CREATING THE IMAGE
Many custom items start as a jpeg image(s) sent from a customer. Mike considers the finishing techniques he wants to use, which helps him determine the amount of steel or surface to include in the image. He uses a touch screen computer and stylus to freehand the image into a black and white prototype, which will be emailed to customers for approval.
In a simpler example, free clip art of the glassware was used as a starting point for the Happy Hour sign shown below. Powerpoint software was used to create the phrase. Each image is edited in a software program to create a black and white cleaned up version, which is then saved as a bitmap file. These files are then combined in another software program to create a vectored file.
Now the fun begins! The vector file is first brought into software that creates the cut path to be used by the CNC machine. Based on the type of image being cut, a plasma tip and cut speed will be set along with other special handling. Machine code is produced once all selections have been made. The machine code will then be loaded into the program controlling the CNC machine. The image is aligned on the steel using the program.
The raw product is sanded and polished with a grinder in preparation for the patina or paint application. Many variables come together to make each piece unique. The steel will take the patinas differently each time. The patinas, which we buy from Steel F/X Patinas, can be applied using various methods. Copper is a favorite base patina, which was used in the Happy Hour sign shown here. The Happy Hour sign has a bronze top patina added, which creates a totally unique effect. An application of clear coat is then applied to seal the patina color.
AND THAT IS HOW WE DO IT!