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.

geometric plywood decorations

Geometric plywood decorations

Posted Posted in Designers, Wood

Jessica Taylor is a graphic designer in Ayrshire. She prints her geometric animal designs on prints cards and tote bags, and makes enamel pins too.

After following each other for a few months on Instagram, Jessica got in touch and asked if I could help her make some new products. She liked the idea of making decorations from her designs and wondered what might be possible.

Decoration ideas

Being familiar with Jessica’s work, I suggested that her artwork would be perfect for plywood decorations. Shape outlines could be laser cut and the internal geometric lines could be vector engraved with excellent contrast. Plywood is beautiful, light and good value. 3mm would be robust enough, and it would be easy to add holes for hanging. Jessica liked the idea.

Artwork adjustment

Jessica decided that she’d like to start with her geo bear, geo seahorse and geo penguin designs. She wanted the bear to be 70mm long  and the penguin and seahorse 70mm high.

Vector artwork is required for laser cutting and vector engraving which is like cutting, but just marking the surface. Jessica sent a sample file, but all her lines were made up of thin rectangles to give them the right thickness for printing. Unfortunately, this was no good for the laser as it would cut and engrave around each rectangle which is not what we wanted, so Jessica adjusted all the lines with perfect results.

geo seahorse for Jessica Taylor

Plywood prototypes

Once the artwork was sorted, I made some prototypes so Jessica could see how they’d look. I also wanted to find the balance points of each shape to make sure the holes would be in the right place.

Jessica was delighted! She particularly loved the bear and the seahorse and placed and order. When it arrived, she wrote me a lovely review on Facebook because she was so pleased.

She hangs the geo bears and geo seahorses with jute string and lost no time in adding them to her Etsy shop.

 

 

Have you got a project that you think we could help you with? Contact us or ask for a quote.

laser cutting and engraving knots in wood

Laser cutting and engraving knots in wood

Posted Posted in FAQ, Wood

Laser cutting wood creates some very beautiful effects. One of the beauties of wood is its grain, and knots are a part of these growth patterns, but knots can present some production challenges too.

What is a knot?

Knots are found at the bases of side branches in trees.  Lower branches often die. As the girth of a tree expands, the trunk envelopes them, forming the imperfections we know as knots.

Beautiful as these imperfections are, the wood in those areas is much denser than the surrounding wood. It’s this difference in density that can cause issues.

How do knots affect laser cutting?

Denser wood is harder to cut and needs a slower cutting speed to cut through cleanly. If I cut 3mm ply at my usual speed, this is fine for most of the sheet of ply, but if the laser beam hits a knot, the chances are it will be going too fast to cut through the knot effectively. This is clearly shown by the 9mm ply ampersand at the top. Two knots prevented a clean cut through to allow the middle piece to fall out cleanly.

This means that the cut through won’t be clean in the area of the knot, and the item won’t separate from the sheet and won’t be of sufficient quality to be sold. If the wood is solid like oak, you can see where all the knots are. In plywood, however, there are knots in the middle layers that you can’t see. You can see the star below made of 6mm ply had one of these, and the knot caused the telltale puff of black dirt on the surface of the wood that can be sanded off.

As a rule, the more knots there are in a piece of wood, the higher you can expect the failure rate of laser cut items to be.

laser cut star with knot

How do they affect laser engraving?

Knots don’t cause so many problems with engraving. You can expect to see any engraving over them to be shallower than on the rest of the wood. Knots are denser so engraving depth is compromised, but the effect is still easily seen. The knot shown above is under the n and t of adventure,

If the artwork is vectorised, it’s possible that the sections over the knot can be engraved more times to achieve more depth to compensate.

laser engraving over a knot

Do you have a questions about laser cutting or engraving and how it might affect your project? Contact us with your questions and I’ll write a blog about it.

Waymarking posts for Kinghorn Creative

Waymarking posts for Kinghorn Creative

Posted Posted in Designers, Stainless steel, Thermark, Wood

Ritchie Feenie from Kinghorn Creative was asked to design and create six sign posts for Kinghorn Community Land Association. He asked if I could advise him on design and then laser engrave the sign posts.

Style of post

Ritchie sent me some pictures of how he wanted the posts to look. He wanted them to be square in profile and a metre high, but he wanted the tops cut at an angle with engraving on the angled surface. Would this be possible?

I knew this would be tricky as the posts would have to be propped up in the machine to make the angled surface horizontal, and the posts would have to be limited in length to 1300mm to fit inside the machine.

Then Ritchie had an idea. If we had engraved metal plates on the angled surfaces, we wouldn’t need to put the posts in the laser for engraving so we wouldn’t have to worry about their size. I could order stainless steel plates and engrave them much more easily.

We decided to use green oak or larch for the posts as they’re great for outdoor use without treatment. As larch was the cheaper option, Ritchie settled on that.

 

Deciding on the artwork

Initially, Ritchie’s customers wanted all the engraving to be on the stainless steel plaques. Ritchie sent me a proposed design. My initial thought was that too much detail was squeezed onto the plates. I was worried that the details could be too fine for good engraving results, especially on the Lottery logos. As the project was lottery funded, the logos needed to be well defined and easy to read.

As nothing that could be lost from the design, Ritchie suggested to his customer that some of the engraving could be on the wood under the metal plates. It was agreed that this would be a good place for the Lottery logos that could be made much larger and clearer.

Creating waymarking posts

Ritchie ordered six 1300mm larch posts and brought them to the workshop for engraving, and the Lottery logos came out as well as I’d hoped. I put the posts sideways into the laser, dropping the machine bed to suit the depth of the posts. Then, I engraved the logos sideways onto them to they were in the right orientation on the posts.

I ordered six metal plates in marine grade stainless steel plates. It’s ideal for coastal locations as it can withstand salty conditions without corroding. We decided to get plates with radiused corners to make the corners rounded to match the edges of the posts.

To achieve an engraving on stainless steel, I spread Thermark paste onto the plates, let it dry and then engrave. Thermark leaves a weatherproof, abrasion resistant enamel mark where the laser has melted the glass particles and trapped black pigment onto the metal surface. You can one of the plates after engraving in the picture above. Excess Thermark is then removed, leaving the shiny plate with a high contrast engraving.

Once I had glued the plates onto the posts, they were ready for Ritchie to install.

 

Have you got a project that you think we could help you with? Contact us or ask for a quote.