Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hook in the water...

I couldn't resist posting one more time today.  The ShopBot had a nice afternoon carving while I did other things.  The first piece is off of the table and waiting for assembly with other pieces to come very soon.  I hope those other folks get a move on! For reference, the diameter of this piece is 35".  It's a nice size for things like this...

Getting Down To It

Now that Dan has had sufficient time to start his mechanical fish project, I decided to get some work completed on mine.  I began by taking a sketch I completed for the border and using it to build my files in Vectric Aspire.   The sketch was fairly loose, but I knew in my mind what I was trying to do.

From the beginning I had a concept that includes something very special.  The sketches were just a launch pad.  Dan and I wrestled a bit over my sketchbook at a camp...I was determined not to let him see my notes beside the would have given away my surprise.  At least now I can show them without spilling the beans by editng off the notes!

So here is my first version in Vectric Aspire:
It will have a secondary piece in back that will be dished. I wasn't completely happy with the result.  I showed it to my friend John Ingles and he asked if the middle was domed.  He hit the nail on the head. I opted to dome the middle, and lower the outer ring.  In Vectric Aspire I simply added a dome shape to the middle, and lowered the height of the outer ring.

That's more like it!  Now I'll begin work on the back pieces that will hold the mechanical beast.
Then it's time to build the mechanical beast:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rhino What You Mean.

I decided that before I began to paint the Rhino tool sign, I'd check out the website. I wanted to find some inspiration for the paint.

Immediately, there were some things I liked very much.  I thought the yellow/orange fade on the square was great...but one of the things I loved was the yellow/black border.  I like the fact that it's not shiny new. It has some wear on it and it makes it look that much more tough.  So it was time to get some paint on it!

The method for making the border look aged was fun and easy.  First the whole sign was primed. Next, I masked the stripes and painted a wash of silver...then washes of yellow and black.  Once those were dry, I stippled latex rubber over the surfaces....when it was dry I finally painted another coat of yellow and black with much stronger color.  When it was all dry- the fun part was rubbing off all the latex rubber, revealing the slightly dark under color versions....and instant age!

We're running out of sun, so tomorrow I'll try to get some better shots of it from a better angle...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Made a bit of progress today on the trailer...attached the second logo, and painted the rocket exhaust.  I also began attaching some bits and pieces and started work on the design for the front piece. I still have to get the web address and some wording put on. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Something Fishy

I recently met a couple named Jamie and Jody Oxenham.  They live and work in Canada.  The work is amazing! At a recent sign workshop, we discussed a piece Jamie had created:

As Dan Sawatzky and I and Jamie talked, we thought it would be fun to have a little challenge. The idea was for each of us to create another sample based on "The Institute For Study of Mechanical Marine Life".

Actually, I made the challenge. Why? Because I already had a plan in place.  I knew Dan would take the bait as quickly as I threw it out.  He accepted with glee and began sketching before he'd even returned home.

Here is his plan:

Now he has begun work on his, teasing and poking Jamie and I about our progress.
Soon my own creation will come to life and my friends will have little choice but to concede.

Here is an image that expresses my plan for Dan.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lightning Bolt

Since the mural refurb is completed, today it was time to  get back to the first Rhino sign.
I had mentioned that they have built special bolts for the sign that will be located on the ground, but for the one that will be up high on the wall of the building, we opted to reproduce the bolts as a carving....

I opened up Vectric Aspire and recreated the bolt heads from measurements.  Here they are as 3D buildups. 

The next step was to add the "bevel" around the edges. used a vector to set up a profile cut with a v-bit set to the proper depth.

They will have to be glued to the sign, but I've decided to prepaint them and also the sign, leaving an unpainted area around the bolt holes to use for glue.  While a storm arrived here, I hoped we would complete the carve before any heavy lightning....we did.  Here they are mocked up on the sign:

Now it's time for one of my favorite parts...paint! Primer is next up...stay tuned.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Add A Little Color, Please.

In just a few weeks, I'll be joining the Walldogs in Kewanee, Illinois for the 20th anniversary.
We'll be painting a number of murals.  The local Historical Society asked me to come by and take a look at a mural a local artist painted 16 years ago.  David Washburn painted the mural with latex house paint, and based on a postcard created after it was done, the colors had virtually all disappeared.

I wouldn't normally work on a mural from another artist, but Mr. Washburn is no longer able to do the work, and he approved of the idea of bringing the color back.  I agreed to do the job, but insisted that I would only do it if we attempted to return the mural to the way it originally looked without additions or modifications.  The historical society agreed.

Shannon Ingles and I spent the last 3 days doing just that, based on the postcard...which wasn't always easy.  Many local residents stopped to tell us how pleased they were to see it return to full color.  Hopefully, with newer paint, it'll far outlast the original color.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Finally, A New Post...hole digger.

There is a company in Kewanee, Il called Rhino. They make air operated post drivers.
I've had a chance to get to know the CEO and he's asked me to work on his sign. We'll be doing a double sided version on the ground, and a single sided version on the building.

The design was originally based on something another sign maker had started, but had not finished.
I carefully took measurements and initially began to produce it "as - is " with a couple small changes.
Vectric Aspire made duplicating the original work and making modifications very easy.

