This time around I'll be doing a few things differently because we'll be adding textures to various parts of the relief in specific areas
  • Fifty ways to build a relief – Part three
    Today I created another version of the fish plaque, taking things up one more notch of course.
  • Fifty ways to build a relief – part two
    Now that we've created a simple relief and modified it a couple different ways it is time to get a little fancier. Let's start with a chamfered border on our fish plaque.
  • Fifty ways to build a relief – part one
    During my recent vacation I had plenty of time to think about things I would like to talk about in the future. Visiting Disneyland sure fired up my imagination.
  • Story telling through design
    Learning to be a good designer takes time. I believe it comes through practice and also by truly seeing (and taking careful note of what we see) good design around us. There are some good books available, the best most likely the one by the late Mike Stevens
  • New Jersey Sign MAGIC Workshop less than a month away!
    I've heard there are still some seats available in New Jersey. I've made my plane and travel arrangements.
  • Gathering ideas
    For the next week or so I'm in Disneyland. You can bet we are having the time of our lives sharing it for the first time with our grand daughter Phoebe
  • The sun is up!
    Today was a busy day as I textured up the letters and sun and welded everything securely in place.
  • The sun is almost up
    While the MultiCam was whittling the sun I was welding the finished letters onto the sign base.  The sign started to look pretty massive in the shop
  • Making the sun shine
    The giant sun for the Sunshine Homes sign was the next order of business. I created the vectors in EnRoute. The rectangle on the bottom will be used to cut off the round sun
  • First set glued
    I had great plans to glue up a set of letters first thing in the morning using every available clamp I had. Then this afternoon I could remove the clamps and get a second set glued up
  • Routing two piece letters
    The Sunshine Homes lettering was relatively simple. I would route them in two layers with a half round groove routed in the middle so a steel rod frame could be laminated into the center of each letter with rods  protruding from the bottom to weld into he sign base. As usual we started with the vectors
  • More Sunshine
    The Sunshine Homes sign is coming along nicely. Today I sourced a 12" x 12" x 4" waterproof electrical box to house the transformer for the low voltage LED wiring.
  • More Disney inspiration
    We are soon going to visit Disneyland again.
  • A little sunshine!
    With the house now at lockup stage at long last it is time to get busy in the shop once more. We have plenty of cool projects waiting for us. One of our projects is for a home prefabricator in Alberta
  • First assembly
    It's been a while since I had any time to work on the Lucky Jim sign but tonight I squeezed in about half an hour to do a few things and make significant progress. I cut a few pieces on the band saw including the two axles and the frame.  I also cut some axles from 1/4" steel pencil rod and then drilled the holes (slightly off kilter) for the wheels.
  • Now they can find us
    Yesterday I routed the address marker for the new house. It turned out really nice. The piece will blend perfectly into the other house trim and yet stand out when someone wants to know our house number - not that they won't know it is our house.
  • Address marker
    Sometimes the files that appear real simple have a lot of steps. Our address sign for the new house was such a piece.
  • Trim ready for paint
    The house project is still going full blast. The outside finishes are almost done, with the windows now being installed. Now it is time to begin putting up the trim - as soon as it is all painted and glazed.
  • inspiration
    I often get asked where I get all my ideas. The answer of course is everything I see and imagine
  • Laying down tracks
    Today was a busy day but I couldn't resist working just a little on the Lucky Jim Mine sign. The MultiCam was busy routing exterior moldings for the house but as each file finished I snuck in the railroad wheels and tracks on what would have been scrap. I actually ran the wheels twice as the first time they were simply too big for the sign I was building
  • Mine car wheels
    The wheels of the little mine car are a great exercise to practice our building of various shaped reliefs and how to merge them into a final shape which we want. As we build the reliefs we have to keep in mind the final result and then think of what we have to add or take away to get exactly that.
  • Lucky Jim Gold Mine inspiration
    The house is a fun project and we've used EnRoute, Precision Board and our MultiCam plenty but lately I've been itching for something a little more creative. With the house we typically don't need one copy of anything but instead keep the router busy making fifty copies of what we need. That is a little too much like production work and that doesn't totally scratch my creative itch after a while.
  • What happens at a Sign Magic Workshop?
    I often get asked what we teach at one of our Sign Magic Workshops. In this short format it is very hard to describe..
  • Sign Magic Workshop at MultiCam East information
    The registration information for the Sign Magic Workshop is now posted by the folks at MultiCam East.  I'm personally very excited about this first workshop on the eastern USA. It should be a fun and informative time.
  • Painting the trim on the house
    Our university students are with us a few more days before they head back to their studies. Next week I'll be back in my shop once more and things will get back to normal after a busy summer on the house. We've been busy starting to install the routed trim and then painting it up in it's final colors.
  • City crest on router
    Today I finally had the chance to put a piece of 2" Precision Board onto the MultiCam and route the city crest file I built last week. The file was routed in two passes - one with a 3/8 ball nose bit and a second pass with a tapered flute 1/8" ball nose bit
  • NEW JERSEY Sign MAGIC Workshop
    We get lots of enquiries regarding workshops away from our studio - especially from the folks on the eastern seaboard.
