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The Score
June 1997

"Computer-aided Glass Design Takes a Giant Leap"

Right up front, I have to admit that I've never used "DESIGNER." But, I've stood by at trade shows while this computer software literally stole the show. I've watched Dick Ashoff, President of American Bevel, who supplies the software, demonstrate it at great length. And I've used computer design software enough to know what I'm looking at.

If you're familiar with professional design software, programs like Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator, or Macromedia Freehand, then you immediately have a good idea of what "DESIGNER" is all about. Except for one big difference: "DESIGNER" is built heart and soul around the assumption that you are designing for stained glass, and it's priced at a fraction of those mass market programs.

Imagine a design program with all the amenities and conveniences you've come to depend on. Now add the ability to call up bevels automatically, in every shape and size, and cluster, too -- together or by individual part. Resize, reshape and reorient them as you wish. Include their part number on your printed pattern. Add lead borders automatically. Fill the shapes that you create (or import, or scan) with eth color of your choice, or better yet, fill them with actual images of Spectrum Glass: the entire product line is at your fingertips. Print multiple versions to show your clients; making changes is a breeze. Before long, your library of digital drawings will be an inventory you draw from when creating a new design. You'll never start from scratch again.

If you are not familiar with design software, then you may have trouble appreciating what's being described here. No bones, learning to design on computer is awkward at first. There's lots to learn, but it's fun! If glass is your livelihood, learning computer design skills will be well worth your time and effort. It will definitely take a does of each, but you can do it on your own, and you can do it on "DESIGNER" for free. A visit to their website (www.americanbevel.com) affords the opportunity to download a free trial version at the click of a link. The trial version has all the capabilities of the full version, but you wont be able to print or save your work.

Copyright © 1997 The Score, All Rights Reserved

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Common Ground GLASS
Winter 1996

American Bevel's "Designer" is a Computer-Aided-Design (CAD) program created to design professional-quality stained glass panels. It enables the designer to preview these designs, make quick changes and then run the file to the printer.

It provides WYSIWYG text editing, rotating text, text on a line and text that wraps to fit a shape. You are able to convert text into any curve or shape set.

It can also be versatile enough to allow you to create brochures, advertising fliers and logos. As the Overview states, "'Designer is for the person who has never used a computer draw program before, because they can create great-looking designs with very little practice." That being said, I must add that the advanced features make this program beneficial to even the most experienced designer.

"Designer" is equipped with all of the essentials: Title Bar, Menu Bar, Style Bar, Tool Bar, and Drawing Window. Drawings are created with the Node Tool, which inserts nodes or small boxes. These are connected into lines and are able to be moved by using the Node Tool. The nodes can be dragged to the desired location and the shapes can be modified.

The Draw Tool lets you create new lines, but with many options, including the ability to convert new lines to curves, regulation of the rotational angle when pivoting a new straight line, point spacing that controls the distance between adjacent points when drawing freehand, and much more.

The Draw Tool Options include the ability to control freehand lines to fall on snap grid lines, control the distance for points to come together to attach new lines to existing lines, control the minimum distance between points when drawing freehand and simplify.

American Bevel suggests that you can become proficient in most of the basic features of this software just by using it. Because it provides immediate visual feedback for numerous commands, it is absolutely easy to comprehend what you are doing correctly or incorrectly.

An uncomplicated procedure for drawing a Lead Border consists of clicking on the Shape Tool and displaying the Shape Palette. Move your cursor to the top left corner at the desired measure and then press the left mouse button and drag to the bottom left-hand corner. At this point the Status Line will display the overall size of the space you are working in with the Shape Tool.

The Shape Palette contains pre-drawn shapes, American Bevel Clusters, straight-line bevels, arches, circles and a great deal more. A customizing feature is also available for line size, spacing (for pattern texture), origin offset (also for textures), line angles (for textures), and one that will actually randomly distance the pattern lines or tile symbols.

One of the absolutely vital features of this program is the ability to ungroup these clusters and utilize them in designs. When the clusters are ungrouped, you can transfer each piece precisely where you desire and even eliminate some, if you do not need to use the entire cluster.

