Coat of arms – step by step

Peter Sawatzky, my partner (and son) also works with EnRoute and our MultiCam CNC router and plasma cutter. He does some pretty amazing projects. From time to time he’ll be posting them here. It is our hope that with one more voice describing his techniques and methods, hopefully there will be one more source of learning and inspiration. His first post if a little family crest he did for his lovely wife, Hailey’s recent birthday.

  • Import your design into Enroute.

I start the project with a loose sketch of a coat of arms featuring a zebra head and three bumblebees.

  • Draw your shapes in Enroute.

Using my sketch as a guide, I carefully draw each of the shapes I will use to create my reliefs.

  • Create your reliefs.

Each of the reliefs is created separately – they will be merged together just before toolpathing.

The majority of the reliefs are made with the flat and round “create relief” tools. However the bee’s wings are made with the “smooth relief edit” tool.

Using the “smooth relief edit” tool, I slowly build up the ends of the wings so that they emerge from the bee’s body.

  • Apply bitmaps to your reliefs.

The ribbon appears to wind over and under itself –  this is done by applying a custom bitmap to the ribbon relief.

I use a black and white image – when I apply the bitmap to the relief the black areas do not change my relief but the white areas raise my relief 0.25″. Basically, the lighter the shade of grey the higher it raises my relief.

The stripes on the zebra are applied using the same technique. However, I set the white areas to raise the zebra relief a tenth of an inch.

  • Merge your reliefs and add your toolpaths

Once each of the pieces has been finished I align and merge them to create a single relief ready for toolpathing.

Once routed, the coat of arms is ready for paint.

A little work with the hand die grinder made the Toad Stool Elixer sign ready to begin the sculpting – or so I thought. When I did my last post here the spellcheck let me know I had made a mistake and spelled ‘ELIXER’ incorrectly. It should instead be spelled ‘ELIXIR’ There was only one thing to do and that was to fix it.

Thankfully, with a program like EnRoute this mistake wasn’t a big deal. First I broke out the power plane and sander. In a few minutes I had removed the ribbon panel and made the sign flat once more.

Then I designed a new panel in EnRoute and had the MultiCam whip up some new pieces. These were glued into place and once again we were ready for my favourite part – hand sculpting.

The figure on the sign was to be double sided – just like the sign. It took me about three hours to sculpt the two figures. They aren’t identical, but no worries for you can only see one side at a time.  :)


The sign is now ready to head off the the painting department and get the real magic. Stay tuned…

Pub sign number two – part two

With the Trolls Bitter Ale sign routed and ready for assembly it was time to make things real sturdy and built to last. I had routed a cavity into the centre section the the sign into which I placed a welded steel 1″x1″ square tubing frame. The 5/8″ steel mounting posts protruded from the top and one side. I used one part Coastal Enterprises PB Bond 240 glue to hold things tight. I also used some coarse wood screws which I will leave in place.

While the sign glue was curing I fired up the MultiCam plasma cutter and cut out the decorative bracket filigree from some 1/4″ thick steel plate. It took longer to design than to cut by far.

I fashioned the bracket from 3/8″ flat bar and a piece of schedule 40 10″ pipe, then welded the fancy filigree to the top. A few minutes with the air powered die grinder shaped the edges of the banner, and added texture to it’s surface. Then I used the die grinder to create the woodgrain texture to the edges, top, and bottom of the wood boards. As quick as that I was ready to have some real fun sculpting the characters onto the sign.

I decided the two back to back trolls would be similar but not identical. That meant I could have twice the fun with no worry about making them exactly the same. Those who take the time to look at both sides of the sign will get their reward. It took me about three and a half hours to mix the sculpting epoxy and hand sculpt the characters – a very fun afternoon’s work!

Pub sign number two – part one

The second sign I’ll be using as an example for my teaching at the Denver Summit is the Troll’s Bitter Ale, one of the signs for NEB’s Pub. I did the sketch freehand on my iPad using the digital pencil.

With the exception of the ‘BITTER ALE’ lettering the sign was then designed in EnRoute using the drawing tools. I drew only half the banner and then flipped it before merging the two halves together. The thin vertical rectangles will be the grooves between the boards. The trolls lettering was done freehand.

I duplicated the file and then merged the pieces together to create a 1″ thick middle section. The welded steel 1″ x 1″ tube frame will be inserted into this section. After I created the reliefs I duplicated the file and flipped it. This would allow me to glue the back to the front and have them align perfectly.

The sign faces were routed from 1.5″ thick 30lb Precision Board.

