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.

Monday, 1 June 2015


With the final pieces of the Stettler job crated and shipped, we just basically had to wait for our partner in Stettler to let us know when they arrived. Dave McCourt, from Woodcraft by Dave, was the fellow that hired us to build this crazy job, and he would be our main contact once we arrived in Alberta.
It was a 4 hour flight to Edmonton, from Toronto. I hate flying! Not that I'm scared of crashing or anything. I just hate being sardined into anything. Plus I find the security lines a little ridiculous at the best of times. The seats all suck, my butt gets angry at the lack of comfort, and every-time I manage to drift off, my head falls down and wakes me up. Plus I really believe that everyone else can't respect my personal space! Granted, I'm sure I'm just as unaware of their personal space, but it's different cause it's me!

Once we arrived, we were picked up by Jody's Uncle Aubrey. He lives in Stettler, and became an amazing tour guide/ chauffeur!

Stettler is about a 2-ish hour drive from Edmonton, so there was a lot of traveling by the time we got to our float/ mobile sign. And boy oh boy, the prairies are fl-a-a-at!

 The Historic Parrish and Heimbecker Grain Elevator in Stettler was were we were finishing the build. It was the only place available with a loading door high enough for the finished project to roll outside! But the Town is building a storage building specifically for this piece, it's just not finished yet. They were waiting on the finished piece to get a final door height for it.
 With the help of some amazing new friends, Dave and I were able to wrangle the train up onto the bridge.
After the train was bolted to the bridge, we moved on to lag bolting the letter truss to heart, and Jody got the bulk of the tracks fastened around the edge.
The buildings were next. We fabricated custom steel L-brackets at the shop, from 1X3 welded steel tubing. These bolted to the trailer deck, holding the buildings sturdy. We installed hidden Tee nuts in the building facades, and used them to bolt the buildings to the brackets.
 Dave, Jody and I worked to get the letters bolted to the truss system before we left. We came up short on the bolt count, so we all decided to call it a day. It was a long day for Jody and I! We were up at 4am, our time, travelled, worked on the float until late, then headed to our hotel room. Which was pretty sweet, to say the least! It even had a corner fireplace! When we finally hit the bed, it was 11:30 Alberta time, which is 2:30am our time. Yeah, we were tired! No passionate romance in front of the corner fireplace for these guys!

............or was there?

JK, we were asleep in 5 minutes max!


Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Worst Blogger Award Goes to..................

I win, I win!

We have been working on a bunch of neat projects since I last posted, all of which I can't talk about :(
We also have been busy with some personal projects as well. Jody has been working really hard at her running, and qualified for the Boston Marathon, by running the Toronto Good Life Marathon!  I have also decided to create a short indy film. So I have been busy working on the props for that, as well as acquiring some gear for filming.

 I did fabricate a pretty slick camera jib. It telescopes from 3 feet out to 8 feet! And is pretty portable for quick shooting set-ups!
The story has been written, and the next steps are working on the story boards and shot lists, so we can be as organized as possible! I have a self imposed NDA on this, until shooting is wrapped at least.........But I'll share two images from the 3rd scene:
And yes, that is a rack of bones being shot!
 Here's through the camera with some basic color grading done.

 But now back to the final few posts on the train build:
 With all of the building components sprayed, it was time to assemble them!
 While I glued up my puzzle pieces into something that eventually made sense,
Jody worked on prepping the 3/4" plywood backers for our building facades.

 Being that all of our buildings are, at the max, 3 layers of 1/4" pvc, we certainly needed a more robust backer panel than the pvc alone. All the pieces received 3 coats of heavy duty contact cement.

Before you wonder about the building choices, we needed to include 2 key buildings from the town of Stettler. One was the new City Hall, and the other was the historic P&H Grain Elevator. The far right building we chose, as it has been a landmark at the corner of town for many, many years!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Back from Alberta!

A lot has happened since my last post! I held off posting the final bits of the train float/ display, as we wanted it to be a surprise for the people in Alberta. But we have returned from the install, and are now back at the various thing we started before we went away.
The first order of business is to remind you all about the May 15th deadline for the Vector Pattern contest that Tools Today has going on!
Remember, this is $500 bucks in tools from them, pretty sweet! So give it a try, and enter!

Back on the train side of things....................

Once the building facades came of the Techno, Jody set to work cleaning all the 1/16" grooves. Instead of doing a true, ship-lapped siding, I just had the cnc profile along the evenly spaced vector lines, giving the appearance of ship-lapped siding.
While she tackled that portion, I set to work gluing any details to the building I could. Some stuff would be left off, to make painting easier, but anything that could get glued, did get glued!
Then when we were ready, we double sided taped every piece of the buildings back together, in their final positions. The reason for this, was that when we used the texture spray, which works as an amazing PVC primer, only the final outside portions would get sprayed. This leaves a pvc to pvc gluing surface, even after paint. Plus it makes it easy to tell exactly where every piece locates, given that it's paint free where a piece would sit on another piece.
With everything primed, we moved onto the final painting. The base of the columns on the Town Hall, in real life, are a cultured stone. So Jody made up a few different stone stamps, for painting the stone. We purposely went for a graphic look to most of the building, using simple contrast to make everything stand out from a distance, as most people will only get to view this from a small distance away.
Due to the multi layers of the facades, we did have to mask, and re-mask a lot, but we tried to keep the steps simple, only doing it where we had to!