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

Sunday, December 31, 2017

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. We don't always follow the directions or use things in a similar fashion as most other people. We have however, through proven experience used these products with great success to build the wildest things imaginable. 

I'll be posting a couple times each week, showing projects we have done in the past and also giving peeks into what's going on in our studio on a regular basis. Hopefully the posts will inspire everyone to push their own boundaries as well.

What we do on a daily basis is WAY more fun than actually working! It's going to be a fun journey!


Way back then information on CNC routers and how to use them was hard to come by.  Precision Board was still relatively new to the industry as well and few were using the heavier densities I already loved. I had so many questions which needed answering and I knew many others did too. I approached Coastal Enterprises to sponsor this endeavour and thankfully, they happily did.

Over the last eight years I have posted almost 1,300 entries to this blog (and sister blogs sponsored by EnRoute Software and MultiCam.) Those many hundreds of project step by steps, videos and drawings have been viewed more than 653,000 times. That's AMAZING and a whole lot more than I ever imagined possible. It is gratifying to have achieved that kind of following.

As we turn the corner into 2018 we've decided to discontinue this project in this form. The 'speaking from experience' blog will stay live, with all of the valuable information archived and still accessible. It is my hope that readers will still use the archived material as they need to in the future.

The good news is that I will continue posting our projects as a guest writer on Coastal Enterprises' official blog each month.  http://precisionboard.com/precision-board-plus-official-blog/

I want to say a BIG thank you to Coastal Enterprises for supporting this adventure for the last eight years! And thanks to all of our faithful readers as well! I look forward to sharing a whole lot more cool projects through 2018 and beyond!

And you can always check out our latest projects on our journal at http://www.imaginationcorporation.com/journal/

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.

With the sculpt now finished we'll move on to paint later this week. We will go with retro colours and plenty of wear, aging and grime to bring it to life. If you happen to be going to the ISA show in Orlando drop by the Coastal Enterprises' booth to take a look.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

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.

I routed the table top in four pieces. The main part of the top was built as a lower and upper section. I routed a cross slot in the top to accept a welded 1" X 1" square tubing frame. I applied some PB Bond fast set glue to the two halves and then served them together. Two more pieces for the front and back of the table top were then fastened to the top. These two pieces had the words 'Precision Board' routed into them. 

Tomorrow I'll sculpt a layer of sculpting epoxy over them to add detail and add the figures and thumb to each arm. I'll also texture the top on all sides with the die grinder. That leaves only a little sculpting on the upper body and head to go before the painting begins.

Friday, December 29, 2017

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. The detail will be a reward for the few who take the time to look at the back of the robot table. I'll also be adding an on/off switch above it as well - just for fun.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Building the body

I've stated many times that 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.

The rough armature for the robot body was a great place to use this less dense foam. It needed to be fit around the welded steel armature and then roughed into shape. I used there layers of 3" four pound foam. Since I was going to coat it in sculpting epoxy I wasn't concerned with gaps or rough edges. I used PB Bond fat set which cures in only one hour. I glued it up before I went to lunch and when I returned I was able to remove the clamps and get busy sculpting over the new form.

I used crumpled tinfoil to fill the gaps and holes and then pressed on a layer of sculpting epoxy. Once this had set I did another layer that was detailed. In a few hours I did the legs and the bulk of the front of the robot body. Rather than my usual rivets I opted to sculpt flat head screws for more of a retro feel. Tomorrow the bulk of the sculpt should be done. Stay tuned...

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. By the time Wednesday rolled around I needed to burn off some energy and get active.

Last night I designed the display piece for our friends at Coastal Enterprises' booth at the International Sign Association EXPO in Orlando in March. I just knew that as soon as we got going again after the New Year we'll be busy until our big projects are finished in May. I enjoy getting my hands dirty in the shop and without crew and other interruptions I can get a lot done in a hurry.

As always space in a trade show booth is in short supply. I decided a small 24" x 24" table to display samples of their products would be just the ticket. Coastal Enterprises makes Precision Board, glues and primers which we use in our shop exclusively.

The project is made of there pieces... a base pedestal with their logo routed into each side, the strongman robot, and the tabletop.

I designed the routing files in Enroute. The sides had the Coastal enterprises logo routed into them. I'll be hand texturing the faces and top and adding rivets. For the feet of the robot I drew the vectors of the few on top of the base top to get the scale right and to make sure it didn't overlap our company ID.

Then I used the dome tool to round the tops.

I then went to the front view as I knew they were a little shallow. It was a simple matter of grabbing the center top node and pulling it vertical until I had the profile I needed.

I then created a couple of zero height reliefs which were merged lowest with the feet reliefs to drill holes in the center. This allowed the few to slip over the structural steel which protruded from the base plate. This steel structure provides the armature for the robot sculpture.

I tool pathed the files and sent them off to the MultiCam router. The sides and top of the box were routed from 1" thick 30 lb Precision Board.

The sides of the base were screwed to a plywood box which I had previously built.. It was fastened to a 1/4" stem plate which I cut on the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter, The few were done as two pieces which stacked on top of each other to give me the 1.5" depth I wanted. These were fastened to the base top. I then hand sculpted the detail over these forms using Sculpting Epoxy.

Since we were going out to see the Star Wars movie this is as far as I got today. Tomorrow I'll do a little more on the project. Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Just having fun!

The thing I love the most about having our MultiCam CNC machines and many other fancy tools in the shop is that I can dream up a part (no matter how complex) and then design and build it in short order. For a project like my Sign Invitational feature this is done on an ongoing basis as needed.

I had a pretty good idea of what the machine would look like when iI did the first sketches but the vision was somewhat fuzzy. I started with the base plate, designing each piece, cutting it and then welding it together or fastening it in place. There's quite the mix of materials including steel plate, Precision Board, various sized pipes, fittings, bearings, shafts, sprockets and pulleys along with lots of sculpting epoxy too. There's a few antique bits and pieces as well. It's quite the collection.

As always it will be the paint that ties it all together visually. I did a little some time ago on a few of the pieces that needed to be painted before assembly. Yesterday, Janessa started painting the base coats on the rest. The colour quickly changed the piece in a dramatic fashion. It's far too bright, monochromatic and new looking for the story I'm telling at this point. Over the next week I'll age things down dramatically. Stay tuned for the fun...