You are also given the style number of the group of clusters when you bring up each file. Helpful when considering what to order for your design. From this palette, you can also edit and chose the border file.

Custom coloring is readily accomplished by using the color wheel and luminance samples or you may use red/green/blue values or hue/saturation/luminance values. They are almost the same. Once a value is selected, the Color Sample box shows the selected color.

There are even samples of Spectrum and Uroboros included as bitmap files, though only three or four samples of each. You are still able to make your designs look professional.

A Note Tool is included to add notes to a drawing. This is quite useful when sitting with a client and making notes of glass sample numbers.

Zoom Buttons allow you the ability to change the scale at which your design is created. There are two Zoom Buttons, one for the left mouse button and one for the right. Zoom in, Zoom to Fit and Zoom Out functions are available. These are essential tools for finding any mistakes before finalizing your design.

"Designer" uses the drag-and-drop method for moving objects and allows re-sizing. For beginners, this is the simplest method of design. Simply and easy to comprehend.

The On-line Help system is an invaluable tool. Once you have entered it, you can move around freely using hypertext links, history buttons, searching the index and the browse button. It also tells demo copy users how to order a full version of "Designer."

Also included is a Designer Basics section that will acquaint you with all the basic interface and drawing techniques before you start the tutorial exercise. It is suggested that the tutorial should take about 60 minutes. I agree that that is definitely how long it will take for a beginner to do it.

Mistakes (which are never made by glass artists) are easily undone by using the Edit/Undo menu command. So uncomplicated, but an erase button still would look good to me. The Edit/Undo operation allows you to edit as many as the last ten moves.

Drawing a Bevel Border is also made simple. Using the Shape Palette, you choose the desired bevel you wish to insert. You are also able to put as many bevels as you wish in your work space and use them when you need them. But for the border, this is unnecessary, as you have the option of duplicating any object just by using the Select Tool and Edit/Duplicate or by merely pressing Ctrl+D.

One feature that makes "Designer" a quality program is its ability to import and export directly from your scanner. You have the option of using either GIF, TIFF, TGA, JPEG or any of many other file types within the program. Once you have scanned the image into "Designer," you are able to manipulate it in the window.

I am sure that I have not accounted for every feature available in American Bevel's "Designer" program. That would take pages of text to accomplish and more than the two weeks we have had the program.. I have not referred to rulers and grids or scales, or merging objects or arranging groups or transforming and so on ... a great deal more.

One thing I believe I must add to this examination is this: for the retail price of $125 this program is a positive best buy on my list. Copyright © 1998 International Guild of Glass Artists, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Glass.....Craftsman "5th Anniversary Issue"
June/July 1998

