Bespoke keyrings for Burntisland Prinary School

Bespoke keyrings for Burntisland Primary School

Posted Posted in Other, Wood

Burntisland Primary School wanted to have some bespoke keyrings made. A week before the school broke up for summer, they decided to act quickly so they could be given to the teachers as thankyou gifts.

Meeting a tight budget

One of the parents at the school works with wood and can generate computer based artwork, so they asked him if he could help. Once he had an idea of what they wanted, he got in touch with me and we discussed materials, thicknesses and designs that could work well.

Which material to choose?

As the budget was tight, I suggested using 3mm plywood. It’s good value, robust and tactile, and looks woody. Choosing a thinner material means that cutting will be faster, making production time shorter, keeping costs down. And I had some in stock so I could make the keyrings quickly.

We discussed Perspex as it’s colourful, but it costs a lot more than plywood. The only option that would have been slightly cheaper than plywood is mdf, but it wouldn’t look as nice.

Burntisland Prinary School keyring

Bespoke design

Jonnie said that the school were thinking about jigsaw piece shapes of around 50 x 60mm with a hole cut out for the split rings. I said that from experience, interesting shapes are more appealing than simple shapes like squares or rectangles. A jigsaw piece would be a fun and interesting shape, but would be robust in the parts of the design more vulnerable to breakage.

He asked if I could cut and engrave 70 keyrings from 3mm ply within a set budget. I thought I could, so he set about a final design for the school to approve.

Making the keyrings

After some thought, the school decided that the keyrings should be engraved with something fairly generic so that they could be used for different purposes. They chose ‘Team BPS’ with their motto, ‘Belong, Participate, Succeed’ below. After a final sanity check on my quote, Burntisland Primary School approved everything. I made a sample and sent a photo to Jonnie so he could see how they would look.

I made the keyrings that day. BPS were delighted with them, and with how quickly we had made this happen.

 

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https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=hInaK7mOToY
Vaccines facility sign for GSK

Vaccines facility sign for GSK

Posted Posted in Signage, Stainless steel, Thermark

GSK Montrose was preparing to open their first vaccines facility in the UK. This new £44 million manufacturing site will provide ingredients for more than 400 million vaccinations a year worldwide.

A commemorative plaque was required for the opening ceremony. Dave Mackenzie got in touch to ask if I could engrave a brushed stainless steel sign in time for 15th August when they were expecting the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to do the honours.

Proofs for sign

David sent over a couple of sign mock ups and a GSK logo. He wanted a plain font with the GSK logo in the top right corner. Unfortunately, the artwork was very pixellated and not of high enough resolution to deliver good engravings. To achieve the best results, I created the text in vector format, traced the orange GSK logo to turn it into a vector too and sent a proof to David for approval together with a quote.

David decided to supply the stainless steel plaques to get the size and thickness they wanted.

GSK sign zoom

How to engrave a stainless steel sign

Once David had approved the artwork and the stainless steel plates arrived, I could get to work.

As the laser isn’t powerful enough to engrave stainless steel, I used Thermark, a metal marking paste. It’s a mixture of glass particles and black pigment. Once it’s been spread on the surface to be engraved, it needs to be allowed to dry. Then engraving can commence.

When the laser engraves the paste, it melts the glass and traps the black pigment onto the surface of the metal. This process forms a thin layer of black enamel on the surface of the metal that can just be felt with a fingernail. It’s weatherproof and highly scratch resistant, making it perfect for outdoor display. And the matt black mark gives good contrast against the metal.

When the engraving was complete, the sign was rinsed to remove traces of the leftover paste.

David was pleased with the sign that arrived with time to spare, and the sun shone for the big day!

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oak sign for The Crepe Shack

Oak sign for The Crepe Shack

Posted Posted in Signage, Wood

Margaux Larg from The Crepe Shack contacted me because she wanted a new sign for her food truck. Like her friends at The Cheesy Toast Shack, she was taking her food van to the Edinburgh Festival and Margaux wanted a sign to show they sell drinks as well as crepes.

A long sign

Margaux wanted a long piece of oak that would span the width of the van’s serving hatch. I asked Margaux how long she wanted it to be as the laser bed is 1200 x 800mm. When she said 8” long, I asked whether she’d be happy to have it made in two parts so they would fit the machine. Initially, she said yes, but the more she thought about it, the more she knew that she really wanted it to be in one piece.

The Crepe Shack at the Edinburgh Festival
The Crepe Shack at the Edinburgh Festival

A bit of imagination

In the past, I have managed to set up the machine so that I can pass long things through the ‘letterboxes’ at the front and back of the laser. This works best if the items for engraving are up to 15mm thick, because I need vertical space to raise or lower the machine bed to maintain focus on the surface of the material. If I use the letterbox, I can’t lower the material as it’s sitting on the machine’s casing. If the material is thick, I can’t raise the bed much which makes it difficult to focus accurately.

