Fine Art: Sculpting HDU With Master Artist Brett Steeves

One of the most impressive projects we’ve seen at Coastal Enterprises is the hand-carved sculpture of wild horses sculpture featured on our home page. We’ve always marveled at the skill required to bring such a beautiful piece to life, and when offered an opportunity to interview its creator recently, we we were overjoyed!


The artist, Brett Steeves, also known as “Somers”, is a freelance artist out of western New York. Largely self-taught throughout his 35-year career, Brett is also an Indiana University and Herron Art School alumni. His studio often collaborates with designers on a wide variety of projects. A client in Southwestern Florida mentioned to him that the high ceilings in their home left a rather large blank wall crying out for something to fill the void. As a solution to this issue, Somers designed and fabricated (entirely by hand) the magnificent sculpture featuring a herd of wild horses.


Beginning with three 4″ x 4′ x 8′ sheets of Precision Board PBLT-15, Somers shaped and carved the herd of wild horses in Bas-relief. The final pieces were primed with FSC-88WB Primer/Filler and coated with PB Hardcoat, before a faux finish was applied to create the appearance of a stone carving.


The sculpture was received well and fit right in the the designer’s vision and choices for the home. According to Somers, “Whenever I’m challenged with a sculpting project, my ‘go-to’ product is Precision Board. I can rely on it to withstand the elements and provide my clients with sculptures that will outlast anything else.”


Many commissioned sculptures created by Somers begin with Precision Board. These life-size dolphins were shaped with PBLT-4 so they would be light enough to be held up with monofilament line.

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This multi-media sculpture required faux stones. Once again, PBLT-15 to the rescue!

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Currently Somers spends much of his time working directly with designers and sculptors creating innovative ways to infuse artwork into every possible application. You can catch up with his ongoing news at

A faux Precision Board wine barrel and wall art..

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Low Density – High Accuracy – Making it Happen with PBLT-4

From the snowy mountains of Colorado, Donn Arrell, owner of Clinton Systems and topographical model maker extraordinaire, sent in a picture of his latest creation.

Donn CNC-machined this topographical map using Precision Board Plus PBLT-4, which is the  lowest density of Precision Board that we manufacture, because his customer was interested in a highly-detailed model, but was very cost-conscious.


It’s interesting to note that despite the low density, the level of detail on the model is magnificent. A DWG CAD file containing the contour lines was the source for deriving the 3-D model, and the flat area on the far left is due to missing data from the NED file given to Donn for this project.

Additional information about the topographical models crafted by Clinton Systems can be seen at:

Design For Manufacturability in the Architectural Field

Having a vivid imagination in the design world is an asset, but being able to realistically apply it in the real world is a learned skill.

Within the Department of Architectural Technology at the New York City College of Technology (CUNY) , the Introduction to Computation and Fabrication course aims to teach students introductory CNC techniques, with added focus on Design for Manufacturability.

Using parametric software such as Grasshopper in combination with RhinoCAM, students are taught to create their own tool paths. These tool paths are then “proofed” on a CNC machine using a variety of materials, such as Precision Board, to analyze the design for imperfections or errors.

If the student has designed a complex tool path with many tight, narrow valleys, they may realize as a consequence that the machining time is far too long – with the result being a design that no customer could afford.

If the tool path proves successful, the design is then produced on materials including Precision Board Plus HDU. The goal of this is to teach students that when they design something, they should also have a pretty good idea of the output technology required to bring their design to life.

Additional information on the Introduction to Computation and Fabrication course, taught by prof. Anne Leonhardt and Zach Downey, can be seen at:

Brian Ringley, Technology Coordinator for the National Science Foundation ATE Fuse Lab grant program which initiated the course, sent us pictures of several projects featuring Precision Board donated by Coastal Enterprises from their exhibitions.

These pictures show student-created projects made using Precision Board Plus PBLT-4, PBLT-6 and PBLT-8 for the Intersections 2013 exhibition:




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This project was created by esteemed artist and designer Francis Bitonti as part of a student-artist collaboration exhibit called “Intersections” held in 2012. The project is titled the “Schistose Mirror” and shows Precision Board Plus PBLT-10 mounted onto Trupan MDF being cut on a CNC router. After it was CNC cut it was professionally painted by an auto body shop. See more work from Francis Bitonti at:







University of Nevada’s Concrete Canoe Races To A Win!

