The top of our chest – mechanical fish project

It’s time to put the top on our chest and finish up the base of our sign. I cut the top, two sided, out of 1″ 30 lb Precision Board on our multicam 3000.

This was a tricky one. First I cut the bottom side and used a hatch fill to remove a 1/2″ pocket all around so the piece would fit snug over the sides of the box.

Then I routed a 1/8″ deep seat on the spoilboard to hold the inside part of the cut piece. I set the piece in place and I’m ready to add my texture on the other side.

Once I routed the the texture it was time to cut the piece in half because one side would be removable. Once in place we’ll add the wrought iron metal over the seams so you won’t know the panel is removable.




Completing the Structure – Mechanical Fish Project

All the welding is done. The leveling feet are on and the steel structure is now complete and painted. All I have to do is cut the acrylic tray for the top tank and we are done with stage 1!


For the base of the top tank we used 2″ acrylic – overkill maybe – really cool custom acrylic fish tank tray – definitely!


I designed the cut in Enroute Pro then sent it down to the Multicam to do all the work.  We screwed some MDF to the table to keep this block in place. 1/2 an hour later – a perfect cut came off the table!


Perfect fit!photoft4

A quick leveling and we are looking good. Onto the next stage!


The Mechanical Fish Needs A Place to Live!

We may have dug ourselves a hole all the way to the bottom of the ocean! That’s right. We have one month to go with our little “mechanical fish” project and we are still coming up with great ideas on the fly that are adding a lot of time to the project. But we love doing this stuff so I’m ok with it.

I’ve been feverishly designing and making the cosmetic details of the exterior sign.  Brian has been working the armature, welding, designing and building the fish tank. Next week these elements will start going together and we’ll really get to see just how deep we are.

Brian has a basic frame welded at the base then added a 4.5″ steel pipe – this pipe will hold the weight of the upper fish tank no problem.


We cut the pipe in half then clamped it making disassembly in the future much easier. A little cleanup with the grinder and the base is done.

IMG_2192Then Brian added two pieces of steel tubing which will be the armature of our control panel arm. A few holes were drilled in the steel pipe so we can run our electrical later on. You know we’re lighting this baby up.



Now it’s onto the fish tank fabrication. Now I guess we could have just bought a fish tank but we felt that would be cheating. So we are making the tanks out 1/2″ and 1/4″ acrylic. Here you can see a NY Jets fan cutting acrylic.


Injecting resin bond to weld the edges.


Once the tanks are together its time to drill the holes and prep for the pump hoses.





That’s it – tanks are done and tested.  No leaks!

What’ya think – can we compete with the guys from Animal Planet’s Tanked TV Show?


Thanks for checking In – stay tuned…

– Steve.


The Mechanical Fish Sign Competition Project – Base

“After Hours” has a new meaning here at KDF.  It’s when we get to have fun and really get creative.  It is amazing how much work you can get done when the phone isn’t ringing!

Our mechanical fish project is moving along nicely. We’ve just completed the panels for the base which will sit atop a slab of stone.

We started by routing the panels from 1.5″ 30# Precision Board on the Multicam 3000. Then  it was time to do a little hand carving over top to age the wood and metal and give each panel its own character.


Here is the compass portion up close.


We’ve cut the rough blocks for the stone base and carved some Gaelic Proverbs into it.  But we’re not telling anyone what it says! (yet).


Tomorrow Brian will be finishing up all of the welding and the painting of the steel.  So we’re now in overdrive! Stay tuned…

– Steve

Finishing the Dragon – KDF Studio Sign

Our little dragon is now complete! Our last step was painting him.

We got started by priming with Coastal Enterprises FSC-88 WB HDU Surface Primer. Two quick coats and we’re ready for color.

We love the Modern Masters Metallic Paints – for our dragon we started with the silver as a base coat. It dries fast so we were mixing up our glazes immediately and ready to paint it on quick. First was a red glaze then we finished up with a black glaze. The whole process took about 20 minutes – we got the exact result we were looking for. This guy looks old and weathered but still strong and a little scary!



completeddragon2 completeddragon3

we are on to final assembly of the sign – the next post will be the completed sign – all lit up!



Creating our boat captain

While Brian is off sourcing steel and calculating fish tank weights and capacities – I decided to use my day off to create our little fish that will be driving our mechanical fish.

We chose a clown fish as our model. We’ll have real clownfish in the tank so I don’t want to make our guy look too cartoony (not sure that’s a real word).

