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 29, 2012

2D fun

Now that we use EnRoute and our MultiCam router I couldn't imagine building a house like ours without these marvelous tools. We've designed and cut hundreds of pieces already for the project and will be adding a while bunch more before we are done.

The files we created and cut today were simple 2D shapes that will be combined to form something far more complex.

Today's task was to design and cut the arched ceiling supports of the long hallway through the center of the house. The arch supports had to accommodate the wiring (we weren't allowed to drill into the trusses) and the vacuum pipes.

I measured things up and then sat down at my desk to do some designing. I first designed the arched section and then added on all the bits and pieces.

I combined the two outside and center tabs with the arch. These would be used to screw into the ceiling joists.

Then I used he jigsaw tool to remove the cutouts that would hold the vacuum tubes and the wiring.

The resulting pieces were copied and stacked in readiness for cutting. I used a 3/8" cutter to do the cuts in the 3/4" plywood.

It took me a lot longer to screw the many pieces into position than it did to design and cut them.

Next up is the more complex entry way. Stay tuned...


WORKSHOP dates set

We've set the dates for the next Sign MAGIC Workshop in spring. I've been getting lots of enquiries and with so many folks interested in booking already we decided to firm things up well in advance.

The Sign Magic Workshop will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday April 19, 20, 21, 2013. As always things will get rolling late afternoon Thursday for those already here.

This workshop deals with all aspects of dimensional sign making, including design, fabrication, finishing, marketing and a whole lot more.  Our guest teacher will be Jeff Hartman, one of the creators of EnRoute Software.

More information is available at Sign MAGIC Workshop

The Sculpture MAGIC Workshop will be held a week later  April 26, 27, 28, 2013

This workshop is all about sculpture. It is a hands-on deal with the students welding, creating armatures, and sculpting using fiberglass reinforced concrete and sculpting epoxy.

More information about this workshop is available at Sculpture MAGIC Workshop

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vertical trim pieces

The carpenters are now finished the soffits of the new house, meaning we can start in on our work in a big way. The backing for the trim pieces was first put in place and then the fiberglass reinforced concrete was troweled on. Rock work was sculpted into the bottom. Vertical and horizontal trim will now be installed over that. These pieces will all be routed from 30 lb Precision Board.

The trim will be woodgrain and will also feature an inner panel of layered hearts. The first step was to draw out the panel at the correct size. The insert panels were created separately, first as flat reliefs. I had created the layered heart panels separately as oversized pieces. These were duplicated and then placed over the flat panel inserts and merged highest with them.

 The trim piece was made into a flat relief at 0.7" thick for a start.

I stretched out the sandblasted woodgrain bitmap from the TEXTURE MAGIC collection and then applied it with a value of 0.2". This brought the total thickness of the relief to 0.9" making it easily fit inside the 1" thick Precision Board.

I then rendered it to check it out.

The heart panels were then merged to the base relief using the REPLACE command. I also created a 1" tall square relief in the middle that was also merged to the base relief. We will glue a decorative block in this spot.

I needed three of these pieces so I duplicated the original piece and set them up for routing.  I used a 3/8" ball nose bit to rough them out followed by a pass with a 1/8" ball nose bit and an 80% overlap. Finally, I used a 3/8" cutter to do an offset cut around the piece.

And here's one of the pieces installed on the house.

Now that the test pieces passed muster it is time to put them into full production for all around the house. Stay tuned for more...


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Richard's plumbing

Our in floor heating contractor decided he too wanted a sign our front of our house. He handed me his business card and said I could start with that idea but had full license to change what I wanted to make it look good as a sign. He would adjust the business card and truck lettering to follow my design. His original design had elements that worked and were worth keeping but the colors were in the wrong order and simply did not read well. Red lettering on a dark blue background is never a good idea. Like the elements of the business card we would simply rearrange the colors. In this fashion the logo would be evolutionary instead of revolutionary. 

I did up the lettering in Illustrator. The RPH in the oval I traced by hand in PhotoShop.

Once I had imported the vectors into EnRoute I first created an apostrophe that was a little closer to his original logo. Then I added the outline around the oval. This was them merged with the rectangular outline of the sign. Everything was slid into place and centered.

Since the sign would be part of a growing set out by our sidewalk I decided to use a similar background to many of the others, The SPLOTCHES bitmap from the TEXTURE MAGIC collection did the trick. It was done with a value of 0.2" of height.

The rectangle was added to the original relief, meaning it too had the same texture as the background

The primary copy was done as separate bevelled reliefs, then positioned vertically and merged highest.

The oval was done in the same fashion using the dome tool. It too was merged highest with the base relief.

Then I added the lettering to the dome by modifying the relief with the letter vectors.

This sign like the others was done in three layers The center layer was routed to create a space for the 1" square tubing frame. I first created the separate elements of the frame design. 

 These were merged and then I used the jigsaw tool to create the outlines of the pieces I would need.

 The middle and back pieces were routed from 1" thick Precision Board.

The sign measures just under four feet wide and about two feet tall. 

Now it is on to paint!


Fox and Hounds sign install

The morning dawned bright and clear- perfect for a delivery. I checked the straps on the load, made sure the lights were working on the trailer and we were off!
We pulled into the parking lot just as John backed into place with the crane. Harold's crew were busy putting their needed tools into the attic. As John leveled his truck and set his outriggers Sarah and I untied the load and set up the ladders. Then it was time to hook up the chain at last. Clearance was tight as the crane head needed to fit under the eaves of the gable. We went without a hook, instead tying the sign to the end of the boom. John, ever the professional was smooth as silk as he guided the sign into position. Sarah was on the guide rope, Benji was on the ladder talking to the guys inside who would screw the fasterers into the sign from the attic. I was John's eyes inside the courtyard, guilding him on the truck controls.

