How to make a Pepper's Ghost installation

Pepper’s Ghost installation

Posted Posted in Artists, Perspex

Angus was a 6th Form student at St Leonard’s School in St Andrews. He created this project as part of his studio work for the IB Visual Arts course.

Victorian illusion

The Pepper’s Ghost technique has been used by magicians and illusionists since Victorian times. More recently, music festivals have used it to create interesting visual effects. That’s how Angus first became aware of it.

Creating the right artwork

Angus wanted to create each part of the illusion by laser cutting three panels of black acrylic. He wanted the first sheet cut with face details, the second sheet cut with stars and the third with cloud details. He chose 3mm acrylic as it was robust enough for the job. It was important that light wouldn’t pass through the body of the material to spoil the effect of light travelling through the holes in it.

In order to laser cut the black acrylic, I needed vector files. Shapes for each star and each cloud outline must be surrounded by a single hairline vector line that the laser can follow. Angus and the school Art Department had no previous experience of laser cutting, and none of their artwork packages were able to generate vector artwork, so there was a learning curve to climb until I had the files I needed. Sometimes artwork creation can be the trickiest stage of a project.

Creating the illusion using acrylic

To create the Pepper’s Ghost illusion, Angus laid each of the laser cut black panels flat on a light box. You can just make out all three sitting one behind the other in the picture. The clouds are at the front, the stars behind that and the face is at the back.

Light shone from the light box through the laser cut holes in the black acrylic. This light was reflected in the clear acrylic sheets set above the black panels at 45 degrees, facing the viewer. You can see the front clear acrylic panel easily.

The transparent image appearing at 90 degrees to the black acrylic sheets. It incorporates the reflections from the layers of light reflected by the clear acrylic. All three reflected images superimpose to create the illusion of Angus’ face floating in the night sky. It’s an impressive effect and Angus’ ambitious installation was a huge success.

Each year, the Art Department has a show of pupil’s artwork for different year groups.

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.

SEPA flood education models

SEPA flood education models

Posted Posted in Exhibitions, Perspex

FifeX asked us to help with an educational project for SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency). They wanted some bespoke models to help to educate schools and other groups about flooding and its effects including broken trees, damage to property including buildings and vehicles, and infrastructure like roads. These models would have to be robust and stand up to handling by groups of all ages.

Choosing materials

Fifex knew that Perspex would be perfect for the job. It can be sourced in a wide range of colours and can be cut into intricate shapes. They decided on 5mm thick Perspex to make the shapes sturdy, and they designed the pieces so that the car, house and tree shapes could slot into bases. 3D models would have more impact and make them easier to handle.

A good fit

The main challenge was to make sure that the tabs and slots on the shapes and the model bases fit together well. If they were too loose, the models wouldn’t be robust enough when glued together. If too tight, they wouldn’t fit together at all! When materials are laser cut, the width of the cut is determined by the nature and thickness of the material. It’s always worth checking the artwork by making prototypes so that dimensions can be adjusted if necessary. Also, material thicknesses can be nominal and have margins for error, so it’s always worth checking. In this case, we got it right first time and the fit was perfect.

 

SEPA flood model laser cut car
laser cut car

Feedback

Ken Boyd, Director of FifeX, said, ‘Laser cutting the shapes was a fantastic solution for us as the models were to look accessible for a young audience with fun, interesting and recognisable shapes. Brightly coloured Perspex was the perfect material. LaserFlair helped us with initial prototyping and a very quick turn-around on the final product as well as some spares and extra bits.’

how unicorns are made

How unicorns are made

Posted Posted in Artists, Designers, How to, Signage, Wood

InkPaintPaper is an artist and illustrator in Norfolk. She makes hand painted personalised plywood decorations and signs, all to her own design.

She had ideas for new products to add to her plywood signs line. One of her wrapping paper designs has a unicorn motif, the same one that she has on her logo, and she thought it would be a fun shape for bedroom door signs. So she got in touch with LaserFlair to discuss the feasibility of her plan.

Product development

InkPaintPaper and I have worked together for a few years now. She knows that we need vector artwork to cut out shapes and understands that chunky shapes are most robust. Her artwork was perfect first time with a single hairline line surrounding each unicorn. The most vulnerable point was where the unicorn’s tail meets its body, but at 10mm wide, it not a cause for concern, especially as she wanted to use 4mm laser ply. Being formed from laminated layers in birch, plywood is inherently strong and the unicorns would would be robust enough to send through the post.

Prototypes

This was a pretty straight forward product development project. InkPaintPaper knew exactly what she wanted, her artwork was good, the product robust and the material choice clear.

We laser cut some prototype unicorns for InkPaintPaper to decorate and test the market with. She hand painted them and got feedback via social media. It wasn’t long before she came back with an order for a production run of unicorns in the run up to Christmas!

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.

beard comb branding

Beard comb branding

Posted Posted in Corporate, How to, Other, Recycled wood, Wood

Bearded Basturds is a Dunfermline based startup company with a range of beard oils and waxes that don’t contain harsh chemicals or alcohol.

Craig started to get inquiries for beard combs from customers. He wanted something wooden if possible, and wondered if it might be an option to have them laser engraved with his logo. So he got in touch with LaserFlair to see if we could help.

On his search for fabulous and original beard combs, Craig came across The Upcycled Timber Company, a start up based in Glenrothes. They make all sorts of things from recycled wooden whisky barrels, and now they make chunky and manly combs for Bearded Basturds too. Each one is unique with a slightly different shape as they are all handmade.

Making prototypes

Craig brought some sample combs round to our workshop to test engrave them. He decided that he wanted his beard logo on one side and the company name on the other. Getting the size of the text and logo just right for the combs would be important for product aesthetics. In addition, we knew that a good 3D effect would complement the combs’ rugged appearance.

We made the engraving for the text deeper than for the beard logo. A deeper engrave makes finer features like text stand out more. Larger engraved areas don’t need as much depth relatively as finer engraving. So although the engravings were done at different power settings, they look similar in depth which is what Craig wanted.

In the engraved beard logos especially, the light and dark growth rings in the wood are highlighted. Engraving is deeper over the less dense spring/summer growth rings, and shallower over the denser autumn/winter growth rings. You can see this in the picture, and it is clearer in the logo than the text. This is one of my favourite features of laser engraved wood.

It has been wonderful to work with two other local companies to make such an original product with a good story. The engraved beard combs look amazing, and we’re really proud of what we’ve created together.