personalised coaster wedding favours

Personalised coaster wedding favours

Posted Posted in Other, Wood

Personalised favours are becoming more popular for weddings. Regular enquiries come from couples for individual touches that will remind guests of their special day. Usually wedding favours are requested with occasional wedding logs and stationary embellishments.

Rustic coasters

Rachel’s son and his fiancee wanted rustic coasters engraved with details of their wedding to give to their guests as favours. Everyone uses coasters, and they can bring back happy memories every time they catch the eye.

Gill and Ali wanted to use slices of tree branches. They asked local company Thomson Timber to make them, and they very kindly recommended my engraving services.

Designing the artwork

Rachel popped round to the workshop with the coasters when they were ready. Most of them were around 85mm in diameter, and they were all different shapes as branches aren’t perfect circles in cross section as you can see in the photo below. Jim had finished them beautifully on their presentation sides, but made sure all the coasters still retained the rustic look that Gill and Ali wanted.

Rachel had a note of the text to be engraved. Each coaster was to be the same with the wedding venue, the couple’s names, and the date of their wedding.

I laid the three lines out, and we chose a font that Rachel was happy with, making Gill and Ali’s names the focal point. We chose a size for the artwork so it would still fit on the smaller coasters without looking squashed. Then I engraved a sample so Rachel could see how they’d look.

branch slices ready for engraving
branch slices ready for engraving

Engraving wedding favours

As the text was quite small and fine, I suggested engraving at a slower speed to keep the engravings crisp. This had the added advantage of giving the engravings more depth which helps fine detail to stand out more. Rachel was delighted with the results, and I engraved the rest of the coasters.


Have you got a product you’d like to develop but aren’t sure how? Contact us or ask for a quote.

Forsyth Dancing Shoes decoration

Forsyth Dancing Shoes decorations

Posted Posted in Corporate, Wood

Forsyth Dancing Shoes sells Highland dancing shoes and pumps.  As well as shoes, Nichola has other merchandise like tea towels,  greetings cards and notebooks decorated with  designs she commissioned. She thought that hanging decorations would be a good addition to their range.

Dancing shoes artwork

Nichola’s friend Louise McLaren is an artist based in Comrie. She makes paper cut designs and she creates the artwork for Forsyth Dancing Shoes’ merchandise. Louise adjusted the artwork she created for the greetings cards for the decorations and provided the design in a vector format for laser cutting because she knew that Nichola wanted shapes cut out rather than printed.

What material to choose?

Nichola emailed me the artwork and gave me a call to discuss ideas. She wanted something that would look good spray painted or as they are in a material that would be robust, light and cost effective.

I suggested 3mm ply and mdf, or 2mm mdf if Nichola wanted something even lighter. Plywood is a nice option as the wood grain is attractive, but mdf has a pleasing earthy appearance. Both options are good value and require similar cutting settings at the same thickness.

The artwork included lots of fine detail. Louise had done a good job of keeping the design details 2 to 3mm thick to keep them as robust as possible. Any of the materials I suggested would work well for this new product.

Nichola chose 3mm ply, and I sent her a photo of a prototype. She loved it!

Nichola sells her dancing shoes and other products online and at dancing competitions. Her new decorations will have their first outing at a competition in Inverness this weekend. Hopefully they will be a great addition to her range.


Have you got a product you’d like to develop but aren’t sure how? Contact us or ask for a quote.

Prototyping perspex brooches

Prototyping perspex brooches

Posted Posted in Perspex, Prototyping

Rosemary wanted to design a range of perspex brooches, but she needed to find someone to help her laser cut them. This is our journey together to create her first new product and the role that prototypes played in perfecting the design.

All prototyping starts with the artwork

There are two things to decide at the beginning of a laser cutting project. Artwork is a very important element to get right, so I pointed Rosemary to Artwork website page and my blog about designing artwork for laser cutting. These pages summarise what I would need to cut her products. Rosemary knew she wanted to work with perspex and I suggested that 3mm was robust enough.