"Stained Glass Design Affordably Enters the Computer Age.”
By Linda Abbott

I am not a product of the “computer generation.” I remember laughing in disbelief when my high school teacher told us that some day we would be communicating with out TV screens. I watch with amazement when my seven-year-old niece, navigates through the computer programs with ease. When I was her age, I was still trying to master pick-up sticks. Being the truly progressive techno-freak that I am, (I actually got a fax machine a few years ago) when it became obvious that my old typewriter just wasn’t going to cut it anymore, I started to look at those terrifying things called computers. I decided upon the very user-friendly Macintosh because when I got my first computer, you practically needed a degree in computer programming to work an IBM personal computer. I did okay with my Mac and became a devoted fan. I knew that I had made the right choice and was certain that there wasn’t anything that would be able to make me switch to the overly complex IBM based machines (no matter how hard Bill Gates tried to make the IBM’s behave like Macs). So, when I first saw a demo of American Bevel’s Designer program at a trade show I was attending, I innocently asked its developer when the Mac version was going to come out. He fell on the floor laughing and when he regained his composure, he said, “Never.” “But why not?” I innocently asked. “Mac is a graphics machine and IBM is database machine. This program should have been made for Mac.” “Not,” he answered. “But I love my Mac and I really like your program,” I argued. “Get a real computer,” said he, as he showed me some spectacular trick the program would do. So I stuck my thumb in my mouth and walked away. I was really impressed with what I had seen and I really wanted to play with it…but not enough to make me give up my Mac. I decided to try a tactic I had learned at my mother’s knee…badger him until he makes the program for Mac. So every day before the trade show opened, I wrote a note in a different handwriting requesting that the program be done in a Mac format and I left that note on his demo table. Every time I saw Mr. American Bevel, Dick Ashoff, he would say to me, “Get a real computer” and he would show me more stuff the program would do. I left the trade show without the program, but not forgetting it. The next year when I saw Mr. Ashoff with his program again, I asked him if the Mac version was ready yet. (I am nothing if not a patient badgerer) He complimented me on my sense of humor and told me to get a real computer…and teased me with even more tricks. He threw in the idea that I could design a window in front of one of my prospective customers, print out a copy, have the client sign it, print out a contract while the customer was still excited, get it signed and leave with a deposit check. An intriguing thought…nail ‘em when the impulse to own is at its strongest. I really liked that one. At the end of the trade show there happened to have been a silent auction and Designer was one of those items up for bid. So, supporting a good cause and for kicks, I bid on it. And someone upped the ante. So I put in another big just as a matter of principal…and was shocked when I won. I waved my copy at Mr. Ashoff as I passed him on my way out…all the while trying to figure out what I was going to do with the thing since it wouldn’t work on my machine. The solution was to get an IBM-to-Mac translator program, I thought. It kinda worked, but it was a pain in the butt to use, and I put the program aside with the other things in my “I’ve got to solve this” pile. When I passed the American Bevel booth the next year, I told Dick (we were on a first name basis by then…I called him Dick and I am sure he called me some pet name which is unprintable in a family publication) that I had tried a translator and that it worked, but was not easy. He said, “Watch this.” I did…and I went home and bought an IBM based laptop. I want to tell you what I saw.
The rose is colored with Kokomo Glass. The product numbers for the rose are 163, 214SPL, 122T and 48LLT. This rose and the images on this page, as well as the American Bevel ads were all created in Designer II.

First, let me tell you what I did not see. I did not see only a bevel design program. While it is true that all of American Bevel’s clusters are in this program, and you can re-arrange each cluster piece and make totally new designs with them by changing positions, rotating pieces, etc., this program is far more than that. It is a true CAD program (that’s short for Computer Aided Design for all of you who are as computer literate as I am)…and much more user-friendly than Turbo-Cad and some other programs on the market. You can do all your designing in this program freehand, using the myriad of tools in the palettes or by scanning stuff in and manipulating it. Unlike some other design programs on the market, there is a drawing tool, making adding cut lines for your patterns very, very easy. Programmed into Designer are various sized borders and lead allowances. A flower disc gives you 50 flower patterns for incorporation into designs. You can also use this program to plan your flyers, announcements, etc. because it also supports all fonts already programmed into your computer in other programs. It allows you to bend and move text in addition to the drawing capacities. All of the above were in the original Designer program and I was intrigued and impressed, but able to keep my check book closed when in Computer City. Let me tell you what Dick showed me and made me buy a new computer.

Incorporation into Designer 2.0 is the ability to use glass palettes available on CDs. These aren’t just drawings of the glass. These are scanned-in images that are so real that you want to get out your glasscutter. And you “virtually” can. Draw in your image, call up the Kokomo or Uroboros palette, for example, select a petal, select one of the full color images from the palette, press “apply” and it instantly fills the petal with the glass you have selected. Don’t like it? Select another color, press “apply” and the new color instantly replaces the old. It is absolutely amazing. Available for the use with this update are palettes of the complete lines of Kokomo, Spectrum and Uroboros. Coming soon are Wissmach and several other companies. The price of each CD is only $5.00. In fact, the cost of this whole program including the CD cost is actually much cheaper than buying sample sets from all of these glass companies…and infinitely lighter to carry around! Also upcoming, hopefully available as you are reading this, is a three-part religious reference program that will contain artwork and will explain the meanings of specific colors and symbol positions in religious art. It will make you an instant expert in liturgical work.

