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 with what I saw 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 - but I just knew it could do fantastic stuff.

Through extensive research and LOTS of hands-on practice I quickly found out that my MultiCam router was capable of just about anything imaginable.This journal will chronicle that journey to date and continue each week with two or three entries as I continue to explore just what is possible with this wonderful tool... -dan

Friday, November 17, 2017

Wrapping up another successful show

The booth showed extremely well over the last our days as about 25,000 people came by. Our display did exactly what it was designed to do and that was attract attention of all those who walked by. We handed out a lot of business cards, scanned many badges. We met so many great people in our industry!

At the end of the show there is always a mad scramble to pack up the displays. Most vendors wait a long time for the carpets to be rolled up and their crates to be delivered. With our booth it was a simple matter of swinging the two wings of the booth and doing up four bolts to fasten them securely in place, We packed our chairs and supplies into the center space and zip tied the plastic snow fence across the front of the booth. The last thing was to stick the four decals to the sides of the booth and turn in the paperwork to formalize the arrangements to ship it home tomorrow. In well under an hour we were ready to head for supper. 

Another successful IAAPA show is now history!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Another honour!

Last year we were honoured with a first place IAAPA Brass Ring award for best booth in our category. We were so pleased we decided to have a large sticker made to put on the front carpet of our display. We also proudly displayed the beautiful glass trophy in our booth. When we ordered the decal for last year's win we decided to order a second one - just in case. Our hope was that this year's booth might just be good enough to be honoured once more in the next category up, for the 200-299 square feet booths. Competition there would be even tougher.

We received word that we had indeed been honoured once again. The head judge was very amused by our self-congratulating decal we had printed in anticipation and was gracious enough to help us stick the new decal (which had been in hiding) on the carpet beside last year's announcement.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Setting up for IAAPA EXPO

It's been a very busy month of almost non-stop travel for me, with most of the trips to Trinidad as we wrap up the Skallywag Bay Adventure Park. It's looking very cool these days. I'll be posting some photos of that project next week on my return. This week we are attending the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO in Orlando, Florida. The trade show is massive with over 1000 vendors and 40,000 attendees from around the world. This is our second year as a vendor.

I arrived in Orlando, straight from Trinidad. Since I was the first onsite (the rest of our new was coming from home the same evening) it fell to me to do the booth setup. I waited a few minutes for a connection centre forklift to position our booth in the enter of our space. Then it was a simple matter of undoing four bolts, swinging open the two sides, rolling out the carpets and plugging in the power. As quick as that we were ready for the show.

As I set up our booth I watched hundreds of other vendors unpacking and setting up their displays. Some had been labouring for days and were no where near done. I was grateful for the wonderful CNC tools we enjoy that help us do our work so efficiently. Everything fits together so nicely which makes things go much smoother in the field.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

One two three glaze!

With Christmas fast approaching it's a great time to do up some name plaques for those you love. They make great presents and you can practice your painting and glazing techniques at the same time. I'll show three name plaques in this post - all different colours to better demonstrate our techniques.

The first is Elsie's name plaque. We started by painting it an off white colour. We did three coats of colour and allowed them to dry thoroughly in-between. An industrial fan really speeds up the drying.

A light tan was the first glaze. We make our own glazes using a 50/50 mix of clear base (paint with no pigment added at the paint store) with the colour of our choice. The glaze was brushed on liberally nd then wiped off with a soft terry towel rag. The first glaze is only lightly wiped off. The glaze  stays in the lower areas.

The first glaze is allowed to dry thoroughly nd then a second glaze is brushed on and wiped off a teeny bit more thoroughly than the first. This allows the first to peek through and creates a subtle blend effect.

The third glaze is a dark brown and this is wiped off quite a bit. Once this has dried we go back with a brush and add the glaze on the border around the letters. This dark colour makes them pop. Once the last glaze was dry we painted the letters metallic gold.

Dustin's name plaque was done much the same way, one;y with various shades of blue glaze.  The lettering was again painted last with two coats of metallic gold.

Daniel's name plaque was first painted with a metallic gold and then the glass were accomplished in two shades of copper. The lettering was back to the gold.

Any combination of colours is possible but it is important not to get too much of a contrast in the glazes at the start. A gradual buildup of coloured glaze leaves a much richer and pleasing result.

Attention grabbing driveway sign

Janis loves chickens but there are no roosters allowed. (they tend to crow early in the morning and wake her up!) I believed we needed a rooster somewhere on the property and so I designed a fun fellow to perch on top of a sign Janis had been asking for in our yard to warn visitors to slow down as they passed through the the shop. 

