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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Workplace to school room

In the last days we have been busy. Name plaques have been designed, routed and painted. Letting samples have been cut from Precision Board for our students to paint. Materials are readied, tables and chairs are ready to go. Every inch if the shop has been cleaned, organized and readied for our guests to arrive. Some of our guests have traveled far, eager to start. Everyone will arrive in Yarrow tomorrow. We'll get acquainted and then kick off the learning and fun.

School is in tomorrow. I can hardly wait!


Cobbling together a name plaque

Ted's name only has three letters allowing me to do something cool with his name on the plaque. Each letter would be comprised of individual boards.  The pegs that 'hold' them together would be built separately.  The vectors were drawn in EnRoute.

Each board was created as a flat relief, then rotated as necessary and positioned on a couple of wood grain bitmaps from my TEXTURE MAGIC collection. The bitmap woodgrains were applied to the reliefs. Then the individual reliefs were rotated back and arranged to form the letters once more. Then I used the up/down arrow to position each piece vertically. The pegs were then created separately and positioned in the same manner.

Then I created a background vector and used it to create a flat relief. Then I imported the splotches bitmap and applied it to the relief. All the pieces were then merged highest to form one piece.

As quick as that another name plaque was ready to send to the MultiCam.


Rope trick

For every workshop one of the name plaques includes what I call the 'rope trick'. It is a very cool feature of EnRoute.

The vectors were straight forward. I would build this file in segments and then merge highest as a last step. This would allow me the ability to control and adjust the heights of all the elements with total control and flexibility.

For the rope border I created a series of circle vectors which were then combined. You can see the result in the shot below this one... the small rope cross section on the lower left of the frame.

First up was the frame border...  a simple domed relief.

Then it was time to create the rope. I opened the extrude contours menu and then the various options. I wanted to create a mesh object. This will be turned into a relief later after it is in position. The slices and stacks determine how detailed your mesh will be. I tend to crank things way up but it makes for large files. Then I type in how many revolutions the rope will twist...  this is a matter of trying a number and then doing it again with a different value if need be. Follow the steps in the menu to generate the mesh object.

When I created the mesh it does not appear because it creates it centered on the base line...  and my relief was taller than that - hiding it. Looking in the front view solved that. I used mu up arrow to nudge it into position( in the front view)

 Then I combined the relief and the mesh. When rendered it looks like this.  Once I was satisfied I deleted the mesh object.

I then created a domed relief for the center portion, imported a bitmap called  wiggly weave and applied it to the relief

Next I created a flat relief of the lettering border. This was then modified with an oval vector using the same settings I had used for the oval background. Once modified I nudged it up into position in the front view. Then I modified the relief once more by adding to the relief with the letter vectors to create the prismatic chiseled letters.

Then I combined everything together and sent it to the MultiCam. It was routed from 1.5" 30 lb Precision Board.


Tag with a (Celtic) twist.

For Darrin's name plaque I decided to go with a Celtic design which is part of the TEXTURE MAGIC collecion. The bitmap could be stretched a little but the shape of the file would largely determine the dimensions. 

It is not yet possible to rotate bitmaps in EnRoute so I created a rectangular vector and then a flat relief. Then I applied the bitmap.

The relief looked pretty good but was flat and smooth - a little smooth for my taste.

Once I had rotated the relief 90 degrees I overlaid the bitmap I call splotches over the relief and used it to apply a subtle texture to the relief.

Then I typed in Darrin's name and converted it to vectors. The next step was to create an outline around the lettering. This outline was used to modify the relief. The last step was to add the bevelled lettering.

The file was then sent to the MultiCam and routed from 1.5" 30 lb Precision Board.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Once upon a time...

Each sign and feature we are creating for the Fox & Hounds Pub does a variety of tasks. Branding, of course is the primary function. The signs must identify the business. As clients move through the space they must be reminded of where they are. The signs and identity must be memorable. But each of our signs also tell a story. We call it fictionalized history. It is all based on a true and believable story. 

The Fox & Hounds Pub history goes back, almost two hundred years, to England. When the pub was built in Aldergrove, British Columbia, some of the original timbers, from the original Fox & Hounds pub were used in it's construction. This is the basis of our story. But like all stories it has grown richer and more elaborate with time...

The original founder of the Fox & Hounds Pub was a huntsman of course. When he came to Canada, back in 1812 (the year the British beat back the Americans in the famous war if that same year) he settled in the area we now know as Aldergrove. There were foxes a plenty in those woods in those days. He used the large timbers to build a small pub and named it after his favorite pastime. The little pub prospered through the years and was passed down from generation to generation. As the town grew the building was added to by various craftsmen. Some were skilled with fine tools, others were more basic and built of heavy, rough hewn timbers. Some built of brick, others were masons who used local stone. Through the years the family provided great service and the business prospered. As with every building that dates back two hundred years, some of the walls have settled a little in places. Not everything is totally level or plumb after all these years.