If you are a commercial studio, the time is rapidly approaching when you will not be able to afford not to have this program. It may possibly prove to be the best sales tool you will ever invest in. Your client will actually see what his or her window will look like finished, before you start cutting. Gone will be the days of hearing your client say, “It’s really nice, but can you change that blue piece to purple?” If you are a hobbyist, you will be able to do more than you ever thought possible and this program will rapidly bring your work up to a quality equal to the best of the professionals. You could say this program evens out the playing field.

As I said, I am not particularly skilled on a computer…especially not on this new one…but I am navigating this program easily thanks to its very clear tutorial (which only takes about an hour to complete). You skilled computer jockeys should zip through this one in your sleep. Without exception, everyone I have shown Designer to has been absolutely blown away with the depth of this program.

There are many CAD programs on the market. Most are much, much more expensive and for doing things other than stained and beveled glass. This CAD program does all that the others do, but is relevant to our industry. It is one that will continue to be relevant even 10 to 20 years from now. It was developed by a glass worker for glass workers. It addresses and resolves the problems peculiar to our craft. In 1982, when Dick Ashoff founded American Bevel, Inc., his studio was one of the largest glass studios in Orange County, Calif. While he was able to visualize the designs he wanted to do, he had to hire a designer to interpret those visualizations since he felt he didn’t have the ability to draw out his designs. It took him many months to train his designers to be his hands. Rather than continuing this frustrating exercise, he decided to do his designs himself…on his computer. He studied all the CAD programs on the market…and even approached one of the larger CAD program companies asking them to make a stained glass relevant program. The company found our industry too small to spend the development time on, and rejected the idea. So, in 1983, Dick found computer programming guru, Jeff Becker. Together they started developing Designer…and we are the lucky beneficiaries of their labor of love. They have been rewarded with appropriate recognition for their efforts. This year, Designer was inducted into the Corning Glass Museum Library. They deserve the honor. This is an incredible program. It was worth my investment in my new laptop.

Designer works with Windows 95. The price of the program is $175. If you already have Designer 1.0, the cost of the upgrade is only $50. You can download your demo copy from American Bevel’s website, www.americanbevel.com. While you are there, spend some time browsing around. You’ll find a Billboard for discussions and questions and answers, designs and some other fun stuff.

PS: I still love my Mac.

Linda Abbott is a stained glass artist and retailer from Florida. She teaches Wire Wrapping and is a popular teacher at trade and industry shows.

Copyright 1998 Glass…Craftsman, All rights reserved

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Glass Patterns Quarterly/Spring 2000

"Will the Real Window Please Shine"
"The Glass Keyboard"
Text by Kim Blagg

American Bevel’s Designer II should be the “smart” tool you add to your creative glass toolbox.

For the first time in the history of stained glass, you can see your window without cutting a single piece of glass. With “point and click” ease, nervous first-timers could become “designer junkies” overnight.

Designer II ships on CD, which when inserted into your computer’s CD-ROM, autoloads musically with an introduction directory. The program is installed with a key click at this level. You may also opt for a nifty CD-video which plays a tutorial demonstration of the software, narration included. In it, the viewer may enjoy a virtual backseat to the designer, as he selects from menus, tools and pop-up palettes to create a window before your eyes. The relaxed mood of the video sets the pace for the enjoyable experience that hands-on, instant gratification design can bring.

The basics of a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program provides the skeletal framework for Designer, over which has been sheathed a simple, yet elegant customization specifically for the art glass industry. A simple click on a shapes tool is all that is needed to turn the black drawing board into a virtual workbench, breathing life into your new design. Readily apparent on the screen are palettes of colors and textures. Components to the project window are assembled from pre-designed collections, selected from a menu and deposited on the drawing board for enhancement.