Within a couple of weeks, Rosemary was in touch with her Frankie Frog design.

Initial design

Frankie Frog was in two layers. There was a yellow base layer with an external cut out shape and an engraved eye that Rose wanted fill in engraved, and a green top layer. The external shape matched the yellow layer, but there were three cut out body panels to show the yellow underneath. An eye was cut out and there were some lines to vector engrave showing leg and back outlines.

As a reality check, I found some leftover green and yellow perspex and cut one of each shape. It was a promising start, but seeing the shapes in my hand showed flagged up some areas for improvement.

Frankie’s toes were quite thin and I worried that even when the two layers of the brooches were glued together, they could break easily. Also, the cut out areas in the green later for the nose, throat and tummy left thin edge strips that weren’t very strong. The engraved eye didn’t show up well on the yellow, and the engraved lines on the green were so close to the cut outs that they got lost.

At the top of the post you can see the first prototype on the left.

Dolly Dimple Designs
Frankie Frog from initial sketch to final product

Second brooch prototype

I recommendations to Rose were that the following actions could improve the product.

  1. the toes should be made sturdier and more robust
  2. the cut out panels could be moved away from the body outline to make the narrow strips thicker
  3. the cut out panels should also be reshaped to move them away from the vector engraved lines for definition
  4. move the nose further away from the edge
  5. the yellow eye detail should be cut out instead of engraved

When she saw the picture of the first prototype, she agreed, made some changes and sent new files. You can see the second prototype on the right in the picture at the top. The changes worked and we had a final design after only two iterations. Very efficient!

When the perspex arrived, I made Rose’s first order. Within a few weeks, I had helped Rose take her initial designs through to a new product that she was really happy with.

Dolly Dimple’s new Etsy shop

Rose assembled her frog pieces and finished everything to her liking. Now Frankie Frog is up for sale in her shiny new Etsy shop and she’s working away on some new designs!


Have you got a product you’d like to develop but aren’t sure how? Contact us or ask for a quote.

Branded plywood knitting needle gauges

Branded plywood knitting needle gauges

Posted Posted in Prototyping, Wood

Ella from Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wood Brokers contacted me. She wondered if I could design and make custom knitting needle gauges from wood. They wanted to sell on their website and at shows. In her email, she sent me a photo of something she liked and a copy of their logo.

Designing wooden knitting needle gauges

As I’m not a graphic designer, I don’t often do design work for customers unless they involve simple shapes and text, or laying out artwork elements.

In this case, Ella wanted a circular gauge with their logo in the centre. Their address, web address and phone number was to be engraved symmetrically around it with all the holes and their sizes around the edge of the gauge. Ella wanted the product to be 4 inches in diameter. I knew I could do this.

I suggested that 3mm birch plywood would be ideal for the gauges. They’d be light, robust and beautiful, and all the engraved fine detail of the logo and text would be clear and easy to read. Ella agreed, and I designed a prototype that Ella and her colleagues approved.

Checking the hole sizes

I laser cut a sample, but I wanted the holes to be checked to make sure that the sizes were spot on.

I could only post it after the Beast from the East snow had melted! Ella tested each of the 16 holes for fit. Some of the smallest holes were too big, so I made two more prototypes to test.

Ella sent me lots of needles so I could work out what was best to do. I decided that all the holes of 3mm diameter and above were fine as each needle tested fitted the correct hole only. I made the 2, 2.25, 2.5 and 2.75mm holes 0.2mm smaller. On the first prototype, some of them fitted the holes a size above.

Now we had a perfect prototype, Ella asked me to make a first production run. She had wanted them for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, but the Beast from the East and all the snow prevented that unfortunately. Plywood deliveries and the post were delayed, and I felt that prototype testing was essential.

For sale!

Ella and her colleagues are delighted with the gauges and that they could be made in Scotland. They proudly mention this on their website, and it’s something that’s becoming increasingly important to customers.

