Thinking ahead to next year at IAAPA

With a successful International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) EXPO now behind us we are beginning to dream up concepts for next year’s show. Our idea to build a one piece display which set up (and take down) in mere minutes worked exceptionally well. We’ll build on that concept next year. We are seriously considering taking a twenty foot booth next year, doubling our space. But to keep costs in check we want to pack that doubling of our display into the same compact shipping unit – which has to measure ten feet long by seven and a half feet wide by eight feet tall. That’s a challenge!

I began the design working in EnRoute. This allowed me to work accurately and accurately in scale. It also allowed me to tweak the design quickly so all of the pieces fit together. The view from above was of a mini stage with the walls hinged at the corners to fit together perfectly.

Then the walls are unfolded the booth will measure twenty feet wide by ten feet deep. A ‘floating’ high-tech motor cycle will act as a photo opportunity. We will happily take pictures of our prospects and send them to them afterwards when we follow up on their visit. The motor-cycle will come out from the raised platform on a sliding mechanism and slide back to allow shipping.

Once I had a workable plan it was time to do up the concept art. The top portion of the display will fold down into the canopy for shipping. This folding mechanism will have a hydraulic assist to make the setup easy. This is going to be a whole lot of fun!

Thinking way ahead

Before the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO had finished we were already talking about next year’s show and what our booth might look like. At this show, like every show entry we had previously done we were reminded that people ask about what we have on display. They can’t imagine what else you might be capable of.

We had packed this year’s display chock full of signs, design art and pictures of finished projects. Our videos were playing on the television and we had slide shows handy on our iPads. It worked well. But not year we want to build a booth that showcases our larger work along with our ability to tell a good story. We will most likely also include a drawing table with me perched there doing some concept drawing. We will also spell out (with signs) that we do concept design, and building of mini golfs, adventure parks and themed restaurants.

While we crammed a whole lot into ten by ten feet this year we are thinking a twenty foot booth next year would allow us to operate a lot more comfortably – especially when things get busy. As far as theme, well, it has to be over the top.

Before we began design we sat down with the organizers of the show and talked about rules regarding height and signage. They do not restrict height for showing our product. We just can’t put any of our advertising up there. No problem!

After much discussion we decided on a space – mechanical – tech theme. We wanted it to be colourful but well worn and aged. We also wanted a photo opportunity in the booth – hence the flying motorcycle. Who could possibly resist? We want to create a truly memorable experience (with pictures) for all who stopped in. We will offer to take their picture and with a badge scan send it to them by email.

The entire twenty foot booth will assemble easily and quickly, folding out and tipping up with little extra assembly. It will condense down to form a single ten foot by eight foot self enclosed pallet for ease of shipping.

This is going to be fun!


The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO was a wonderful success. Over the course of four days we were privileged to showcase our company to thousands of potential clients from around the world. Our presence was small this year, our first as participants in the show. The reaction to our booth was overwhelmingly positive. We were delighted to be honoured with a Brass Ring Award for Best Exhibit in our category – no small feat in a show this size.

NICE pictures of the finished trade show booth

The trade show booth is now complete. I carry a small pocket point and shoot camera for the pictures I take several times each day. With the small point and shoot camera handy in my holster on my hip it is easy to whip it out to grab the shots I need to illustrate the blogs and magazine articles I write. Although I used to use an expensive digital SLR camera in the past it just wasn’t practical in the dirty shop environment.

Because we want to enter the pictures of this project into a contest, feature it an article and some other uses on our website we decided to put a little more effort into some better quality pictures. I asked my daughter Becke to take some good shots with her professional equipment. We moved the booth into the centre of the shop, hung some new tarps behind it to block out the busy background, and set up some proper lighting. While we were at it we built a second smaller booth to take some pictures of a few of our other recent projects. It was a lot of work and took the better part of a day to complete but the resulting photographs were spectacular. The pictures on this blog are low resolution at only at 100 DPI but soon we’ll be launching a new gallery on our website that has much higher resolution pictures of our sculpting projects. I’ll be posting some of the other projects soon. Enjoy!


Trade show booth near completion

Our trade show booth for IAAPA is now fully mocked up with all of the artwork we will display. Second copies of all the artwork are being laminated for durability and these will replace the  temporary mockup artwork as we permanently fasten it in place.

