how to engrave a bench

How to engrave a bench

Posted Posted in Furniture, How to, Wood

Have you ever wondered how to laser engrave a bench? Garry Macfarlane from Freckle Furniture did. He received two commissions for benches with engraved pieces simultaneously! He asked us if we could help.

The bench in the picture was commissioned as a retirement gift. Colleagues wanted the logo of the fisheries organisation where they all worked together on the back top beam of the bench. For the front seat rail under the seat, they chose a Gaelic inscription – ‘Mur a bheil e agad, na cuir air tìr e’. Garry and I still don’t know what it means, so let me know if you do!

Designing the bench

There was no way that we could put the complete bench into the laser machine. It was far too large! When Garry was designing the bench, we discussed what dimensions of wood would fit into the machine when we were ready to engrave. Garry built the bench himself from oak. Before he assembled it, he brought the pieces to be engraved to my workshop.

Setting up the artwork

Garry supplied the blue and white SFO logo from the customer and he wanted it resized to 132mm. I usually ask for black and white artwork, but there was enough contrast between the blue and white shapes for the laser to detect which areas were to be to engraved.

I set up the Gaelic inscription. Text is easy to create once the customer has chosen the font and the size for engraving. Garry wanted a reasonably plain but classic font with something a little different, so we chose the Nyala font.

Size constraints and getting around them

The back top beam measured 1480 x 124 x 38mm and the front seat rail 1480 x 76 x 38mm. The maximum width we can fit into the machine is 1330mm, but as our machine has letterbox slits at the front and back, we can set up pieces with sections protruding through the front and back of the machine. That’s what we did with the bench pieces.

Engraving the bench

As all the wood sections would be lined up vertically in the machine, I set up the text and logo for engraving vertically too. Garry wanted the text and logo to be located centrally on each piece of wood. We identified the horizontal and vertical centres and made a small pencil mark that could be rubbed or engraved off.

When I positioned the wood in the machine, I set up the laser so that it was lined up over the pencil marks. Text length was kept within 800mm, the height of the machine bed, so that it could be engraved at one go. The text was easy to align as it was engraved on a rectangular section of wood.

But Garry had designed the back top rail into a curve with a point in the middle. This made things more interesting! We made a similar pencil mark to identify where he wanted the centre of the logo to be. Then I set up the wood in the machine in a similar way.

We did a nice heavy engrave for a good 3D effect. Having Garry there to give feedback during production meant that I could check each detail with him as we went along. He was delighted with the results, and returned to his workshop to finish and assemble the two benches.

 

 

Cambo Estate's wooden keyrings

Cambo Estate’s wooden keyrings

Posted Posted in Artwork, Corporate, Wood

Cambo Estate decided to have new keyrings made for their guest accommodation. They wanted to use chunky fobs of wood from the estate and engrave them with their logo on one side and accommodation details on the other side. We knew that the logo would be a challenge as it’s highly detailed. How would it look when scaled right down?

Engraving room names

Once the wooden blocks were ready, we could begin. They were 80 x 30mm, and felt smooth, chunky and light in the hand. Large enough to be hard to loose, but small enough to be easily carried!

Cambo wanted the text to be raster (fill in) engraved for maximum impact. They provided the artwork for all the accommodation names in black and white pdf files, which was perfect as it ensures good engraving quality. Text for each name was shown in rectangles representing the fob size so the engravings were located where the customer wanted them, offset to the right to leave room for holes to be drilled.

As the engravings were a good size, we engraved using our usual machine settings for wood. We had to secure the fobs in the machine to stop them from moving during production. Compressed air is blown at 1.5bar at the engraved surface to get best results, and this can blow small items out of place.

Engraving the Cambo Estate logo

Cambo’s logo is very detailed. It’s difficult to downscale logos like so that fine detail isn’t lost. In this case, the bird and the sheaf of wheat at the top of the logo and the helmet were the most vulnerable areas. It they engraved well at the size required, the logo would look fine.

Again, the customer supplied the logo as a black and white pdf.  We had to rescale the logo dramatically to fit the fobs. Using vector artwork means that this can be done with no reduction in artwork quality.

Struan and Frances were open minded about how they wanted the logo to appear on the keyrings. Would the logo look better engraved at the bottom of vertical keyrings or in the middle of horizontal keyrings (pictured)? From the start, I was sure that the latter option would be better as the logo could be made bigger, increasing the chances of success.

We did sample raster engraves of both options. My hunch was right. Horizontally engraved keyrings looked good and were just big enough to see all the detail. Including the text, the logo is 24 x 36mm, and the coat of arms alone is tiny at 13 x 15mm.

A lot of details were lost on the vertical sample.  Unfortunately, it was just too small to work well.

Cambo approved the horizontal option, and we engraved all the backs of the keyrings. We used a much slower speed to engrave the logos – a quarter of the speed used to engrave the accommodation names! This kept the logo as sharp as possible. We also engraved the coat of arms with more power than the text underneath to give more definition.

Finishing touches

Cambo drilled and countersunk holes in all the engraved fobs ready for the split ring keyring hoops.

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!