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

Monday, June 14, 2010

Real progress... at last

Progress has been somewhat sporadic as I jump to other projects on the go in the shop. The weather is finally nice locally allowing us to work on outside projects which have been waiting. I've also been spending some time to get ready for the Sign Magic Workshop which happens next week. Since this sign is not due for two more weeks there is no rush to finish... yet. I hope to finish it in the next couple of days so it can be on display during our workshop.
To create a solid base for the cement to follow I use galvanized diamond lath. It is cut roughly to size and then wired on with tie wire. The tools are simple - as is the task but as always it looks easy until you try it for the first time. If you look close at the picture I have bent a loop in the wire. This is poked through the mesh and then looped around the welded pencil rod, then pulled tight with the nippers, twisted and cut off in a smooth quick motion. With practice it becomes easy. Keep the bandaids handy as the wire is sharp and will cut if you aren't careful. Ask me how I know... :)
If you need more than one sheet to cover the frame overlap by at least a couple of inches. Tie the mesh securely but not too much. Basically the mesh needs to be stable. If it wiggles it needs more tying.
Then it was on to the mud. I like to use a flexible tool trowel to apply the mud. I also wear rubber gloves. Through experience I know how painful concrete burns can be. This mix is caustic. Wear some safety glasses when you are mixing too. The mix I use is pretty simple... one part sand - one part cement powder. I use a paddle mixer in a half inch drill in a five gallon pail
You need to press hard enough to squeeze a little mud through but soft enough to not push it all the way through and waste it in the process. I like to work from the top down literally hanging the cement as I go. I scoop the cement out of the bucket with my left hand and apply it with the trowel in my right. I'm sure a professional plasterer might cringe at my method but it works for me.
I let things set up about an hour before I came back with a folded piece of mesh and scratch a rough patter into the wet cement. This would provide for a mechanical bond when I cement the rock work on after the sign is painted.
The sign is now starting to look like it will when it is finished. The base is a bit tall visually in comparison to the sign but the sign needs to be higher than the rail fence in front of it. Hopefully the owner will mound up the planter which will eventually be under the sign so it looks in proportion.
Stay tuned for the next steps...