It is hard to believe that it was almost ten years ago I witnessed a CNC router in action for the very first time. I was fascinated and simply had to have one! Although I had been in the creative end of the three dimensional sign business for most of my life I didn't really know what I would do with one of these machines - but I just knew it could do fantastic stuff.

Along with the CNC router I discovered the wonderful material called Precision Board and the glues, primers and other companion products they offer. Since then we have gone through many tons of the material using it in most signs and projects we tackle. This journal will chronicle our many adventures both past, present and future. I'll talk from the perspective of someone who pushes these products to the creative limit on a daily basis. I'll be adding to the stories two or three times each week. -dan

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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.

Once the file was created in EnRoute I threw a scrap piece of 30 lb Precision Board onto the router nd set the machine in motion.

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.

Often it's the small hidden things that have made the most difference. A current project is a good example.

We are currently fabricating an operator's booth for a theme park ride. It is similar to many we have done previously with a few small differences. The design of the booth matches the ride. It has there legs/posts to ensure the installation is quick and easy. Three legged objects never wobble - even if the concrete pad happens to be a little uneven of off level.

Each leg needed a base plate for a couple of reasons. First the steel plate serves as a method to fasten the structure to the concrete deck. By having it extend to the outside of the sculpted concrete it protects the brittle material from chipping or cracking during the moving in the shop, transport and setting up stages. Having a CNC plasma cutter in-house means we can do custom plates in a hurry and still stay within budget and our timeline. Steel plate is relatively inexpensive. I designed the cutting file in EnRoute in a few minutes.

Cutting the there plates was even faster. Being small in size I cut them from scrap pieces which we save for this purpose. The there plates were then welded to the bottom of the legs of the operator's booth. The pencil rod will be extended down and welded to the plate. Galvanized lath will then be tied onto the pencil rod armature. A skin of fibreglass reinforced concrete will then be troweled onto that and then sculpted to look like a wood post, just like the concept drawing illustrates.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

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.

Two and a half years ago the two signs, along with hundreds of other features were carefully packed into eighteen shipping containers and then shipped through the Panama Canal to Trinidad.

Yesterday, one of these signs  was the last piece to be carefully lifted into it's final home.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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.

The sign posts will have heavy rope work installed at a later point by someone who knows how to braid the rope and tie the proper knots.

The soil will be put into the planters around the base of the signs and the greenery will soften the look and make the signs blend better into the picture.

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. The pieces were routed from some scraps of 1.5" 30 lb Precision Board. Since I uses a tapered 1/8" bit the track shoes routed just as I imagined, slightly thinner at the edges. I had routed the pieces with a 80% overlap which provided a smooth surface. I left a thin onion skin layer against the spoil board so the small pieces stayed put on the vacuum spoil board on the router.

Here's the same there pieces pulled apart. I simply blew the dust off the pieces with an air hose before I glued them up using a five minute epoxy and five clamps.

Once the epoxy set up I used the air powered die grinder to even out the edges. The corners and back of the hood were rounded to match the radiator cover. I'll cut and glue a little more material to the base to widen it before I start the sculpture process. 

Before I started the sculpt I did up a new rendering of the wheelbarrow vehicle based on the little scale model as the engine housing/hood wasn't in my first renders. I'll do my sculpt with this new drawing as a reference. The hardest part of this build is that it will have to wait two weeks before I do it as I head out of town bright and early tomorrow morning. :) Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 26, 2017

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. I'm sure more modifications will follow as we build the pieces full size as well.

I built the vector files completely in EnRoute. The track files are a lot like the tank files we built a little while ago but these sport a little more detail. The biggest change from the concept sketch was the addition of a motor hood. I built it in three sections (two sides and a front)

I started with the track backing plate. This was created as a relief 0.2" thick. The center was then dropped by half that to effectively create the chain links between the treads.

The cleat sprockets were next and were created as separate reliefs 0.3" tall.  I then selected the track pieces and combined them with the track shape. I could do this because they protruded outside of the track shape. The sprocket pieces were MERGED HIGHEST with the track back.

The center springs were created by modifying the track background relief.

The wheels were next and were created as separate reliefs. These were then MERGED HIGHEST with the track back.

Next the wheels were dished down by modifying the base relief using the subtract and dome tool.

And the wheel lugs were then added by modifying the base relief and using the ADD TO and dome tool.

The top portion of the track support was created as a separate relief and then merged highest with the track relief.

Last up for the track reliefs were the cleats. These were created as separate reliefs that were one inch tall. Since they were outside but overlapped the base relief I selected the cleats and the base relief and then used the combine tool to make them one relief.
The floor and hood of the little tractor was created as a separate flat relief. that was 1.2" tall. The hood vent slots were then dropped into this relief using the subtract tool. This new piece and the track relief were then selected and combined into one relief.

The grill of the tractor was next. I first created a zero height relief.

I then used the chamfer tool to round off the front edges uniformly all the way around.

The grill and started holes were then created using the subtract tool.

I then created a zero height relief and used the merged highest command to effectively clip the bottom off the grill. I then used the slice tool to take off the zero height portion of the relief.

I then modified the track relief by adding the little circle to the base bracket. This will be used to mount all of the accessories to the tractor.

The last step was to create a dirt base for the tractor This was done as a simple flat relief which was 1.5" tall. This new separate relief and the tractor relief were selected and combined to form one relief.

The track relief was duplicated and flipped so I could glue it to the back of the original to create the tractor. The grill will be glued to the end of the motor housing.  The piece was now ready to be tool pathed and sent off tp the MultiCam. It will be routed from a piece of 1.5: 30 lb Precision Board. Stay tuned for the next steps...