Designing artwork for robust pins

Designing artwork for robust pins

Posted Posted in Designers, Prototyping

Sophie Pieroni is a designer and she contacted me to ask if I could make some pins of her greyhound design. She wanted them laser cut and engraved from 3mm ply and 3mm black perspex to sell in her Etsy shop.

Vector artwork design

Vector artwork is a good basis for any design for laser cutting and engraving.

As Sophie wanted to use cutting and raster engraving for her pins, I pointed her to my blog about designing artwork for laser cutting as a good place for design tips. To make the pins, I’d programme the vector lines around the shape to be cut through and internal detail would be programmed for fill in engraving.

Watch out for the eyelashes!

Sophie’s design was perfect for what I needed, but there was one problem. I cut a prototype from plywood, and the greyhound’s eyelashes on the left of the pin were very thin and vulnerable as you can see from the picture at the top right. The lashes on the right were fine as they were engraved but not cut around.

Pins are generally small, so detail like this is more challenging to make robust. If the artwork was laser cut at a larger size, the eyelashes could be chunky enough to be robust. Miniaturising designs for cutting and engraving presents so many challenges.

Sophie Pieroni pins
Sophie Pieroni perspex pins ready for the shop!

Making designs robust

I sent Sophie a picture of the prototype and she came up with the perfect solution.

She made the pins bigger, and created an unengraved margin around the shape of the greyhound that she defined with engraving. As the unengraved margin was wide enough to accommodate the eyelashes, it made them indestructable. The greyhound’s nose and ear were also strengthened, and the engravings looked better with surrounding unengraved space. You can see the difference that the design tweaks made in the picture at the top.

I sent Sophie a photo of the improved product, and she was happy. We had a working prototype after only two iterations.

 

New product release

Sophie has released her two new pins in her Etsy shop now she’s painted the perspex ones and finished them all. If you love greyhounds or know someone who does, they could be right up your street!

 

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

Ethical pins

It was important for Sophie to make an ethical product. She said:

‘It seems the best way to get a place on Etsy and Instagram is to make pins and patches. Patches aren’t so much the problem if they’re  manufactured in the UK, but pins are a big unethical pit.

It’s impossible to find enamel pins made outside China. Trust me, I tried. I don’t think it should be news to anyone that workers in China aren’t fairly paid. You can see that in the prices it cost to get pins manufactured. I decided I didn’t want to contribute to that industry. Laser cutting is the best alternative for me. I wanted to find a UK based supplier and decided to go with LaserFlair who’s based in Fife.

After getting my designs cut and engraved, I hand finished each one myself, you can see videos of this on my feed. So when you buy one of my pins, you’re supporting small businesses like myself and getting something proudly made in Scotland.

I hope if you weren’t aware of the enamel pin business this has opened your eyes and given you an insight into what I’m trying to do.’

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.