The brainy one

One of our attendees to our Sign Magic Workshop is just finishing her Arts Masters degree at University. Robin seems to enjoy a playful but very thoughtful approach to her art. As I thought about a name plaque for her the image of a brain came to mind. I would wrap her name over this image – just for fun.
I did a quick sketch in my book to make sure the idea flew and I was happy with only a quick partial drawing. I already had created a bitmap in my collection which would provide the texture I needed. Then I created the vector drawing which I would need to make the reliefs in EnRoute. The design would be both formal and playful at the same time.
The relief for the ‘brain’ was a simple oval. This was made into a domed relief. The two halves of the brain were then added to this relief by O.15″. The outline around the lettering was created as a flat relief .7″ high – an arbitrary number. I then selected an oval the same size as the brain relief as well as the letter outline and created a domed relief of the lettering. Going to the side view I bumped it up until the letter outline protruded over the brain relief a suitable amount. The texture bitmap was added to the brain to a depth of 0.15″and everything checked with a render before proceeding.

The background oval was created with a chamfered edge by limiting the height of the relief which was done with the create bevel relief. Lastly I added the domed lettering to the lettering outline. Once I had adjusted everything to fit inside my 1.5″ thick material I them merged the elements together to form one relief.
I used my favorite tool bits to cut the piece… a rough pass with a 3/8″ ball nose bit at a 50% overlap to start. The rough pass took less than 10 minutes.
The final pass was done with a 1/8″ ball nose tapered bit with a 80% overlap. I was running the files with an island fill – perfect for this shape piece. I ran the files on our MultiCam 3000 series router at 300 inches per minute. The final pass took just under an hour for this 12″ x 14″ panel.
While the file was running on the MultiCam I was busy at my desk creating the file for the next panel…

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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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