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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Seams and edges...

One of the tough things we struggle with when we work with layers of Precision Board is dealing with seams and edges. I like to add texture to the files we create in EnRoute. The router faithfully reproduces them as I imagined. But what to do with the edges and seams as we get into assembly? The answer is to continue the texture over these parts too!

Using Coastal Enterprises one part bonding adhesive PB Bond-240 certainly makes things easier. It bubbles up and expands less than other brands I've tried like Gorilla Glue. The reality is however that I'd much rather put on a little too much glue than too little. The glue that bubbles out is easy to deal with.

Most sign makers use sanding tools to make things nice and smooth and flat. We take a different route. First off - I really dislike sanding. While Precision Board (or other HDUs) sand up in a hurry making things perfectly smooth, I believe this makes our signs look like they came out of a mold or were machine made. I LOVE my MultiCam router but I don't want my signs to look like a machine made them. I want them to look hand made.
We do that by purposely introducing TEXTURE. My favorite hand tool is my die grinder. It makes the hand work effortless and FAST! Precision Board disappears in a hurry when you hit it with a powerful die grinder. A light steady touch and a couple passes is preferable to hitting it hard and fast. Lighter weight boards are real easy to work with, the 30 and 40 lb board we use is a bit tougher. I keep two grinders handy with a large bit and a smaller one. Having two means I don't have to slow down much when I need to switch tools. Changing bits takes time. I also keep a new, spare die grinder tucked away in case one of these packs it in which happens occasionally. I don't oil my die grinders - which obviously shortens their life substantially. I found that if I oil the grinders it sprays out landing on the work... which means a paint failure down the road. The die grinders are much less expensive than my signs or the labor to produce them. So I run them dry.
When I work on the edges of my signs I first whip off the glue lines and even up the layers if things aren't quite lined up. It's probably hard to believe - but I'm not perfect. :) The next step is to do any shaping that didn't happen on the router. In this case this was the rounded ends of the scroll and the fold line underneath. I could have easily programmed these shapes in EnRoute but it was simply faster and easier to do it by hand (for me). Once the glue lines were gone and the shaping was done I then quickly went over all the edges and other areas which needed texture. This included the face of the scroll. The sign instantly looked like I had spent hours and hours hand carving it. MAGIC!
Next I'll add a little MORE subtle texture in key areas like the lettering with the primer...