Whipping The Smokehouse Sign into Shape

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/interview was done with Cam Andres of Multiwerks Design in Alberta, Canada.  He talks about creating a dimensional sign from Precision Board urethane foam that would not only tell the story of the residence known as The Smoke House on Hammer Head Ridge, but also withstand the high and blustery winds in the valley around the home.

Tell me about this project…how did it come about and what is it?

I like “Back Stories” and this was one of those projects with a very interesting one.

This project was commissioned as a very special birthday gift for the client’s significant other. She wanted the best lane marker sign you could imagine. As we talked about what the sign could look like, the client provided only one requirement, it must read “The Smoke House on Hammer Head Ridge”. She was familiar with other signs I had crafted and told me that the design was now in my hands. I was familiar with this house as it’s located in one of those picture-perfect locations that you can only dream about building your special place on. It sits high on a ridge that looks over the winding Red Deer River in Central Alberta Canada. The wind blows hard on this ridge at times as the river valley tends to channel and amplify them more so. I requested pictures of their house from various angles as I envisioned using it as the focal point of the sign. I knew wind had to play an influence on the sign’s appearance.  Its presence is constant and at times unrelenting.

The next influence on this sign would be the hammer heads. This home’s location has a history of being an indigenous land, used as a hunting and gathering area for centuries long before the settlers moved in. There are artifacts to be found and over the years, the client’s spouse had accumulated a number of hammer heads which he displays in the smoke house lookout tower. The final influence is the smoke house concept. A part of this house had been built years ago, several miles from its present location by an oil and gas company. The house and surrounding buildings were designed to a western theme in order to blend into the countryside. When the building was no longer required the local fire department acquired the building and used it as smoke filled house to train fire fighters rescue techniques, hence the smoke house. The present owners invested a significant amount of sweat equity and $$ to move this house to its present location and bring it to its impressive state of being.

Why did you decide to use Precision Board HDU?

I was first introduced to Precision Board HDU when I attended a Sign Magic workshop at Dan’s Imagination Corporation back in 2014. I was amazed with the stability and strength of this material as we cut it on the router, carved it with wood-working chisels and shaped it with die-grinders. We worked with 30# HDU (PBLT-30) at Dan’s workshops as it’s his “go-to” density for most of his work.  I have found that for signage that will not encounter day-to-day handling and traffic, the 18# density (PBLT-18) is my choice and that’s all I have on hand in my shop inventory.

What specific density, thickness and sheet size did you use?

For this sign, I used 18# density and a combination of 1” and 1.5” thickness. As the internal steel supporting structure is made from 1” square mild steel tubing, the back and middle laminations use the 1” thickness. The front of the sign is made from 1.5” thick HDU. The sign is 36 inches in diameter and was cut out of the 4’x8’ stock sheets.

Why that density?

As previously noted, I’ve been very satisfied with the quality of the finish that I get from the 18# density PBLT. I designed a lot of texture into this sign and this density worked exactly as I had planned. As a side note, I work by myself quite a lot and there is a considerable difference in effort required to handle a 30# density sheet of 2” PBLT compared to one made of 18# density.

What software did you use and what look were you going for?

I have been using Enroute software since I started making dimensional signage 5 years ago. I do the majority of my design work with reliefs and meshes and use Enroute’s editing tools to smooth and shape these features to the look I’m after. In this case I wanted a sign that had a look from the early 1900’s, something that you would expect to find out on the range lands. The large textured circle that surrounds the smoke house would look like an aged leather piece and brass bands on both side of this ring would again carry that aged look as the patina builds. I am a real fan of epoxy sculpting clay and try to use it on everything that needs to look natural and not machine cut. Whenever I get a handful of Magic Sculpt mixed up, I usually have an idea of where I want it to go but sometimes we end up with something totally different once the imagination kicks into gear. As I mentioned, the wind has a real effect on the real smoke house and I used the distortion features of Enroute to play on the wind bending everything and built it up more so with the sculpting epoxy. If you look at this sign from different angles, the distortion presents itself as a bit of a fisheye effect, totally acquired by accident.

