how to brand furniture

How to brand furniture

Posted Posted in Artwork, Furniture, How to, Wood

Colin Semple Furniture Design got in touch with LaserFlair because Colin was looking for a way to brand his furniture. There aren’t many ways for furniture makers to leave a lasting mark on their pieces, and Colin had an idea of how he wanted to do this.

Colin’s specification

Colin wanted to have his logo engraved on shapes of wood that he could mount strategically on a range of items. And he wanted something that would look beautiful! He knew that solid wood would give the right look, and decided on oak which always engraves well. To make it easy to use them, he required regularly shaped pieces that would be easy to insert into holes for a flush fit. A 50mm diameter disc 6mm thick was settled on as a good size that would keep each piece robust and the logo readable.

Detailed logo

The greatest challenge that this project presented to LaserFlair was getting the engraving right.

Colin’s logo is very detailed and in colour. Laser engraving works best with black and white (no greyscale) where the laser either engraves or doesn’t engrave. So to keep the detail while losing the colour, Colin wanted the C and S of his initials fill in engraved. The rest of his name engraved in outline so it appeared white inside. The tree trunk and canopy required similar treatment.

To achieve this, the logo had to be converted into a vector format made up of lines rather than pixels. This meant that individual elements could be picked out to be engraved in different ways. This stage was far more time consuming than the production phase, but it only needed to be done once.

Once Colin was happy with the prototypes, we made the first batch of discs. He sent me this picture of one that he had cleverly concealed in the side of a drawer.

restored farm kist

Restored farm kist

Posted Posted in Artwork, Furniture, How to

John from Firhills Farm in Arbroath was on a mission. He wanted to restore the old farm kist (Scots blanket box) that they take to agricultural shows where they show their Charolais cattle, beautiful creatures with gorgeous curly creamy coats. We’ve helped furniture makers create personalised features on new pieces, so when John and his wife got in touch, we were keen to help.

Something special

This kist had been in the family for years and it needed some love after years of hard service on the farm. It was old and battered, and if something wasn’t done soon, the kist was likely to fall apart.

As Christmas loomed, John decided that restoring it would be a great gift idea for his dad. He wanted to make it special and memorable, a talking point that would be much admired by their farming colleagues. It was to be the family’s pride and joy, an emblem of their family business and their prized cattle for years to come.

Restoration process

John had done a lot of the work himself on the structure of the kist. A family friend had drawn the Charolais bull and painted the Union flag onto the lid. As a finishing touch, he asked LaserFlair if we could laser engrave ‘Firhills Charolais’ around the painting.

He detached the lid from the kist and made an appointment to bring it to our workshop. Together, we selected a font that was chunky and bold. Copperplate Gothic Bold was perfect. All the letters are upper case so the text is bold and clear, and it has elegance too.

We created the artwork for the text and centrally justified the two words in rectangles at the top and bottom of the lid. This would align the words nicely in the spaces between the painting and the edges of the kist.

When the artwork was ready, we put the lid on the laser bed. We realised when we measured up the lid as we created the artwork that it wasn’t a perfect rectangle. One end of the kist was wider than the other by 7mm! So we made up the artwork based on the smaller measurements.

John wanted a deep engrave to complement the chunkiness of the kist. The first pass was good, but we engraved another pass to add more depth as the engraving itself didn’t take too long. John, his wife and their small son enjoyed watching the engraving process. With jobs like this, having the customer there to give immediate feedback is very helpful.

Restored to its former glory

John was delighted with the results and knew that his dad would be too. Once he had finished the kist a couple of months later, he sent us a picture.

In March, we heard from John again. They had been to a show with the restored kist for the first time, and he wanted to say how pleased they were with it and how much it had been admired. The kist is used for storing show rosettes and beer amongst other things, and acts as a useful seat occasionally. Now it’s beautiful as well as useful.

community art project stencils

Community art project stencils

Posted Posted in Artists, Artwork, Mylar, Signage

Pat Bray, a local artist, won a commission for an art project for Letham Glen, a lovely park in Leven, Fife.

Pat designed 37 stencils with interesting facts about the park’s history. She included stories of local witches and ghosts, performing bears, and the local miners who built the swimming pool.

The stencils were to be used with chalk spray to create signs on the ground at points of interest around the park.

Choosing materials

First, we selected a material for the stencils. It was important that the stencils were easy to carry around the park for spraying. They also had to be waterproof so they could be used outdoors, placed on the ground for spraying and washed off without damaging them.

Pat chose mylar. It’s a light, flexible, waterproof plastic, and perfect for laser cutting. It’s very robust too, so the small pieces between letters are strong enough to withstand regular usage.

Choosing a font

Next, we had to choose a font for the text. Pat wanted the insides of letters like p to remain as part of the stencil, so we picked a stencil font. There are lots to choose from, so we selected a clear one that was easy to read. The stencils had to be legible when placed on the floor.