The artwork, signs and features are all in support of this story. Anything that does not fit is simply not there. Everything else does it's job seamlessly.

The family crest that hangs over the fireplace give us plenty of information. A stylized fox and hound, typical of this style crest, flank the shield. The 'P' is for the Paul family. A crown signifies the ties to merry old England. The Latin phrase, PUBLICAN EXIMUS, speaks of the most excellent service the Paul family provided since the year of 1812.

The crest is now done. All we have to do is finish the fireplace where it will hang.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

120 different ideas and counting

In the last four years I've had to come up with more than 120 name tags for our workshop attendees. They have all been different. For anyone who is serious about learning EnRoute I would recommend designing and routing a few dozen of these types of things. It will force you to be creative and also learn many of EnRoute's features.

For these series of name plaques I took a little different approach than previous. I have a good collection of cartoon fonts which I like to use. I scrolled through them, with the list of names handy. As I matched the names I sketched in my sketch book and also made notes. I also matched texture bitmaps from my collection to go with each piece. It didn't take too long to come up with 25 new ideas I needed.

Butch is well known in the sign making world, a popular and knowledgable teacher in his own right. He is also very good at marketing. Somehow 'evil genius' typestyle looked right. The texture 'chinese food' also worked for this name.

The vectors were simple.  I started with the lettering border. I created a flat relief and then used the vector oval to modify it to a slight dome shape. 

Next up was the border for the oval. I used the limit to height command to create a chamfer around the edge.

Then I selected the oval border and the inside oval vector and modified the relief with a dome shape. This same selection was modified one more time by adding a bitmap texture.

The lettering outline was then nudged upward in the front view using the up arrow. This was merged highest to the original relief.

The last step was to create the lettering. Once again I used the dome tool to modify the relief.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Drifting along...

For Aaron's name plaque decided a driftwood backing would be cool. I drew up a quick sketch using Letterhead Font's Quickdraw for the lettering. It's one of my fonts.

As I looked at the bitmaps in the TEXTURE Magic collection I decided to go with the vertical driftwood   instead of the horizontal version I had drawn in my sketch.

The first task was to quickly draw in the vectors by tracing the driftwood bitmap.

After creating a slightly domed relief I applied the bitmap.

Then, using the sculpting tool I enhanced and deepened the grain of the wood, making the areas I have drawn in red deeper.

The border for Arron was created as a flat relief.

I selected this flat relief and a vector circle I had drawn around it. Then I modified the letter border relief by doming it the same amount I had applied to the wood background.

I positioned the lettering border within the driftwood and adjusted the height vertically in the front view.

After merging the last step was to create the lettering by modifying the relief. The lettering was prismatic in style.

As per usual the file was routed from 1.5" 30 lb Precision Board. The MultiCam made short with of the file and it was now ready for paint.

Stay tuned for more nameplates...


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Layer after layer of color

The Paul family crest for the Fox & Hounds Pub is coming along nicely. Yesterday we laid on the Coastal Enterprises primer, adding a little more texture with a small brush to the scroll, edge of the shield, crown and the letter 'P'. This was allowed to dry before we painted the base color of a nice warm cream on the scroll and wood grain background. The shield received a metallic red. The outside border received a brown paint.

Today I added the gold to the fox & hound. Then it was time to start the first of the glazes. The shield received a purply red color. The wood and scroll got a yellowish tan for it's first pass of glazes. Both glazes were gently wiped down to allow the under color to shine through. 

Tomorrow I'll start in on the next glazes. working up from the lightest color to the darkest, gradually including more and more of the crest. By the time I am done it will look like it is 200 year old - just like the story we are telling. By carefully designing the project with lots of texture the painting process is relatively quick - less than two hours in total.

 - Stay tuned...


More 'brickwork'

We made good progress on another of the projects at the Fox and Hounds Pub today. The archway was painted up by one crew as Bec & I worked on the fireplace. She mixed wonderful batches of concrete while I spread it on the fireplace face. After lunch we carved in the bricks. Tomorrow we'll polish off the bottom portion and the one 'timber' on the right side. The other timber on the left has to wait until the temporary bar moves to it's new permanent home. And we have to jump back to the beams above the new bar to finish the concrete work on that on Friday.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Signs at every turn

There are signs all around our shop. They are on the new easel I built a few weeks ago. Others languish on the table tops, the table saw and around the shop and studio. They are in various stages of completion.

With the Fox & Hounds Pub project proceeding at full speed the signs will soon be needed.  And with a Sign Magic Workshop now less than a week away the signs will be superb eye candy for the students and a little more motivation to get them done sooner rather than later. We've been putting in a few hours in the last days to add some color. They are coming together quickly and will be ready by next week for sure.

Stay tuned for more color...