La Bodega Tapas Bar and Grill, Regina, Saskatchewan, has for many years had a sculpted ice bar on its patio to raise money for the Transition House, which helps women and children affected by violence.

Fire and Ice bar

La Bodega Tapas Bar and Grill, Regina, Saskatchewan, has for many years had a sculpted ice bar on its patio to raise money for the Transition House, which helps women and children affected by violence. Peter Fogarty of Fire and Ice Creations, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has built the ice bar for the past four years with the latest bar, (2010-2011) being built from 40 blocks of ice and weighing 12000 pounds. This was functional from the last week in November to the third week in March.

In 2007, Fogarty spent 10 days manually designing, cutting and assembling the ice bar, which contained logos for 10 corporate sponsors. In 2010 he designed and cut logos for a much more complex ice bar with 20 logos in only 7 days using ArtCAM computer software and a computer numerical control (CNC) ice router. "ArtCAM greatly reduced the amount of time required to size, position and produce a mirror image of the logos, which was required because they were cut out of the back of the ice block," Fogarty said.

Ice logo
Another enormous benefit of ArtCAM is that it easily generates files used by the CNC ice cutter to cut out the logos faster and more accurately than in the past.

Getting started in ice carving

"I saw ice carving for the first time at a demonstration in 1977 and I was hooked," Fogarty said. He operated an ice carving side business called Fire and Ice Creations in his garage while he continued his distinguished culinary career. Fogarty left the culinary profession in the spring of 2007 after 30 years to devote fulltime to Fire and Ice Creations. The company is building an impressive list of achievements, including sculptures for the 2007 Juno Awards - Canada's Music Awards and a replica of Saskatoon's 25th Street bridge used for a sushi display at the International University Congress.

Fogarty began the 2007 project by drawing templates for cutting out the logos of the corporate sponsors. Fogarty photocopied each logo onto a piece of acetate. Then he used an overhead projector to project the logo onto a piece of paper at the actual size. The design phase of the project took about four days.

Fogarty glued the paper onto the block of ice and cut out the logos while manually following the lines on the paper. "The potential for error was huge," Fogarty said. "If I mis-cut slightly by hand I had to start over with a new block of ice." Fogarty worked in a freezer at 28oF (-5oC) when cutting out the logos. He replaced the cut out areas with a mixture of gelatin and finger paint to provide color. It took four days to cut out the logos, pillars and bar tops. The accuracy of this approach was limited by the degree to which Fogarty could make repeatable hand cuts. Extra time was needed when assembling the ice bar to make final cuts that enabled the pieces to fit together. As a result, it took two days to assemble the 2007 ice bar.

Moving to a computerized approach

The following year, Fogarty began computerizing his ice carving operation and by 2010 he was producing nearly all of carvings using ArtCAM and the CNC ice router. "I selected ArtCAM because of its ease of use, particularly in converting existing artwork from clients and sizing, positioning and mirroring logos," Fogarty said. For the 2010 ice bar, Fogarty received electronic versions of the logos from the ice bar sponsors. He prefers vector artwork because it eliminates the need for the extra step of converting bitmap art to vector format. In cases where he did receive a bitmap, he used ArtCAM to convert it to vector format. Fogarty then examined the vector artwork and if necessary made adjustments to clean it up. He used the ArtCAM Vector Doctor feature to check for errors in the logo that could cause problems during machining such as gaps between vectors and intersecting or overlapping vectors. The Vector Doctor highlighted each of the errors and automatically corrected many of them.

Cutting logos in Ice with ArtCAM

In some cases, Fogarty needed to add text to the template such as the name of the sponsor or a slogan. He used the ArtCAM Vector Text feature to create the text in any font or size and position it on the template. The next step was copying the image onto a template that is the size of the block of ice that the logo appeared on, typically 39 inches wide by 19.5 inches high. He centered the logo inside the template using the ArtCAM Center Vector feature and then sized the logo so that it took up the right amount of space inside the rectangle. Next he used the ArtCAM Mirror Vector feature to create a mirror image of the logo. Fogarty used the Block Copy feature of ArtCAM to make copies of ice shot glasses that he produced for use at the bar.

ArtCAM made it easy to produce the files needed to drive the ice cutter.

Fire and Ice Creations uses the Ice Bulldog Pro from LSI Automation. Fogarty cut out all of the pieces for the ice bar on the ice cutter including logos, support pillars and the bar top. He drove the pieces three hours from Saskatoon to Regina and assembled the bar onsite. The logos fit into the pillars with tongue and groove joints. The ice bar was 13 feet wide, nine feet deep and four feet high. The assembly took only six hours, half the time required in the past, because all of the pieces were cut so much more accurately that no additional cutting was required on site.

Major tourist attraction

The ice bar exists in a tent protected from the elements with stools on three sides. It typically operates from Wednesday through Saturday from 6 to 12 pm. The sponsors themselves often serve as bartenders and some of the players from the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team also tended bar this past winter. La Bodega's Executive Chef, Adam Sperling, calls the ice bar the "best tourist attraction in all of Saskatchewan." Ice bars are increasing in popularity around the world but most of them are built in freezers. The Regina ice bar is one of the few outdoor ice bars. The temperature in Regina typically ranges from 32oF (0oC) to -40oF (-40oC) during the period that the ice bar is in operation.

Ice Bar

In 2007 it took four days to design the logos by hand, four days to cut the pieces and two days to assemble the ice bar for a total of 10 days. In 2010 it took two days to design and position the logos, four days to cut all of the blocks of ice and less than one day to assembly the bar for a total of seven days. The 2010 bar has twice as many logos, the primary indicator of the complexity of the project, as the 2007 bar. Fogarty concluded:

ArtCAM and the CNC ice router made it possible to produce a much more complex ice bar to a higher level of accuracy in less time than in the past.

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