While beginners will adapt quickly to the program’s tool and design palettes, those who speak “computerese” will feel instantly at home, generating sophisticated designs within minutes. The ease of use, however, should not be confused as program limitations, as the only limits are those inherent in the user’s imagination. Symmetrical windows can employ the reflect and transform capabilities, so that the user need only create one quadrant or module, repeating it to complete the window. The use of layer and similar transformation tools puts the program on a level with graphic design programs costing 4-5 times as much.

Color and texture variations allow the user to achieve the impressive appearances that are unique to art glass. The true beauty, however, lies in the exact representation of the industry’s manufactured glass. It includes not only the American Bevel collection of clusters, but users will find glass libraries with sample swatches on supplemental CD’s from manufacturers such as Spectrum, Uroboros, Amstrong, Wissmach and Kokomo. These swatches are so visually accurate that the user will feel as though they are actually manipulating sheets of actual glass across their computer monitor. Swatches are keyed with manufacturer product numbers, so acquiring “just that right piece of glass” has been reduced to notations on a shopping list.

Incorporating a drawing tool, cut lines for patterns are easily rendered, as well as Designer’s integral variety of borders and lead allowances. A flower disc offers fifty flower patterns, or you may scan in your own sketches and manipulate them with the program. Doubling as a page layout program, you can create promotional materials using the fonts, colors and design you’ve created.

The potential use for Designer is hardly limited to the casual hobbyist, but is a full-fledged presentation tool as well. Consider the commercial client, entering a studio environment full of questions and indecisions. They are escorted to a conference area, where a sizable monitor is well placed for viewing. The designer, who is already familiar with this program may have done some preliminary homework on the client’s project, taking measurements and possibly photos, determining architectural requirements and ascertaining the overall purpose of the project.

They pull up some preliminary design ideas, and have perhaps even used some photo-retouching software to actually allow the customer to see the finished window installed. The customer narrows down his choices, and the conceptual drawing is altered within Designer to modify colors, type of glass or even the number of panels used. With a monitor as a workbench, the alterations are accomplished in minutes. When the consultation draws to a close, the customer has signed a contract, left a deposit and leaves confident that the studio he’s hired is professional and highly competent. Prefer to meet the customer on the job site? Take your laptop and Designer II will become your irreplaceable assistant, handing you pieces of virtual glass and bevels, adjusting colors when the reality before you demands a precise match.

Designer’s creator, Dick Ashoff, owner of American Bevel Inc. in Newport Beach, California, partnered with programmer Jeff Becker to bring this highly customized product to realization. Commercial software manufacturers passed on the opportunity, citing a small market, as is often the case in specific industries. Generally, these obstacles in that industry employs a private programmer and the benefits of the eventual product are kept in-house. Designer II, which is Windowsä-compatible, retails for $175.00, a very small price to pay for the potential time and materials savings. Upgrades from Designer I are available at only $50.00. A download demo version of Designer II is available from the American Bevel website.

Copyright 2000 Glass Patterns Quarterly, All rights reserved

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Glass Art
July/August 1997

"Computer Design for Glass Artists: Part I"
By Shawn Waggoner

How would you like to have every window design you ever drew at the click of a mouse, be able to change glass type or texture with the click of a mouse and never have to draw a pattern full size again? Richard Ashoff, president of American Bevel Inc. along with Jeff Becker, president of Top Software Inc., created Designer to do just that and more.

Ashoff began experimenting with CAD programs for stained glass about 10 years ago. As a manufacturer of stained glass, he wanted to precise drawing capabilities, ease of editing and “library” of designs that only a computer could provide.

“In our industry, we’re taught how to construct a window,” says Ashoff, “but we’re not taught how to design. Many artists look to designers or they seek out books and other sources for ideas. Now that we have the computer, we can import or scan from any resource and incorporate those elements into our designs.”

Providing the ability to call up straight line bevels automatically in every shape and size as well as American Bevel clusters, and resize, reshape or reorient them adds to the design capabilities.