What brand of CNC router you use…also, what was your routing time?

I have a Multicam 3000 router with a 5 by 10 sheet surface area. When I built the relief for this sign I went with a resolution of 80 which lines up nicely with an 1/8” ball end bit. I used an overlap of 80{afbea94bd31582343c3017644f03ec8d7d8fa2386ecb82c250661e06c0c6e111} and did the whole sign in a single pass. I expected this job to take a while to run and after 8 hours it was complete. When I’m doing a relief like this I just set the speed at 300 IPM and RPM at 20,000 and let it rip. The bit I used was an X-Edge XCT518 1/8” Tapered Long Bit. I’ve used this bit for a few signs now and feel there is definitely a time saving to be realized when compared with my previous practice of ½” rough pass then 1/8” fine pass.

Talk a little about the coatings…primer, paint, gloss, etc.?

I use FSC-88WB as my primer for anything HDU. I cut it with water when I’m going for a smooth finish and then either brush or spray it on with my HVLP setup. When I want to add extra texture to catch and hold the final glaze coat, it’s right out of the pail and build as required to get that surface looking rough and aged. I used Modern Masters paint almost extensively on this sign. The small amount of acrylic latex paint used for the backside and overall glazing was from Benjamin Moore Canada.

For bonding the three layers together with the steel frame I used PB Fast Set in two sessions. The back panel and middle pieces were the first session. Once the PB Fast Set had hardened I attached the front piece to the frame and backside.

I had originally finished the letters of the sign with Modern Masters bright copper paint. It failed the pop test and I needed to find a different solution to get the pop I needed. Enter Golden Leaf Products 23.75 real gold! This was my first attempt at guilding HDU outside of what was introduced at the Sign Magic workshop. Believe me, real gold behaves a lot different than fake gold when guilding and it took a few hours to get the rhythm going for me. The end result?  Absolutely beautiful letters that jump off the sign!

What do you like about Precision Board HDU?

I am always amazed with the mechanical strength and resistance to tearing it has when you get down to very thin cuts. In this sign I made an error when placing the sky background panel into the relief. The top surface ended up way too close to the bottom of the plate and it wasn’t until I could faintly see the router spoil board through the HDU that I realized I had a potential problem. So, fast forward a few hours, the PBLT did not tear and held its shape and texture even though it was paper thin in a number of places. When I attached the front piece to the frame assembly, I made sure I applied a nice even coating of PB Fast Set in these thin areas to bond everything in place. That’s just one example of the versatility and strength of PBLT HDU.

Any tips or tricks to routing and working with PB?

This product is very easy to handle, store and finish. I use the guidelines for cutting speeds as a starting point but mostly watch the swarf coming off the bit to make sure I’m not travelling too slow.

Cam Andres is the owner Multiwerks Design. The Multiwerks shop is located in east central Alberta, Canada, close to the city of Red Deer.  Cam was drawn into the sign industry in 2013 when he came across the work of Dan Sawatzky on the internet. After attending a Sign Magic workshop in the fall of 2014, the seed was planted and the career shift from an Industrial Automation Engineer to “Maker of signs and things that are just way cool” was underway.  A highlight of his new career was being invited to participate in the Sign Invitational at the ISA Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. That was a golden opportunity to meet and hang out with some very  talented sign makers, artists and vendors of the sign industry!

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.

Hitting a Home Run with a Dimensional Sign

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 Mo Flint with Atomic Barn Studios, based just outside of Raleigh in Willow Spring, North Carolina.  Mo takes us through the steps of designing a dimensional sign for the local athletic club and giving it a classic Americana look using Precision Board HDU and TSF-45 textured surface coating from Coastal Enterprises.

dimensional sign

In Mo’s own words…

Poor field number 3 at our local athletic association’s baseball complex has been without a sign for at least as long as my son has been playing ball there. So, when the fall season donation drive came around, we knew exactly what to contribute — a major-league worthy, classic Americana 3D sign they couldn’t get anywhere else.

I started with a few different concept sketches until the perfect design revealed itself: a slightly used baseball behind an oversized, easily visible number “3” topped with a grassy green “Field”.