The centre section was a simple offset cut from 1″ thick Precision Board.

The curly bracket was plasma cut from 1/4″ steel plate in just a few second using the MultiCam plasma cutter.

Here’s the sign mocked up and ready for assembly. I’ll be doing that tomorrow. Stay tuned…

The History of CNC Machining

With the invention of CNC machining, the world of construction was forever changed. There haven’t been many tools throughout history that have been able to cause radical changes to what could and couldn’t be done, but many would argue that these fall into that category. As CNC routers (and the software that runs them) steadily improve, more and more people are coming into contact with them.

But, how much do you know about the history of these machines?


Turning Ordinary People into Master Craftsmen

One of the reasons that these machines are so great is because they essentially allow anyone with the proper machine and computer program to become a master craftsman. There’s no need to spend a lifetime practicing and perfecting and art. The basics can all be learned in no time at all. To make it even more impressive, these are powered by computers, so they’re far more precise than humans are even capable of being. And mistakes? Well, they’re basically a thing of the past.

Basic Overview of CNC Machines

In case you’re not familiar with this tool, the letters CNC stand for computer numerical control, and this is because that’s how these machines operate. At a basic level, they have tools arranged on three different axes, and this allows them to carve out materials from all different sides. The designs are made within a software program and are then converted into instructions for the computer to follow. In a relatively short amount of time, pieces of all sizes can be put through these machines, and incredibly elaborate creations come out matching the exact specifications. They’re able to manipulate wood, metal, glass, plastic, and other types of materials.

The Early Days

Humans have been training artisans to carve things since the beginning of recorded history, and they’ve constantly been looking for ways to do it better. They made quite a few impressive advancements fairly early on when they started with contraptions like mills. They could process certain materials at a basic level, but they required a lot of human interaction for not very impressive results. Fortunately, that would eventually change.

 Born Before Computers

This whole concept may sound like something that was only developed recently as our computer technology has skyrocketed in quality. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. These machines actually got their start back in the 1950s, but they used a much simpler method of controlling them. The first C wasn’t yet in the name, and they were just referred to as NC machines. In place of computer brains, they had solutions like punched tape to give the instructions. They were still far behind what we’re able to do today, but they were incredibly advanced at the time.


We Didn’t Speak the Same Language

After a lot of early skepticism, the machines finally began to take off as manufacturers realized they could save so much time and money. The systems slowly became more advanced as early computers started coming on to the scene, and a lot of bright minds were hard at work with the programming. However, an unexpected problem eventually showed up. Each company (or school) working with the machines was creating their own language to tell the CNC machines what to do, so it was impossible for them to work together and use each other’s advancements.

Fortunately, the Air Force stepped in. This branch of the military had been an early proponent of CNC machines after predicting how valuable they would be, and they wanted to put a stop to this problem before it grew out of control. They made a push for a universal language in 1956, and that led to the creation of the APT programming language. After some more developments over the following decades, the industry eventually ended up with the CAD tools that we use today.


One for Everyone!

The trend continued for many years with schools, government organizations, and companies all pursuing advances in the technology. Slowly but surely, this led to where we are today. The machines can be made in massive sizes to help with major construction projects, or they can be small enough to fit in the home and contribute to DIY projects. They’ve come so far, and the developments only seem to be speeding up.

We’re Here to Help You Make History

One of the problems with CNC machines is that many people are intimidated by them. The impression they give is that you need to have an advanced degree in multiple fields of engineering to get started, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Using solutions like EnRoute software, you could be making progress on your project later today. Now, the responsibility is on you to create something noteworthy enough to carve you into the historical timeline of CNC routers!


Pub sign step by step – part four

The sign was routed in two pieces for each side. I had mistakenly not reversed the toad stool and so the two halves would not match up. This wasn’t a big deal however for they would be extensively reworked by hand when I sculpted them later.

I welded up a quick frame with 5/8″ round steel bar. This was then placed on the back of one of the halves and an outline traced out with a pencil

I then used my air powered die grinder to create a half could hollow into which I would glue the welded frame. Once I had the first half done I put in the frame added the other side of the sign and carefully flipped it over. I then repeated the process.

Once everything fit properly I spread some PB Bond 240 glue (Coastal Enterprises) This is a one part glue activated by a spritz of water.

I then used some coarse wood screws to fasten the two sides together. I added the two school top pieces using the same glue.

I then ran some 1″ pipe through our bender to form the correct radius I needed.

I cut the fancy bracket from some 1/4″ plate on the MultiCam plasma cutter.

All of this was welded up and then bolted on to a temporary stand for finishing.