System Requirements – Runs under Microsoft Windows 3.1, 95, and NT. Requires 4MB RAM of free memory, a 386 or 486 (SX, DX, DX2) or Pentium that runs Windows; a display resolution of 640 x 480 or better. For acceptable performance, a 33 MHz 80486 or better CPU is recommended. For the best results with Designer, American Bevel recommends a 486 or Pentium processor and an accelerated Super-VGA display. You also need a Windows-supported mouse or equivalent pointing device.

Technical Support – Technical support is available via phone or e-mail. Users are required to complete the User’s Guide tutorial three times before calling for support. Says Ashoff, “We put a lot of effort into the tutorial so we could minimize the need for technical support.”

User’s Guide – The 177-page, in-depth guide provides simple illustrations, examples and vital information about the program. Help for all program features is available within the program itself.

The Program – Easy to learn and use, Designer is a CAD program created to deliver graphics capabilities which enable the artist to create professional-quality stained glass panels in less time. The program also can be used to create brochures, newsletters, charts and more. Says Ashoff, “This is a full CAD Program; we left nothing out.”

Some program highlights are as follows. Text capabilities: Designer provides WYSIWYG text editing, rotating text, text on a line and text that wraps to fit a specific shape, using any font or color you desire – al the power you would find in a word processor.

Drawing: You can scan designs into the program, import designs from other clip art libraries or you can create original drawings freehand by using the Node Toll. The Node Tool inserts nodes or small boxes which can be connected into lines, dragged to the desired locations and/or modified into different shapes. The Draw Tool allows the artist to create new lines freehand which can then be manipulated by controlling spacing between adjacent points.

Shape Tool and Shape Palette: To draw a lead border simply click on the Shape Tool and display the Shape Palette. The Shape Palette contains pre-drawn shapes, American Bevel clusters, lead border, straight-line bevels, arches, circles, and more. A customizing feature is also available. Clusters can be ungrouped, transferred and each piece of glass manipulating individually.

Explains Ashoff, “We design windows that require a 2-inch, glue-chipped border and two 1-by-1-inch bevel strips. The corner can be saved as a group and put into the shape palette. The next time we create a border, we click on the Shape Palette and drag the pre-drawn shape into our window design. It couldn’t be faster or easier. Thirty minutes of work has been reduced to one.”

Zoom Buttons: Changing the scale of your design and finding mistakes before finalizing a design are possible by using Zoom In, Zoom Out, and Zoom to Fit buttons.

Edit/Undo: The Edit/Undo operation allows you to edit as many as the last 10 moves.

Arrange and Transform: Designs can be flipped, scaled, moved, aligned, or rotated in any direction.

Color: You can select a solid color or gradient in linear, conical, radial or square format. Using the color wheel, you can specify any color you wish by typing in the Pantone Matching Systems number. You can select a bitmap of actual glass that has been scanned by the glass companies. Presently Designer has Spectrum Glass Company’s full library of glass on disk.

Importing: With Designer you can import directly from your scanner. It’s important to note, says Ashoff, “If you import or scan in a rose image from another CAD program, the rose will go in as one unit. All you can do it make it larger or smaller. You cannot move each petal or use different colors in different areas. This is true for all CAD programs.”

He continues, “But if you draw your design you are using, you CAN manipulate each separate element. That’s important when you start building a library of images. Pick a CAD program that’s going to be around in 10 years, because all the drawing you’ve done will be useful only as long as that program is still working and being supported.”

Exporting: “it is very important that your software is compatible with as much hardware as possible,” says Ashoff. “What use is your design if you cannot get it out of your computer?”

Designer supports a Windows-driven printer or plotter. It will print full size or with a click of the mouse it will print to an 8-1/2-by-11 sheet of paper for presentation. Designer will also delete all fills and print out only the glass cut lines for your building patterns.

Future Program Upgrades – “Our main theme with Designer is that it’s a work in progress,” says Ashoff. “We want to hear from the end-users as to what they want. There’s a bulletin board on out Web Site for people to share ideas and leave suggestions.”

Expect more glass companies to come on disk. Spectrum Glass Company’s library and 32-bit version will be available in June. This version will allow you to see the light behind the scanned images of glass.

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