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 21, 2011

Learning from the best!

My wife and I enjoy business trips of a different kind than most folks. Each year we do our best to spend a week or two in a Disney theme park - somewhere in the world. (there are parks in Florida, California, Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong).  Now I fully realize that this wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but the fact is that the Imagineers at Disney are the very best in the world at what they do. They have taken the art of using signs and entire structures to tell their stories and create an immersive experience. I strongly believe every sign maker and designer should invest the time to go and witness this awesome work first hand.

This past week I have taken more than five hundred pictures of the signs alone in the California parks. It is not my intention to copy anything I see, but rather to use the ideas I see as inspiration for future projects.  I of course look at everything with great interest to discover how they might have done it, and to think about how I might do it differently if I had the chance.  The pictures I show today in this post is NOT work we did in our shop. It was done by the talented folks at Disney Imagineering or someone they contracted.

One of my favorite places in the park is a small restaurant in Fantasyland. It's been there since the mid 80's. I can't remember if the signs have been redone lately but they stood out in my mind this time. I suspect master pieces were hand carved and then molds taken and individual signs cast from that. But in looking at them I believe they could also easily have been done with a CNC router.

If I were doing them now I would do them in one of two ways...   Rough, slightly oversize files could quickly be built in EnRoute and then routed on my MultiCam. I would use 30 lb Precision BOard HDU of course. These would then be carved by hand to add the last bit of detail.  The CNC would take the grunt work out of the task and speed things up immeasurably.The second method if multiple copies were needed would be to do thing similarly, but then have the final files created via a scan and then route as many copies as you needed. This would also be very fast.  Or you could meticulously build the files but It would take some time to get the real hand crafted look.

 What I love about the work is how the signs lend seamlessly into the architecture. They help tell the story in an entertaining fashion.

In seeing all the incredible work these last days it has filled my idea banks once more and inspired me to start in on some cool projects when I return to my shop next week. I would recommend the same for anyone in a creative slump. This kind of work will fit into the real world as well and work just as hard for your customers. The trip to the warm California sunshine has been great! Janis & I have had a blast ... and we got to write off the expenses too!