To start I’ll need a post to sculpt around so once complete we can set it in place easily. I applied a chunk of magic sculpt then started my adding the face.

Then I added the face so I have a scale and character to work around.

Now I’ll create the shape – I’m using a photo off the pc as my reference.


Once the basic shape is done I can finish up the body and start adding texture.


A little texture and detail and I’m done.



Ready to go!

Dragon Continued…

It’s time for all of the final details – I’m really trying to make this guy old and weathered – I’ve applied my last layer of magic sculpt – I’ve carved scales into his chest and given some texture to the soft tissue areas – I’ll let this harden then I’m ready for primer.






Dragon Wings, Steel and Scales – KDF Studio Sign

Our little studio “sign” project has been on hold for awhile but we decided to finish it up at night – our special projects folder is getting a little too big! Now alot of cool things have transpired since we last posted on this project.

The tree is completely finished and painted  – Brian did an awesome job.  We are onto the sign itself. Once completed we’ll have to finish up the dragon that will sit atop the tree branch.


The sign has multiple layers. A shield made from dragon scales, a rusted steel grate, a steel flame and the KDF letters made from forged steel. So a lot of textures and painting still need to be done. We’ll paint everything then hang the sign and probably come back and do some more details once the whole piece is together.

This is the first layer of Modern Masters silver – this will be our base layer.

Paintng Metallic

Now we are adding our black pearl to “age” the lettering.

Painting KDF Letters

Here is the sign – there are some other little surprises that we’ll be adding as we go along but for now we can work with this.

Completed Sign


The dragon is ready for its wings. we came up with idea of doing the wings out of a strong poplin fabric so they are flexible, translucent and will look as real as possible. This  fabric is easy to work with and we have it laying around. Brian welded up the armature of the wings so it will be easy to super glue the poplin direct to the steel rod.


I did a rough cut on the material and made sure it was all glued in place nice and tight.

single wing

To make the material more rigid we are going to paint the fabric with fiberglass resin. This works great – the properties of the fabric will still be in tact and it will be stiff enough to work with.

resin materials

The resin is on and hardening – on to the next step!

resin wing

Both wings are done – I’ll let this dry for a few hours then it’s time to get back to sculpting this little guy.

wing complete

I have the Magic Sculpt and a few hours so I’m going to tackle some of the dragons body. This will be the muscle and bone application – I’ll come back once this is complete and do a thin layer for detail.
dragon2 dragon1

Stay Tuned…

The Competition is On – A Fish Tale

Our mentor from the North, Dan Sawatsky, has been posting a super cool project that he has been working on at  We saw that he was involved in a friendly competition with some other superstar sign makers and we wanted in.

The rules of the competition – create a sign for the “The Institute for the Study of Mechanical Marine Life”.  The only requirement is that the sign has the text on it and that it includes a mechanical fish of some sort. We have until September 2nd to make this a good one – we’ll have to do the work at night as we are extremely busy – but it will be a fun!

Game on!

So Brian and I did a little brainstorming. we would meet the above criteria – but we have to come up with something smoking hot that no one has ever seen. Remember who we are up against – some of the best guys in the business.

On this one I think we’ll have to start with a story.

The story unfolds like this… We have a little fish that is scared to travel  – He’s built himself a mechanical fish out of driftwood to tool around the ocean so he can stay safe. The only way you can find this little guy is by using the specially designed periscope that was designed for … you guessed it “The Institute for the Study of Mechanical Marine Life”.

We started feverishly sketching the ideas as we developed our little story.  And it turns out – the mechanical fish is only a small part of the overall “sign”. We are going to create a standalone sign that will be lit with LED’s have lots of color, fun and can be viewed 360 degrees. Oh and the whole thing is… a fish tank. That’s right – I’m blaming Brian for this one!

Fish Tank-Proof Mechanical Fish Proof

I jumped right on designing the fish – Brian was on welding duty. He’ll start by fabricating the armature that will hold up this beast.

I have the basics of the fish designed in Enroute Pro with some texture – once I piece it all together I’ll do some hand carving.

Fish Doors

It’s off to the MultiCAM 3000 – We’re cutting `1.5″ 30lb Precision Board. I used a 3/8″ Ball End Mill for the rough pass and a 1/4″ Ball for the finish pass. Cutting Fish

Brian is out in the shop welding up a storm!  This sign will be strong with a steel frame to hold all the weight of the fish tank and enclosure.

Welding Frame

And… done.  Ready to start skinning this thang!

Completed Frame

Stay Tuned…