Sign Invitational Challenge 2017 – Part four

With a fun Christmas day behind us and all of our company gone I found a little time to sneak out to the shop for a little bit today to work on a project I’ve been itching to start. And that project is my entry into next year’s Sign Invitational Challenge.

I had glued up the routed train pieces just before we broke for Christmas. They need a little sanding but they are pretty much ready for the sculpting process to begin. It is routed from 30 lb Precision Board so the pieces are nice and sturdy and easy to work with.

The next step was to design the plasma cutting files for the sheet metal base. I imported the quick sketch I had done and sized it up to 23.5″ wide. I then used this as a reference to design the jagged lines for the cuts which would form the outline of the mountain rock work. I cut two holes in the panels. The larger one at the back will be an access door for the smoke machine. The smaller irregular hole on the side is for a mineshaft – just a bonus detail for those who look close at the piece. I also cut a number into the front of the piece. I will back this up with a sheet of steel.

I then used the jigsaw tool to create the vectors.

With all of the extras deleted the files were ready to send off to the plasma cutter.

It took longer to load the steel than to cut the pieces. I sure love this wonderful machine! Tomorrow I’ll do a little grinding and then set to work beginning the assembly. 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

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