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, November 19, 2017

Piece by pieceS

It is pure magic as we install the scores of features at Skallywag Bay in Trinidad. It's been four years since we started building the fourteen shipping containers full of features. We packed the last of them into the containers more than two years ago. Now at last it is time to install everything. Today was the day to assemble two of the attraction signs. Being too tall to fit out of the shop door we built and shipped them in sections. Today was the first time we've seen them put together. They are every bit as we imagined they would be and will look even better when he gardens are planted!

Every piece lifted beautifully which was amazing as we could only estimate where the lift points needed to be as we fabricated the pieces. Everything fit together perfectly as well... a testament to our team's engineering and fabrication skills.

Some of the pieces we fabricated were shipped as parts for final assemblies. These logo skull brackets were plasma cut from 1/2" thick steel plate for each side of the posts in the train station and entrance building.They looked great welded into place!

Stay tuned for more pictures tomorrow!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

One track mine concepts...

Last month I did a step by step of building a little display tank. It was a fun little project!  Now i looks like we may just get to build a series of tracked features which use some of those ideas.

A client has asked us to come up with some ideas for a mining theme adventure golf. Our first concept was pretty conventional, being a narrow gauge mining railroad car. We just built one a few weeks ago so the concept came pretty quick.  But as I finished the concept we knew we could get a whole lot more creative. After some discussion we came up with a ring machine, protruding from the ground. Golfers would golf into the broken chute from an upper level. The ball would go down chute and then around he corkscrew of the boring machine before dropping onto the golfing green.

Once we got going in a creative (and somewhat silly) direction the ideas came much faster. The mining car became a power wheelbarrow, with a single tractor tread. The brand name of he manufacturer was dubbed 'ONE TRACK MINE Co.' - just for fun. 

The crawler wheelbarrow immediately spawned more ideas with the mono-track, each more creative and ridiculous than the last. First up was a small mining bulldozer.

The last machine in this series was the drilling machine.

The ideas are so much fun I may just decide to do up some study models. If so I'll post step by steps here. At the very least here will be plenty of CNC plasma cut files to make. Stay tuned...

Friday, November 17, 2017

Packing up the display.

The booth showed extremely well over the last our days as about 25,000 people came by. Our display did exactly what it was designed to do and that was attract attention of all those who walked by. We handed out a lot of business cards, scanned many badges. We met so many great people in our industry!

At the end of the show there is always a mad scramble to pack up the displays. Most vendors wait a long time for the carpets to be rolled up and their crates to be delivered. With our booth it was a simple matter of swinging the two wings of the booth and doing up four bolts to fasten them securely in place, We packed our chairs and supplies into the center space and zip tied the plastic snow fence across the front of the booth. The last thing was to stick the four decals to the sides of the booth and turn in the paperwork to formalize the arrangements to ship it home tomorrow. In well under an hour we were ready to head for supper. 

Another successful IAAPA show is now history!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Another honour

Last year we were honoured with a first place IAAPA Brass Ring award for best booth in our category. We were so pleased we decided to have a large sticker made to put on the front carpet of our display. We also proudly displayed the beautiful glass trophy in our booth. When we ordered the decal for last year's win we decided to order a second one - just in case. Our hope was that this year's booth might just be good enough to be honoured once more in the next category up, for the 200-299 square feet booths. Competition there would be even tougher.

We received word that we had indeed been honoured once again. The head judge was very amused by our self-congratulating decal we had printed in anticipation and was gracious enough to help us stick the new decal (which had been in hiding) on the carpet beside last year's announcement.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Trade show setup

It's been a very busy month of almost non-stop travel for me, with most of the trips to Trinidad as we wrap up the Skallywag Bay Adventure Park. It's looking very cool these days. I'll be posting some photos of that project next week on my return. This week we are attending the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO in Orlando, Florida. The trade show is massive with over 1000 vendors and 40,000 attendees from around the world. This is our second year as a vendor.

I arrived in Orlando, straight from Trinidad. Since I was the first onsite (the rest of our new was coming from home the same evening) it fell to me to do the booth setup. I waited a few minutes for a connection centre forklift to position our booth in the enter of our space. Then it was a simple matter of undoing four bolts, swinging open the two sides, rolling out the carpets and plugging in the power. As quick as that we were ready for the show.