Here it is after carving:

Here's the thing, though.  I just hate to let an opportunity pass to bring more dimension to a project like this.  I brought in an appropriate texture and sent a render to the client.  Being able to save out a render either in color or shaded is a really cool feature of Aspire.

The client agreed that this would be a great addition.  Here it is in progress:

What are the holes?  Get this:  The staff at Rhino are talented machinists.  They designed and created special stainless steel bolts that will be used on the sign for the front lawn:

This will be a great looking set of signs....
Here it is all carved.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I spent some time today attaching some of the completed pieces. This is really only the beginning of the decorative bits.

Here is a closer look at the back panel. There will be a "viewscreen" avove the panel...

Here is a closeup of the finished "side panel"

And here is a little closer look at the logo:

They were attached with two things: 1. A very good adhesive that bonds things to aluminum.
2. rivets. I also attached the rocket and some other switches...I'll post them tomorrow.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pushing My Own Buittons

Did a little computer work this morning. I had to create the dials/labels for the various gauges...
This panel still needs more glaze work and paint, but I couldn't resist putting some pieces on just to see how it's coming along:

I also mixed up some of my favorite "orange gold" to go on the logos for the trailer.  One more coat to go, then it's on to number 2.

On the panel above, the two pieces on the sides are reserved for the old style "throw switches" from Frankenstein's lab.

Once I made the labels, I attached them, then poured a clear epoxy in to permanently hold them in place and protect them. Soon it'll be time to attach the rocket, logos and panels...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Painting Parts Makes Me Happy

Coming up with an idea is great fun, but watching the pieces become real objects is the best part of what I do.  Each layer of paint and/or glaze brings the object more in focus and closer to what I have imagined.  Sometimes little details change, which is fine.  An experiment with color turns out and changes the color palette a bit...but the overall picture holds.

This weekend I spent some time carving more pieces for the trailer, and working on the paint for some already completed.  It's coming along nicely...

Plenty to prime and paint still! And there are even still more fun pieces to carve. The trailer will show exactly the kind of work I do....from painted images to dimensional pieces. All will work to tell the story of what my work is about.

I still have some readouts to create in photoshop and illustrator, which will be placed in the recesses, and then a clear epoxy will coat them in place and make them appear to be under glass.
My contraptions don't measure the same sorts of things as others might.
These dials and knobs look more like they came from Frankenstein's lab, a subtle nod to some of the early pieces that started all of this for me. 

Next, there will be more parts, fun things to attach to the trailer and the final paint work. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Digital Kit Bashing

One of the things that became popular among model makers in the film industry years ago was something called "kit bashing". They would raid the local toy model store and buy up tanks and airplanes and ships and anything they could find.  They would then use the little pieces to build something altogether new.  You might be suprised how many tank parts can be found on the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars.

Anyway, there are a massive number of free 3D models on the internet. Not all are very good quality, but they are a great place to find elements you can use to begin.  By combining elements and taking models apart, you can build some very unique things, or familiar things in a unique way.

Today I did a combination of modeling. Some of these items are made from scratch. Some are built using photographs as reference, and others are "kit bashed".  These parts will be included in a panel on the back of my trailer that will look like a control panel for this traveling "sign machine".

 This will be a panel with some read-outs.  I'll make some graphics which will be embeded in clear epoxy for the "glass"

 These, obviously, are cool buttons and switches.  Why travel to radio shack? With Vectric Aspire and some imagination, I am my own parts warehouse!

Again, here are a few more switches and some dial indicators.  I used an exisiting model for those, but wanted a recessed window instead of the one found on the original model.  The Farnsworth? For Warehouse 13 watchers it'll be familiar.  I'm not using it, of course. It's just for a side project. I never waste material, if I  can help it.

So here are a bunch of the parts. They've been primed and some early coats of paint added.
I love watching a file go from being a digital idea to a solid reality in a couple of hours!

Finally, here is the first of the logo panels for the trailer. They will be offset.  Each one is about 4 feet x 16 inches.

Soon the paint will be finished and we'll start to assemble the parts. In the meantime, there's more to carve! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Today I Mooned The Whole Town

In preparation for the dimensional pieces that will be attached to the trailer, I put on some rust.  We also spent some time painting in the moon on both sides.  I still have plenty of work to do on the moon, but this is a pretty good start.  There will be lots of fun gizmos and wires and gears.

The door on this side will get a port hole and  plenty of other details.  Later this evening, I should be able to post some pictures of the logo all carved out of some HDU.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How Logo Can You Go?

I attended a great 3d Sign Workshop over the weekend.  There were 5 amazing instructors who covered a wide range of techniques and alternate viewpoints concerning how to make them.  I like diversity and left with plenty to consider and apply.

I've decided to make the logo on the trailer dimensional.  I spent some time today building the file for carving.  This is a quick look at it right after I imported the logo.  Ultimately I had to make some additions in illustrator and re-import the file.

Once I added the components I needed, I added some texture to the base, and a nice dome to the logo itself.  Vectric Aspire 4 makes adding textures and shapes to the letters very simple. Using a technique I picked up from Jaime Oxenham, I cleaned up the edges around the logo.

There is still a bit of a soft edge on the bottom of the logo, but I plan to paint the base with a rust texture and am not concerned about that part.  It'll be about 60" long and 16" tall.