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, August 29, 2011

Fantastic week!

On my return from the Sign Magic Workshop we increased our crew size to accomplish the task of building the upper area in the old pub. In only six day we completed the framework and skinned the roof in preparation for the application of decorative, faux slate roof. By the end of the week we will be ready to take down the temporary staging. Next week we will tackle the second fireplace.

In the past week I've also had the chance to create some new files in EnRoute and also fire up the MultiCam. The first of the new signs was routed and glued up in preparation for the hand work that was to follow. With the exception of the lettering the sign will be largely hand finished. The four layers of 1.5" thick 30 lb Precision Board were cutouts for the most part. This sign will be at eye level and needs to be able to withstand lots of handling.

With carefully planned cutout layers this sign will come together quickly. I'll be using the air powered die grinders to shape the Precision Board and then a little sculpting with Abracadabra Sculpt to add in some detail. This small version of the logo will hang inside at the end of the entry hallway. Another larger version for above the porch entry is also in the works. Stay tuned for pictures of the progress.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Family crest

Last week, just after my plane lifted off for the first leg (to Calgary) of my journey to Toronto I opened my sketchbook and began scribbling. The task was to design a family crest for the feature piece we would hang over the pub fireplace now under construction. I thought it would appear to be very traditional with the fox on one side, a hound on the other. The letter 'P' is the first letter of the owner's family name.

It took a few false starts before I came up with a scribble I liked. This would form the basis for the logo. The story is the Fox and hounds pub dates back 200 years. I decided the crest would feature the date of 1812 - the date the loyalists fought the Americans in Canada. It lends a authentic air to the legend. That would make the pub 199 years old... and offers a great excuse for a grand celebration next year. :)

I then drew a nicer, more finished version of half the logo and when done traced the other side on the reverse side of the page. With the limited resources at my disposal on the plane it was a quick and effective solution. Later when I got to my hotel in Toronto I took a picture of both halves. I also did a quick search on the internet to find an appropriate Latin word which was on the tip of my tongue on the plane. The scroll under the crest would read 'PUBLICAN EXIMUS'. Publican (not latin) is an old word for the owner of a drinking establishment. Eximus translates to exraordinaire or outstanding. The barrel head would tie the design together and also relate to the same barrel head we used through the pub. The title works wonderfully.I would use the crest as an example of how I use digital tools to help me design.

For one segment of the Sign Magic Workshop in Toronto I called up the photos I had taken of the crest and then showed how I use my digital drawing pad to freehand draw such an image, tracing over my initial sketches.  Not wanting to draw out the lesson I only did half a drawing. 

Tonight I opened the drawing once more and in a few minutes finished the sketch. The owner had already approved the idea from the sketches in my sketchbook but I wanted to take things a little further to assist me as I did the final carving after the MultiCam does it's job.

Then I imported the a jpg version of the drawing into EnRoute. I used the vector drawing tools to quickly trace the image and produce the vectors I needed for the reliefs I would create to build the 3D file.

Tomorrow I'll work up the reliefs and prepare the file for the router. Stay tuned...


Long day carving concrete

Any day we apply and carve concrete it is a long, hard day. With difficult access to our work area, extremely warm temperatures in the attic space and tricky, detailed pieces to carve our work load went up exponentially. My daughter Rebecca joined our crew today to mix the concrete for us. My son, Peter and I applied the concrete to the chimneys and then everyone on the crew jumped in to do the carving. With the warm temperatures the concrete got hard in a hurry. We were behind the eight ball from the get-go and struggled until it was done. Happily the London rooftop chimneys turned out great!

By the end of the day the concrete was getting very hard. Everyone on the crew jumped in to do the last of the carving in the hard concrete, working shoulder to shoulder and having fun. 

I was a little ambitious in the amount we tackled today. But we got through it and it leaves that much less for us to tackle next week.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Still stuck in the attic

The router has been silent for far too long and the jobs lined up for it are patiently waiting. That will be cured starting this weekend. Some new projects were approved today which will be very challenging. Stay tuned for them.

In the meantime we continue work in the attic with great progress. My son Peter is helping me on this project. He worked with my as my right hand man for better than fourteen years. The truth is anything I can do he can do just as well, sometimes better. Communicating my thoughts to him is done shorthand for he can literally finish my sentences. He left my crew to work as an animator, and for the last three years has been getting his degree in mathematics with the goal of becoming a high school math teacher. In his semester breaks he sometimes comes to work with me. We always have a lot of fun!

The next two shots are panorama shots, a little distorted but they give a good idea of how it all fits together. The center area measured about 12' x 16' x ten feet high.

By day's end the chimneys were ready for the concrete work which we will begin tomorrow. We are on track to finish this part of the project by late next week - right on schedule!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Working in the attic

The first few days after getting back from a trip are always hectic. There are calls to return, emails to answer and plenty of chores to be done. On the job site the general contractor has been busy, getting ahead of us and also preparing the next project for our work. In the center of the old pub the ceiling was raised as a feature. Before the renovation a chainsaw carved fox and hounds was surrounded by a mural with a farm scene. This was all to be replaced by a London rooftop with a dark sky overhead.

The carpenters had built a raised platform in my absence. It was high enough to keep the tables in operation underneath in front of the fireplace. We could work above, with the guests only hearing us through the floor. A trap door allows us limited access. They had removed the faux beams, leaving us to patch the ceiling and then do our work.

