branded wooden tags for waiata

Branded wooden tags for waiata

Posted Posted in Jewellery, Wood

nga waiata is a jewellery designer from New Zealand who lives and works in London. I’ve worked with her for several years now, helping her to brand her distinctive rings and necklaces.

Last year, she rebranded her company’s name from her own full name, ‘nga waiata’ to just ‘waiata’ to make things simpler and easier to pronounce. ‘nga’ is pronounced ‘na’, but waiata is pronounced ‘wayata’ as it looks. When we first started working together, I asked nga waiata about how to pronounce her name and if the letters were all lower case, which they are!

New brand artwork

nga wai sent her new logo and a packet of wooden discs to engrave. I made up an artwork proof, and once she approved it, I was ready to start work.

First, I checked with nga wai what orientation she wanted the discs engraved in. All of them had a pinstripe wood grain. Obvious options were to have the grain going from side to side or top to bottom. nga wai asked me what I thought, and I suggested top to bottom as the logos were horizontal, so that’s what we did.

Engraving tiny wooden tags

All the wooden discs were around 22mm in diameter and appromimately 1mm thick. Being so small and light, it was very important to keep them secure in the machine during engraving. If left unsecured, the discs would just blow around in the machine under the compressed air jet that keeps the machine lens and the item for engraving clean and cool.

BluTac is a wonderful thing, and is perfect during jobs like this. I set up each piece individually for best results, and use a slow engraving speed that helps achieve sharp results on small, detailed engravings. These logos are only 16mm wide.

And as nga wai wanted a nice depth of engraving as well as good contrast, a slow engraving helped. As the dwell time of the laser was several times longer than my usual settings would allow, the engravings were deeper with a lovely tactile 3D effect.


nga wai was delighted with the new tags, and she drilled the holes and finished them herself. Branding items like jewellery and furniture can be challenging, and it’s important for makers to have their mark on their work.

I love seeing pictures of nga wai’s new work with the tags on. The fluorite necklace above was sent to the Caribbean a couple of weeks ago. Fearne Cotton has also been one of nga waiata’s customer’s recently!


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

Panda and Sons marquetry

Panda and Sons marquetry

Posted Posted in Furniture, Wood

Furniture maker Jamie Fraser fitted out Panda and Sons‘ cocktail bar in Edinburgh. He asked if I could help him with three parts of the project, the most challenging of which was creating two marquetry panda pictures for the wall behind the bar. They were a both to be a bit bigger than A4 size at 320 x 250mm.

As Panda and Sons was designed as a speakeasy with a barber shop frontage, one panda was a barber and the other a barman.

Making the artwork robust

First of all, Jamie emailed the artwork through. Most of it looked fine. The background, the pandas’ walnut bodies and ears and sycamore heads all looked chunky and robust. But some areas needed work because the detail was too great or joins were too small to make the pieces strong enough.

As a rule, I suggest to customers that any small pieces and joining sections should be at least 3mm wide on thicker, stronger materials. These marquetry pieces would be extremely fragile and would have to be easily identified and capable of being handled.

For example, the eyes had too many small detailed areas less than 1 x 1mm. I knew that they would become charred dots in the bottom of the machine that would be useless. Jamie beefed up the dots and join them up into stronger shapes so the sycamore pieces could be seen from a distance.

There was also too much detail in the scissors and the cocktail glass. They got the same treatment to make them chunkier and bolder, as did the borders of walnut around the cocktail glass and cuffs.

Finally, each shape needed one continuous line around the outside to cut it individually and cleanly. The ears had to be separate lines from the head which had to be separate from the body as the pieces would be cut out from different veneers.

Once the artwork was complete, we had to get our heads around handling the veneers themselves.

simplified artwork

Working with veneers

Wood veneers are very thin and prone to cracking, warping and splitting. It was challenging enough cutting lots of diamond shapes for the bar top, but marquetry would be even trickier because of the detail and irregular shapes involved.

Jamie had initially suggested sending veneers as they come in thin strips. Once I’d seen the artwork, I suggested gluing the veneers to thin pieces of mdf to make the pieces stronger. This would also keep them flat which would help during cutting, and prevent them warping and cracking.

As the pieces would be posted back to Jamie in Edinburgh, we knew that the delicate veneers not only had to withstand production, but two journeys in the post. Jamie agreed, and thought it would help him during assembly of the pictures too.