Now it is time for the fun part – hand sculpting and panting. Stay tuned…

Pub sign step by step – part three

Creating the Toad Stool Elixer reliefs was a little tricky but fun. I started by selecting the sign outline vectors and creating a flat relief. I entered a value of 5″ for the height. This number is arbitrary as we can easily nudge it up or down as necessary later.

As always I checked my work with a render. a quick check now is fast where if we make a mistake and have to fix it later that gets to be a lot more work.

I then used the outer and inner vectors to modify the sign shape relief. I needed to use a modifier because of the unusual shape (the indent at the top of the sign)

I checked again with a quick render.

I then went on to adding texture. I first added another modifier relief around the sign. If I hadn’t done this when I selected the lettering outline and the base relief it would have only added the texture to the inside of the letters. The oval modifying vector reversed this effect. I used one of the textures from the TEXTURE MAGIC collection called splotches. I entered a value of 0.15″

I did another render check to make sure the texture went where I wanted. All was good.

Then it was time to raise the border of the lettering. I selected the base relief and the lettering border vectors and entered a value of 0.2″ making sure I used the ADD TO command.

One more render check.  All OK.

Then it was on to the bevel lettering. Because the lettering has thick and thin bits the constant height is a better option with the bevel tool. I kept the height small at 0.15″

Another render check.

I then selected the mushroom vectors and used the dome tool to create the fun shaped reliefs. At this point I realized that I had made a mistake in the design. Since this was to be a two sided sign the top round cutout needed to line up on both sides. It was an easy fix as I just rotated the circle until the cutout was at the top. I would modify the bracket later.

Then it was time to start in on the banner.I started with the lowest fold as a flat relief at 0.5″ high/

The middle fold was next at 1″ tall.

And the top section of the banner was 1.5″ tall. This is the thickness of the piece of Precision Board which we would routed from.

I checked the heights of the various reliefs and nudged them up or down as needed using the up/down arrow keys. I then combined the separate reliefs into one.

And one final render check was done to make sure everything looked good.

The banner with ELIXER on it was done separately. to create this banner I first created a flat relief.

I then modified this relief with the oval vector I had drawn around it using the dome tool.

I then used the subtract from along with the dome tool to drop the lettering into the banner.

I tool pathed the sign using a 3/8″ ball nose bit for the rough (at 50% overlap) and then a fine pass using a 1/8″ ball nose bit (at 80% overlap).

Here’s the sign fresh off the MultiCam and the two pieces mocked up together.

Pub sign step by step – part two

The Toad Stool Elixer sign basic vectors were done in Photoshop but we were not done yet. I still needed to add the mushroom shape, the letter outlines and also design the bracket for the sign. I like the bracket to be a part of the sign from the start rather than just a last minute add on.

I imported the sign vectors into EnRoute and then sized it appropriately. Then I could get to work on the bracket. With all of the overlapping lines it looks a little jumbled at this point but the bracket design would be like this.  I wanted the sign support to be fashioned out of 1″ pipe and bend around the sign. This would be intercepted by a piece of 4″ heavy pipe which would ‘cut’ into the sign face. I’d weld a steel ball at the end to cap the pipe. We’d then use the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter to whip up the decorative steel. All this would be welded to a piece of 1/4″ plate to fasten to the wall.

The plate on the wall was a simple combination of shapes which were then combined.

I used the jigsaw tool to trim the pipes and then fined the drawing making it ready to begin building the reliefs. That will begin with the next post.

EnRoute Workshop – Hackensack, NJ

Register EnRoute WorkshopOur upcoming workshop will be located in Hackensack, NJ

Dates: Thursday, October 27th & Friday, October 28th


Multicam East – Hackensack Location
61 Voorhis Lane
Hackensack, NJ 07601

Bring your laptop with EnRoute installed.

Please arrive by 8am. We will have coffee/soda and we will provide a box lunch each day.

Class Agenda

Coffee and Networking – 8:00 – 8:30
Introductions – 8:30 – 9:00
EnRoute Workshop SeriesMorning – It Never Hurts to Know the Basics

  • EnRoute Concepts Review
  • Toolpath Basics
  • Nesting
  • Output & Ordering
Lunch 12:00 – 1:00
InlaysAfternoon – Advanced Toolpathing / Cutting

  • Inlays
  • 2-1/2 D
  • Rough, Fine & Clean Tools
  • Advanced Entry/Exit
  • Day 1 Wrap-up and prepare for Day 2
woodworking-img5Morning – Now for some Fun Surfaces

  • 3D Surface Concepts
  • Building a Relief
  • PROJECT: Design and 3D file from start to finish.
  • Parametric Textures
Lunch 12:00 – 1:00
EnRoute CNC SoftwareAfternoon – EnRoute Rapid Texture

  • Seed Contour, Objects as Seed Contours & 3D Reliefs with Rapid Texture
  • Rapid Picture (Photo Cutting)
  • Noise and Distortion
  • Day 2 Wrap-up and Q & A

Pricing Information

EnRoute Workshop DiscountSpace is limited, so register early to guarantee your seat!