Yesterday we hauled up a lot of lumber, with even more going up the ladder tomorrow. Yesterday I got a handle on one side of the framed structure, today we worked hard to almost finish the basic shape. The many chimneys are next on the list with the faux slate roof to follow. Once all the paint is done we will hang a couple of the dimensional signs from the beams. Then it is on to the fireplace below that will feature more routing and decorative pieces.

It is kind of interesting to be in the center of the action and yet hidden from the sight of the public.  Soon enough the temporary staging will come down and it will be revealed for all to enjoy.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Toronto Sign Magic Workshop - day two

The group was eager to start this morning. True to form, most reported a lack of sleep the night before because we had gotten their minds racing from all the new ideas we presented yesterday. All were eager to learn more and get their hands dirty putting hat we taught to the test on their projects. 

Usually I have a full staff and family as support staff... this workshop it was up to EJ and myself to present the entire program. Time flew by as question after question was asked and the answers given, often while I frantically looked up images of past projects to illustrate my ideas visually. At workshops in my studio I generally have plenty of samples handy to show.

Each of the students followed directions to a 'T' - brushes were kept clean and paint put away as it was used. It sure made my life easier and I concentrated on teaching and sharing all I could. It has been a wonderful experience for me and it seems there are lots of smiles everywhere I look.

Thanks so much to our sponsors, MultiCam, EnRoute, Precision Board and Abracadabra Sculpt for making the workshop possible. One more day to go in Toronto...


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day one of Toronto Sign Magic Workshop a success!

Each Sign Magic Workshop is so different from the others, determined in large part by the students who attend. In this case it is even more different than the others because it is the first one on the road. Yesterday was spent purchasing supplies and making sure everything was in place. The folks at MultiCam Canada went out of their way to make sure everything was ready and set up. We used their trade show display setup as a backdrop, complete with pieces I had done for them some time ago. I felt very much at home.

This time the group is small, allowing me lots of one on one time - perfect for teaching.Most folks are from the Toronto area but we have others from further afield including Georgia, USA.  EJ Nodurft, from SAinternational (EnRoute) is our guest teacher and doing a fabulous job at presenting the technical side of things. This crew was eager to get their hands dirty and we made good progress on the hands-on portion of the worshop. We have some great looking projects in progress already!

We put in a twelve hour day today and I could see people were pretty excited about what they were seeing. This is what makes these workshops d delightful for me as I see people inspired to continue long after the workshop ends.

Tomorrow morning we gather again and pick up where we left off today. I can hardly wait!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Ready set go!

The last day before a trip is always a little hectic. I've been making lists, putting things aside and getting ready, but the last day always seems to go a little sideways anyway - no matter how well I think I am.

Today I spent the day onsite with my crew, making sure everything was ready for them to be on their own for the next four days. My task, besides making sure they had all they needed was to lay down the texture coat of plaster on the walls and ceilings of the areas they are to paint. In the next days they will put the finish paints and patinas on the walls of the restaurant and entry areas of the Fox and Hounds, That will leave the patinas on the bricks alone to do on those areas. One more day of paint when I get back and then we are on to the next area of the pub. It is exciting and looking pretty spiffy too! I can hardly wait to see it when I get back.

As I worked today my mind was on the Toronto, Canada Sign Magic Workshop to start on Thursday morning. I was reviewing my material in my head and going through my mental checklist again and again. I don't want to forget anything. I also want to give the very best workshop I possibly can. While I have given over a dozen workshops to date I don't forget for a second that those who sign up are excited about what they will be learning. This is a BIG deal for them and a big investment too. My goal is to exceed their expectations by a large measure.

Besides my computer and iPad, my teaching kit is small. The folks at MultiCam Canada have been busy routing our needed samples. My friends at Coastal Enterprises have sent a stock of Precision Board and primer for us to play with. There is a good stock of Abracadabra Sculpt on hand for us to sculpt up a storm. I'll spend Wednesday buying paint and supplies which I can't take on the plane. 

I am very excited about jumping on a plane tomorrow...

Ready set GO!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Going fishing

Each time I talk to my good friend Danny Baronian in California he reminds me I promised him I would do a post on how I created the little fish boat in the Smyer's sign. Tonight I am making good on that promise.

The little cartoon fish boat was created entirely in EnRoute. It is one of those projects I would caution those who have not yet got a good handle on EnRoute to leave alone for a while. Learn the basic functions first - then get fancy.

The vectors were created using the drawing vector editing tools. The thing to keep in mind is the shapes of the rliefs you want to create as well as what you need to take away to make it happen.

The first shape is the bulbous hull. It looks a lot like a miss-shapen egg. 

Then I selected what I wanted to slice off the hull shape and created a zero height relief. This was then merged lowest to give us the proper hull shape on top.

as quick as that we have a basic hull shape. The bumper rails on the side of the hull were added by adding to the relief.

The keel was next. this was created as a separate flat relief. We'll merge it to the hull later.

The round front cab is next and we'll create the revolve tool to form it. This is done as a mesh object which is then merged to a zero height relief. 

I then stretched out the cab to form an oval when looked at in the front view.

I created another zero hight relief i the shape of a rectangle. This would be used to slice off the back of the boat cab,  using the merge lowest command.

The front storage locker and sloping lid were simple flat reliefs built separately. Everything was positioned and then I drew a new vector around everything. This vector was used to create a new zero height relief. Everything was merged highest to this flat relief. 

Just like that (in about 30 minutes) we had a cute little fish boat.  

There are many ways that could have been used to substitute some of the steps I used. I am sure there are some simpler methiods. But no matter what, as you can see it is both fun and challenging to use EnRoute. With it I can build anything I can imagine.