Dan Sawatzky Talks about his new 4″ long X-Edge Router Bit

Coastal Enterprises, manufacturers of Precision Board HDU, is proud to host guest blogs written by some of the signage industry’s biggest movers and shakers, posted to the Precision Board Blog.  This guest blog is written by Dan Sawatzky with Imagination Corporation in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada.  This month, Dan talks about a new 4″ long router bit that he received from X-Edge Tools and the possibilities it opens up when cutting Precision Board urethane foam…like being able to order 4″ thick sheets of HDU instead of buying multiple 2″ thick sheets and bonding them together after CNC routing!


In Dan’s own words...

We are always on the lookout for new tools and materials that will help us do our work easier and more efficiently. Once in a while we discover something that radically changes what we are able to accomplish, which is an awesome thing! Thirty pound density Precision Board HDU was one such discovery many years ago (Ed note: watch Dan’s video on why they exclusively use our PBLT-30 HERE).

A couple of months ago we received a new tapered ball nose bit #XCT518 from our good friends at X-Edge. It has a full two inch plus cutting edge. The bit has a chunky 1/2” shank at the top which means we can cut through 2” of 30lb Precision Board at full speed without any deflection or fear of breaking the bit. This is a game changer for the dimensional signs and features we build. This was the solution to which I’ve been waiting for for about fourteen years.

The introduction of the X-Edge 2” long taper bit helped a great deal and we’ve been using this bit a whole lot of late with great success.


But there’s always that special job where we wish to route something out of even deeper material. Jim Dawson and X-Edge have been working to design something new that would take away all of the limits (Ed note: check out our previous blogs with Jim at Synergy Sign and X-Edge HERE and HERE). Recently I was delighted to receive another package in the mail from X-Edge. They wanted me to try their latest edition to the carving series, the massive #XCT3418 which has a 3/4” shank and 4+” of cutting edge.


This new 4” tapered ball nose bit defeats the long dreaded ‘cone of death.’ Back when I first started using my router the 1/8” ball nose bits only had a cutting edge of 1/2” and a length of about 1.5”. When I tried to add detail to our routing pieces we quickly ran into all sorts of difficulties. Cutting files had to be designed to avoid that dreaded CONE OF DEATH where the upper shanks of the router bit and the collet would rub on the edges of our work. I broke plenty of bits through the years from rubbing them on the edge of finished work too. I’ve even occasionally stalled my machine as the collet rubbed on the surface of our work when I pushed things too far. With the smaller bits we’ve had to run multiple passes which eats up a lot of running time on the machine. Of necessity, we figured out workarounds to help but I always had to make lots of compromises to my designs to accomplish our goals.

Now all that is a thing of the past!

Looking back through my recent projects I see two that could have taken advantage of this exciting tool. Routing them using this bit would have saved time on gluing layers and then hand finishing.

The recently completed train could have been machined from three layers of Precision Board instead of five with this new bit. That change would have saved considerable machining hours, some Precision Board material, plus hours of assembling and hand finishing.


The rolling pin could have been routed from two layers of 4” thick material instead of four layers of two inch. That would have saved some gluing and hand finishing time.

I’m placing my order for 30lb Precision Board later this week and now I can order up some 4” thick material for the first time because the cutting solution has arrived. There will be no more gluing up and hand finishing after we cut. Imagine the magic we will now be able to create! That extra gantry height on my MultiCam will finally be put to good use!”

I’ve yet to fully utilize the capabilities of this new monster bit but I am in the process of designing some upcoming projects for it!

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

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

Coastal Enterprises manufactures Precision Board HDU, a versatile, cost-effective and eco-friendly urethane sign material that is particularly effective for making professional-looking indoor and outdoor dimensional signs.  It is a closed-cell rigid substrate that does not rot, warp or crack.  You can request free samplesget a quote or sign up for periodic newsletters packed with helpful information.

Using X-Edge Router Bits to Maximize your CNC Machine

Do you want to maximize the capabilities of your CNC Router without breaking the bank?  According to X-Edge Tools, as technology has advanced, CNCs have become faster and more efficient but router bits haven’t changed much.  Instead of simply following the old chip load calculator and calling it a day, X-Edge Tools decided to design, test, re-design, test and repeat until they achieved the absolute best balance between speed and cut quality.  We asked them to test cut Precision Board HDU and see how fast they could rout it without degrading the edge quality.  They cut our material at feeds from 300-1000 inches per minute (IPM) and speeds of 18,000-22,000 rotations per minute (RPM). What follows are speeds & feeds settings for milling a variety of Precision Board HDU densities using the latest cutting-edge router bits from X-Edge Tools.

From the X-Edge Router Bit Team:

Here are the tools that we used and the associated feeds and speeds for routing a variety of Precision Board HDU densities, including PBLT-15, 18, 30 and 40. Machine used was a MultiCam APEX3r.

