Peter’s plan was to use the project to learn how to create files in EnRoute and also learn how to operate the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter and CNC router. He also learned the ins and outs of Adobe Illustrator at the same time.
The new plasma cutter allows us to cut intricate pieces of steel quickly and accurately. The pieces fit perfectly, making alignment easy and quick.
The routed and carved pieces of Precision Board HDU were assembled over a welded steel frame, working from the lower levels upwards. The sculpture has to withstand thousands of miles of travel and so needed to be extremely sturdy.
Peter recruited the painting crew to give him a hand on his piece. Angie gilded the lettering on the recessed panels of the box as well.
Then it was time to start laying on the sculpting epoxy. Peter worked on the basic forms first and then added detail and texture. This would be a true antique when he was done, so it needed to look like it had been well used.
The packing container was no afterthought but rather integrates into the theme of the piece, complete with money slot for the android to pop his coin into.
Many coats of acrylic paints and glazes, gradually built up the aged look he wanted. The metal parts got primer, base coats and color then sanded, especially on the edges and corners to help make it an instant antique.
Peter had sculpted wiring connectors into the piece from the start. With the painting complete it was time to thread the hundreds of colorful wires into place, then glaze them to age them appropriately.
The androids shoulder blades are inscribed with his number—a nod to Peter’s newborn daughter. They are the initials and birthdate of charming little Juniper.
The android easily pops off of the top of the box and slides inside the bottom for shipment to conform to the rules of the 2016 Sign Challenge.
For a first piece done with new software and CNC equipment Peter had to prove his ability to learn extremely fast. The bar has now been set extremely high for all who are entering the 2016 Sign Challenge. It is going to be extremely interesting to see the amazing entries which are bound to be there!

Diesel-powered mechanical sign painting marvel

The 2016 Sign Challenge sees its first entry. When the idea of the Sign Challenge was first discussed, Peter and I were eager to enter. Samples are such a critical part of ...

By Dan Sawatzky

Posted on Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

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When the idea of the Sign Challenge was first discussed, Peter and I were eager to enter. Samples are such a critical part of our business plan and shop promotion. To be a contender in this competition we would have to do our very best possible work. We were up for the challenge without a doubt.

In our shop we believe it is much better to work hard at a steady pace at the beginning of a project than it is to do all nighters and rush as the deadline looms. This meant we got an early start and worked on our projects at every opportunity.

Peter, my son, wanted to build a coinoperated, sign-making android. He did a fair amount of research and then started building— too eager to even do a concept drawing. His plan was to use the project to learn how to use EnRoute, the MultiCam CNC router and our new MultiCam Plasma cutter. It’s a good thing he’s a quick study!

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Dan Sawatzky's shop, Sawatzky's Imagination Corporation, is in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. Dan shares his experience in his Sign Magic Workshops on 3-D sign making, and his Sculpting Workshop.

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