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 17, 2014

Workshop name plates 2014 - Part eight

I covered the file creation of Philip's name plate back on September 2. It looked great after it was routed from 30 lb Precision Board. The painting crew was ready to give it a cool paint job but I asked them to hold off for I had a little more detail in mind.

They had already applied some FSC-88 WB primer (thick bodied water base primer) using a small brush to add some texturing to the lettering. 

Philip is attending both workshops and rather than make him two name plates I decided I would make him one that was a little more elaborate. Sarah mixed up some Abracadabra Sculpting Epoxy for me and I quickly sculpted some barnacles and a starfish that was slowly making it's way down across the lettering. It took me around fifteen minutes to complete the task.

Tomorrow the epoxy will be rock hard and the painting crew can continue on. I'll post one more picture of the name plaque when it's finished in a few more days as well as some of the others. They are looking mighty fine! Stay tuned...


Friday, September 12, 2014

Workshop name plates 2014 - Part seven

For Torey's name plate I wanted it to look like boards fastened together. I toed out the letters, learned and sized them appropriately then whipped out the rectangles that would become boards. I wasn't worried about sizes or spacing at this point.

I then selected odd number boards and assigned them a height to create the reliefs.

Even number boards got the same treatment with a slightly different height.

I then imported the sandblasted wood bitmap. This bitmap is based on an actual photo of five laminated boards. I positioned the four rectangular reliefs over the boards sizing them to fit on the different pattern boards, assigned a value of 0.15" and added the textures.

I then duplicated two I liked, rotated them 90 degrees and resized them to suit. I also resized and arranged the original four boards at the same time.

Then it was time to add some height to the horizontal boards.

 I didn't want the spaces between the boards to be hollow (for strength reasons) so I created a flat rectangular relief and positioned it vertically under the boards.

Before combining the reliefs I checked the height of all the elements in the front view.

I then combined the vertical board and the lower relief.

Then I combined this relief with the horizontal relief. I also added an offset border around the letters which was made into a nee flat relief.

Since I just guessed at the height this lettering border needed to be I checked it in the front view. It was much too high so I nudged it down using the arrow keys.

Once I has happy with it's position I then merged highest with the base relief.

The last step was to modify the base relief by adding the lettering.

The Torrey name plate was ready to sent to the MultiCam. As always it would be routed from 30 lb Precision Board.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Workshop name plates 2014 - Part six

For Richard's name plaque I wanted a dimensional waving checkered flag. There's lots of ways to accomplish something like this in EnRoute but this is the easiest I can think of. It used the distort tool. I started with a bitmap from the TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION.  I then drew a rectangular vector, carefully lining the corners of the rectangle with the squares of the bitmap.

I then used the vector to create a flat relief.

I then modified the relief by applying the bitmap. to the relief using the add to command. Black does nothing, the white raised by the value inputted.

I then selected the relief and opened the distort tool. I used the nodes to wave the flag.

Then I created a new flat relief using the letter outline vectors.

I went to the front view and nudged it into position vertically using the up/down keys as indicated by the line (see arrow)

Once everything checked out I merged highest with the base relief.

Lastly I modified the base relief by adding the letters using the dome tool.

Another name plaque was ready to tool path and send to the MultiCam.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Workshop nameplates 2014 - Part five

Jim's nameplate was pretty straightforward save for one detail. I wanted the background texture to poke through the lettering border and into the lettering. I also wanted it to perfectly match what was around. Once again how and the order we do things in was the key.

As always I started with the vectors.

I first created a shallow domed relief.

I then added the texture of a log end (with splits) using one of my bitmap textures.

Then I created a flat relief using the lettering border. Note I also drew another circle vector around the original log end relief.

This new vector circle was used to modify the lettering border relief using the dome tool at the same angle as the original relief.

 I then went to the front view to position it up vertically so it stuck up above the texture of the log end grain.

 I then modified the original log end (add to command) using the lettering vectors. By adding to the original relief the end grain of the log was pushed upwards within the lettering vectors. This pushed the lettering through the slightly domed lettering border relief.

From the top it looked finished but I wasn't quite done.

We had to merge the lettering border with the base relief using the MERGE HIGHEST command.

This meant the file was now ready for tool pathing and sending off to the MultiCam.

Each time we do something different we have to think hard about the order of creating and merging the parts together to achieve the effects we want. This knowledge is best gained by experimenting and with each result checking to make sure it is what you want. If something unexpected happens go back and change something. Also take note for the technique you used to get the wrong result may be just what you need the next time.


Workshop nameplates 2014 - Part four

Each name plaque offers a unique challenge and is a great exercise to learn or review a tack in EnRoute. For some, like Sharon's it meant doing things in a particular order. As always I started with the vectors I needed.

To combine the riveted tabs with the rectangle, the quickest and easiest way was to remove the lettering and then use the jigsaw tool to create a new vector. I then deleted the original tabs and border.

I then created a new rectangle using an offset of the outside vector. This would be used to create the domed inside portion of the plaque. The lettering was then brought back in and positioned.

 I then created a flat relief using the outside vector.

This relief was then modified using the tabbed rectangle to sink the middle portion. I then Used the second inside rectangle (without the tabs) to create a new dome shaped relief. I applied a wiggly line bitmap to this area.

After checking and positioning the center portion in the front view I then merged highest with the base relief.

Then I used the dome tool once more to create the rivets on the tabs.


Then I created the lettering outline relief and  positioned it vertically in the front view using the up arrows.


I could then merge highest this relief with the base relief.

Lastly I created the lettering by modifying the base relief one last time using the lettering vectors.

This review showed how it is necessary to create separate reliefs and then merge because of the unusual shape of the border with would otherwise cause distortions to the surface.