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, July 17, 2011

Small bits in tight areas

Back on the 27th of June I posted the building of the routing file for Harold Fine Wines, a sign for the Fox & Hounds Pub. There's been a traffic jam on the MultiCam as many good sized files were ready to be routed. With only one router operator (me) and only one machine the need for pieces onsite determines the order I would get to them. Yesterday I finally put the job on the MultiCam and set it in motion.

As always I couldn't resist mocking up the pieces to see how they would look assembled. I will glue the pieces together later, and then after everything is cured the hand work and painting will begin.

But this was not the end of the project. The sign is a tribute to the general contractor, Harold Esau of Harold's Contracting. A second smaller copy would also be produced which will be presented to him at the grand opening in October. I've always found it easier to do similar things at the same time. I knew if I put the second copy off it would have to be done in a rush at the last minute. 

With EnRoute a second smaller sized copy was no big deal. I simply scaled it down. The smaller copy would route from a 36" square sheet of 1.5" Precision Board. The original was done on a piece of 2" thick board and measured about 1/3 bigger.

The smaller scale presented a challenge however. The 1/8" ballnose bit would not fit into the thin lettering. The rest of the sign was fine. So what to do?  The answer is easy. I would use a smaller bit but only route the lettering areas of the sign. But I had inadvertently created a dilemma for I had already deleted the lettering vectors.

The solution was to create some new vectors than encompassed the areas I wanted to route. Then I created a number of zero height reliefs, aligned them with the bottom of the plate, and merged (highest) each of the reliefs to the larger pieces.

I then deleted the large, original reliefs. These small areas of the sign were tool pathed with a 1/16" ballnose bit. I know from experience that the letters will now be routed perfectly as the 1/16" bit fits into the letters easily. The rest will blend into the parts already routed with the larger bit.

Then the job was sent to the MultiCam. The first pass was with the 3/8" ball nose bit to rough things out and remove material in a hurry. The 1/8" ball nose bit will then go over the entire area. Lastly the 1/16" ball nose bit will route the letters and the immediate area around them. 

The end result is a perfectly scaled, smaller copy of the original sign.

Now it is on to the sculpting and a little bit of hand carving... then on to the paint department.