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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Final details

We've created more than 200 routing files for the trim on the house and routed thousands of pieces over the last two years. In the last three weeks we've been working hard to finish the outside and this includes creating even more routing files and then routing a bunch more pieces. Thankfully there aren't many areas left to do.

The trim around the front and patio doors was routed yesterday and assembled today. This afternoon I created the routing files for the decorative bands around the patio posts. I thought them worth posting as they involve three different procedures that are a teeny bit tricky.

The decorative bands are 8 inches wide and are comprised of four pieces that will be motored to fit. As usual I started with some vector files created in EnRoute.

 I then created a fat relief using the large rectangle.

Next I created a thinner flat relief of the three crews that would be embossed on the final piece.

I then added domed hearts to the centre panel.

I then added some woodgrain to the rectangular shape using one of the bitmaps from my TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION. This shot shows how I stretched out the bitmap to allow the rectangle to fit into the section of woodgrain I liked.

I used a value of 0.15 inches for the woodgrain.

I then merged using the REPLACE function. First I selected the relief I wanted to modify.

Then =, following the prompts I selected the areas I wanted to merge.

 As quick as that the panel was ready to tool path. But I needed eight panels so I duplicated them and arranged them to fit onto the piece of 30 lb Precision Board I would route them from. Then I used a 3/8" ball nose bit for the rough pass with a 50% overlap. The final pass was done using a 1/8" ball noise bit and an 80% overlap.

Here's a shot of the pieces on the MultiCam.

Tomorrow the completed pieces will be mitred and then painted before they are installed on the house. I'll post a picture of the completed door and the posts as well.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The face of our business

Marketing our business is an important key to success. Marketing can take many forms and the more creative marketing is the more memorable it will be.

In our case we have a home based business. Our shop is three hundred and fifty feet off of the road while our house is next to the road. Local bylaws restrict the size of our sign to four feet square. So how do we market effectively? It's simple.

We did an award winning 3D sign that was as big as we were allowed of course.

But when we designed and built our new house we used every creative trick in the book to make it into a larger than life 'SIGN' that advertised what we do for a living. The house creatively shows the things we do in our shop. There were no bylaws to control what our house looked like.

Does it work? I KNOW it does. We are currently booked into 2016. To  suppress the daily stream of looky-loos onto the property we are installing an electronically controlled gate. A (dimensional of course) sign will offer a phone number to make an appointment if they want to come back.


The importance of samples

I often get asked how we became successful in our business. The answer to that question isn't short but if I had to answer concisely I would say the biggest reason would be the samples we display. While some of our samples are smaller copies of three-dimensional work we have done for customers, the bulk of the things you see on display are custom made - just for that purpose.

I have difficulty describing what we do but showing a sample of our wonderful 3D creations work like a charm.

The work we have on display not only shows what we can do but also is the kind of work we WANT to do in the future. From time to time we go through our displays, culling signs and 3D objects that no longer fit our vision. Some see it as brutal that we take down a piece and toss it in the dumpster but the importance of our display far outweigh any personal attachment we might harbour.

Recently our insurance company did a detailed audit of our workplace. They deemed it necessary that we provide further fireproofing in our welding area. A fireproof paint was the answer. It was the perfect excuse to clear everything from the shop, reorganize our work areas and then put the samples back up. It was time for a major cull once more.

The pepto bismol pink of the special paint was a little hard to take as it went on.

Thankfully the fire paint was an intermedial paint meaning we could top coat it with something a little more neutral.

The many 3D samples were thoroughly cleaned, and sorted, tossing samples of things that no longer were up to current standards. They are stacked in my library waiting for the painting to be done.

As we reinstall all of the samples once more you can bet we'll save a little room for some new ones. Even though we are currently booked into 2016 I still strongly believe in continuing to invest in he future.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Back on the bike

After more than two months out of the studio and away from the router I was back at my desk and programing some files and turned on the MultiCam once more. I quickly found out I was a little rusty with both the program and the machine.

EnRoute is a wonderful program that isn't too difficult but like many things technical it requires that one does things in a certain order, paying attention the whole way through. As usual there were lots of things going on out in the studio and out in the yard as well. I found that with my being out of practice it till a few tries to get things right.

The point I am trying to make is that the complex files I love to play with takes practice and regular use to accomplish with ease.