  • Last steps to create the crest relief
    The last two elements were the most complicated or at least appeared so.
  • More steps on the crest
    The wheat crown on the top of the crest was the next part of the relief puzzle. It like the rest of the relief would use a variety of tool in the EnRoute bag. The vector was fine as is with the exception of the two drop shaped pieces at each end.
  • Simple steps to complicated crest
     A current project in the shop is a three dimensional crest for a city. The file is somewhat complicated, mostly because it involves so many steps and procedures to build the file using a wide variety of techniques.
  • More trim
    There are many files and hundreds (perhaps thousands) of pieces to route for the new house. We are concentrating on the outside trim these day and keeping the MultiCam running day and night. The last few days we've been working on the round window trims.
  • 2D fun
    Now that we use EnRoute and our MultiCam router I couldn't imagine building a house like ours without these marvelous tools. We've designed and cut hundreds of pieces already for the project and will be adding a while bunch more before we are done. The files we created and cut today were simple 2D shapes that will be combined to form something far more complex
  • WORKSHOP dates set
    We've set the dates for the next Sign MAGIC Workshop in spring. I've been getting lots of enquiries and with so many folks interested in booking already we decided to firm things up well in advance. The Sign Magic Workshop will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday April 19, 20, 21, 2013.
  • Vertical trim pieces
    The carpenters are now finished the soffits of the new house, meaning we can start in on our work in a big way. The backing for the trim pieces was first put in place and then the fiberglass reinforced concrete was troweled on. Rock work was sculpted into the bottom
  • Richard’s plumbing
    Our in floor heating contractor decided he too wanted a sign our front of our house.
  • Fox and Hounds sign install
    The morning dawned bright and clear- perfect for a delivery. I checked the straps on the load, made sure the lights were working on the trailer and we were off! We pulled into the parking lot just as John backed into place with the crane
  • Fox sign ready for transport
    After waiting almost twelve weeks for a permit to install the Fox and Hounds Pub sign it is at last time to do the install. Todays task was to first build a giant easel on the flat bed trailer. We used welded steel for maximum strength.
  • Curved ceiling framework
    The vaulted ceiling pieces I cut a few days ago fit perfectly. They strengthened and tied tougher the top of the ceiling joists where they attached to the ridge beam and also gently wrapped the curved ceiling over the top of the room
  • CNC house
    The MultiCam has been busy in the last few days routing the many pieces we needed to create the vaulted ceilings in the upstairs bonus rooms, and the living/dining room. As the machine cut the pieces effortlessly it brought back memories of many hours cutting similar pieces by hand back in the days before we got the CNC router.
  • Time for more cutting
    The framing of the house is coming along quickly.  A common theme that goes through the house both inside and out is arches
  • Firs trim installed
    The new house is coming along great! The roof sheeting is a couple of days from completion. While the carpenters were busy on the roof we were busy on the ground floor welding up the framework for the trees and then attaching the lath for the plasterwork to follow. At long last we are now ready to begin icing the cake
  • Final house trim at last
    The house is coming together quickly. The carpenters are busy sheeting the roof
  • All plugged up
    Today I finally found the time to do the last work on the C & S Electric sign prior to painting. I was working from an existing logo designed by someone else.
  • Assembling all those pieces
    The contractor and his team of carpenters are making great progress on the new house.
  • creating woodgrain form liners
    I received an email this morning from Jim in Minnesota.
  • Cut, cut, cut
    It isn't often in our shop that we use our router as a jigsaw or cut plywood rather than Precision Board, but when we do it churns out a mountain of parts in a hurry. Today we were cutting curved headers, eyebrows and beams. We whipped through a pallet of 3/4 plywood in no time
  • Dimensional contractor signs
    Six dimensional signs are now up in front of the new house.
  • Easy to do – just as easy to fix
    One of the great things about using a program like EnRoute with a CNC router is how fast we can produce something and then modify it if necessary. Changes are simple and quick. Today I designed the first sample eyebrow for over the house windows
  • Lift day
    As part of the beam project I thought folks might find the lifting process interesting - its an important and critical part of the process. Including this part will help readers se just how everything fits together
  • Concept to reality – part two
    The beam project was far from finished.
  • From concept to reality
    It is one thing to draw something cool and quite another to realise it as a full 3D object, often larger than life. In between there are many steps required to create it, safe and legal
  • Structure for small Precision Board sign
    Precision Board is a wonderful substrate. It routed superbly. It holds detail well.
  • Working up a logo from scratch
    The fellows who are spraying the foam insulation in our new house are a startup company. I've known them for quite a while and they came to me to help them work up an identity and a dimensional sign of course. I first listened to their thoughts.
  • More routed details
    One of the reasons we purchased a router almost seven years ago was to fabricate the custom pieces we would need for the house we were planning.
  • House built with love
    We've been struggling to come up with the details on the trim of our new house.
  • Moose makes trek home
    It is always a fun adventure to deliver one of our projects.