Laser cutting panda eyes

After Jamie’s laminated veneers arrived, I got to work. First, I cut out the picture backgrounds. This gave me the rectangular shapes of the pictures with panda shaped holes.

Next, I cut the bodies and buttons, ears, eyes and noses from the walnut. Just in case little pieces went missing, I cut extra eyes and buttons. I left the smallest sycamore pieces until last, fitting them into the pictures as they took shape. All the pieces fitted perfectly. The photo at the top was taken at this stage, before Jamie finished and varnished them.

I wrapped the pictures up securely to protect them in the post together with the spare pieces. Thankfully, they all survived the journey and Jamie was delighted with them. In the picture above, you can see bartender panda in all his varnished and framed glory.


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

Medals for Blackhouse Watersports

Medals for Blackhouse Watersports

Posted Posted in Other, Wood

Tiree Surf Club and Blackhouse Watersports hosted the 2017 Gathering of Clans surf competition in September this year. Iona from Blackhouse Watersports asked if I could make some medals from plywood for the winners.

Medal design

Iona wanted the medals to be 50mm in diameter with their logo in the middle. ‘The Gathering of the Clans surf competition, Tiree, 2017’ was to be engraved around it, and a hole made for the ribbon.

Blackhouse Watersports sent me their logo for engraving some signs earlier this year. I set up the artwork so that the logo was 30mm wide in the centre of a 50mm circle. As the small text at the bottom of the logo (cold water surf Hebridees) was too small to engrave clearly, Iona agreed that it was to be expected when reproducing the logo at such a small size and said that it wouldn’t be a problem.

Holes for the ribbons had to be at the top of the medals, so I arranged the text with a space at the top of the medal that was a perfect fit for the ribbon hole which I made at 10 x 4mm. My artwork software allows me to fit text to chosen pathways, so I used the diameter of the medal. Text point size was chosen to make it the right size for a good fit. Then I centred it so the text was symmetrical.

Gathering of the Clans winners

Making the medals

Iona approved the artwork proof I sent to her, and we agreed that 3mm plywood would work well. The most vulnerable part of the design was the ribbon holes. Plywood is so good so work with because it’s so strong as it contains laminated layers of wood, so I knew that they would be robust enough with 3mm between the holes and the circumference.

Once I had the go ahead, I made 40 medals and sent them to Tiree. The competition was a huge success, the weather was great, and everyone had a fun day!


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

Orkney Museum table top game

Orkney Museum table top game

Posted Posted in Designers, Wood

Rhona Jenkins is a designer in Orkney. At the start of this year, she was working with Orkney Museum to create new Viking and Medieval galleries. She contacted Ken Boyd from FifeX as she wanted to create interactive exhibits. One was to be a large tabletop game, and Ken asked if I could help him as Rhona wanted the detail laser engraved.

Constructing the table top

Ken knew that there are limitations on the sizes of pieces of wood that I can cut and engrave, and on thicknesses that I can cut through.

He wanted the table to be chunky and thick. As the maximum thickness of ply that I can laser cut is 9mm and thick ply is slow to laser cut, we decided that it would be best if Ken sourced the plywood. Then he could choose the look and thickness that he wanted, cut it to size and finish it. Then he would bring the relevent pieces to me for engraving.

As the table top was to be made of two layers, this gave us lots of flexibility. Ken could make the table base the size that he wanted. There would be four large engraved pieces that would sit on top of the base along with the square game pieces. All these parts would be engraved and he could be made at sizes to fit the laser. You can see the two layers in the pictures.

Medieval game detail

The centrepiece of the table was to be a large map of medieval Kirkwall covered with geographical features like rivers, the natural harbour, the site of the town and the new cathedral. Ken designed it to be 1174 x 794mm so it fit the laser bed. It took a whole day to engrave due to the size!

Surrounding the map at the edges of the table are three long panels describing aspects of Kirkwall life and the trades of the people, all beautifully illustrated. Each of these pieces was 1170 x 166mm.

Finally, I engraved the game pieces with symbols of the local tradesmen including barrels, musical instruments, fish and leather hides. Ken cut and prepared the counters and attached them to two small boards so I could engrave a grid of 5 x 5 symbols on each set.

