There was no sign, so I made one.

there are plenty of stories on this blog on how we use Kiawe wood to make all sorts of stuff, but this is the first time that makes a sign with a CNC. Here's the story.
Mario Esposito 9 min read
There was no sign, so I made one.
Photo by Andrew Ruiz / Unsplash
The list of all other work/gifts handmade are here.

I always wanted to learn Tai Chi, I have been actively reading about it - tried a few videos from YouTube university but never through a crowd that was into it.

I became an avid mountain biker the moment that a group of likeminded people got together and pushed one another in doing the same thing at the same time with the same desire (not necessarily the same commitment 😄) - before that experience I would have thought that a bike that cost more than 500 US dollars is a stupid idea. Now I am the idiot because I own an Evil bike.

Ruby is the running companion doggy - Chief is the couch companion doggie (not in the photo)

I start exploring Tai Chi thanks to my well-traveled friend Tony. He's an oncologist of national fame but if you follow his Facebook profile you would think he's a travel & food influencer! He took some classes at some point from a master - his stories had an impact on me and since then I have been in the search for pursuing this martial art with the same intensity as what I have been doing (and spending) with MTB in WA 🚴🏻‍♀️️️🏔

Tony fighting COVID with colleagues LOL

A month ago I ran into a local instructor that has the friendliness of the island, the charisma that the discipline requires, and the patience that Tai Chi instills in you. So we signed up and start attending regularly to his classes. The group steadily grew and now we have friends and something to look forward to doing. Just like I did for mountain biking, you chip away one bite at a time until you rock it. In the instance of MTB are the rocks chipping at your bones...

The beauty of working on your mind and body in a place like our island is that you can practice outside under the shade of a big kiawe tree. As you practice your forms, you may have a peacock rooting for you from the top of a roof or a flock of baby chicken and their mom roosting by the roots of the tree. There's no better environment to breathe that power of the Tao inside your soul than a setup like that.

I am expanding my knowledge of woodworking as I get the chance, I find benefits that are very similar to my cook-o-therapy concept. Last year I purchased a Longmill CNC from Siensi Labs (Canada) - I absolutely love it but I didn't have the time to fully experiment with it until a few weeks ago because of the never-ending construction going on at the house (adding bedrooms for our spoiled children...).

fun fact: we designed the additional story of the house in Fusion 360!

I noticed that newcomers to the class didn't know how to easily find the spot where we practice so I thought: How about I combine my 3D skill, creative work, and woodworking for a good gesture: A sign for the instructor.

If you have been following this blog for a while you know it already but if you are new, welcome and subscribe, Victoria and I are professional inventors that every now and then build something, patent it and then look for IP hunters. Yep, it's a job. I know! Crazy world...

Back to the sign Mario...

I love the Kiawe wood. It's so island-ish authentic. Hard like concrete and since it's an invasive species there's plenty to go around. Sometimes when I do my evening walks or I kayak in the less touristy spots, I ran into pieces of wood that just talk to me. Maybe the kids are right, I talk to things!

As seen in the wild

The Finding

I had just left the dock for the open ocean when I saw Victoria sneak a pic at me. And at that moment as I was turning back in position, I saw a piece of wood that I chased for 25 minutes in favor of the current. Which resulted in me using Siri from my watch to call Victoria...

that is "Molokai Shore" but considering the wind Siri way less bad than usual

An hour later to pick me up one mile off course... Hey hey... I am an engineer, not a vessel expert 😅. However, I rested my arms by a piece of rock that is visible during low tide, I call it Poseidon's finger. Or Neptune's depends on which mythology you subscribe to. I  vote for the Greeks because the chicks had bigger boobs than in Roman mythological stories, but that's just me.

I don't judge you 😈 🙊 👊🏼 - to compensate my foo-pah with the navigation in search of the perfect log for the sign, I tweeted and worked with my colleague Chris while I was recovering in the middle of the ocean. #truestory    

I brought the piece home, cleaned it up, slated it with my trusty chainsaw, and started flattening the topper part with the CNC.

the extra bed you sign in the background is for when the kids misbehave mwhuahwaa

Design Principles

Every time I design a new invention I start with the first principle rule which calls for the essence of the essence without building on anything that already exists but the universal laws. I butchered the definition for simplicity but the essence is the same, says my mom when the sentence doesn't make sense and I have to get the rest of the gist by hand waving motions. I say that because Mom reads this blog via Google Translate and I blame it to save my whity buttocks!