  • Cutting it close
    With the installation of the moose happening early tomorrow morning we simply had to finish it tonight. Generally I like to finish well before deadlines but this has been an incredibly crazy week. We worked until just before 10 pm tonight to get the last of the paint on the mighty moose
  • Last of the window bucks installed
    Often many small routed pieces for a much larger assembly. Our house project is no exception..
  • Moose gets his skin
    Today was the day to put a skin on the mighty  moose sign which we routed the a double sided sign for a while back.
  • Window bucks being installed
    The hues is coming along nicely.
  • Roofer’s sign
    The roof supplier for our nerd house has been in business for 75 years. They had a logo they loved and so I just had to interpret it to be a dimensional sign.
  • Window bucks almost complete
    The last week has been a hectic one. The crew has been busy in the shop but most of my time has been spent on the new house project. There are so many decisions to be made at the start it seems
  • Assembly of the Mighty Moose Ice Cream sign
    The Mighty Moose Ice Cream sign needed to be assembled.
  • Knock, knock
    A short while back we designed and cut the mock window shapes. Today we assembled the fist window buck thick combined four windows and one door into one large piece.
  • Horse head routed
    Things were a little crazy in the shop while so much was going on but through it all the MultiCam was busy churning out creative work. I sliced the horse's head in EnRoute, then tool patched it and sent it off to the MultiCam. It was routed in four layers of 1.5" 30 lb Precision Board
  • Mighty Moose sign
    The Mighty Moose sign is to be a double sided sign. The owner asked that it be old weathered wood, which suits the theme perfectly. First up we created the lettering
  • Moose structure
    The Mighty Moose Ice Cream sign is coming along nicely.
  • More EnRoute 5 fun!
    I recently got a job where I had to do some things that previous versions of EnRoute couldn't handle. My client wanted a horse's head.
  • Building a base
    Todays project is most likely the simplest I have done on this blog, and yet it made me think, mainly because I don't do this kind of file very often. I know there are simpler ways to do this job, but I don't know how to do it. Rather than look it up in the manual I decided to just do it the way I knew it would work.
  • Picture this
    One of Janis' concerns was just how big the front and rear windows of the house would be.
  • Making the pieces puzzle shaped
    This morning I fired up the MultiCam to cut the pieces for the window bucks. There were sixty-four pieces in all, cut from 25 sheets of half inch plywood. In spite of having other projects on the go that distracted me the task was done in less than two hours
  • First pieces of the puzzle arrive
    We've routed a lot of Precision Board into some pretty wild signs over the years. In the next days our MultiCam will be pressed into service once more.
  • Mighty Moose
    As well as the work we are doing on the house we are keeping busy in the shop on customer projects as well. A recent addition to the list of upcoming projects looks to be a fun one! A friend of mine owns a small ice-cream parlor on a very busy street... actually less than a block from our place.
  • Jigsaw delight
    It is not often I use our MultiCam to merely cut pieces. With the new house now in progress it will get pressed into service to cut shapes more often than it has in the past. The first task is to cut the window bucks or forms
  • Open the big magic doors!
    Today was a busy day in the shop. My winter students are now full time in the shop and our son Peter has joined us for the summer as well
  • innotech
    We've chosen to go with INNOTECH windows and doors for our new house. These windows are the among the greenest out there and with triple glazing on the north/road side of the house they should work exceptionally well
  • Wooly is done!
    This sign was a whole lot of fun to do from the first inkling until it's finish. Today the ladies put on the final glazes and then painted the lettering.
  • Fox gets some color
    Today we got to the color on the large Fox and Hounds Pub sign. The whole sign was primed with Coastal Enterprises' FSC-88 WB primer.
  • It grow on you
    With the new house there are so many things going on and so many decisions to make. It is almost overwhelming at this stage but we are making great progress
  • Warm and fuzzy
    There is lots going on these days with projects in all phases of design and production.
  • Productive day
    Today we kept real busy and got a lot accomplished too. We finished sculpting the head of the fox today. It is much bigger than it looks.
  • Dimensioning a corporate logo
    Most of the work we do is stuff I design. These pieces are thought out from first concept as a three dimensional pieces. For the new house project I am doing dimensional versions of some logos which I did not design and this means I have to translate their corporate looking logos into three dimensional form without destroying the integrity of the original design.  The first thing I do is look at the design and decide what is flexible and what isn't. Obviously the fonts and symbols are cast in stone as is the layout of the same
  • Feeling foxy!
    Today was the day we were to play with sculpting epoxy - the whole day. Sarah and Hailey did the mixing while I did the sculpting.
  • Top end work
    Today we set up the scaffold so I could apply the last of the hand done texture over the background areas of the sign. It made working on the sign a whole lot more comfortable, safer and faster. Here's a typical section with the hand done texture done with the air powered die grinder.
  • Last piece on
    The last piece of the Fox and Hounds Pub sign was glued in place today. There are 21 pieces in all.
  • First a secure foundation
    Every project we create first involves creating a secure and strong structure.
  • Can’t have ordinary here
    We had a meeting with the contractor for our new house today.
  • More progress
    As big as the sign looked as we began to assemble it, it only looks larger with each additional piece.
  • It’s a BIGGY!
    The sliced and diced sign needed to be put back together again when it was off the MultiCam.