As I set up our booth I watched hundreds of other vendors unpacking and setting up their displays. Some had been labouring for days and were no where near done. I was grateful for the wonderful CNC tools we enjoy that help us do our work so efficiently. Everything fits together so nicely which makes things go much smoother in the field.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

One two three glaze

With Christmas fast approaching it's a great time to do up some name plaques for those you love. They make great presents and you can practice your painting and glazing techniques at the same time. I'll show three name plaques in this post - all different colours to better demonstrate our techniques.

The first is Elsie's name plaque. We started by painting it an off white colour. We did three coats of colour and allowed them to dry thoroughly in-between. An industrial fan really speeds up the drying.

A light tan was the first glaze. We make our own glazes using a 50/50 mix of clear base (paint with no pigment added at the paint store) with the colour of our choice. The glaze was brushed on liberally nd then wiped off with a soft terry towel rag. The first glaze is only lightly wiped off. The glaze  stays in the lower areas.

The first glaze is allowed to dry thoroughly nd then a second glaze is brushed on and wiped off a teeny bit more thoroughly than the first. This allows the first to peek through and creates a subtle blend effect.

The third glaze is a dark brown and this is wiped off quite a bit. Once this has dried we go back with a brush and add the glaze on the border around the letters. This dark colour makes them pop. Once the last glaze was dry we painted the letters metallic gold.

Dustin's name plaque was done much the same way, one;y with various shades of blue glaze.  The lettering was again painted last with two coats of metallic gold.

Daniel's name plaque was first painted with a metallic gold and then the glass were accomplished in two shades of copper. The lettering was back to the gold.

Any combination of colours is possible but it is important not to get too much of a contrast in the glazes at the start. A gradual buildup of coloured glaze leaves a much richer and pleasing result.

Attention getting driveway sign

Janis loves chickens but there are no roosters allowed. (they tend to crow early in the morning and wake her up!) I believed we needed a rooster somewhere on the property and so I designed a fun fellow to perch on top of a sign Janis had been asking for in our yard to warn visitors to slow down as they passed through the the shop. 

As with all of our projects we would use a variety of mediums and methods to build it.

The sign portion was done on our MultiCam of course, routed from there layers of 30 lb Precision Board. These layers would be laminated over a welded square tube steel frame. The wood grain was created with a custom bitmap wood grain texture. It's called driftwood and is available on our TEXTURE MAGIC - CLASSIC COLLECTION.

While the machine worked at routing the front and back of the sign I got busy doing the rest of the piece. I roughed out an armature using 1/4" pencil rod. It's welded together for extra rigidity. 

I used some crumpled up tinfoil to fill the centre cavity of the rooster. Tin foil is  lot cheaper than sculpting epoxy!

The next step was to rough out the general proportions of the bird body. This was allowed to cure before moving on.

The sculpt was a fun one to do but there were a whole lot of feathers in this little guy!

I then slid the back piece of the sign over two steel 5/8" thick rods and welded the steel frame for the sign to this rod. The centre section of the sign was next which was glued to the back.  At this point the rooster leg framework was inserted into two holes I had drilled through the top of the sign. The cutouts in the centre section allowed me room to weld these rods to the framework. This was followed by the front of the sign which encapsulated the steel support in the centre. The two steel rods protruding out of the back would be sculpted into branches of the tree which held up the sign.

I then welded up the rest of the branches on the tree.

When the glue had cured on the signs I used my die grinder to carve woodgrain into the edges of the sign.

I then used Abracadabra Sculpting Epoxy to sculpt the tree. The bark texture was created by pressing crumpled tinfoil into the epoxy and then using a sharpened paint stir stick to sculpt the random lines in the bark.

The roosters feet could then be carved to look like he was tightly gripping the top of the sign.

Becke did the colourful paint job using Modern Masters metallic paints.

The rocks at the bottom of the tree were done using fibreglass reinforced concrete. The heavy weight of the concrete made the sign more stable. The rocks were hand painted with acrylic house paints and then speckled using an automotive undercoat gun and very low air pressure.

It was placed in  planter and a colourful display of flowers was planted around it to finish things off nicely!