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Case Study - 'Haffner's Fantastic Creations'


Haffner's Fantastic Creations

In this month's case study we learn more about Vectric Aspire user Doug Haffner, owner of 'Haffner's Fantastic Creations'.

Doug decided to start his business after spending 14 years of his career in Peoria, a marketing and advertising company based in Illinois. Whilst working there he held positions including Senior Vice President of IT, Multimedia Director and Creative Services Director. Throughout his life Doug has been well known for his work in graphic design, sculpting and painting and has been featured in multiple magazines. He has also appeared in the television show 'Extreme Makeover Home Edition'.

For this article, Doug's amazing portfolio of work left us spoilt for choice on what to focus on so we decided to look at how he got started with CNC technology and some of his early projects. Since adding CNC to his already impressive skill-set, he has gone on to create some incredible pieces.
We begin by finding out how Doug discovered Vectric software and then show you some interesting items from his CNC workshop, including his custom control panel box & wireless Xbox controller that has buttons mapped to the control software. Following this we then learn about the production of his 'Steam Punk Ale' sign and a two-sided sign he created for a company called 'Rhino'. We then finish with the addition of a mini gallery showcasing other pieces he has made, including a life-size R2D2 replica complete with links so you can read about the entire build.

Steam Punk AleExploring New Machine & Software

Doug first started out using CNC technology back in April 2012 when he decided to buy a 4'x8' ShopBot which included a copy of PartWorks (a name branded version of Vectric's VCarve Pro software), he wasted no time in machining the 'Bulls Head Sign' sample file (as shown in the images below) which is included as one of the tutorials and immediately realised the power, accuracy and simplicity of the CNC and how it would help in his business.

"While I enjoy reading manuals as much as the next guy, I believe an intelligently designed application should allow you to find what you need without a trip to the manual every few seconds."

"It wasn't too difficult to take a pre-made file (in this case a set of vectored lines and curves) and generate a toolpath based on a 90 degree V-shaped bit. Once I'd done a few things (for instance you have to do a process to let the machine know how thick the material is and where the tip of the bit is as well) I loaded my file and hit enter. For the first 15 seconds my hand hovered over the emergency stop button as I watched it go to work. I was waiting for some indication that I might have missed something or selected some setup function improperly. I had nothing to worry about. In under 4 minutes this little piece was done."

Following the 'Bulls Head Sign' Doug went on to create a number of other pieces to increase his familiarity with CNC technology. The results he was achieving in just a few months were fantastic. You can see the next two mascot inspired pieces that he vectorized and cut himself below.

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Steam Punk AleFull Steam Ahead

After gaining a better understanding of the technology and becoming more confident with the machine and software, Doug decided to try something a little more ambitious - a 30" square x 1" thick 'Steam Punk Ale' sign.

Doug broke this job down by first running a profile pass to achieve the background you can see in the image below left. Below center, you can then see the second, detailed cut that was carved into a 1/8" piece of PVC then affixed to the background piece, followed by the text (bottom right) which was also cut out of the same piece of PVC.

To add further dimension to this sign Doug sculpted a 'Jetpack Guy' by hand out of a scrap piece of HDU. Finally he mounted some vacuum tubes to the top of the shield then went on to his favourite part of each project, the finishing!

As Doug progressed with using the software he realised there was potential to take advantage of adding the ability to do 3D work with the CNC as well as his hand-sculpted pieces. So he downloaded a trial version of Vectric's Aspire software. Once he saw that this followed the same work-flow and simplicity as what he was already using he decided to add Aspire to his arsenal of tools.

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Steam Punk AleRhino Sign

The other piece we cover in this article is a two-sided sign that Doug made for a company in Kweanee Illinois called "Rhino". Doug admits that another artist originally started the design, but it was never completed. Due to this, Doug carried on production 'as-is' adding a few small changes to give it some 'Haffner' flare! One of the changes was to add shape to the background, something that is easy to achieve in Aspire by automatically translating an image to a 3D texture.

"Vectric Aspire made duplicating the original work and making modifications very easy."

Doug wanted to make sure that everything was absolutely perfect before cutting this piece because the material being used was a 2" sheet of 30lb HDU; anything which did not look quite right would have proved to be very costly. To help check shape and finish quality before the final cut, he ran test cuts in both PVC & pink foam which turned out fine. The final cut in HDU also turned out perfectly.

To help fit the two pieces together, the client supplied a 1/4" piece of steel which had been pre-cut to fit the center of the sign. These were then bolted together with specialty cut bolts that were also supplied by the client. Once done, he could then move onto finishing the piece.

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For inspiration Doug visited the customer's website which presented colours and patterns that he integrated into the sign such as the aged hazard stripes and gradient paint job on the inner diamond.

The above projects are just a small sample of what Doug has created over the years below you can see a small gallery showcasing other projects he has worked on using Vectric software.

Further work

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Links to R2D2 Build Log:

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7 | PART 8 | PART 9

PART 10 | PART 11 | PART 12 | PART 13 | PART 14 | PART 15 | PART 16 | PART 17

We would like to thank Doug for letting us present his work and look forward to seeing what appears on his blog next. If you would like to see more of Doug's work you can visit his website here: and follow Doug's Blog here:

You can also find posts made by Doug over on the Vectric forum by searching for user Doug Haffner.

If you are not an Aspire user but would like to see how easy to use and deceptively powerful the software is then you can download a free trial today - no registration required.

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