Finally, Pat decided to have two stencil sizes. Six of the stencils had more text than the others, so we created large and small stencils to make sure all the text was legible and the text on all the stencils was the same size.

Pat was delighted with the stencils. They have withstood the rigours of park life well! They’re robust enough to use again and again to entertain and inform visitors to the park.

how to create a giant jigsaw puzzle

How to create a giant jigsaw puzzle

Posted Posted in Artwork, Designers, Exhibitions, How to, Wood

FifeX designs, creates and installs bespoke interactive products, exhibitions and educational resources. They’re based nearby in Tayport. Ken Boyd approached us to help them produce two A2 sized jigsaw puzzles for their customer, REME Museum of Technology. REME wanted to replace two puzzles that were worn out as they had been so well used by visitors.

The museum had two images that they wanted to make into jigsaws. We thought long and hard about the best materials to use and how to cut the pieces accurately, and came up with a plan.

Choosing a material

Firstly, we had to select a material to make the jigsaws from. We settled on 6mm birch plywood because it laser cuts well and wood is a lovely, chunky material to handle. Being pale in colour, the pictures would show up clearly. Also, the wood grain would be visible through the print, a lovely feature. And plywood is robust, chunky and lightweight, very important considerations when the product is designed with younger visitors in mind.

Creating the jigsaw

Once the customer had chosen the material, LaserFlair cut two A2 sized shapes from 6mm plywood and sent them to the printer. They applied the pictures and returned the panels to LaserFlair for cutting into jigsaw pieces.

FifeX found a piece of software for designing jigsaw piece layouts and shapes. It created vector lines that the laser can follow to cut the lines between the pieces. We could select how many pieces we wanted in the x and y axes, and choose regularly or irregularly shaped pieces. We decided on 20 pieces to make each piece the size that the customer wanted, and selected an irregular cutting pattern for more interest. Then we laser cut the puzzle.

The whole process was a great success. This picture shows one of the jigsaws sitting on the laser bed after cutting.

Engraving granny's handwriting

Engraving granny’s handwriting

Posted Posted in Artwork, How to, Wood

A customer asked if I could laser engrave six wooden chopping boards with her granny’s Highlander recipe as gifts for her family for Christmas. To make the gifts extra special, she had scanned her granny’s recipe from her old recipe book. She  wondered if we could engrave the boards to look as if her granny had written the recipe on the boards herself.

My customer prepared the artwork herself and got it right first time.

Scanning handwriting for laser engraving

We need artwork for engraving in black and white with no greyscale. This is very important because the laser either engraves or doesn’t engrave. It engraves black and doesn’t engrave white. If the artwork is greyscale, the software interprets greys as being either dark enough to be black or pale enough to be white and engraves accordingly. The laser creates shades of grey in the way that old fashioned newsprint did, by engraving concentrations of black pixels. As the laser engraves each black pixel, black and white artwork works best.

It is also important that if artwork if presented in jpg, png or bitmap format (as my customer did), the graphics must be of print quality, in other words, 300dpi or greater. Unwanted pixellation will be engraved, so customers should provide good, clean unpixellated images for best results. Engraving is only as good as the artwork is.

Engraving the boards

The text was very fine, as you’d expect from handwriting. We performed some test engraves and got good results using a deep engrave to give the text good definition. My customer loved the engraved boards. Having a fresh reminder of her granny in her kitchen was special as she prepared to start her own family.

How to engrave curved surfaces

How to engrave curved surfaces

Posted Posted in Artwork, Corporate, How to, Other, Wood

We can engraved curved surfaces as well as flat ones, but it depends on the curve and the material. Here’s an example.

We engraved these beautiful beech coffee tamper handles for Made by Knock for their customer, Machina Espresso. They’re so tactile, and are perfect for engraving if you can work with the curved surface. That was the biggest challenge, along with getting the logo centred on the top. You can easily spot if engravings are out by a millimetre.

It’s all about focus

The principle is that flat surfaces should be engraved. This is because the laser beam is focussed vertically onto a horizontal surface. The distance between the lens and the material surface is crucial for high quality engraving. Lenses have specific focal lengths that should be adhered to for best results. Even a tolerance of plus or minus 1mm can be a problem depending on the material used and the lens selected.

These principles need to be adhered to more for sensitive materials like acrylic and metal where a reduction in engraving quality is very easy to spot. Wood, on the other hand, is much more forgiving.

My secret weapon

My secret weapon is my 100mm lens. It allows me to work with a curve of around 8mm, particularly if the material is forgiving like wood is. I’ve used it to engrave these tamper handles and mini wooden baseball bat muddlers for mixing cocktails. It is still important to keep engravings on relatively flat areas for best results.

Before we went into production, we engraved Machina Espresso’s logo on a few tamper handle seconds to judge the largest size the logo could be engraved to keep the logos on the flattest part of the handles. It was important to know at what size engraving quality would deteriorate, and to make sure that engraving results would be consistently high quality.