The first arch is finished

This past week has been a busy one in our shop. Berle we go into production we wanted to complete one arch for the bowling alley. It would set the tone for the many to follow.

We applied the fibreglass reinforced concrete and sculpted the first lane mask prototype for the NEBs Fun World Bowling Centre. There were three pieces. The first is the arch which will go over the bowling lanes. The ‘wooden’ posts will stand in the center between the arches and a horizontal beam will go from post to post. Everything is designed to easily and quickly assemble.

Once the sculpted concrete cured it was time for paint. The base colors always look pretty bright at this stage. Three coats of color are applied, with the third being a blend coat.

Once the base colors have cured it is time for the magic. A series of glazes are painted on and then judiciously wiped off. The glazes remain in the lower portions and texture areas making everything jump in an instant. Once the glazes are dry we do some dry brushing to bring out the highlights and add a bit more aging. On the metal parts we did a little grinding and then made some instant rust by spraying on some mild acid. It was instantly old and full of character.

The prototype will be kept handy as we get into full production next week. There are almost forty more of these arches to create.

CNC bracket magic

In the last couple of days Peter has been busy designing, cutting and welding up the brackets for two of the signs for NEBs pub. EnRoute software and the MultiCam Plasma cutter makes it easy and fast to create anything we can imagine. The first bracket was for the Moon Wine sign. As with all of the signs in this series the bracket fit perfectly with the sign.

The Crown and Pin bracket formed part of the sign, unusual but effective. with the bracket attached the sign resembles a whisky bottle label. Both signs will become more even striking as the paint is applied.

Gnome pub sign step by step – part 3

Each time we create a hanging sign we think of a number of things. The first is that we want to create a bracket that fits perfectly with the sign design, not merely an afterthought. Our second thoughts are about strength. Hanging signs can be dangerous if not done correctly. Precision Board, even the heavy 30 lb density has little structural strength. We have to engineer hard mounting points in from the start. The fact that this hanging sign is to go into a pub means we have to design in a little more in case some tough guy who’s had a few too many decides to do a chin-up.

It starts with the internal frame inside the sign. We opted for 1.5 inch square tubing in this case – plenty strong for the task. I laid out a vector which is 1.6″ wide – which allows a little extra wiggle room. These rectangles were combined and formed the cut path for the internal welded steel frame. The brackets will weld to this frame.

I then laid out the 3/8″ thick angle brackets we would fabricate for three corners of the sign. The fancy bracket was then drawn around these mounting points using EnRoute drawing tools.

I then duplicated and flipped these vectors for the bottom portion of the bracket.

The wall mounting flange was built using a variety of arranged shapes which I then combined. Adding the bolting holes finished this piece off.

To create the welded 3/8″ plate angle brackets I created a 4×5″ reciting;e and then added an oval. This would cut out leaving room for the 5/8″ round rod that would go through them.

I also rounded the outside corners using the chamfer drawing tool.

The files were then ready to send to the plasma cutter.  I’ll cut these while the router whittles out the sign faces. I can hardly wait to assemble this little beauty and see how it all looks together. Stay tuned…

Gnome sign step by step – part two

It was easy to create the entire routing files inside EnRoute. I started with some simple squares.

I then used the distort tool to wiggle up the lines nicely. In the old days this would be done by hand – now in EnRoute an automated and controllable function.

I used the offset tool to create inside lines spaced half inch from the originals. I then placed the lettering vectors. They were adjusted as needed (stretched or shrunk) to fit in their respective spaces. We decided to change ‘whiskey’ to schnapps – just for fun. (we also already had a whiskey sign)

I ten created a flat relief for the main sign.

The corner blocks were then created as separate flat reliefs.

I then depressed the centres of all of the reliefs

I created the vector shapes for a four leaf clover an a mushroom for the corner decorations. These will be just flat shapes for routing as I want to hand sculpt the final icons to make each corner distinctive.

Then it was time to try out a few of the new WOODGRAIN TEXTURES I would do the textures one board at a time – and all different.

I then rotated the sign by 45 degrees and applied more wood grain bitmaps to the corner blocks.