Practice makes perfect as the University of Nevada Concrete Canoe team “Dambitious” paddles to an overall win in this year’s regional concrete canoe challenge known as the Mid-Pacific Conference.

The University of Nevada team finished first place in all 5 races in the competition that took place at Vasona Lake in Los Gatos, CA on April 19th. Individual events included men’s and women’s sprint (200 meters) and endurance races (600 meters), with the final race being a 400 meter co-ed race.

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We had the opportunity to speak with Alicia Veach, Project Manager for the University of Nevada canoe team this year, about just how they were able to finish with such high standings. Alicia attributed the win to their practice regimen and a very well designed canoe hull. The mold for the canoe was made from Precision Board Plus donated by Coastal Enterprises.

The competition-winning hull was created by analyzing different hull designs using a unique Excel program called Aqua-holic, which was developed by the 2008 U of N team. Theoretical results based on submerged shape, length and beam evaluated straight line speed. An empirical equation in the spreadsheet estimates the time required to complete a 180-degree turn. Ducimus, the 2012 team, was selected as a preliminary hull design because it had the greatest top speed and the second fastest turning time compared to four previous Nevada canoes. (Courtesy University of Nevada Mid-Pac Research Paper).

After selecting the Ducimus hull, changes were made to improve straight line speed and manueverability, thus creating the 2013 “Dambitious” canoe design. After the design was finalized, Precision Board Plus PBLT-4 HDU was CNC machined to create a mold (To see the mold being machined click here). Concrete was then poured into the mold and allowed to cure for 28 days before being released from the mold.

In the past, cutting the canoe free from the mold has not been an easy process. This year however, the Nevada team constructed an innovative air release system. Team members drilled two holes through the form at each transverse rib location. Each of the eight air ducts were then connected using PVC pipes. The end result was the introduction of air into the system provided enough pressure to release the canoe from the form.

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The next step was a lengthy period of sanding, starting with 80 grit and working up to 1000 grit, until the desired shape was attained. Numerous items such as wooden blocks and shop lights were used to locate high and low spots and ensure even sanding.

After the sanding was complete, the final step was making it an aesthetically-pleasing product. Non-toxic, eco-friendly concrete stains were used for the majority of the finish while an air brush and stencils were utilized to apply the graphics.

Winning first place overall doesn’t just depend on winning all the races either (which seems like a pretty big feat anyways!), there are 4 categories that make up placement score:

  • Races – 1st Place
  • Design Paper – 1st Place
  • Final Product Score (canoe finish, concrete samples, display)  – 1st Place
  • Presentation – 3rd Place

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Coastal Enterprises would like to congratulate the entire Concrete Canoe team at the University of Nevada on their win! They now move on to the National Competition which will be held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL from June 20-22.

To see why they race concrete canoes (and more of how the U of N built their canoe), visit our previous blog: Racing Concrete Canoes Part 1.


A Large Plug For A Famous Hand!


Everyone at Coastal Enterprises Company liked this previous story so much we decided to share it again for our newer readers! Who do you call if you’re a discerning family-themed cruise line looking to build a state of the art water slide featuring a signature element from one of your most beloved and iconic characters? The answer is FormaShape 3D Architectural Design Solutions of British Columbia. The design called for a giant replica of the white-gloved hand from everyone’s favorite cartoon mouse supporting the main structure of the slide. Patrons had to immediately recognize the hand, so every detail of the larger-than-life appendage became important, right down to the fingers, 3 of them, and thumb….good trivia question!



Because of its strength, rigidity and ease of machining, FormaShape chose to machine the FRP tooling plug from Precision Board Plus (both PBLT-4 and PBLT-8). Once the CAD design was approved by the client, the toolpath was fed into their 5-axis CNC router to machine the segmented plugs that made up the hand. According to Sean Conneely, Custom Fabrication Manager at FormaShape, new systems were developed for both the segmented plug and moulding techniques used on this project. In addition, special fabrication techniques had to be developed for both the plug and moulded parts. The precise Open Moulded process used by FormaShape ensures that the final FRP panels that make up the finished hand are within +/- 1mm of the Precision Board Plus machined plug!



Having designed, engineered and manufactured the entire slide, the job of installation naturally fell to FormaShape – Whitewater West Industries. Check out their websites at and for more examples of their work.