You can find the knotting needle gauges for sale here.


Have you got a product you’d like to develop but aren’t sure how? Contact us or ask for a quote.

Girls’ surfing championship trophy

Posted Posted in Other, Wood

Blackhouse Watersports were preparing to sponsor the Scottish National Surfing Championships in Thurso. Iona realised that they needed a surfing trophy for the Girls Under 18s champion and she was determined to create something special.

Surfing trophy ideas

Iona asked Frazer Reid of FAR Cabinet Makers if he could make a trophy out of wood and she wondered if I could engrave it. She gave me the wording that she wanted and the Blackhouse Watersports and Scottish Surfing Federations logos to acknowledge the event organisers and sponsors.

Iona wanted to add some artwork to make the trophy more interesting. She hunted for something with a surfing girl on it. I suggested that it would really help if the artwork was black and white and of high quality to make sure it could be rescalable with good results. Iona found a lovely graphic of a female surfer swimming underwater with her board. It was a vector which meant that I could remove elements that I didn’t want like the seabed and wafting seaweed. This simplified the artwork and tailored it to the trophy.

surfing trophy presented

Creating the trophy artwork proof

Iona gave me free reign to design something that I felt worked well with the wood. Frazer delivered the trophy, made from a beautiful piece of yew. He’d created a solid base with a flame shaped piece on top that was flat on one side for engraving with a sinuously curved back.

I laid out the artwork into a triangular arrangement with the award details at the top and the surfer swimming up towards it from below. At the bottom, I arranged the logos side by side. Iona approved the artwork proof, and I got to work.

Engraving a shaped trophy

While the facing side of the trophy was flat and easy to engrave, the back was unevenly shaped. How could I support it in the machine so it would sit securely and not wobble during production?

Simon from Simba Rods gave me a bean bag to engrave his awkwardly shaped fishing rods on. Would it work in here too? It was a perfect solution and it cradled the back of the trophy securely.

I used full power to engrave to get a good depth for the text and the surfer. I hadn’t engraved yew before. It’s classified as a hard softwood, and the engraves were good and crisp depth. As the logos were so detailed, I slowed the machine down to make them as sharp as possible.

Frazer picked it up for oiling and took it to Thurso as he was competing too. Yew has some lovely red and purple tones in its grain, and the oil brought them out beautifully.

Clover Christopherson won the trophy, and looked delighted with it and her achievement!


Have you got a product you’d like to develop but aren’t sure how? Contact us or ask for a quote.

Flahute Coffee Company signs

Flahute Coffee Company signs

Posted Posted in Signage, Wood

Alan from the Flahute Coffee Company asked if I could engrave some small signs. He wanted to mount them on strategic areas of his new coffee horse box.

Creative branding opportunity

Alan started his coffee business last year and converted a horse box as a portable coffee van. He decided to make a cover for the horse box tow bar from pieces of pallet that he’d colour washed with blue paint to match his branding. Another long piece was needed to span the width of the serving hatch. It would hide and protect the wires at the back of the waffle machines.

This box would act as a table where people could add milk and sugar to their teas and coffees, but Alan thought he could use the structure for branding and advertising too. Each piece would be engraved with Flahute’s web address and logo, and items on the menu.

When you only have a small area to work with, all space is at a premium and has to work hard for you!


Artwork and materials

Alan brought the pieces of wood to the workshop and emailed me vector files with the artwork. Each set of text was to be centrally located on each piece of wood, so I set them up in rectangles corresponding to the three sizes of the wooden pieces provided.
Then I engraved each strip of wood with full power to achieve a strong 3D effect. When this happens, there’s more risk of burned resin darkening the area around the engravings. There wasn’t much in this case, and it added to the effect that Alan wanted anyway.

Useful and beautiful

Alan collected the pieces and built up his box, and it’s really effective. All the photos were provided by him.
Have you got a product you’d like to develop but aren’t sure how? Contact us or ask for a quote.