With the design in hand, I set to creating a 3D model in Geomagic Freeform. The final sign would be made from three layers of 2” thick, 30-pound Precision Board HDU with steel tubes sandwiched in the center. The number “3” was hand drawn with a raised border to give it some definition. Rather than mirror the stitches for the back they were laid out to line up and flow in the same direction as the front.

dimensional sign

Texture is expected around here and this sign has it in spades. I had been wanting to try TSF-45 for some time and this was the perfect project for it. Instead of adding texture at the 3D stage, I added it to all surfaces, including the steel mounting plate and tubes, after assembly.

Once the 3D work was done, the pieces were rough cut on the CNC with a ½” ball end bit. The finish pass was cut with an X-Edge tapered bit with an 1/8ball end (XTC518) which gave ample detail. When the mounting plate was cut and welded up, it was glued in place before the whole assembly was glued, screwed and left to cure. Sculpting epoxy was used to fill screw holes and finish around mounting tubes.

dimensional sign

TSF-45 was applied directly to the Precision Board urethane foam and over primer on the steel. I used a shop-made tool to comb in the crosshatch texture. The real fun came when the glazes were applied over several layers of discreet base colors. They really add depth and character to the sign.

In the end, the installation went smoothly with two U-bolts to hold everything in place. A shop name plate painted to match the sign was added just below to wrap up the “Field 3” project. This sign will be a beacon for our athletic association’s field 3 and its all-star players for years to come.

Atomic Barn Studios is an independent theming studio specializing in unique sculptural displays and signage. With over 25 years of experience developing 3D products for the biggest names in pop culture, we can bring our unique flavor of design to your project.  You don’t have to be an amusement park titan to understand the power of 3D. Sculptural signs create a feeling that flat signs just can’t reproduce. Whether you are looking to upgrade your board room, create a photo op in your waiting area to entertain and engage your customers, or just want to add some flair outside your business, we can help you stand out from the 2D crowd.  You can email Mo Flint or give Atomic Barn Studios a call at (630) 346-4288.

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!

Hogging the Spotlight with Xpressive Graphix: Perfecting the Multi-Material Display

xpressive graphix pig

Xpressive Graphix Gives a Master Course in Complex Dimensional Displays

Xpressive Graphix, a sign and display design group out of Zanesville, Ohio, recently got the chance to go hog wild on a job: Creating a massive, ten foot tall yellow pig display! Rittberger’s North Market needed an eye-catching installation that would promote their brand and bring in traffic from the busy main street. They approached the Xpressive Graphix team, who started putting together a memorable design. Over the course of the project, the team proved that Precision Board is perfect for a multi-material display– It’s versatile enough to work in tandem with other materials for a unique final product. Don’t forget to check out some of the other projects Xpressive has done with Precision Board, and take a look at their website here.


xpressive graphix pigpen

Assembling the pigpen

Step One: The pigpen. The team decided to go with concrete poured over a steel frame for reinforcement, a good choice for long-term durability. Since they didn’t own an industrial welder prior to this job, they had to buy one to weld the frame together. Plus, they had to learn how to use it! That’s what we call “on the job training”. Once the pigpen was assembled, they hand-painted it with PPG Sun Proof exterior latex paint in a deep brown shade, mimicking the appearance of weather-worn wood.


Xpressive Graphix pig

Painting the Pig

Step Two: After the pigpen came the star of the show: the big yellow pig. It needed to be lightweight enough to stand securely, but still be able to resist harsh weather and other environmental damages. Xpressive decided to use ultra-lightweight EPS foam, hand-sculpted into shape and coated with fiberglass resin for protection. Since the pig towered at six feet tall, even the lightest-weight Precision Board would have made it too heavy to stand. After coating, the team sanded it down, used Bondo putty for smoothing, and used PPG Sun Proof to paint the big pig.


xpressive graphix pig sign

Painting the Precision Board signs

Step Three: Next up were the “Rittberger’s North Market” signs, to be mounted on the sides of the pigpen. The crew used PBLT-15 for the twin signs, a good choice for outdoor dimensional signage. The signs were hand-carved to shape with a hand-held router and dye grinder. They used our FSC-88 WB primer to coat the signs prior to painting with a vibrant blue and yellow color scheme. Slots were added for variable lettering so the sign’s text could be changed as needed. This shows how Precision Board can fit in with a multi-material project– It’s versatile enough to complement other materials, and make for a varied and professional final product.