It took a little finesse and pushing to get the 1,435 lb sign into place and a few tries to grab it from behind with the lag bolts. In the end we were forced to do four bolts through the face of the sign to get it to tighten securely to the wall face as the was was not perfectly flat. I patched and painted the holes while the guys fastened the rest of the fasteners from behind - as per the engineer's instructions. We used a few extra bolts to be sure.
Then it was time to lift the decorative chimney into place. It would fancy up an old kitchen vent that was no longer in service.

Colin and Benji fastened the chimney in place while Sarah and  I headed into the pub to do a little other work on a handrail.

The busy crew had everything tidied up before lunch and we headed back to the house to resume work there. It had been a productive morning that went smoothly - a good thing on install days!

As quick as that this phase of the Fox and Hounds Pub project was at last complete.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Fox sign ready for transport

After waiting almost twelve weeks for a permit to install the Fox and Hounds Pub sign it is at last time to do the install. Todays task was to first build a giant easel on the flat bed trailer. We used welded steel for maximum strength.

I used my neighbor's trusty little forklift to ease all 2,450 lbs of it onto the cradle. 

While Sarah painted the areas previously covered (and unfinished) I cinched it to the trailer good and tight.

It will sit in the yard one more night before it's journey home.

 I'll post some pictures tomorrow of the lift in progress as well as some shots of the sign in it's new home.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Curved ceiling framework

The vaulted ceiling pieces I cut a few days ago fit perfectly. They strengthened and tied tougher the top of the ceiling joists where they attached to the ridge beam and also gently wrapped the curved ceiling over the top of the room. I kept the cross strapping to a minimum (for now) to allow room for the spray foam guys to do their work.

In the lower ceiling of the room the arched corner pieces were screwed in place to round the corners slightly. Headroom (both visual and actual) was not compromised in the process.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

CNC house

The MultiCam has been busy in the last few days routing the many pieces we needed to create the vaulted ceilings in the upstairs bonus rooms, and the living/dining room. As the machine cut the pieces effortlessly it brought back memories of many hours cutting similar pieces by hand back in the days before we got the CNC router.  It is a whole lot faster process these days and much more accurate as well! With EnRoute software making designing of curved support structure quick and easy and the MultiCam making the physical process effortless and extremely fast we are doing things that could only be imagined previously.

As each batch came off the MultiCam I loaded the pieces onto the lawn mower trailer and drove them up to the house in front.

Some of our crew is working on finishing up the facia board. The eyebrow portions came off the router more than a week ago. We layered up two pieces of 3/4 plywood. Now we are stapling on diamond lath in preparation for a sculptured layer of fiberglass reinforced concrete which will resemble wood grain wood when we are finished. Today's pieces will be screwed to the rear portion of the eyebrow facia and a matching piece to the wall. It took about a half an hour to design and cut  a whole sheet of pieces, something that would have taken far longer by hand.

Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of the pieces installed upstairs in the bonus rooms. The vaulted cringing structures look pretty cool! Stay tuned...


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Time for more cutting

The framing of the house is coming along quickly.  A common theme that goes through the house both inside and out is arches. With the other trades lining up and planning where they will place wiring, pipes and ducting it is time to define where the curved ceiling and walls will be. The arched ceilings will actually allow more room for these folks to do their work. 

Once the arches define the ceiling the fancy routed Precision Board trim will be the project of choice.

There are four main areas we will arch the ceilings. The first are the ceiling in the upstairs rooms. The dormers are already framed. I need to link the two sides, rounding the tops slightly to hide the beams that go through the middle. We will cut the arched pieces from 3/4" plywood and attach them to the trusses and joists. Then using strips of wood we'll sheet in the curves in readiness for the plaster coat that will give it all form.

The red outlines roughly define the pieces we will need.  I did the top piece first.

I measured up the slope of the rafters and then drew them in EnRoute.

I defined the joists and the center beam. This was duplicated and flipped to form both sides.

I forgot to grab the screen shots of the rest but basically I formed an arch and merged it to the trusses then used the jigsaw tool to create the vector outline of the pieces I would need.

The second piece was for the ceiling trusses that form the rest of the room. I knew the slope of he trusses and so I recreated them in EnRoute. The pieces would be 24" in length on both legs. This was merged into one vector outline.

I then created a new vector and using the point editing tool I adjusted it to the shape I needed and then curved the top and bottom to align with the truss bottom edges. As a last step I drew a small circle and positioned it on the bottom of the top edge. This would be a marker to help me align them when we installed the pieces. I deleted the first combined vector and then used the jigsaw tool to creat my final shape.

This was duplicated and positioned on a 4' x 8' sheet.  It was ready to tool path and send off to the router.

The large vaunted ceiling in the living/dining room area needed three sets of pieces to become arched. The curved ceiling will be paltered down to the nine foot level where a large crown molding will circle the room. LED lighting will shine upwards illuminating the ceiling.

Once again I drew the base vectors in EnRoute. This was a 12/12 pitch ceiling. The two sides were merged.

I then drew the lines and used the point edit tool to form the shape and curve I needed. A rectangle was used to trim the top by using the jigsaw tool.

Then I moved the rectangle lower and used the jigsaw tool one more time to get the bottom piece I would need for the ceiling.

I still need to make a few more shapes for the upstairs hallway that will direct the curves of the big arch but I'll wait until a little more framing is done before I do that.

I also need to design and cut a whole bunch of arches for the downstairs hallway and through the underside of the bridge but that will wait until we get a little further along. 

Tomorrow another eighty sheets of 3/4" plywood arrive and the MultiCam will be busy cutting them into the pieces we need. Stay tuned for a whole bunch of magic!