  • Slicing and dicing a large sign
    A project that's been in production for a while is a large sign for the gable of the Fox and Hounds.
  • We have a plan!
    Five weeks ago I posted the first images of some ideas for our planned house. Now it is officially a go with real plans and drawings in hand at last.
  • Drawing with invisible ink
    I've shown many drawings here of the concept drawings we do to show our customers the things I have in mind. While the first sketches are almost always done in a sketchbook with an old fashioned pen, the finished art is done using a digital drawing tablet
  • Have I got a deal for you!
    During the Sculpting Magic Workshop I did up a wooly mammoth as my demonstration piece. It's been moved ten times since and so I decided he better get a proper mount and get hung on the wall before he gets damaged.
  • Soggy success
    Today dawned cool and very wet. And it rained harder as the day went on. Even so, today was the day we would install the Lark Rise sign.
  • Creating a fossil with bitmaps
    I love working with bitmaps to create textures. For me it is easy to see how the various shades of black white and grey will affect the reliefs inside EnRoute.
  • Special delivery
    Creative doesn't stop with the fabrication of our signs and projects.
  • All eyes on Orlando
    This week is the International Sign Association show in Orlando. Sadly, I didn't get to go this year.
  • Quiet here, busy there
    The last two weeks have gone by in a blur. With two different workshops in ten days we've put in a tremendous amount of hours, but little actual routing time. This week things will kick back into regular mode
  • The key to merging
    Today I spent my time teaching a relative newcomer to EnRoute the ins and outs of merging reliefs. Like many he found the concept of merging reliefs somewhat hard to grasp.
  • More details
    We are keeping very busy these days with the design of future projects.
  • Finishing Touches
    With our Sculpture Magic Workshop now only four days away the name plaques for our attendees are well into production. Today I show three that need just a little more work to be finished.
  • Last of the series.
    Since the Sign Magic Workshop begins tomorrow morning bright and early I am posting the last of this series of name plaques today. Scott works in sales at MultiCam Western Canada so I decided his name plaque should reflect the machines he sells
  • Rafael
    Rafael is our guest teacher from EnRoute for the Sign Magic Workshop that begins tomorrow. He is one of the support techs for the software and knows his stuff.
  • About time!
    Just over six years ago, just after we got our first MultiCam router I designed and cut a clock surround for our shop clock. We had purchased a clock - just for that purpose.
  • Brother Darryl
    For Darryl I decided to do something a little more formal. As I played around in my sketchbook I decided I liked to play diamonds against share shapes
  • Shop and studio tour
    Today I decided I would do something a little different. I've shown bits and pieces of the shop and studio in the hundreds of pictures on the blog but I get many requests to show how it all fits together
  • Distort tool – EnRoute 5
    For Dustin's name tag I decided on an old western theme. He owns and operates a theme park with a railroad theme. I types in the lettering, enlarging the 'D' and 'N'.
  • Pure Magic
    More than six years ago I clearly remember watching my shiny new MultiCam run down the table, stop at a precise location and then magically carve away at a piece of Precision Board to reveal the piece I had designed a few minutes previously at my desk. It was pure MAGIC. The pieces I designed at first were very simple for I had so much to learn
  • A star is born
    Chris' name plaque had a lot less steps compared to some of the others. It was to be a simple domed oval with  border and slightly raised textured center. I tweaked the font I chose as the 's' was higher than the other letters
  • No horsing around today
    Today was a busy one in the shop, both getting ready for the upcoming Sign Magic Workshop and also working on some projects. The Lark Rise sign got the bulk of the attention today with the final base oats and glazes being applied. The ladies did the bulk of the work and did a great job too! In the shot below Sarah and Haley are just finishing the second coat of glaze on the post
  • Good enough to eat!
    The last time I made name plaques one of them looked a little like a plate of spaghetti.
  • Playing with new toys
    With the next Sign magic Workshop now only a week away we are very busy creating the name plaques we give each attendee. For the first one I wanted to create the look of an old piece of news paper with Darrel's name on it. The font I used was called American typewriter. To get an antique look I decided I would give a new tool in EnRoute 5 a try
  • Butterfly house concept
    This week has been largely all about our new house and other business matters. Not much got accomplished in the studio or shop so far. The new house was very much in mind when we purchased our first MultiCam six years ago and also the new four axis model we just replaced it with.
  • Workshops! Workshops! Workshops!
    These days we are thinking a lot about our Sign Magic Workshops. The next one to be held here in our studio is now only a week away
  • Chasing the elusive butterfly
    As we begin planning our new house in earnest, one of our happy tasks is to choose the perfect theme. Like our commercial projects the theme will extend to the corner blocks of the doors and windows and throughout the trim of the building. On commercial projects this is part of the branding, while in our house it will be merely decor
  • A few more details
    Today was another day at the Fox and Hounds.
  • The color starts
    With the carving and sculpting now done it is time to kick off the painting process. First the usual coat of FSC 88-WB primer from Coastal Enterprises. This smoothes things out a little and also is used to apply a subtle texture to the lettering by using a small brush on those areas.
