Case Study - Nice Carvings


Nice Carvings Case Study

After purchasing Vectric's Aspire software and joining the Vectric Community back in 2008, we (amongst others) have been following Melissa Jone's of Nice Carvings inspiring work with admiration ever since.

We at Vectric have now worked together with Melissa to produce this case study, showcasing how effective Vectric's Aspire software is, and how influential its design tools, 3D modeling capabilities and toolpathing features have been, in the success of Melissa's, and her husband Jason's business since it started.


Melissa has been producing custom 3D carved business signs for nearly 5 years. It all began when she started hand carving and painting video game artwork for her husband, Jason, who regularly showcased their work via the Internet. Little did they know how in demand their services would soon become, with people getting in touch straight away wanting to commission Nice Carvings services for work of their own.

"I of course obliged, as we had recently closed a retail sporting good store due to a very tough economic climate. So the money from these commissions was very welcome, and Jason and I both happened to have some spare time on our hands."

Nice Carvings hit the ground running and found themselves carving different video game characters full time. This eventually lead to the production of commercial business signs, Melissa continues,

"We initially cut letters and logo designs out with a scroll saw and jig saw. Then I would carve any design element by hand with a rotary tool and would use bits similar to cnc type bits. It quickly came to be very labor intense work, and it didn't take long for me to realize that I wanted a cnc machine really bad."

After two busy years of hand carved signage, Jason and Melissa finally decided to invest in setting up their very own professional CNC workshop,

"We decided to purchase a Shopbot 48by96 CNC. Back then, Aspire had literally just been released and was creating a huge buzz on the Internet. People raved about it's user friendliness and how it was very inexpensive in comparison to similar programs. It was almost like it was meant to be, we knew we wanted to have the best 3D capabilities with our CNC machine right from the start. The fact that something like Aspire was just being released at this time, it was just really quite amazing to us. "

It was only days after setting up their new business that Nice Carving's were approached by none other than representatives from Sony Pictures. Eager to start working together, they commissioned Nice Carvings to produce a variety of movie props for a huge upcoming film called 'The Green Hornet'.

The Green Hornet

Nice Carvings Green HornetAfter being approached by one of the largest companies in the world, Melissa goes on to explain her reaction after being asked to work together on a film that would go on to generate $33.5 million in it's opening weekend!,

"We were so excited to get this job, and it was weird because it was almost as if these people knew we had just acquired CNC capabilities. We absolutely could not have produced the signs that they needed for the set, without our recent purchase of the Shopbot and Vectric's Aspire Software. So without questioning our own abilities, we just got busy, we choked down the excitement of it all and got to work."

Green Hornet - Aspire Screenshot

Self proclaimed noobies (novices), Jason and Melissa, not only had to learn how to use their new CNC hardware and software to produce dimensional signage, but to also maintain the standard of quality they were used to producing by hand, and fast. Melissa goes on to explain how the active community on the Vectric Forum supported Nice Carvings with their first major CNC project,

Nice Carvings Green Hornet"Some of the pieces were challenging, and some were very difficult, especially for the cnc noobies that we were. Well, low and behold we did what we could. We elicited support from the Aspire forum for some of the pieces, and like usual our fellow users came though with flying colors. One of the most prominent pieces displayed in the movie, we had direct assistance with on the Vectric forum which was oh so critical in finishing this job on time."

Green Hornet Aspire Screenshot

"The Academy Award winning set decorator's were "Blown Away" by pieces they received. This experience was unforgettable and we would like to thank everyone that has helped us with these projects along they way!"

Green Hornet, Journalist Creed (Replica) job details:

Size: 3ft by 2.5ft
Material: 1" Precision Board 15lbs
Finish: One Shot Enamels
CNC Machine: Shopbot 48by96
Modeling Software: Aspire 2
Bits: 1/4" 60degree vbit, 1/2" & 1/4" end mills

Following the excitement of working with Sony Pictures, Nice Carvings realized that what they produced by adopting CNC capabilities, exceeded even their own expectations. With the hardware, software and support now available, Nice Carving's business continues to grow in popularity, generating a loyal, excitable following who are always eager to see what Melissa and Jason will be creating next. Melissa continues to explain how Vectric's Aspire Software has helped create some of their most inspirational signage to date.

El Gran Rancho Lindo

El Gran Rancho LindoDr Robert Behar and El Gran Rancho Lindo in Bandera County Texas regularly commission Nice Carvings for multiple signs, in multiple sizes, ranging from 1sqft all the way to a 6ft diameter version of their logo. The total count of signs ordered is over 100 pieces. The layout (created using Aspire for these ongoing orders) has always been really efficient for Nice Carving's as the Elk model was purchased from James Booth at VectorArt3d.

El Gran Rancho Lindo

El Gran Rancho Lindo"The changes to the repeat orders of this project have typically been text and re-sizing, this is a breeze when using Aspire. The toughest part of the production usually comes down to the paint and finish. The lettering is small and it takes a lot of time and attention to finish a run of 30 of these signs at one time. The good part is that it has become very familiar, and that I guess makes the painting of these a little easier."

El Gran Rancho Lindo
Size Range: 1ft by 1ft-6ft by 6ft
Material: 1.5" Design Board 15lbs
Finish: Sherwin Williams Super Paint
CNC Machine: Shopbot 48by96
Modeling Software: Aspire 2
Bits:1/4" ballnose, 1/4" 60 degree vbit, and 1/4"end mill


Ski N Ride

Ski n Ride SignageThe popular Ski & Ride sign was a commissioned piece from a fellow sign shop in Toronto Canada called 1stopvisual. Melissa goes on to explain the challenges involved with this sign,

"The challenge here was two fold. The first challenge was producing an enormously detailed, enormously sized dimensional sign in a very limited time frame. The second part was to have it delivered on time to a destination that crossed International boundaries."

Ski n Ride Signage - Aspire Screenshot

"The first thing to get past was manipulating the several layers of vector lines to make sense for the production plan. It was all done in Aspire, and once we had the lines sorted, the rest of production was easy! Well, until it got to paint that is, it probably took me close to 50 hours to paint this sign."

Ski N Ride
Size: 8ft by 4ft
Material: 1.5" Design Board 15lbs
Finish: Sherwin Williams Super Paint & One Shot Lettering Enamels
CNC Machine: Shopbot 48by96
Modeling Software: Aspire 2.5
Bits: ¼" ballnose, ¼" 60 degree vbit, and ¼"end mill


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