When I lent my services to a collegue who was working on a film about 12 years ago, I was introduced to the world of cnc. I remember watching this huge machining centre milling out a slab of mdf and turning it into a fantastic set of gears. I knew that it would have taken me hours to achieve the same thing with traditional power tools. I decided then that I would invest in a cnc router for my own business Oxenham Design. At that time I could turn on a computer, but even to check email seemed like a crazy set of operations. I persevered and learned every piece of relevant software I could get my hands on. I am now fortunate enough to be using Vectric's ASPIRE software, and Techno cnc routers, which has helped us to create some amazing projects, both in part, or in full. I thought that this blog would be a great place to share "behind the scenes" adventures with the software, materials and equipment we use, as well as the projects we build.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Marketing in Miniature #5!

Our miniature marketing model is in full swing. We have to deliver tomorrow by end of day. We should be in good shape. There are a bunch of little tags with magnetic bases that go along with the model, but we don't need those till early next week.

I started the day by having our Techno cnc chew out the plates for the 8 shelving units that run around the perimeter of the buildings. I drew these up in Aspire, and had the software cut a .0625" track for each of the 6 shelf strips. These are going to be .060X.080 strips that symbolize the shelf. As we are adding prints of wine bottles, there's really no need for the whole shelf.
 Just before we left yesterday, I made the 3" thick, 30X30" bases that the buildings will sit on. Pretty basic stuff, hollow, with a few ribs for strength. I wanted all the wood glue nice and dry before I started to contact cement the 1/8" pvc slab. I'm using pvc, as it glues really well to the styrene walls that will be sitting on it, plus it contact cements really well. And I have a lot of it at the moment!
Once the pvc was down, I drilled 5 mounting holes into the 1/16" sheet metal, used some heavy duty carpet tape, and fastened it to the base. This will get covered by .025" styrene that will get the floor treatment. Again, the metal is just for the magnetic pieces that will populate the store. Normally we don't do this quite this way.
All of our little fixtures got their paint job last night, and were fully dry by this morning. Woo Hoo!
It's taken a total of 2 days to trim and install all the shelf prints. This seems like a long time, but they were a total pain in the.............. Jody did a great job, I didn't get frustrated once! We also cut a brushed aluminum frame that frames in the upper portion of the larger gondola's. These were just vinyl cut on our plotter. Once again, Jody got it done, and I didn't even break a sweat!
I added the coping stone to the top of the exterior stone-work, and grooved it on our little table saw. These were all done from pvc.
These got a kind of khaki color as the base coat.
Once the paint was almost dry, I speckled a fine misting of the exterior stucco color over top. This is done by thinning the paint quite a bit, then using a very low psi through the gun, letting the mist settle where it may. You can get some really great effects like this. We're painting most of this model with ABS laquer. It bonds right into the styrene and pvc, and it can be sanded in less than 10 minutes. Now were talkin!
Here's a closer view, to make it a bit easier to see. Looks pretty good. The only draw back to this process is that it can visually hide a lot of the detail, so Jody mixed a small amount of grey, and darkened the mortar joints.
We used the same technique for the floor as well. I didn't add any tile work grout lines, as I think a .5"X.5"  grid pattern would distract from the intended interior application. It keeps the inside clean. We used all the building colors in the floor speckle. Including the silver from the fridges. It kind of gives a neat effect as you move around the model.
The final bit today was getting the fridge assemblies finished. We were given very specific layouts for the freezer, and were supplied all the artwork. We had to keep checking the layout to make sure the cases of beer were all in the correct order! Overall, I think these fridges rock! They're gonna look great at the back of the store. If it wasn't -20 outside, I'd feel like crackin' a cold one!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Marketing in miniature#4

We were interrupted on the miniature build for a last minute prop build. Can't post about it until June, but we're back onto the models now full swing!
The day started like most, with our awesome coffee lids! However, our fantastic coffee lady has changed her shifts, so our cool lids are not as frequent anymore :(

