Shetland Wool Week plywood brooches

Shetland Wool Week plywood brooches

Posted Posted in Jewellery, Prototyping, Wood

Donna Smith lives in Shetland and designs and writes knitting patterns. She also teaches workshops and classes in knitting and design around the world.

Donna is a past patron of Shetland Wool Week, and was asked to design and commission brooches of a Shetland jumper for this year’s event.  So she contacted me to ask if I could make them from plywood.

Brooch artwork

Vector artwork is ideal for projects where products are laser cut and engraved. Donna sent a perfect file.

Her design included the square and cross elements from the Merrie Dancers Toorie pattern by this year’s Shetland Wool Week patron, Elizabeth Johnston (Shetland Handspun). She wanted the intricate pattern around the yoke raster engraved.

She also wanted a ribbed effect at the cuffs and the waistband of the jumpers. These details would be created by a series of cut through lines.

Shetland jumper brooch prototypes

Protype brooches

As soon as Donna had confirmed how she wanted all the details of the brooch to look, I made prototypes to ensure I could make something that Donna would love.  These brooches are 68 x 45mm which is not especially small, but the details on them are very fine. Yoke detail would need to be very crisp and fine cuts can be liable to burning on the backs of products if settings are even slightly out.

Donna agreed that 3mm plywood would be fine. I created two prototypes with different weights of engraving to choose between. One brooch featured a lighter engrave and the other a darker engrave with more depth that was created using more power. You can see them in the picture above.

Selecting a product

In the end, the darker engrave was selected and Donna asked me to proceed with making the brooches. She needed enough time to attach the brooch clasps and send them out to their premium members before Shetland Wood Week begins on 22nd September! The video above shows how they’re engraved and then cut out on the machine.

 

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Crail Castle Walkway panorama

Crail Castle Walkway panorama

Posted Posted in Signage, Wood

The Crail Preservation Society wanted to refresh the Crail Castle Walkway panorama showing landmarks on the opposite side of the Firth of Forth. The old one was printed and mounted in a box to protect it from the weather, but it hadn’t survived the elements in that exposed spot. This time, they wanted it engraved on a piece of wood to fit the location.

I love panoramas, so I was really excited about this project!

Converting the panorama artwork for engraving

Dennis wanted to use the artwork that had been used for the previous panorama. It had been created by artist Kurt Diggelman. It had to be modified as it was in colour and the laser can’t engrave in colour. Catriona of CatMac Design is a graphic designer who helps me out with things like this, and she worked with Dennis to a create black and white vector artwork conversion of Kurt’s image.

One of my concerns was whether the text would be easy to read without people having to bend down. To check this, I performed some test engraves of the smallest text and they worked better than I’d expected.

A piece of white oak

Dennis knew Frazer Reid of FAR Cabinet Makers, so he asked him about what wood would be best to use for this project. Not only did it have to look beautiful, but it had to be suitable for outdoor display in an exposed spot. Frazer suggested white oak, and supplied a beautifully prepared piece 1330 x 385mm and about an inch thick. The maximum width of the machine is 1340mm, so it was a snug fit!

Crail Castle Walkway panorama

Engraving the panorama detail

I used machine settings to make sure the detail of the text would be as clear as possible. Then I engraved the wood with maximum power for best possible contrast between the engravings and the wood. Dennis was delighted with the results. It’s hoped that the panorama will be installed this week in its new home.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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.