The key design principles I had in mind, has I was rowing (pointlessly) against the current were:

  • A classic Tai Pose (Single Whip) to strike the attention of whom doesn't read signs
  • The T of Tai is often matched with Tao therefore, some inner message should be there
    (in Chinese philosophy) the absolute principle underlying the universe, combining within itself the principles of yin and yang and signifying the way, or code of behavior, that is in harmony with the natural order.
  • The name of the place that hosts the lessons (taught by Allen)
  • The island of Molokai
  • The symbolism is that everything is connected. That is to connect the philosophical point

The implementation of the principles

Vickie created the SVG silhouette of the pose. Once or twice a week we do tutorials in some kind of digital editing tool and turns out that the last self-class we took came in pretty handy for the job.  For the pose, we picked one that I practice in the morning by the banana trees - The pose right after is called Repulse the Monkey which I find uncanny to be performed by the bananas...

Single Whip Pose - others are here


I spent a LOT of quality time with the ear plugs and the CNC. The process is very noisy and if you are a newbie at this practice you will make even more noise than needed. That doesn't account for the multi-language blasphemy when the machine doesn't reload the new settings... 🤌🏻

I created a big square pocket and inside it, I developed a raised-in center pattern to generate a 3D effect - the lines mutate the shadows inside the box as the sun changes angle. That is if you don't put the sign under a tree 😄

the beginning of 24 hours process...

It's a sign!

It's a sign so I leveraged the natural shape as a result of the cut-off to create a pointing finger 👈🏼 - the first time I didn't know where the meeting spot was and I went back home so I am speaking from experience.

The Italian Job

It's not the Sistine chapel but Michelangelo wasn't available so I had to fill in... I painted the silhouette and the other parts with a gray metal hue, the same color that we used last month to build our bedroom's door. I lasered the Malama Molokai label at the bottom because I didn't want the sun to peel off the paint over time, since was outside of the rim that is more protected by direct sunlight.


As with almost any discipline that has deep roots in traditions there's a symbolism that surrounds the whole sphere of that discipline. I wanted to encompass, suddly the meaning of "circle of life". So I connected the T with a river (water is life) that runs to the open ocean and ultimately brings all that renewed energy back to the island. The "Hi" of the word is in the color of the ocean because it's hard not to associate Hawaii with the blue water surrounding the islands.

it's deep or Kool-Aid... and likely no one will know but hey so was Charlotte in Natural Treasure...

To protect the wood and give it a shiny-looking feeling, I used beeswax and a sponge that is hoping one day I will retire it because it was more the pieces were left behind that the wax on the surface...

I typically start working at 6:30 AM which means by 2ish I can focus on more quality of life, like the making of this sign. Although the focus of attention and the inner piece was often disrupted by the "other daughters" - I had repetitive visits from Kauna and Scarlet walking around and often butt facing me - but they would run off the second I would fire up another cut run. Can't blame them, that router is pretty noisy and Kiawe is basically concrete in tree form.

The alternative daughters that do anything for treats (Scarlet) and anything remotely consumable (Kauna) - the actual daughter have love affairs on the mainland and they abuse their travel vouchers as I do with cookies. I leave no stone unturned!

Finally, I marked the back of the sign with our bLife logo and lasered a QR code for curious folks that wonder "who built this?" - Victoria is considering opening her own stand at the local weekly market so I figured I would help the lady in some awareness. She was going to open also an Etsy store but my professional bias (and so backrubs) corrupted the soul to open it on Google Merchant Center instead. I will let her tell that story 🙊

Victoria got inspired by this work and now she wants to build a replacement sign for a vending machine's owner that is on the road to town. It's attached to a house and until a few months ago (from this writing) the machine didn't even have a sign. The equipment is PRETTY sweet, the sign though could be better #LOL - I am curious to see what she will come with.

Here is the finished work, with the ends cut off because clearly I know how to use complex software, CNC, and lasering but I am still in training for taking a basic picture...

I hope you enjoyed the story of this sign-making. I am still amazed that we passed over 3K subscribers and while before we were posting fearlessly now every time I post something I have to go through Vickie-Margot-Stephanie-the-cats corporate approval because "we have to protect the brand" – In the words of John Oliver

In closing

No matter what you do in life, remember that you are in control of how you take the good and the bad. It took me some time to learn how to master the lesson behind those words but now that I did, I am rocking the principle behind our movement like there's no tomorrow. Given the COVID-19 global catastrophe, tomorrow might not be that certain after all, so don't waste time focusing on the negative side of anything.

Live life to its full extent and if in the environment that surrounds you it's not possible for one reason or the other; do what we did. "Fuck it, girls pack your shit we are moving to an island."  #bestchoiceever

Take it easy and have a bLife. 🏝


;vE in the background is reminding me that if you want a sign too, send her an email, you know it's a matter of brand... #iamgoingtosleepoutsidetonight as soon she reads this note! 😅

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