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, May 26, 2010

Brain teaser...

The next Sign Magic Workshop to be held at the end of June is fast approaching. That means it's time to start in on the name panels which I create for each attendee. The panels are a way to demonstrate a host of techniques. We use them as part of the teaching process in the course. They are also a cool souvenir for the students. I do my best to come up with an original idea for each plaque and make it suit the person to which it goes. Sometimes this is easy for I know the person well. Other times they contact me by email and I don't get to meet or talk to them until they arrive. That makes it a lot harder to come up with an idea.
The first one I did was for Robin who has just earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from a university in Minnesota. I know from talking to her and from her website that she enjoys fun, thoughtful and clever projects. The image of a brain came to mind with her name wrapped over it. I did a quick sketch to prove the idea was viable, then set to work creating the simple vector file I would need to create the reliefs in EnRoute.
The vector file was a simple oval with the two haves of the brain in 3D. The lettering would be above that. I used a cartoon style of lettering and arranged the letters jauntily.
Using EnRoute I created a domed relieve then modified the file to raise the two halves of the brain. One of my bitmaps called 'worms' was used to create the 'brain'. It took seconds to pull off.

Then I created a relief of the outline of the lettering and modified it using an oval the same size and shape as the brain. Once everything was merged I added the fun, domed lettering to it.
We would route the files using 30 lb Precision Board making them durable for the handling they would be subjected to. The heavier density urethane would also make it faster to finish the pieces as I painted them.

The piece was routed in two passes, the rough cut with a 3/8" ball nose bit and the final finish pass with a 1/8" ball nose bit and a high overlap. The panel was on the MultiCam for about an hour in total.
While the router was busy I was at my desk creating the next idea for another student. Stay tuned...