I have no doubt that after creating a few more files in the next days I'll have no problem designing and routing anything I can imagine. It's like riding a bike I suppose. A few more laps and I'll be up to first speed once more.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pictures of the finished park - part 3

Today I have a last load of pictures of the Cultus Lake Adventure Park. The signs on the western side of the building have been featured here before as they went through various stages of construction. They were designed in EnRoute and then routed from Precision Board on our Multicam router. The building itself was built by the owner but we did the entire exterior treatment using sculpted fiberglass reinforced concrete. We painted using the same techniques we used on most of our other projects using base colors and them glazes to highlight the textures we love.

 featured the saloon sign last time but now finally have a nice shot of the entire building.

Now we are back in our shop getting ready for the next large project. First we took everything down from the walls and cleaned everything off. The entire shop got a fresh coat of paint and the samples were culled and then will get put back up on the walls for display. 

We are also landscaping the yard from one end to the other and even paving the driveway at last. By month's end we will be ready to get back to work once more. We have more than fourteen months worth of fabulous projects on the drawing board. 

Stay tuned for some pretty fun stuff...


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pictures of the finished park - part two

Everywhere one looks in the Cultus Lake Adventure Park there is a great photo to be had. From the road the park looks inviting. We carefully layered the elements to maximize the space but also to show great from the road.

Everything is designed to integrate and work together. Space was tight in this facility and yet we managed to squeeze room in for long cue lines that will hold lots of guests and still leave the main pathways free of congestion. No detail went untouched. The signs, posts and operator booths  all are fully themed to tell the story.

The Wilderness trail is already a hit with our young guests and their parents. 

The gold panning is in this area and the sign is on the water tower.

Kids enjoy working the old pump handle to make the water come out. In the background is the old rail inspection car with a crank they can turn there as well.

 The bicycle rental area is outside the park gates..

I have plenty more pictures to show in the next post. Stay tuned...


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pictures of finished park - part one

Cultus Lake Adventure Park is now finished and open to rave reviews by the public. It's great to see everyone enjoying the project we worked on for so long! Since the park has opened I've been doing my best to get good pictures. The key is to get there at different times each day as the light changes every hour. I'll be posting pictures of the final project in the next few posts.

We built Giggle RidgeAdventure Golf fourteen years ago. Back then we planted a high hedge on the south side of the park to block the views from the golf as the neighbor attraction wasn't very pretty. As we designed the Adventure Park our plan was to take out the bordering hedges and instead integrate the new features and attractions into the old adventure golf. The trees were trimmed of their lower branches to offer a fabulous view from the old attraction.

The park is small but packed with features. This sign started out as a directional sign but we instead changed it to point FUN in every direction.

A new entrance on the east side of the park has this giant balloon photo op for guests.

Another very popular photo op is the horse and wagon. It's not often that there isn't someone perched on the horse or sitting in the wagon.

One of the more popular rides is undoubtably the Buckin' Bronco.

In hot weather Bucky's Bumper Boats always has a long line. I love the contrast of the warm colors with the cool blues of the pool.

The Carousel and Balloon Adventure is also popular.  The landscaping made a huge difference all through the park, adding life to our concrete sculptural work.

 Almost everyone stops and points out the laughing horse on the Saloon sign. The sign does exactly as I hoped.

I'll be posting lots more pictures in coming days. The park looks so great!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The magic of light

I design all of our signs to take full advantage of daylight. The textures, with the glazes are oriented to capture the highlights and the shadows are designed to create the illusion of even more depth. But we have to go further. When the skies darken and the lights come up we can also create wonderful effects without much effort. The secret is to plan our lighting to enhance our signs and features.

With the opening of the park this week we could finally see how everything would look as the lights were installed and hooked up. While the park looks great at night, when the sun slides behind the mountain and the light fades the lighting adds a whole new level of magic to the signs and features.

The electricians are still finishing things off and as they do I'll be taking more pictures to show the result. Stay tuned...


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Landscape by design

Many sign makers I know think mainly of the signs they create. A few try to incorporate some nice posts of perhaps a base. I like to go much further. The surrounding builds, structures and landscape are often part of our projects. The actual planing of the plants, is also an area of concern. Plantings can do so much to soften the edges, tie the sign into the whole picture ald also extend the effectiveness of our designs.

Them theme park is now starting an extensive planting phase. While we worked so hard on the hardscape the plants dramatically bring it all to life and tie it together. I'll be posting many more mixtures as they finish up the landscape for it changes the project and completes it in a wonderful fashion.

I'll be posting many more mixtures as they finish up the landscape for it changes the project and completes it in a wonderful fashion. Stay tuned...