Instant age

The rules of the Sign Challenge competition require that our pieces be shipped in a two foot by two foot box and then be pulled out and displayed on top. Rather than drape the box I decided to make it a part of the display. To maximize the size of the centre piece it meant the walls of the box needed to be as thin as possible. Steel construction was the obvious answer and with our MultiCam CNC plasma  handy the job was easy.

The files for the box were designed using EnRoute. The stars were drawn using the star creator. Nothing could be easier. I decided to use quarter sections of pipe for the corners with the radius to the inside.  The cutting of the steel plate took less than a half an hour. To weld all of the pieces together and grind it all smooth took about sixteen hours. It looked great already but the magic was yet to come.

Once the box was finished I carefully brushed on four coats of bright yellow paint. I let it cure and then broke out my orbital sander and proceeded to destroy the fancy paint and expose bare metal. I scratched things up randomly and even banged it around with my hammer. I wanted to add the look of age and hard use to match the tank displayed above it. I then judiciously applied the same ‘swamp’ glaze to create some appropriate grunge.As I added the antique look I imagined the kinds of knocks it might get in daily use.

The magic is in the paint

No matter how one’s dimensional work is done, whether by using software and a router or if it is done by hand the real magic happens with the paint. The current Sign Challenge piece is a good example.

The routed tracks and hand sculpted vehicle body and character look great unpainted. Even so the painting process was where the piece came alive. As I painted I thought of the story I wanted to tell, then set to work.

The tank is well used and dirty from miles on the road and in outback conditions. The driver is intent on going wherever he wants and so the tank has definite wear and bumps and scrapes. He’s also not much for maintenance and so the tank engine is grimy and dirty. The commander of the vehicle is persnickety about his own image and so the brass on his uniform is well polished.

The paint was put on in multiple coats, starting with the yellow, then the silver (bare metal) followed by two colours of rust. Then I applied a glaze we call SWAMP over the whole piece to dirty things up. Judicious removal of the glaze with a soft terry towel rag created the magic of age and grime.

Tomorrow the painting will be complete and the box/base finished as well. With the full reveal the theme/story of the piece will become evident. The clue is in the licence late. Stay tuned…

Fun detail bottom to top!

I’m having a blast sculpting the details on the Sign Challenge piece. It’s a chance to go wild with rivets and have some creative fun.

There’s detail at every level of this little piece. The engine is a four cylinder Hemi and was a great deal of fun to do. The wiring and plumbing will take it over the top. The painting process is going to be a great deal of fun too and will add a lot of character to the piece.

The turret of the tank was as much fun as the rest. It won’t be long until we are into paint!

On track…

My grand daughter Phoebe and I managed a little sculpting time this weekend. We finished the base of the sculpture and mounted the tracks. We even got a good start on the lower portion of the vehicle. I’m happy so far.

I’ve designed the box and stand as well as the upper portions of the imaginative vehicle. There will be plenty of eye candy to look at – just for fun! Stay tuned for more in the next day or two…

Sign Challenge SURPRISE

There’s only seven weeks to go before the 2016 Sign Challenge in Orlando at the International Sign Association Expo. I’ll bet there are a bunch of sign makers now scrambling to finish designing and building their entries. Peter and I were a little smug in the knowledge that we had our entries ready to go for some time now.

Then I talked to our friends at Coastal Enterprises. I promised a piece for their display at the show. As I thought about what to create a fabulous idea popped into my head. It wasn’t suitable for their display but it was an awesome idea for the Sign Challenge. I decided I would give them the piece I had made previously. It was made largely using their product and it would be a good tie in to the Sign Challenge.

That meant I had to get busy on the new piece for we will be shipping them out in the next ten days. Why is this new idea???   Stay tuned to the blog over the next week and it will be revealed….

I started with a vector drawing – all done in EnRoute. It is a heavy machine track. The build looks complex but in reality is a simple matter of creating individual reliefs of different heights and then combining them at the end.

The track cleats were first. I made the flat reliefs 1.5″ tall.

Then the joining bracket relief was created as a flat relief at 0.7″ tall.

The joining brackets were then modified using the dome tool to add the rivets.

I forgot to grab a screen capture but the next step was to create a slightly lower relief of the heavy connecting piece which went around under the tracks. I then merged the pieces together.

I then built the gears and various other pieces in the same fashion, modifying the base reliefs to add details. When all of the pieces were done I creates a larger zero height relief and MERGED HIGHEST all of the pieces to it.

I then created a copy of the finished relief and flipped it. The one on the left is the inside of the track. It has a 1.5″ rectangular relief merged highest into the centre. This will be used to mount the track to the centre portion of the vehicle.

To provide a better picture of what the finished tracks would look like I sliced off the background.

I then tool pathed the relief and sent it off to the MultiCam. Two copies of each piece were routed from 30 lb Precision Board.

This morning I glued and clamped the pieces to form two vehicle tracks. I used Coastal Enterprises PB Bond 240 glue.

Now the fun begins! Stay tuned….

Going for the gold

The 2016 Sign Challenge to be held at the International Sign Association Expo is coming fast! Peter’s and my entry pieces have been ready since the new year but before we sent them off we had one more piece to build. It’s the trophy that all of the entrants are hoping for.

The design of the prize is meant to reflect the competition itself. The dimensional letters are stacked up inside a crate. The letters will be gold while the welded metal box will be rusted metal. All will be mounted and displayed on a tall pedestal. A few more coats of gold paint are still to come and the metal box still needs more work. The pedestal base has yet to be started. It’s a fun little project.

Final pics of Peter’s Artistic Android – Sign Challenge piece

We’ve now taken proper pictures of Peter’s Artistic Android. It is an amazing piece and when we take away the background clutter and add proper lighting the piece really comes alive in glorious detail. What is more amazing is that Peter used this piece to learn the ins and outs of EnRoute to create both the routing and plasma cutter. This was also the first time he operated both the MultiCam router and plasma cutter. I shadowed him a little to make sure he was doing things in a logical order but he asked few questions and mostly figured it out on his own. Enjoy!

Sign Challenge piece finished

I had made it my goal to finish my Sign Challenge piece before the New Year. But like all goals the world conspires to keep you from them. I had made a good start early on, bringing the piece very close to finish. Then I got sidetracked with all manners of other projects. Peter, who finished his piece last week (and enjoyed beating me immensely I might add) was egging me on at every opportunity. I knew if I let my piece go into next year by even a day I would never hear the end of it. So on the last afternoon of the year, I applied the final bit of lettering and with Angie’s help we applied the final glaze. A couple minutes past our normal quitting time (and seven and a half hours before the beginning of 2016) I announced the piece DONE! Happy New Year!

More plasma cutter eye candy

Peter’s Sign Challenge piece would have been almost impossible to accomplish without the new MultiCam plasma cutter. At the very east it made things ten times faster. The speed of the design in EnRoute and the precision of the cutting made fitting the pieces dead easy.

The plasma cutter also allowed a complexity which wouldn’t have been possible any other way.

The top section of the box is removable and slides up into the box from the bottom. The coin operating mechanism was built in sections to facilitate this.



Other bits done using the plasma cutter include the gauge on the side which was cut from three pieces of steel and then welded into a section of pipe.

Peter’s piece is now finished. He used it as a project to learn EnRoute and the operation of the MultiCam plasma cutter and router. I’d say he’s a quick learner without a doubt. I look forward to many more projects from his creative hand and mind in the future!