It’s $995 to attend the EnRoute Hackensack 2-day workshop, but you save $200 when you register by September 27th. Attendees from 2015 save $300 when you register by September 27th.


To register, contact Luke Benik at:

1(800)229-9066 x117 or



Introductory Movies: Some of you have requested this to get ready for the class.  Check out or the EnRoute YouTube Channel.


“The EnRoute workshop was worth every cent. The instructors patiently relayed, in detail, every aspect of EnRoute’s 2.5D, 3D, Rapid Texture techniques and the many other functions of Enroute. I am now able to take advantage of the tremendous features provided in the software. Thanks Enroute!”

– Henry from H & S Marine Plastics, New York/New Jersey Workshop Attendee


Pub signs step by step – part one

At the Denver Summit Peter and I will be teaching by discussing and demonstrating how we come up with our ideas and then go through the step by step process of creating our signs. Students are encouraged to work along with us. We’ll provide some files and ideas as starting points. We decided that rather than simply do a sample we would teach using some actual current projects. I’m posting some of the step by steps here as notes for those who attend in case they want to review them later.

In this case we needed a set of signs. We are decorating a pub for NEB’s Fun World. Rather than advertise the brands of beer and liquor they sell we instead will be creating a series of signs which tell the story of the establishment.

Every project begins with an idea. Peter and work collaboratively. we made tow lists – one was faery terms and the other was types of alcoholic beverages. I scribbled furiously as we added items to the list. Once we had a sizeable collection of suitable words we used them as inspiration for the signs we were creating. Peter would design two of the signs while I would also do a pair. We wanted the collections of signs to be eclectic in style and form rather than matched but still within the theme.

Peter tends to work things out in his head and then starts to draw, often adjusting as he goes. He settled on ‘Moon Wine’ for his first project. It will feature a plasma cut steel core with a double sided moon and sign panel mounted to both sides. Peter does a quick rough sketch and then with the idea settled he goes to vector format to create the details. I’ll be posting step by steps of the routing and plasma cut files in coming days.

Peter’s second sign was a shield shaped sign promoting Faerie Water’. The rough sketch I have is still under going some revisions but it is going to be a nice little sign.

I tend to work in a little different fashion. When a firm idea doesn’t pop into my head I simply start drawing. I settled on the name of ‘TROLL’s Bitter Ale’. I knew I wanted a scroll and had settled on a troll sculpt for the graphic. Negative space (AKA: a hole) in the centre of the double sided hanging sign was a must. I started scribbling my ideas down on the paper as they came to mind. The first page netted two gems I would include… a circle at the top and a troll’s hand holding a glass of ale.

I was thinking a donut or oval shaped frame at this point and thought about how I might include a bridge (a place where trolls like to hang out.) but the bridge was one too many elements. A quick thumbnail of the troll proved to be an idea worth more exploration. And the scroll was worth keeping as well.

On the next page of blank paper I drew a troll that was just the right amount of fun.

The fourth page of quick scribbles netted the ideas I was looking for. The troll was perfectly fine. I decided a rough plank sign was fitting and the circle on top would sport the informal ‘troll’ logo. The bracket was also nailed to become part of the sign rather than just an add on.

With the idea firmly in hand and the proportions all worked out it was time to do a proper concept drawing. I did the drawing freehand in photoshop but I worked with the digital pencil using my iPad as a tablet. I sketched in layers, starting rough and then adding layers to do my final rendering. I kept my sketch purposely loose. I didn’t worry about fine detail nor even fonts at this point. That would come later when I did the vector files.

My second concept came a little easier. I had the idea firmly in my head before I set pen to paper.I knew the fonts I would use before I started.  In this case I did the lettering in Illustrator and set the type to the circle. The banner was also laid out in the program. When I was happy I grabbed a screen shot.

I imported the screen shot of the vectors into Photoshop and then used this file as a template to work up the sign rendering which was again done on my iPad using the digital pencil. I was happy with the basic concept but as I drew I got a few more ideas that would add to this image. I’ll be posting these new ideas next time.