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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bridge build - part one

Routing the four, large, detailed panels from 1" thick precision Board took a long while - almost fifty hours in total. The panels turned out wonderful!

As good as the panels looked when we routed them, they looked even better as we installed them.

 In the next days the many details on the underside of the bridge will come together. I used the MultiCm to cut a bunch of pieces that will be installed tomorrow. The large crown moldings will be part of that work. Stay tuned...


Saturday, February 23, 2013

One of a kind bridge

Before the large crown molding can go up around the living/dining room area we have to finish off the sides of the bridge that goes over the same area. I've been working on countless ideas for the bridge since well before we even started construction on the house. I've filled many pages of my sketchbook with these ideas but nothing clicked... until a couple of days ago.

I built a rough version of the file in Illustrator and then imported the file to EnRoute Pro.

The rough vectors needed a fair amount of reworking and tweaking. I only worked on one half of the bridge vectors, then deleted the roughs and duplicated and flipped the finals to form both sides of the bridge.

The scrolls would be raised to match the border and the background would feature the same butterflies as the panels on the window trim. Those areas are shown in grey.

The first step was to create a flat relief. Since the files were to be routed from 1" thick Precision Board with three layers of butterflies

I then arranged the butterflies for the background. I would go through them three times selecting every third butterfly. They were made into reliefs of three different heights and then merged highest with the background.

The file was tool pathed in two passes - a rough using a 3/8" ball nose bit with a 50% overlap and then a final pass using a 1/8" ball nose bit with an 80% overlap.

A final offset path was programmed to cut the piece out using a 3/8" cutter.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More fancy

The giant crown molding production continued today and will for a few days yet. Today we routed the first of the rounded crown moldings that will top the living and dining room windows. I had to work with the material I had in stock and so they will be done in segments and joined , most likely up on the wall. Like the straight pieces routed yesterday they were done in two three inch thick layers. The tape measure beside them gives a better idea of scale. These things are large!

I'll also cut a backer board from 1" thick MDF that will go on first, building up the moldings even more. I can hardly wait to see them up! Stay tuned...


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Giant crown molding

We are finally at a point in the project where I can begin work on the giant crown moldings that go around the living and dining room and up and over the big round windows. We wanted them to match the smaller crown molding that is to go on the kitchen cupboards.

I traced the end of the molding and then imported that into EnRoute which I then traced to create the vectors needed.  I had to decide how big to create the molding and how many layers of Precision Board we would use.

The smaller hall molding vectors were also created at the same time.

The sweep two rails command was a quick and easy way to create the profiles I needed. I created them as meshes which I then merged (highest) with a zero height relief.

Then I used the slice too to take away the zero height background.

The curved moldings were built much the same way.

The moldings were routed from 3" thick Precision Board . The big moldings were done in two layers while the smaller one will be done in one layer.

Here's a pic of the molding mocked up. It will get a little sanding before I glue everything together.

 The curved moldings get routed tomorrow.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Building a train - Part fifteen

The last step of amy project is to ready it for shipping. In this case we get to have the fun of delivering it ourselves. The train weighed in at 1,664 lbs. I had built a sturdy lift point into the roof of the cab on the steam engine. It was a simple matter of threading through a small chain and then using the forklift to haul it over to the trailer.

In only a couple of days out in the weather the rust evened out nicely, making the train look like it was a hundred years old. This is going to look fabulous high on the trestle when it is installed at the adventure golf.

I'll be making the delivery in less than a week. These trips are always fun with lots of stares and waves as we travel down the road... this time more than a hundred miles distant. I'll take a few more shots as we travel and on arrival. Stay tuned...


Monday, February 11, 2013


We are always pleased and honored when one of our projects is considered for an honor in a competition. This year one of our projects has made the final round in the Signs of the Times international sign contest - people's choice. We are excited that our Mighty Moose Ice Cream sign is in the running. The process is really simple. No registration or personal information is needed to vote. We would appreciate your vote!    


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Building a train - Part fourteen

With the locomotive now almost done it is time to work on the log car. It will sport a giant log with the name of the adventure golf on the side. The rounded log back and ends will be sculpted from fiberglass reinforced concrete. The face of the sign is to be routed from 30 lb Precision Board.

To create the woodgrain on the log I would use a sandblasted woodgrain from my TEXTURE MAGIC collection. The bitmaps are 11" x 8.5" at 300 DPI meaning they can be blown up considerably and still get good results. My sign face covered 4' x 8' and I would only be using a small portion of the bitmap. It's marked in red below.

I first created a flat relief and the moved the bitmap over the relief, sized it appropriately and then entered a value of 0.2" depth.

The lettering outline was created as a separate relief, nudged into position vertically and then MERGED HIGHEST with the background relief.

 The lettering was then added to the base relief.


The file was then tool pathed and sent to the MultiCam using a 3/8" ball nose bit to rough and a 1/8" ball nose bit to do a final pass. The sign face was laminated (with two other layers) around a welded steel frame.

Once the glue was dry we lifted the sign into place and welded the steel frame to the structural frame of the log car.

Then we began the painting process using Coastal Enterprises water based primer.

Next week this piece will quickly come together. Stay tuned...


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Building a train - Part thirteen

Tonight I installed the front number plate, the top of the steam dome with the whistle and a few of the other remaining bits. I also popped in the Heico Lighting LED modules and routed trim rings.  I quickly wired up the lights and then powered them up. It was instant magic!

I can hardly wait to get this thing to it's permanent home and perched up on the trestle with the log car!


Building a train - Part twelve

We are still keeping the MultiCam busy as we make the last of the details for the train engine. Some parts like the cast and riveted fittings around the smokestack and steam dome are best made by hand using a sculpting epoxy. Once painted up with the rust paint they will be indistinguishable from the steel parts.

I sourced a bunch of rusty chain to drape over the grab rails and then carefully weld in place. It added an authenticity to the whole train making it look used.

The number and name plates were next. These will be painted to look like aged brass.

The steam dome top and brass bell were also on today's list. The rounded steam dome was a simple round relief while the bell was a revolved mesh. Both were sliced in EnRoute for routing from 30 lb Precision Board. Here Sarah sculpts the transition to the steel bracket that holds the bell.

Today I fasten the last bits in place to complete the train. Then we are on to the log car - already in progress in the shop.

Stay tuned for the final shots.