Another step by step

At the beginning of this year I challenged all my sign making friends, around the world to create one project this year that would take them in the direction they wanted to go in their businesses. The project would be something for their showroom, something fun. It could be of any scale, of any material, but it had to push their limits and build their skills. 
For myself I upped the ante significantly. My challenge to me was to do one piece each month. We are now more than half way through the tenth month of the year. I started with the sextant piece for my library. Other projects included the submarine, plane, streetcar, hot rod, fish boat, large wrench, the rooster, and bear signs. Out in the shop the newest personal project, the flying saucer sign is in progress. Each piece is done a bit at a time as I find minutes through each day. My CHALLENGE 2010 projects have already appeared in magazines, won awards, and served as lessons in workshops. They have been proudly displayed in my office, showroom and at trade shows. They have brought us more imaginative work. The projects have been a great way to learn new skills and stretch our selves creatively. The effort has been well worth it by far.
Over the weekend we displayed our work in a local trade show. As I stood there my mind of course started to wander. I thought of an upcoming EnRoute workshop to take place in Denver November 4,6 – only ten days away. I am tasked with leading a couple of the lessons to show people the creative possibilities within the program. As I thought about it I decided I would design and build a project I could show there and also here on the blog. It would kill two birds with one stone and I’d also be able to stay ahead of the game in my personal challenge. 
In the next hour I talked about a sign with a fellow who owned a contracting business. He wanted to know if we could do a sign with an excavator on it. He didn’t make a final decision on his sign but I decided such a piece would be my next sample I would create – largely using EnRoute and our CNC router of course. When he was gone I broke out my sketchbook and started scribbling. The conversation inspired a good base for the sign and I grabbed the idea as a starting point. The excavator perched on top of a pile of dirt provided a pleasing composition. On the way home from the show I saw an excavator and took note that the cab was on the opposite side than I had remembered. When I started drawing the file on my laptop computer the next day at the show I would flip it around.
I took a picture of the rough sketch with my digital camera and then imported the file into Photoshop to do the rendering. While my focus was on people walking by our booth I snuck in a few minutes here and there to whip up a concept for the sign in about an hour or so. I also did three other sign concepts and talked to hundreds of potential customers during that long day.
In the next days I’ll document the creation process from start to finish. I’ll show how we create this seemingly complex file in EnRoute, then route it from 30 lb Precision Board on our router, glue it up and paint it. For those who want to go through a step by step process in person I’d advise you to book now for the EnRoute workshop in Denver. I hear there are still seats available. Otherwise…  stay tuned…

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Dan Sawatzky

Dan Sawatzky is best described as a creative force in the sign industry. He and his wife Janis are owners of Sawatzky’s Imagination Corporation – a small family company that specializes in the design and creation of dimensional theme signs and environments. They tackle projects of any size from small signs to entire theme parks. Their work has garnered numerous international awards and Dan’s articles appear frequently in the sign trade publications. Dan and his crew also host Sign Magic and Sculpting Workshops in their studio a number of times each year with attendees coming from around the world. For more information please visit

3 thoughts on “Another step by step”

  1. Dan, I'm particularly interested to see how you make the excavator for this project. This is the type of design element that is particularly intimidating for most EnRoute users, and I am always fascinated by how you break a complex design down into its much simpler elements.

  2. Later this evening I'm hoping to finally get onto this design project. In the last couple of days the hours have been long as Our MultiCam project nears move in this weekend. Some things simply had to be done for final inspection like the stair panels.

    Being busy with my hands has given me lots of time to think about how I will present this project. Doing it is easy for me. Breaking it down in a way that is easy to explain is a little tougher and takes longer than the design part by far.

    Stay tuned and I'll be back later.


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