When Margaux said that the oak was 15mm thick, I knew I could do it. Ben brought the oak round to the workshop and I got to work.

Splitting up the artwork

As the machine bed is 800mm wide, I checked the artwork from Hasta Inc to see how I could break it down neatly to engrave it in sections. The total engraved length was 2261mm with a logo at each end and five words in between. I worked out that I could engrave it in four sections – first, the left logo and ‘hot chocolate’, then ‘coffee tea’, then ‘soft drinks’, and finally ‘water’ and the logo on the right. It was going to be a fiddle and take longer than if it were done in two pieces, but it would be worth it.

Breaking up the artwork for engraving
Breaking up the artwork for engraving

Engraving in sections

First, I slid one end of the oak into the laser. I held it against the side of the machine so that I could change the position of the wood easily for the next engraving.

I deleted all the artwork except for the left logo and ‘hot chocolate’ and created a rectangle containing them. This included space from the end of the wood to the left edge of the logo for positioning. Then I set up the laser’s origin at the top right corner of the wood and started to engrave.

Crepe Shack first engraving
Crepe Shack first engraving

When the first section was finished (see picture above), I set up the second section of artwork. To get the right spacing between ‘chocolate’ and ‘coffee’, I created a rectangle that started from the edge of the last ‘e’ of ‘chocolate’ and ended at the right edge of ‘tea’. The artwork breakdown picture above shows this clearly. Before engraving, I moved the wood deeper into the machine so that it protruded through the back ‘letterbox’ and aligned the laser head with the last ‘e’ of ‘chocolate’. Then I engraved ‘coffee tea’.

Next, I had to remove the wood from the machine and turn it around, feeding the unengraved end into the machine. I continued to process the artwork as I did for the first two engravings. This time, I rotated the text and logos 180 degrees so that it wouldn’t appear upside down on the sign!

Margaux was delighted with her new sign. She posted a photo on Instagram when the van was set up in Edinburgh and tagged me in so I could see it. It’s such a lovely piece of oak and it looks beautiful in one piece.

The Crepe Shack is near the Gilded Balloon box office for the duration of the festival. Check it out if you’re in the area!

 

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tartan installation with Glenfiddich artist

Tartan installation with Glenfiddich artist

Posted Posted in Artists, Perspex

Jeehee Park is an artist in residence at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Aberdeenshire. She planned to create an art installation using Perspex to create an effect like tartan for an exhibition at the distillery, and she needed help with laser cutting and engraving them.

Maximum panel size

Jeehee had created pieces in a similar vein before, but wanted to experiment with her ideas further. She sent artwork for two large panels at 1200 x 800mm, the largest size that I could cut. Four smaller panels to create a box effect were also required, along with lots of small square spacers to help with assembling the piece.

Engraving clear Perspex

The Perspex for the panels was all clear and colourless. Jeehee wanted lots of parallel lines vector engraved across their widths. This effect works well on clear acrylic as the lines catch the light and look white, a subtle effect which becomes more pronounced the deeper the engrave is.

Jeehee wanted the engraved lines to be 2 – 3mm deep into the 10mm thick panels rather than just on the surface to catch the light in the way that she wanted. As I knew that I’d need to use a power equivalent to cutting 3mm perspex, I left the protective film on the engraved sides of the Perspex during production. It protects the surface from the heat of the laser which turns Perspex cloudy white around the engraved lines.

Test piece

Jeehee asked for a sample so that she could see exactly how the effect would work. Then she could make changes before I cut and engraved the large panels. She was very pleased and wondered whether to make the lines deeper, but was worried that the Perspex panels might bend under their weight if they were engraved too deeply. In the end, she decided to err on the safe side and asked me to proceed with 2 – 3mm depth as we had agreed.

Making the panels

I ordered sheets that were 1220 x 820mm to give a little margin without much wastage. First, I engraved the lines on the panels and then cut the rectangles to keep the edges as smooth as possible. If I had cut the rectangles first, the engraved lines would have made grooves on the cut edges.

My biggest challenge was finding a carrier to ship a parcel that was 1300 x 900mm and weighing 27kg. 10mm Perspex is very heavy in large sheets. Most couriers won’t take heavy parcels in such large dimensions.

The finished installation

Jeehee was delighted with the panels when they arrived at the distillery. After a few weeks of suspense while she assembled the piece,  I was blown away when she sent these photos taken by John Paul. I love the way the horizontal engraved and vertical colour elements work together.

The current exhibition featuring this work is open until Sunday 20th August.