The bases for the gondola shelf units were made from 1/8" black pvc. We'll mask it off before paint so as they stay black. I drilled 3/8" holes into them, but only part way, this will effectively trap the rare earth magnet. No need to worry about them breaking loose.
Jody worked pretty quickly getting the shelving gondola's assembled and ready to paint.
This is the final configuration of the unit. Being that it was all made in separate pieces, it will allow for an endless configuration. The two models are of a generic liquor store, so there will be endless amounts of prints to wrap on these bad boys!
I had our Techno cnc cut the columns and entrance arch for the front of the store. 90% of all of these parts will get mitered corners, so we dont have to sand and fill the joints. Our mitering/ routering jig makes this extremely easy and accurate. It actually takes 1/2 the time to miter all the corners, rather  than deal with a butt join.
I got the columns all scribed, and the glazing slid into it's tiny track, every piece gets multiple test fits before we commit them with the glue, and even then there are surprises!
The interior architectural details got finished as well. Instead of goofing around with tiny strips of crown molding, I cut a whole top cap of 1/4" styrene for the top of the window arches, and routed a small edge detail. This makes the view from above the roofless model clean and crisp. You'll notice the gap between the wall sections and the floor. This is to allow for the 1/16" thick metal plate inside the model, as well as the .025" styrene floor pad that will get glued to the metal.
I started to work on the canopy portion for the entrance way. The arches were cut on our Techno, and fit perfectly to the model. The cross bracing was cut from table saw strips out of 1/4" styrene.

While the glue on the entrance was curing, I routed 3/4" pvc strips for the molding that will adorn the top of the building. It was actually easier to router a block of the pvc, then cut the edge off on the table saw. Then re-route the edges of the block, and cut the edge off. This gave me a strong piece to route, that wouldn't be too tricky to get a clean edge. Plus it keeps fingers away from the cutters!

Once the glue on the canopy frame set up, I clad the roof with .060" styrene. I used a couple of Evergreen strips to add some detail, avoiding a big boring surface. It's amazing what taking a few extra minutes here and there can do.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Marketing: in miniature#3!

No awesome coffee lids today :( Our usual amazing server wasn't in.
This build, like all the others, is progressing in the usual fashion. The usual fashion being that it looks like not a lot is being done. In fact, it looked like we had more done first thing this morning than when we left!

I was able to spray out the fridge shelves in the bright silver color we're using. Once the graphic panels get placed into them, the only thing visible will be the shelf edges. This makes it very easy to paint as I don't really have to mask off anything.
I employed our handy-dandy height gauge, loaded with an X-acto blade, to cut through the paper masking on the acrylic. The idea is to remove the mask around the outside, so when we paint the panel silver, and remove the center masking, we'll have a set of metal framed glass cooler doors.
It didn't really take very long to cut the mask on all 14 doors.

I added a 1/2" length of .060"X .125" strip styrene to the center of the door, then ran it through our smaller table saw with a .040" thick blade. This became the double handle on the cooler doors. This was a lot faster than adding individual handles, but gives the same look.
After a couple of coats of bright silver, these guys are done. The great thing about cutting the mask right on the acrylic, is that the score of the blade stops any paint bleed under the masking for the glass.

I also got the building walls scribed for the stucco panel look. The next task was to glue up the .060"X .060" styrene strips that will become the track that we can slip the window glazing into.
It went pretty smoothly and looks really clean.
I used a piece of masked .060" acrylic, that will later become the doors and windows, as a spacer for the styrene track. Leaving the paper on stops the glue from attaching the glazing prematurely, and also works as a small spacer. This should ensure that the glazing will still slide in after paint.

Right now there are all kinds of neat little piles of model parts in various stages of completion.
This will all come together in the final hour, effectively making the model look like it was really simple to build. "Oh yeah, no sweat!"


Monday, 14 January 2013

Marketing: In Miniature 2

I spent a lot of the weekend drawing up and cross-checking parts and pieces for the miniature store we're building.
Jody and I start every morning with our daily staple of coffee. 2 mediums, 2 cream, 2 sugar. And every morning, the fabulous girls at the donut shop write something different on our lids. It has now become a tradition! I think I'll start posting these now, as they always bring a smile to our faces.

Once at the shop, things started up right away.