Xpressive Graphix pig transport

Transporting the Display

Step Four: Finally, it was time for assembly. The entire display was huge– So large that it needed to be transported in separate components by two large trucks, then assembled onsite. The Xpressive Graphix convoy rolled out with the pig in a pickup truck and the pigpen and signs on a large flatbed.


Xpressive Graphix fullpiginstall


Step Five: When the different components arrived at the market, it was a simple matter of putting it all together. Metal slats on the pigpen’s frame were bolted to the cement, securing the display. The Precision Board signs were already installed on the pigpen, so the big pig was bolted to the rest of the pigpen. Finally, the team added soil and potted plants to the recess of the pigpen display, giving the entire installation a natural flair. The entire installation stood at about ten feet tall, easily visible from the street and surrounding area.

This was a complicated, labor-intensive project, but Xpressive Graphix pulled it off with no sweat. The final result is highly professional and well designed, but also has some playful, personalized appeal. Don’t forget to check out the Xpressive Graphix website to see their other projects and commission a design of your own, or give them a call at (740) 452-6804.

Fast shipping tooling board: Don’t settle for long lead times!

Fast shipping tooling board: Check out our 52-second video to see how we do it!

We understand how important it is to get the material you need, exactly when you need it. That’s why Coastal Enterprises maintains such a large inventory: It’s fast and easy to ship Precision Board that we already have in stock! We excel at rush jobs, short timelines, last-minute orders, and unexpected complications. If your back is against the wall, give us a call! Precision Board is fast shipping tooling board, so click here for free Precision Board samples.

fast shipping tooling board

Large custom-bonded Precision Board step tool

Coastal Enterprises sustains a comprehensive inventory of Precision Board HDU at all times, to ensure that we can meet your needs at a moment’s notice. We make it a point to keep high stock levels of all material: fifteen different densities of High Density Urethane in eight standard sheet sizes, all with thicknesses up to 24”. This makes us extremely versatile in the way we can fulfill orders, since we have such a large stockpile of Precision Board on hand. And since we understand the tight schedule of a typical composites manufacturing or sign-making project, we can work around your timeline to make sure you’re fully supplied with the material you need.

fast shipping tooling board

Custom-bonded blocks in various sizes

Fast shipping tooling board

CNC-routing Precision Board








On top of that, our highly skilled production team can perform in-house cutting for custom-sized sheets, as well as custom-bonded blocks, step tools, and filament-winding mandrels. Thanks to our experience and technical knowledge, we have specialized production capabilities that allow us to really think outside the box! Give us your craziest idea and we’ll give you a way to make it happen, and fast. Get your free Precision Board samples today, and find out what Coastal Enterprises can do to make your project happen! 

Let the Wrapping Begin! KDF Custom Wrap Sign

The shop is all abuzz with the news!

We’re very excited  to announce we have completed the construction of our new wrap area! We’ve tripled our capacity and we’re ready to wrap!

Of course now we need a sign for the 18′ walls and you know a small sign won’t do.  So… we went with a 6′ x 7′ footprint.  Nanette came up with a real nice design that we could work with to make a printable dimensional sign.

Here is the original design

Wraps Sign DesignOnce Rad setup the file for production it was time to cut the foam. We started by cutting the elements of the sign out of simple white gator foam of varying thicknesses. 2″, 1″ and 1/2″.
012 Into our new paint shop and all the elements are painted. this is a waterborne paint system so its quick dry – all the parts are back out to the printing department for flatbed printing on our Oce’ 350.


Now its time for assembly. All the elements are on the table – screwed and glued.

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This is basically one long day of work to get this cut, painted,  printed  and up on the wall.

This gives you a good idea of how big this bad boy is. Greg is ready to wrap!

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Published with permission from KDF Custom Graphics. Source.