  • Reaching around the world!
    It never ceases to amaze me that people from literally around the world take the time to follow our blog regularly. Most who follow the blog are fellow professionals, who desire to learn about how we do things in our shop. I get lots of emails from these folks which often include pictures of projects they have done, inspired by what they have seen on our website.
  • Sign Magic Workshop almost here!
    The last couple days have been frantic with many meetings and lots of organizing. I haven't had much time to create routing files. The beauty of having a MultiCam is I can easily keep it busy while I do other things.
  • Ultimate project?
    They say the hardest project for any artist to do is one for themselves. I know it to be true through experience. But these projects also allow us the ultimate freedom to do what pleases us and have the potential to be out best work
  • Assembly
    Once the router was finished cranking out all the pieces of the Lark Rise project it was time to start in on assembly. The first task was to weld up a steel frame that would go through the sign and also down the post to provide structural strength.  Although the sign board looks like it can swing it is actually welded in place. The horizontal steel pipe is welded to the vertical pipe that goes from top to bottom through the middle of the post
  • Routing times with textures
    A question that often pops up in our email box and at workshops is about routing times. Folks want to know how long it will take to run these kinds of files.
  • Creating the Lark Rise sign files
     The Lark Rise sign was next up on the agenda. I created the lettering vectors in Illustrator and then imported them to EnRoute where I created the rest of the vectors for the design
  • Pure magic in four axis
    I love curves, textures and fancy bits, especially if they take a good design over the top.
  • A weird shaped block
    This whole fourth axis routing thing is forcing me to think in brand new ways. Being all new means I really have to work at getting it right
  • Details, details and more details
    We are down to the final bits and pieces for the pub project. As they begin to operate for real in the renovated facility the need for an abundance of operational signs immediately became apparent. For these signs we opted for a faux copper look.
  • Creating a file for a fancy turned column
    The center section of the post is the next assignment. It will be routed on the four axis MultiCam. First I had to determine the scale and shape of the piece
  • Pressing on in spite of temporary doubts
    In spite of a whole bunch of other necessary work going on in the shop I could't resist sneaking another half hour with the die grinder on the piece. I whipped on the wood grain, and as I progressed I was more than a little unsure that I may just have wrecked the piece
  • Horsing around with the die grinder
    About 50 minutes with the die grinder got rid of all the seams, and roughed out the basic shape. I also flattened out the bottom of the head and glued it onto the base plate
  • Pure fun – without breaking into a sweat
    Today we did the last of the routed interior signs for the Fox & Hounds Pub. They were glued in readiness for the finishing in the next few days
  • It’s all about reliefs
    I started in on the Lark Rise post today. This is both challenging and FUN! To do a project like this you REALLY have to understand how to make reliefs, and what happens with the merge commands. There is no faking this kind of complex file.  I first created vectors by hand tracing the various elements of the post.
  • A few more things off the list
    This morning I loaded the front seat, back seat and box of the truck with completed signs, materials and tools I would need and then headed to the Fox & Hounds Pub.  The dart board was the first piece, then the cooler (CELLAR) door. Above it I finished sculpting the fittings and taps onto the purposely exposed telephone conduits
  • Score another for me
    Today's project didn't happen on the router table, nor on a computer.
  • A little of everything
    One of our current projects is one that will use pretty much every feature and technique we can muster including the four axis capabilities of the MultiCam. Textures, bevels, layers, fancy turning, indexing, and plenty of bits and pieces and lots more are used on the sign. Our client owns a small acreage, with buildings that evoke a Hobbit feel.
  • Go ahead – throw things.
    It's not often we would encourage anybody to throw sharp things at something we have labored over but as always there are exceptions. today's project was just such a case
  • Two more pics
    Today we had company and went for lunch at the Fox & hounds Pub. I was delighted to see the place buzzing. I sat facing the door and watched people as they came in.
  • EnRoute 5 – MOST exciting feature so far.
    Yesterday I posted about my first impressions of version 5 of EnRoute. I had discovered the warp/distort feature but didn't have much time to play as of yet.
  • Laying on the paint
    Today was spent largely laying primer and base coats on a whole lot of small routed pieces in the shop. This stage of our projects is the least spectacular but time consuming none-the-less. The small shady rest sign got the most color with the foliage receiving one glaze with more to come.
  • Kicking the tires on EnRoute 5
    EnRoute 5 has been eagerly anticipated for some time. Now it is only weeks away.  Recently, I was asked if I wanted to test drive a pre-release version of the software.
  • Darts anyone? Part two
    The second part of the project was the frame that would go around the dart board. Yesterday's project fit perfectly in the center to take full advantage of the material.
  • Game of darts part one, anyone?
    We are still working on details at the Fox & Hounds Pub. The to-do list is slowly being whittled down to size. Today I designed and routed a whole load of small signs, NO SMOKING, MECHANICAL ROOM and such
  • Day of rest
    Today, I finished the sculpting on the Shady Rest sign. It was fun to add all the small details such as his wiggly toes, his big belly and the had pulled down low over his eyes
  • Time to fly!
