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.
Author Interior's antique wooden sign

Author Interior’s antique wooden sign

Posted Posted in Corporate, Wood

Author Interiors got in touch to ask if I could laser engrave an interesting piece of wood for them.

Jane launched her business last year in London. She curates a collection of beautifully crafted pieces for the home, all designed and made by UK makers, from furniture to wallpaper. Jane wanted a gorgeous sign with her logo and web address to welcome her guests to the Scottish opening of Author Interiors at Custom Lane in Leith last week.

An antique board with a story

When Catriona showed me photos of the wood, I was intrigued. It was big and chunky and ornately carved. Catriona said it’s an antique piece that Jane found as a pair in London ten years ago. An antique dealer told her he thought they were originally horse name plaques from a stable. And now this one had a new role to play in Author Interior’s new story!

When the wood arrived, I discussed with Jane where she wanted the engravings. She wanted to put everything on the large scroll area in the middle. The challenge was how to locate both engravings where Jane wanted them whist keeping them away from the old dark wood coatings that would give the engravings less contrast.

Author’s logo

Jane wanted her logo in the middle on the stripped area of wood for maximum impact. It was to be wide enough to fill the width but remain on the flat area. She wanted the web address to be removed enough from the logo so it would stand out, but located on a relatively stripped area of wood too so it wouldn’t be lost. You can see the video if it being engraved above.

I used a high power setting to achieve a good depth of engrave. Author’s logo is very fine, even although Jane’s designer had beefed up the line thicknesses. Fine lines usually benefits from a deeper engrave to help them stand out. And because I’d used my highest power setting, there was a little browning around the engravings that would have rubbed off. But these two effects worked beautifully to enhance the engravings in this case. They hold their own against a very characterful piece of wood.


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

Cutting and engraving using same artwork

Cutting and engraving using same artwork

Posted Posted in Artists, Wood

Hooperhart makes the most amazing dioramas from miniature shapes that I laser cut for her from 3mm laser ply. Cal decided that she wanted to incorporate engraving into some designs to explore new effects.

She wanted to know if it was possible to have cutting and engraving detail in the same artwork and if so, how it could be done.

One set of artwork, several possibilities

For laser cutting, I always use vector files like pdf, ai, dxf, eps and svg. They’re made up of lines rather than pixels as jpgs and pngs are. The laser follows the lines to cut shapes out as shown in the image below.

Vector files are so versatile. Not only can I use vector artwork for laser cutting, but I can also use it to vector (line) engrave or raster (fill in) engrave. The same artwork can do all these things as long as lines are colour coded for cut through, vector engraving or raster engraving so I know how to treat them.

Colour coded artwork

Cal decided that she wanted to use raster engraving rather than vector engraving. I suggested that she used identical lines to her usual cut out shape lines to surround the areas she wanted engraved, but colour them red instead of black. All the lines in her first set of test artwork were the same colour.

She wanted the engraving to come right to the edge of her shapes and asked if that would cause problems. When I cut and engrave on the same items, I do all the engraving before I cut the shapes out, so I told Cal that she could have the engraved shapes butted right up to the cut line, or even slightly overlapping them as you can see below.

Hooperhart Mr Fox artwork

Cal’s artwork above is similar to her second test artwork, using red triangles to denote engraved areas on tree trunks. Because the engraved areas were so small, they were relatively quick to engrave and didn’t add much to production time costs.

Bark effect

The picture of the diorama of Mr Fox at the top shows the effect that Cal was after. The engraved triangles on the tree trunks work really well to add mood to her moonlit forest.

Cal regularly uses painting and screen printing to add detail to her pieces, and raster engraving adds a different texture to her work.


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

finding balance points of decorations

Finding balance points of decorations

Posted Posted in Artists, Wood

When creating hanging decorations, it’s really important to find their balance points. Medals, for instance, are usually symmetrical with holes cut out for the ribbon. They can be centrally located with confidence.

Other shapes are irregular and it’s hard to predict where to put the holes so they hang correctly. Here are two examples of how I made sure that customers’ new products hung perfectly before I began production. Imagine if I hadn’t checked and the decorations didn’t hang straight!

Jessica Taylor’s seahorses and bears

I recently helped Jessica Taylor to create her new bear and seahorse decorations from 3mm plywood.

Both shapes were very irregular, so as part of the artwork set up and prototyping process, I made a rough guess as to where the holes should be and made some prototypes to get them in the right places.

The seahorse only took a couple of attempts to get right, but the bear was more of a challenge. It’s very bottom heavy. It look about four attempts, nudging the tiny 1mm hole 3 to 4mm towards the tail before it hung straight. You can see my first attempt and the final hole location in the picture above.

InkPaintPaper's unicorn decorations

InkPaintPaper’s unicorn decorations

InkPaintPaper wanted a  smaller version of their unicorn door sign in 4mm ply. Gabs planned to handpaint and personalise them to tie onto cards or hang as decorations.

She sent me the artwork for the new unicorn with a hanging hole. To be on the safe side, I suggested that I made a prototype to make sure it was in the right place.

I laser cut one shape with the hole where Gabs had put it near the unicorn’s shoulder, but it was very front heavy and its head tipped forwards. It took about four or five iterations to shift the hole further into the unicorn’s neck before it hung straight. I must have nudged the hole 4 – 5mm mm until it was in the right place.


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