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, June 20, 2010

Sign Magic Workshop project

Our next Sign Magic Workshop is to start in only four days. No matter how much I try to get done ahead of time, inevitably the last few days there always seems to be a lot left to do. This time is no exception although we are in pretty good shape.
One of the projects we will be doing for this workshop is a new sign for our driveway.the drive is a long one and everyone (especially me) tends to race down it to the shop way out back. We had al old sign asking people to slow down but it was time for something new - something that would grab folks attention. I did up a quick sketch, then set to work making it happen. Most of the work will happen in our workshop with coming weekend but I needed to do some prefabrication ahead of time for the workshop only lasts three days.
The chicken was sculpted with Abracabra Sculpt over a welded steel armature. A ball of tinfoil was pressed into the middle if the armature to bulk it out a little before I started sculpting. Over a couple of days I spent bits of time to build up the form of the bird, then add feathers, one at a time. It looks like a lot of work but it actually went pretty fast.
The next step was to create the routing file for the sign in EnRoute. I used a custom cartoon font which I had created. The woodgrain bitmap was also from my personal collection. The back panel for the sign was simply a flip of the front but without the lettering. The front and back of the sign were routed from 1.5" thick 30 lb Precision Board. They look pretty sweet without even being trimmed or painted.
The center piece of the sign was done with a piece of 1" thick material. I also routed a 'T' shaped hole in this piece to accommodate the steel structure I would weld for this purpose.
I drilled two holes from the top and pushed the extra long chicken leg armature through it, then welded them to the steel 'T'. Two heavy steel rods in turn were pushed through holes in the back panel and then welded to the 'T' with the back panel in place. This structure was then welded to a larger armature which would form the basis for the 'tree' that would hold up the sign with the chicken perched on it.
The sign still has plenty of work to be done before it is finished but it is now ready for the workshop. Although some steps are complete (like the routing and welding) I'll be describing these steps using the piece as reference. Then we'll do the balance as a demonstration piece with help from my students. Hopefully by the weekend it will be pretty much done. Stay tunes for more pictures...