    Today, being Saturday was sort of a day off. Janis was busy with horse stuff and so I had the time to do what I wanted in the shop
  • Working in the dark
    Yesterday, in the early afternoon, when I went up the road to get some small supplies from the local hardware store we noticed some smoke coming from a neighboring building.
  • Built to last
    Then it was time to take the routered pieces of Precision Board off the MultiCam and make them into a sign.  I used the center pieces of the sign as a jig to hold things nice and steady I cut short lengths of 1" x 1" steel tubing to length, approximating the angles by eye. The beauty of welding is that small gaps are easily remedied with a MIG welder.
  • A change is as good as a rest.
    We don't do a lot of residential and cabin signs but when we do I enjoy them. In this case the owner's wanted something playful that reflected their relaxed time at their cottage.
  • Workshops coming fast!
    Our next Sign Magic Workshop is now less than eight weeks away - March 9-11, 2012.  In these workshops we talk about, show and practice, hands-on, all the things I write about here in the blog.
  • Town crier sign(s) done.
    Yesterday I worked on the signs adding color after color, glaze after glaze. Each stage went quickly and by the time I was done every square inch of the signs had at least four layers of paint/glaze - some up to six coats. Because of the design and routing of multiple layers and lots of textures the process went easy
  • Sign comes to life with color!
    The two signs are being worked on simultaneously with progress being about equal. Similar but not the same, I'll let the client choose the one they want and I'll hand the other in our showroom as a sample to encourage future sales of this kind of sign. The paint started with Coastal Enterprises heavy bodied primer FSC-88 WB
  • More than just a pretty face.
    Structure is critical in our work. Structure comes in many forms starting with the substrates we choose. In our shop I like to use 30 or 40 lb Precision board exclusively while most shops stick with the less expensive 15-20lb HDU
  • Ring that bell!
    Today's project was a simple one but it shows an EnRoute tool I use a lot these days. The tool is the revolve tool.
  • Here and there and everywhere.
    Today was one of those days where I jumped all over the place.
  • Old and new blended seamlessly
    I love to blend old fashioned, hand crafted ways with the modern tools. Digital tablets, virtual sculpting with a modern computer program, file building with EnRoute, and the CNC router of course are blended with hand sculpting, carving and painting to create our art pieces. In the last two days I used a wide variety of tools.
  • Shout it out!
    We needed one more sign for a key area in the Fox and Hounds Pub. The sign wouldn't be large, measuring about 30 inches tall at most but it needed to shout out.
  • Wavy banner
    The ballon will be 'towing' a wavy banner that has our name on it. This is advertising after all. I decided it would wave both vertically and horizontally for maximum effect
  • Up, up and away!
    I assembled the nose cones with screws and PB Bond 240 - a one part glue from Coastal Enterprises.
  • Nose cone
    For the nose cones of the ballon I decided to use the 3 axis part of the router. It was a quicker way of doing things in this case. I first measured up the balloon to determine the angle and size of the nose cone, then began building the file in EnRoute.
  • Quilted balloon on 4 axis router
    On Friday it was time to put our first real project on the four axis MultiCam and give it a whirl. IT would be the hot air balloon
  • What if?
    Today was a day of WHAT IFS! Sean Kirsch and Craig Sior had worked out all the hickups on the MultiCam fourth axis machine and now it was time to start figuring out the things that were now possible. We started with a basic barrel shape. A raised and bevelled letter A was added for good measure.
  • One more piece of the puzzle put into place
    Yesterday was a big day. The heavy dimensional sign was to be lifted into place on the gable end of the Fox and Hounds Pub. It was heavy and awkward to handle but I had the help of the contractor on the project
  • Almost ready!
    Today was a day for which I've been waiting for a long while. Shawn Kirsch, a tech from MultiCam came to the shop to start in on setting up our new machine. We swung the gantry into position, bolted it down and and then he leveled the machine before doing hookups and dialing in the various parts
  • One sign on the go!
    Today I made a quick trip to the Fox and Hounds to install the smaller of the two logo signs. It instantly snapped into place and looked perfect in it's new home.  Then it was back to the shop to load the larger of the two signs
  • Two more signs almost ready to go up
    This week promises to be a busy one. The highlight of course is the setting up and kicking into operation of our new four axis MultiCam. Shawn Kirsch, head tech from MultiCam, Texas will arrive on Tuesday to do the work.
  • Gathering inspiration and sharing information.
    This past week has gone by in a blur.
  • A few more pictures
    The electrician is coming to power up the new router tomorrow at last. Wednesday morning, early, I am off to Atlantic City for the presentation of my seminars there. All this means I won't be doing any routing this week
  • USSC Seminars
    Wednesday morning I jump on  plane and head out to Atlantic City for the United States Sign Council  International Conference and trade show. I was invited last year to give three presentations.
  • here and there.
    As the final painting is done we jump from project to project finishing various bits as the contractor and electrician signs off on each area. The progress continues to be a bit haphazard but definite progress is made on a daily basis. Today I painted the lettering on the beam in the kitchen
  • Christmas came early!