I then created a vector shape for the gnome and used the dome tool to create a relief.

When I checked the render I saw it was a little high. This was easy to fix by simple going to the front view and dragging the top control box lower to slim it down. A quick check in the render showed everything was now fine. At this point I duplicated all of the files and then flopped one copy (Except for the lettering)  for the back side of the sign.

I built the lettering as separate reliefs and then MERGED HIGHEST

Then I created separate reliefs of the corner icons which were also then merged highest with the corner blocks.

With all of the reliefs finished it was time to combine all of the reliefs to finish this file.

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Gnome sign step by step – part one

Designing a series of signs is always fun but also a challenge. Coming up with the first couple of clever ideas is pretty easy but then you have to start digging a little harder.

The latest idea had to be witty, a visual pun, have a unique shape and incorporate a fun welded steel bracket. But in the end, as always I simply began to draw – not really knowing what the result would be. There were a few false starts but eventually it began to come to me. The gnome was the first thing that gelled and made me laugh. The sign shape worked from the start. The bracket was next. I drew the top section and then simply copied and flipped it for the bottom. The wording on the sign changed a few times before the clever pun came to mind.  ‘Garden Variety Gnome Whiskey – anything but ordinary’

I did the quick drawing freehand on my iPad using it linked to my laptop and with Adobe Photoshop. That allowed for endless layers and edits as I went. This is going to be a fun sign!

Prototype arch, post and beam sculpted

Using EnRoute and the MultiCam CNC router and plasma cutter made short work of the prototype armatures for NEBs Fun World’s bowling centre arch, post and beam. We then cut the spacers for the number plates and shield and fastened them over the metal lath. The number plated and shields will be 3D cut from 30 lb Precision Board and mounted later. We also designed and routed a carved ‘wood’ insert from Precision Board for the post. The concrete surrounding this panel would be sculpted with woodgrain to match. When we paint up the post this panel will be darkened to accentuate it’s depth and then the twisted vine and leaves will be dry brushed to make them pop off the surface.

When everything was ready, the crew troweled on the fibreglass reinforced concrete and sculpted in the woodgrain, bricks and stones. Crumbled plaster was added judiciously over certain areas. Everything is designed to bolt to custom welded steel stands for transport. Hard lift and join points are designed in from the start.

Everything will be allowed to cure for a few days and then we will paint these prototypes. They will set the tone and serve as a model for the scores of pieces to follow. Once these pieces are done we will kick the project into production mode and get the project rolling at high speed.

LOTS and LOTS of colour

The painting of the pub signs for NEBS is now in progress. Becke first brushed two base coats of a cream colour on the signs allowing them time to dry between the coats. Then it was time for the third and fourth coats which would be blended. She picked out no less than ten buckets of acrylic paint. She used a small fitch to do the painting. Becke worked quickly to allow her to do the blends wet into wet. The signs will be allowed to dry overnight before she starts into the glazes. When we did our workshops we often see students rush into wild colours with varying success. The key is to pick colours that go well together and make the blends subtle.


This week we began work on a project that will fully utilize the capabilities of EnRoute. To cut the steel we will use our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter, and the plywood will be cut with the MultiCam router. We’ll combine a wide variety of materials including steel, plywood, and 30 lb Precision Board. Along with all of the computer generated surfaces we will also do a lot of hand sculpting of fibreglass reinforced concrete. All of it will be hand painted.

EnRoute was used to create the carefully scaled plans and cutting files. We then cut the steel pieces on the CNC plasma cutter from 1/8″ thick plate. These pieces were formed and welded up, plenty strong to withstand the occasional stray bowling ball. The 3/4″ thick plywood pieces were a simple offset cut and were fastened to the welded steel frame with self tapping screws. The first beam work armatures will be created tomorrow. Then we’ll staple the expanded, galvanized mesh onto the armatures. The dimensional number plates and joining shields will be routed from 30 lb Precision Board. Once they are routed we will begin the hand sculpting process. These first prototypes will serve as models and style guides for the rest of the massive project.

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.  :)

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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!