As with all of our projects we would use a variety of mediums and methods to build it.

The sign portion was done on our MultiCam of course, routed from there layers of 30 lb Precision Board. These layers would be laminated over a welded square tube steel frame. The wood grain was created with a custom bitmap wood grain texture. It's called driftwood and is available on our TEXTURE MAGIC - CLASSIC COLLECTION.

While the machine worked at routing the front and back of the sign I got busy doing the rest of the piece. I roughed out an armature using 1/4" pencil rod. It's welded together for extra rigidity. 

I used some crumpled up tinfoil to fill the centre cavity of the rooster. Tin foil is  lot cheaper than sculpting epoxy!

The next step was to rough out the general proportions of the bird body. This was allowed to cure before moving on.

The sculpt was a fun one to do but there were a whole lot of feathers in this little guy!

I then slid the back piece of the sign over two steel 5/8" thick rods and welded the steel frame for the sign to this rod. The centre section of the sign was next which was glued to the back.  At this point the rooster leg framework was inserted into two holes I had drilled through the top of the sign. The cutouts in the centre section allowed me room to weld these rods to the framework. This was followed by the front of the sign which encapsulated the steel support in the centre. The two steel rods protruding out of the back would be sculpted into branches of the tree which held up the sign.

I then welded up the rest of the branches on the tree.

When the glue had cured on the signs I used my die grinder to carve woodgrain into the edges of the sign.

I then used Abracadabra Sculpting Epoxy to sculpt the tree. The bark texture was created by pressing crumpled tinfoil into the epoxy and then using a sharpened paint stir stick to sculpt the random lines in the bark.

The roosters feet could then be carved to look like he was tightly gripping the top of the sign.

Becke did the colourful paint job using Modern Masters metallic paints.

The rocks at the bottom of the tree were done using fibreglass reinforced concrete. The heavy weight of the concrete made the sign more stable. The rocks were hand painted with acrylic house paints and then speckled using an automotive undercoat gun and very low air pressure.

It was placed in  planter and a colourful display of flowers was planted around it to finish things off nicely!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Building a rail bender

We are now in the process of laying the track around our small acreage. This meant I needed to build a new rail bending rig to form the curves in the thirty pound rail. Thirty pound rail is about 1/3 the size of a real train track. It weighs 30 pounds per yard. It's very strong and very heavy and comes in twenty foot lengths. To bend it we will use this new rig which is hooked up to a hydraulic power pack and big hydraulic cylinder.

I had made a bender about five years ago (before we got our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter. It was  little crude and turned out a little light duty for the task of bending the 30 lb rail. The new plasma cutter would fix that in a hurry!

I measured up[ the rail and hydraulic cylinder from our steel bender. I then set about designing a new bender using EnRoute. I designed it full size, laying out all of the components and pieces as they would go. It was designed in the top view and side view.

I then separated the pieces out and created cutting files to be sent t0o the plasma cutter. The pieces were cut from 1/2" thick plate.

The parts cut out in a few minutes. I did a little grinding to clean up the edges and then set about welding everything together. In the space of two hours, from design through too the welding I had a new bending rig.

It worked like a charm. I love it when a plan comes together!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Monument sign start to finish - part 2

With the lath in place it was time for a little concrete work. I mixed up the sand and Portland cent at a ratio of about four parts sand to one part cement powder. Then I troweled it onto the mesh. This takes some practice. I've been doing it for decades so this part went pretty fast.

To ensure the next coat of concrete stuck well I scratched up the surface of the first coat. We used a bonding agent as well but a mechanical bond is good insurance.

This coat of cement was allowed to cure overnight.

Since the stone was still on order I started in on the painting process. We use acrylic house paint in our shop. I applied there base coats of each colour, allowing it to dry in-between. Putting a large fan on the project speeds up this process a great deal.

I then applied a dark green glaze (the same colour as the border) to the sign and wiped it off with a rag to make the grain pop. The glaze stays in the deeper areas and wipes off the high areas of the grain. The areas around the letters was left a little darker to make the letters pop off the background.

Once the glaze was dry I painted the scrollwork a couple of coats of a lighter shade of green. At this point my supplier let me know the faux rock I had ordered wasn't available in a reasonable time. It was time for plan 'B'. I put another thick layer of concrete on the base and carved the rocks into it by hand.

The rock work was painted (there coats of acrylic paint) and then speckled with an undercoat gun using two colours of acrylic paint. Use low air pressure (about 20-25 lbs)with the speckles. The mortar joints between the rocks was painted on with grey paint.

O then applied an old based size on the letter and symbol and gilded the letters. The sign was now ready to deliver.