Over the weekend, I drew up the wine bottles that will sit on the many gondola shelves that populate the 2 stores. I wrapped one shelf, just to make sure everything was going to fit properly. Score!
Jody was tasked with the endless job of assembling them all. There are 24 gondola's, that consist of 9 pieces each. That's a total of 216 pcs. Quite a bit of assembly! Thankfully the parts are light, or she'd probably quit.
I was also able to get all the walls cut. However, for some reason, it keeps slipping my mind that we're building 2 models at the same time, so occasionally I don't cut enough. DOH! These interior arches were one of those parts as well. These will reside on the inside of the store, as a small architectural detail over the windows,  just to break up the large boring walls.
Although it looks like an earthquake tragedy at the moment, it is coming together rather quickly.
We were kind of hesitant at first to move to far along without having our clients come out. But Jami and Ryan were able to make it by mid-day today, and were quite happy with the size and style. So full steam ahead!
There hasn't been a single drawing to go by on this job, so it kind of fills a closet desire of mine to be an architect, without the legalities of being sued by miniature people if the structure were to collapse:)
It was a lot of fun to come up with a universal design for this job.
The base of the building is getting a smooth block-work detail added to it. The blocks will scale out to be 12"X24" This will wrap all the way around the building, breaking at the doors and windows. With all the techniques available to create this, I went for the "old-school" way of using a height gauge with a scribing blade in it. It took a while to carefully scribe all the stone-work for the two buildings.
Once it gets its coping, it's going to be great!
We left the shop around 5, as we had to pick up all the rare earth magnets we need to attach the shelves to the floor of the model. By that time, Jody had conquered over half the gondolas.

This is a lot of fun. I love it!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Marketing: In miniature!

For the last 2 days I have been prepping drawings, sending them off, tweaking them, sending them off, repeat, repeat, repeat.
I just wanna build!

We are building 2 identical miniature retail stores. These will be used as marketing models/ layout and design tools.

I delivered some small router work this morning, then started building the components that I'm convinced won't change :)
This will be team effort between traditional model making and full automation with our Techno routers. Out of everything we build,  architectural models are my absolute favorite. They force you to work to pretty tight tolerances. The scale on this retail store is 1:24, which means a model inch is .041" in real life.

If you look at the photo above, squint a little, then flex your imagination muscles, you'll clearly see that this stack of styrene panels is the start of 14 commercial refrigerators, that will have double glass doors! These will reside at the back of the store, built into the wall.
One of the most used pieces off stuff in the shop is our 1-2-3 blocks. These do everything from keeping stuff square, to setting up our Techno's.
2 down.....ish. There isn't the time, or the budget to make 100's of wine and beer bottles to populate the shelves. So everyone agreed on using miniature prints of products. We'll apply the prints to the empty spaces between the ribs above. It will look like the "prints" are sitting on shelves. We will be doing this for all the various shelves and gondola's. I really wanted to light the cases, but it becomes quite impractical to light something that will travel as much as these. Most of the components will be "wild" which means they can be placed anywhere they need them to be.
This will be a lot of fun, if the information keeps flowing!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Is That a Head in a Bag?!?!

Before you call Horatio Caine, the heads not real! It's this weeks quick job for a cosmetics company info-mercial. We didn't have a huge part in it, but a part nonetheless! It was totally straight forward, which is a really nice break, everything laid out in black and white.

We basically just had to fabricate a telescoping aluminum pole, in a brushed finish, that the various heads could attach to. I think for hair-cutting, as per all that hair in the head bag I guess.
I had our little Techno lc3024 cut all the various reducers and caps from 1/2" rigid pvc.
It would've been o.k. except for some reason I decided to draw the original pieces for some kind of magical telescoping pole that doesn't exist! So I had to recut them. Weird.

We had B&M Welding do the aluminum welding for us. We have moved into the world of welding now, but aluminum I save for the pro's. Once the second round of reducers, that actually fit, were cut, the assembly was a snap. The pole will bolt to a raised platform via the flange in the picture.
The other portion of the build was the company's logo for the back wall of the set. We cut these from 1.5" styrofoam. No need to hardcoat, just a few thick layers of latex primer and paint. My kinda letters! We'll fasten these to the set wall with some light-weight double sided tape.
We install tomorrow around 10 am, but as the studio is right downtown in the city we'll be leaving early for sure.

Well, I guess I need a break from getting up at 11:00

Monday, 7 January 2013

Sign Install Finally Done!

We finished painting the last of the rocks on Friday morning, and did a final test fit of all the parts.
 I love the brown y -grey colour Jody got applied to the rocks. I could hardly wait to put the clear on the water.

Once the rocks had dried up enough to mask, I applied the 2 stage automotive urethane clear coat to the water portion. The smooth curves really made the water come to cartoony life. I love the clarity and shine to the clear.
 I was able to finagle a solar powered pathway light from a buddy of mine, and applied it to the top of the marker-buoy. Not very bright, but fit the bill perfectly!
All in all, it only took about 20 minutes to install, and fit like a glove! Not overly excited by the building behind the sign, but I do love our new sign.......................finally!

Now onto the other jobs we're starting!