The upper portions of the display have concept art and plans for many past projects as well as some in progress photographs. Models, sample signs and sculptures abound. All this is combined with the faux painted metal work and sculpted concrete showcase much of what we do. The TV monitor will showcase our recent videos. The display is an accurate slice of our studio on display.

In the next couple of days we’ll finish the electrical hookups and do the last patina on the base to finish off the display. It is undoubtably a very busy environment with plenty to look at. It is our hope that it sparks lots of interest at the show.

Trade show booth – part six

Work continues on the trade show booth. The last of the sculpted concrete was done yesterday. This meant we could get on with the final coats of paint and glazes.

Once the glazes were done we started fastening the shelves onto the backdrop. We took a few of the samples off the wall and fashioned brackets to fix them permanently in place. Then we experimented with the layout of the booth, fitting the display together. We still have a ways to go but the booth is quickly coming together. Next week we’ll do our best to wrap this thing up.

Trade show booth – part five

As we design any project I feel that two things can do a great deal to make it stand out. These are colour and texture. On the trade show booth we will use both to best advantage in a variety of mediums. Warm rust and weathered patinas will play against cool worn teals and smooth riveted steel against the deep gnarly texture of weathered wood. We are still in the early stages of the finishes but the project is already starting to look pretty cool. Today the crew sculpted the first of the woodgrain surfaces. Look closely and you can see the recessed steel letters cut into the lower deck.

Trade show booth – part four

With addition of the top faux I-beam along the top of the back wall the welding done on the front of the booth and it was time to begin the painting process. We had originally planned to have the steel all exposed and rusty but changed our mind to have it a weathered teal green instead. Before we got to that we first had to add the rivets and textured primer coat to make the back paneling look live steel. We used Abracadabra Sculpting epoxy to fashion the rivets.

I carefully laid on three coats of teal green on a steel shelf and allowed it to dry. Then I brought out the finish sander and judiciously went at the corners and edges to scrub off the paint. A little acid sprayed on and we had instant authentic old. I loved it!

With the test successful it was time to recreate that same look on a grand scale. We’ll first brush on three coats, then add glazes and weathering and some real rust. The sculpted concrete work ¬†on the pillar supports and floor will soon begin. We are also busy on the pieces which will be showcased in the booth. It’s going to be a wonderful display!

Trade show booth – part three

The current large project underway in our shop has used our MultiCam plasma cutter in a large way. It has in fact caused me to fall in love with the handy, dandy machine and the ease in which we can create custom metal parts. We’ve taken the design/build approach. Each piece is first sized up visually. I make a few measurements and a quick sketch before heading to my desk. I fire up EnRoute and in a few minutes build the needed vector. I then grab the file and head to the plasma cutter computer to generate the tool paths and then it’s off to the keypad to set the machine in motion. While the parts are cut I am sizing up the next part of the puzzle. Before heading to my desk to design again I tack the freshly cut steel parts in place, ready for our welder to make them permanent. The process is repeated many times through each day.

In less than a week we have completed a very complicated build of the heavy duty trade show booth. We’ve made a few alterations from the design to make it more versatile in the future.

On one of the corner posts we built a table/chair combination. It is our intention to do painting demonstrations (on a small 3D model) during the show. The table/chair pivot on the corner post to swing inside the booth during transport.

There are still a myriad of large and small details yet to add to the booth to make it a standout at the show. Stay tuned…

Trade show booth – part two

I drew up concept plans for an entire West Coast town more than five years ago. Every building and structure was styled in an energetic, steampunk/nautical flavour. I had a lot of fun creating the concepts but unfortunately the group was not able to get the funding necessary to proceed and the plan died. Those concepts (which I still own) have lain dormant in my files ever since. I am still confident that those initial ideas will some day actually be built as first envisioned. As we talked about the trade show booth I knew it was time to dust those old ideas off and showcase them once more.

Our MultiCam CNC plasma cutter and EnRoute software made designing and fabrication of the parts very easy and quick. Forming. fitting and welding up the flanges on the curved beams is still being done by hand. Our large hydraulic press makes it easier but it is still about eyeballing the curves, forming, fitting, forming, fitting until we get it right. Then everything is carefully measured, clamped into place and then welded up. The first beam will be finished tomorrow and the second one begun.