 

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sandford country cottages keyrings

Sandford Country Cottages keyrings

Posted Posted in Designers, Wood

Evelyn Hardie from Sandford Country Cottages got in touch. She and her husband have six holiday cottages at their lovingly restored Arts and Crafts property, Sandford House in North East Fife. As a finishing touch, she wanted to create beautiful wooden keyrings for her customers to use.

Pieces of oak

You can never go wrong with oak. It’s so beautiful and looks wonderful when engraved. Evelyn’s joiner created fobs from leftover oak complete with drilled and countersunk holes, and she brought them around to the workshop for engraving.

Keyring artwork

As Evelyn is a designer, she created all the artwork for the keyrings herself. She wanted all the keyrings to have the Sandford Country Cottages logo engraved on one side and the cottage names on the other side. Three keyrings were needed for each cottage, plus a master keyring with the logo engraved on both sides.

Evelyn set up the artwork in rectangles representing the oak blocks so that the engravings would be correctly positioned on each keyring. Locations of the holes were shown on the artwork as a reference so I knew where the engravings should be in relation to them.

Sandford keyrings artwork

Engraving the keyrings

Evelyn had been concerned that the fine nature of her logo would be a problem when the keyrings were engraved. I knew the engravings would look good if I used the correct machine settings.

I always slow the machine down for fine work to make sure that the edges of engravings look sharp. They can look ragged if a higher speed is used. I knew that the logos would look best if the engravings were a good depth. A more pronounced 3D effect gives fine engravings better definition.

When machine speed is halved, the power required can be halved to compensate for the dwell time of the laser on the material doubling. I did some tests before I started production to get the right look.

Evelyn loved the keyrings and took them home to treat them with a protective finish. As well as protecting the wood, it also enhanced the engravings further. She sent this picture of them all finished and ready for her customers to use.

 

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Signs for The Cheesy Toast Shack

Signs for The Cheesy Toast Shack

Posted Posted in Recycled wood, Signage

Kate Carter from The Cheesy Toast Shack got in touch a few weeks ago. She was preparing to take her food truck to the Edinburgh Festival, and wanted some big new menu boards. As The Cheesy Toast Shack would be located near the Gilded Balloon with other food vans, she wanted her signs to stand out.

Getting the look right

Kate makes the best cheese toasties. As she uses a hotplate and hot irons to heat and compress the toasties, she wanted to go for a rough and ready branded look. After she saw the signs I had engraved on pieces of recycled scaffolding boards for Blackhouse Watersports in Tiree, she knew that was the look she wanted. Her partner Sam was happy to chop up recycled scaffolding boards once she knew what sizes she needed.

Sizing the signs

Kate wanted to know how big she could have the signs. As the laser can accommodate pieces up to 1330mm long, that worked for her as she wanted 800 to 1000mm.

She wanted to arrange the signs in groups on each side of the truck, with one side dedicated to vegetarian options. Each set would have a logo, three menu boards, allergy information and a ‘Make Grilled Cheese Great Again’ slogan. Drinks options to be suspended from the canopy over the serving hatch. Robbie from Hasta Inc prepared the artwork, designing in flaws so that the engravings would look uneven in places to add to the branded effect.

The Cheesy Toast Shack sign

Engraving the signs

Sam prepared the wood and brought the pieces to the workshop. Their surfaces were rough and some of the metal protective strips were still on the ends of some of the boards which were still damp from being outside.

I had shown Kate and Sam various examples of how engraving could look on different woods. We agreed that the deepest, darkest engrave possible would look best and give a good 3D effect. I added that engraving under these conditions could leave a dirty effect around the engravings which could be sanded off, the extent of which would be to do with the wood. More resinous woods like soft woods could be more affected. Kate thought that this would only add to the effect that she was after, and had seen it on Blackwater’s signs.

As time was tight before the Fringe began, I got to work straight away. After increasing the sizes of the artwork to make the text as bold as possible, it took me about a day to engrave all 15 signs. It turned out that the wetness of the wood enhanced the dirty appearance of the engravings, and Kate loved it!

Cheesy Toast Shack sign 2

Finishing touches

Kate had bought four gorgeous ochre suede welder aprons for her staff to use.  She wondered if I could engrave The Cheesy Toast Shack logo on them. After a successful test where I worked out the best machine settings to use, I engraved them all.

Kate also wanted to have some numbers for the prices laser cut from 3mm plywood. Then she could attach them to the boards and change them if required. We picked the Arial bold font to make them as chunky as possible, and added holes for nails or screws.

Kate was delighted with everything. Five hours after she’d picked everything up, the truck was all dressed up with pictures posted on Instagram!

If you’re in the area, look them up. They’re at the Gilded Balloon for the duration of the Festival.

 

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