    It was with great anticipation and delight I directed the big semi up our long driveway to where we would unload the new MultiCam. While I chased down and printed out the necessary papers to send off the old router the driver unchained and untarped the load. The machine was shrink wrapped in white plastic as I knew it would be.
  • Eye candy at last!
    As we finish painting the sections of walls, one by one, we get to start hanging the eye candy that has been in progress in the studio since the beginning of the project. It is with great delight I work with the owners to hang each piece perfectly
  • Safety first
    I used hemp rope through an antique pulley to hang the barrel sign. I frayed and knotted the rope appropriately. While the sign was plenty secure I decided it needed a little more - just to be on the safe side
  • Trying a new paint
    We are always on the lookout for new materials and new ways of doing things.
  • Moving day
    Moving day is always exciting. Today was just such a day. Our new four axis MultiCam 3000 router is now in transit to our shop
  • One more piece of the story.
    The barrel received the last of the sculpting epoxy today. I formed the woodgrain on each stave and added the faux metal bands to 'hold' it together. It is now ready for the painting and aging process.
  • Playing musical chairs
    The pub project is at a most challenging stage. So much is happening at once it seems. We are forced to constantly jump from area to area in order to stay out of other's way
  • Holiday is OVER!
    On the way home from the airport I stopped in at the Fox & Hounds Pub to see how things were progressing. The ladies made good progress
  • Inspiration adventure
    Yesterday we stopped in at Universal's Islands of Adventure. We wanted to check out the new Harry Potter section of the park
  • Gathering inspiration
    One of the things I like to do as I travel is to look at things I see and imagine how I might make similar items using EnRoute software, Precision Board and my MultiCam router. The disney parks are chock full of simply amazing work
  • Creative intake
    We've extended our time here in central Florida to become a working vacation as we often do when we are down this way or anywhere far from home on business. While some like to lay on the beach or some other fun activity we like to do theme parks.
  • Still having even more fun!
    The Orlando workshop group is still having lots of fun learning lots about creating dimensional files in EnRoute, sculpting 3D additions to their signs, learning hands-on painting and glazing techniques and plenty more. Gotta go do more.
  • Learning!
    We are now through our first day of the Orlando Sign Magic Workshop. While the class size may be small, the enthusiasm for learning is high. Each student is getting plenty of one on one time and getting all their questions answered
  • Ready in Florida!
    We won't be having a large group in Orlando for the Sign Magic Workshop this time around. The economy is still recovering here, a few have had to cancel but we have a small, eager group interested in learning all they can to create imaginative, dimensional signs in the future. The material we cover will be the same as always with even more one on one time for our students.
  • I’ve seen the future!
    Today I am in transit to Orlando for the Sign Magic Workshop to begin in a couple of days. I flew via Dallas and had a four hour layover there.
  • One major stage done
    The Fox & Hounds project has reached milestone as of today.
  • Priming our pieces
    We prime almost all of our routed and sculpted work for a number of reasons.
  • Fancy sculpting tools
    The high tech and fancy tools like EnRoute software and a CNC router are very nice.
  • Roll out the barrel – part two
    I routed the barrel pieces from Precision Board on the MultiCam. Since I would be sculpting all the detail by hand I used a large (3/8") ball nose bit with a relatively low overlap (60%) . I blew the dust off each side and then hollowed out a slot for a welded steel frame with welded eye bolts.
  • Roll out the barrel!
    For the upper area of the pub (London roofline) we needed a barrel of spirits.
  • Still room for more!
    The Sign Magic Workshop in Florida is quickly approaching. I talked with the organizers this morning and preparations are well underway there.  At the workshop we'll be covering a broad range of topics including design, building of 3 files,  pricing, marketing and a whole lot more. There will also be lots of opportunity to get your hands dirty as we demonstrate and then work on our painting techniques
  • Piece by piece
    Each day more and more pieces of the Fox and Hounds Pub are put in place and crossed off our to-do list. It feels good! The work we are doing on the outside of the pub is now done with the exception of the signs being made in our shop
  • Knarly old vine.
    I love to put detail in our projects. But each time I seem to get carried away
  • Pub progress pictures
    With the two workshops now behind us we have picked up where we left off at the Fox and Hounds Pub. Many dimensional signs await final placement in our shop. Onsite the contractor and many trades are finishing their work allowing us to start our final finishes at last
  • Colorful menagerie!
    Once the sculpting was done it was time to start in applying the color to our beasts. Primer, base coats, blending, glazes and details. We encouraged our students to go out on a limb, try some colors they might not ordinarily use, and in the process make their dinos come to life in a multitude of ways.
  • Dino might!
    The primary assignment for our students was to design and create a dinosaur head. Using our imaginations was certainly encouraged of course. Each student was given the same assignment and a routed backer board to build it on.
  • The magic of mud!
    One of the many things we teach at our workshops is how we mix our special formulas of fiberglass reinforced concrete.
  • Sculpture MAGIC Workshop report one
    Our first Sculpture Magic Workshop was a resounding success. The students came from British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Arizona, Colorado and Washington. Our guests arrived Thursday afternoon for the most part, eager to get started.
  • Ready, set… GO!