These pieces were all cut to size by FifeX and I engraved them which saved a lot on production costs. Ken provided all the artwork as black and white vector files.

Finishing touches

FifeX assembled the table. When it arrived in Orkney, Rhona arranged for colour wash to be applied to the sea areas of the map. It looks lovely, and I love the illustration. The exhibitions opened during the summer.

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

Cask ends for Diageo

Cask ends for Diageo

Posted Posted in Corporate, Wood

My earliest high profile job came as a result of networking.

Whilst visiting the new bottling plant at Diageo‘s Leven site with Fife Chamber of Commerce, I met Richard the site manager. I had a chance to tell him about LaserFlair and that I could help with customised engraving jobs that might come up. Within two weeks, he was on the phone asking if I could help with a project.

Top secret!

Richard told me that in a fortnight, a VIP was to open the new bioenergy plant and distillery expansion at the Cameron Bridge Distillery near Leven. He wanted two cask ends to be engraved with the Cameron Brig logo and details about the grand opening.

One cask end was to be hung on the wall at the distillery to commemorate the visit, and the other would be part of an oak cask filled with Cameron Brig whisky. During the opening ceremony, the VIP would ‘hammer in the bung’ of the filled cask. It would then be stored for maturation before being auctioned off for charity. Richard told me that this project was be top secret because of the identity of the VIP.

 Cameron Brig artwork proofs

Artwork set up

A week later, one of Richard’s colleagues sent me a copy of the Cameron Brig logo with the wordings to be engraved. Ian also gave me a diagram of how he wanted the engravings to appear on the different cask ends. I sent him proofs that he approved. All the black detail was to be raster (fill in) engraved. The outer green circles represent the cask end diameters and the space between the concentric green circles would be hidden by the cask rims.

hammering in the bung

There was a wee cooper

My next call was from Alan, the cooper from Diageo’s Alloa site. He was making the oak cask for the ceremony and would be present to help the Prime Minister hammer in the bung should he need it! Alan’s in the middle in the photo above with his apprentice to his left.

He wanted to bring the cask ends to the workshop for engraving and asked if he should bring the cask ends varnished or unvarnished. It didn’t make a difference to me, but the finish would look better if the engraved areas were varnished too. He decided that he’d prefer to have them engraved and then varnish the cask on one go. It would be more efficient and time was tight. He came that day, I engraved the cask ends and he picked them up less than 24 hours later.

Everyone was delighted with the engraved cask ends, and the hammering in of the bung went without a hitch.


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

Bespoke keyrings for Burntisland Prinary School

Bespoke keyrings for Burntisland Primary School

Posted Posted in Other, Wood

Burntisland Primary School wanted to have some bespoke keyrings made. A week before the school broke up for summer, they decided to act quickly so they could be given to the teachers as thankyou gifts.

Meeting a tight budget

One of the parents at the school works with wood and can generate computer based artwork, so they asked him if he could help. Once he had an idea of what they wanted, he got in touch with me and we discussed materials, thicknesses and designs that could work well.

Which material to choose?

As the budget was tight, I suggested using 3mm plywood. It’s good value, robust and tactile, and looks woody. Choosing a thinner material means that cutting will be faster, making production time shorter, keeping costs down. And I had some in stock so I could make the keyrings quickly.

We discussed Perspex as it’s colourful, but it costs a lot more than plywood. The only option that would have been slightly cheaper than plywood is mdf, but it wouldn’t look as nice.

Burntisland Prinary School keyring

Bespoke design

Jonnie said that the school were thinking about jigsaw piece shapes of around 50 x 60mm with a hole cut out for the split rings. I said that from experience, interesting shapes are more appealing than simple shapes like squares or rectangles. A jigsaw piece would be a fun and interesting shape, but would be robust in the parts of the design more vulnerable to breakage.

He asked if I could cut and engrave 70 keyrings from 3mm ply within a set budget. I thought I could, so he set about a final design for the school to approve.

Making the keyrings

After some thought, the school decided that the keyrings should be engraved with something fairly generic so that they could be used for different purposes. They chose ‘Team BPS’ with their motto, ‘Belong, Participate, Succeed’ below. After a final sanity check on my quote, Burntisland Primary School approved everything. I made a sample and sent a photo to Jonnie so he could see how they would look.

I made the keyrings that day. BPS were delighted with them, and with how quickly we had made this happen.


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