  • Roughing- XB2072 Ball Series 1/4″ Ball nose 800 Inches per minute @ 22,000 RPM
  • Carving- XCT018 Carving Series 1/8″ Tapered Ball nose 800 inches per minute @ 22,000 RPM
  • Engraving- XV2006 V-Groove Series 60 degree V groove engraver 300 Inches per minute @ 18,000 RPM
  • Cutout- XR2063-CB Razor Series 3/8″ diameter 2 flute slow helix with chip breaker 1000 inches per minute @ 20,000 RPM.

“We could not find a speed fast enough that would begin to show a degrade in cut quality with this tool on your material,” says Leslie Dowson, Director of Sales and Marketing. “You could cut as fast as you want and it did not begin to tear out the material or anything,” she added.

Jim Dawson at Synergy Sign in Ohio uses X-Edge router bits to cut Precision Board HDU.  “Our machine cannot outrun the material,” says Dawson.  “We run 400 IPM at 14,000 RPMs and could run it way faster.”

You can watch videos of Precision Board HDU being routed by X-Edge bits on our YouTube Channel.  There are videos for PBLT-15, 18, 30 and 40 in the routing playlist.

X-Edge is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan and manufactures CNC router bits and accessories.  Their tooling was designed specifically to maximize the capabilities of CNC Routers.  eXcellent speed, eXcellent quality, eXcellent tools.  You can call them at (224) 534-9653 or visit their website.

Coastal Enterprises offers free samples of Precision Board HDU.  Already have a project in mind for our material?  Request a quote and get started today.  Sign up for our monthly blog roundup so you don’t miss any of our informative blogs.  Have a special project fabricated with Precision Board HDU and want to know if it could be featured in a blog on our website?  Give us a call at 800-845-0745 or drop us an email with details.  We’d love to hear from you!

Using Multiple Router Bits to Achieve Greater Lettering Detail

Going back and forth on the design of a sign to get it just right is fairly common.  What made the Twin Peaks monument sign different was the fact that the director (and pastor) of the conference center was a former carpenter and had very specific ideas for what he wanted.  When Adam Campos with Graphics MFG was brought in to make the design a reality, he not only got it done on time, but also added some stylistic touches.  Adam talks us through routing the Precision Board HDU, creating the powder-coated metal frame and using multiple router bits to embellish the lettering on the sign.

router bits

Adam used five sheets of 15 lb. Precision Board (4′x8’x2”) to fabricate 6 signs. He used ArtCAM for programming the cutting on his own custom-made CNC router. Campos then used Rhino 3D to render a highly detailed set of drawings, including bevels and all the small details on the signs for approval prior to the actual cut process. “I had to use a 1/4” diameter boxcore bit to give the letters and art a 1/8” radius at the base, so I carved all the letters and art out using a series of different router bits to speed up production and achieve the desired result” he says.

He started with a 1′′ Flycutter (#RC-2443) router bit to rough out all the areas. Then he moved down to a 1/4′′ Flat Mill (#51646) to do the light detail work. Finally, a Core Box (#45904) bit to make the bevels at the base of the letters and the art. All router bits were from Tools of Today.

Adam prefers to use Precision Board HDU. “It’s easy to get a smooth finish, even if you need to sand it. It’s effortless. You spend extra money up front, but you save it in the labor. Once it comes off the router, it’s almost like a finished piece,” he says. “As long as your speeds and feeds are right, you get finished edges, leaving the focus on prime, paint and assembly.”

The HDU signs were coated with Killz Multi-Purpose Primer and Sherwin Williams exterior acrylic enamel.

Campos drew up custom brackets that bolted to the sidewalls of the stone columns. The sidewalls and cross-sections were made from 2 x 2 x 1/8″ angled iron and were secured to the stone using Tapcon Anchors. All 24 custom-produced brackets & 16 pieces of 10 foot iron were powder-coated grey to help with the aesthetics and to prevent rust. For extra support he put 3/8′′ carriage bolts on the four corners of the signs, 4′′ long with locking nuts on the back.

So, how long did it take to complete the project from start to finish?

Adam says “it only took about 3-4 hours on the CNC for each of the six HDU boards for a total of about 17 hours of routing time or two solid days.”  He adds, “the longest part of the project was the back and forth with the client over several weeks to get the designs just right.”

router bits

Graphics MFG is an abbreviation for Graphics Manufacturing and specializes in just that. They turn concepts into reality, whether it be custom signage, a physical build out, print, graphic design, CAD, 3D or installation. They handle it all. Graphics MFG has the experience and machinery in- house to deal with the unique aspects of your project with an emphasis on project management. Selecting the right approach towards a job is crucial to a successful end result. Because of this ideology they can handle a wide variety of work that spans beyond just signage. You can contact Adam Campos at (760) 261-4358 or visit his website for more information.

Coastal Enterprises manufactures Precision Board HDU, a versatile, cost-effective and eco-friendly urethane sign material that is particularly effective for making professional-looking indoor and outdoor dimensional signs.  It is a closed-cell rigid substrate that does not rot, warp or crack.  You can request free samplesget a quote or sign up for periodic newsletters packed with helpful information.