    Today we did the last of the major preparations for the Sculpture MAGIC Workshop which starts officially on Friday morning. Thursday afternoon our guests will begin to arrive. I welded up the steel structures for the tree sculptures we will be doing
  • Another name tag
    For Melissa's name tag I waned to try out the blending of the texture into the background - like I had done on Eric's from the last workshop group. The difference was I would use the weave pattern. I first crated a domed oval
  • First Sculpture MAGIC Workshop
    As I am gathering and sorting material for my presentations at this weeks Sculpture MAGIC Workshop it became clear to me just how much sculpture we include in our projects.
  • Another Sign MAGIC Workshop complete
    The eleventh Sign MAGIC Workshop we have hosted in our shop is now complete.
  • Workplace to school room
    In the last days we have been busy. Name plaques have been designed, routed and painted.
  • Cobbling together a name plaque
    Ted's name only has three letters allowing me to do something cool with his name on the plaque. Each letter would be comprised of individual boards.  The pegs that 'hold' them together would be built separately.
  • Rope trick
    For every workshop one of the name plaques includes what I call the 'rope trick'. It is a very cool feature of EnRoute
  • Tag with a (Celtic) twist.
    For Darrin's name plaque I decided to go with a Celtic design which is part of the TEXTURE MAGIC collecion. The bitmap could be stretched a little but the shape of the file would largely determine the dimensions.  It is not yet possible to rotate bitmaps in EnRoute so I created a rectangular vector and then a flat relief. Then I applied the bitmap.
  • Once upon a time…
    Each sign and feature we are creating for the Fox & Hounds Pub does a variety of tasks.
  • 120 different ideas and counting
    In the last four years I've had to come up with more than 120 name tags for our workshop attendees. They have all been different. For anyone who is serious about learning EnRoute I would recommend designing and routing a few dozen of these types of things
  • Drifting along…
    For Aaron's name plaque decided a driftwood backing would be cool.
  • Layer after layer of color
    The Paul family crest for the Fox & Hounds Pub is coming along nicely.
  • More ‘brickwork’
    We made good progress on another of the projects at the Fox and Hounds Pub today. The archway was painted up by one crew as Bec & I worked on the fireplace. She mixed wonderful batches of concrete while I spread it on the fireplace face
  • Signs at every turn
    There are signs all around our shop. They are on the new easel I built a few weeks ago. Others languish on the table tops, the table saw and around the shop and studio
  • Another and another and…
    We are doing four versions and three sizes of the Fox & Hounds dimensional sign for various places in the project. Two are under way, while the last two await a sign permit
  • Instant ancient vine (frame work)
    Work continues on many fronts on the Fox & Hounds pub project. Today the outside entry received the final coats of base paint, leaving the glazes to be done tomorrow. In the ladies washroom the last of the welded rusty steel stall dividers was installed today
  • Workshop name tags 4
    Old car insignias have always intrigued me.
  • Workshop name tags 3
    Cory's name plaque  was to be a diamond shape. The vertical and horizontal lines play off this shape and a comic font offsets the squareness of the diamond. It uses a bitmap from my TEXTURE MAGIC collection called checkerboard squiggles
  • Workshop name tags 2
    The second name tag was a relatively simple one. Jeff's name tag would feature his name on a log round. I imported the long round with splits bitmap from my TEXTURE MAGIC collection.
  • Workshop name tags 1
    With the next Sign Magic Workshop quickly approaching (September 30 - October 2) it is time to start in on the name tags we create for our guests. I started with a sketch, as always. I designed in a hurry, ideas flow better that way, and scribbled down my ideas, moving on to the next as soon as I had it nailed.
  • Sign design in a different light
    When most sign makers think of a sign their thinking is limited to the flat substrate and what they might stick onto it. At our shop we think of a sign as anything that attracts attention to our customer's business, product or service. In the entry hall of the Fox & Hounds Pub we have a project that closely resembles a sign under most definitions.
  • Outside progress at the pub
    Each day we do our best to cross another job off the list. For the longest while it seemed the list of projects ahead of us at the Fox & Hounds was much longer than the finished ones.
  • Mantle installation
    Monday morning started out with a bang.
  • Production in spite of me
    Yesterday was one of those days when almost nothing went right. Tools broke and had to be replaced, pieces were missing and had to be fabricated, and I simply got things wrong
  • Key piece installed
    Today I had my heart set on finishing the outside concrete work.
  • Counter inlay and other progress
    Progress continues on many fronts at the Fox & Hounds pub.
  • Mantle routing file
    Yesterday the temporary floor which we worked on to build the 'London roofline' came down. I could then size up exactly how I would build the new fireplace facade.
  • Adding the family jewels
    We stay busy on the Fox & Hounds project and it's many, many pieces. One of the signs is almost ready for paint. There were a few details yet to do
  • Sign easel
    They say that necessity is the mother of invention. In my studio that is often true
  • Sign hanger in Precision Board sign
    It has been a while since I showed how we fasten eye bolts into our hanging signs. Everyone knows that high density urethane does not hold eye bolts especially well. I've heard some sign makers drill out an oversized hole and then uses epoxy to fasten the eye bolts into the sign.

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