Wall graphic for Lewis and Hickey

Wall graphic for Lewis and Hickey

Posted Posted in Corporate, Signage

Lucy from Lewis and Hickey Architects in Edinburgh had a wall graphic project at their office. She got in touch to ask if I could laser cut some shapes for her from 12mm plywood or mdf. It was Monday, and she needed them to arrive at her office on Thursday!

How thick can the laser cut?

I gave Lucy a call to discuss exactly what she wanted and what compromises she might be prepared to make as the maximum thickness of laser ply and mdf I can cut is 9mm. We discussed the possibilities of creating two layers of 6mm thick ply to give 12mm, but she thought gluing would add too much time and the join would be easily seen.

Lucy also asked what the cut edges of laser ply and mdf would look like. As luck would have it, I had just published how do the edges of laser cut wood look that very morning. I talked Lucy through edge cut appearances of plywood and mdf. She asked about how clean the facing surfaces would be too. She’s seen images of face discolouration of laser cut wood. I assured her that my work would be clean and any slight discolouration could be sanded off easily.

Having seen my photos of cut mdf and laser ply, Lucy decided that 9mm laser ply would give the look she was after.

Wall graphic artwork

Lucy was happy with my quote. On Tuesday afternoon, she sent through final artwork with some changes to add an extra L&H door sign shown at the top of the page.

I selected a sheet of 9mm mdf that was knot free on one side and cut the shapes and letters. As I’d explained to Lucy, the edges of 9mm laser ply are very dark and quite dirty. If you run a finger over them, it comes away black. So after I’d cut the shapes and letters, I cleaned the edges as best I could. Then I packed them in layers of paper to keep them clean in transit.

The complete wall graphic

All the pieces arrived on Thursday as planned, and the finished piece is mounted on the wall next to the door of Lewis & Hickey’s conference room. It looks very smart in its spotlight.


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Branding presentation box lids

Branding presentation box lids

Posted Posted in Corporate, Wood

Colin Grant makes wedding film through his business Orangetide Films. As part of his package, he creates presentation boxes for customers made from oak. Small boxes contain a flash drive of the film, and the large boxes also contains blu-rays and dvds.

Colin wanted to brand the plywood box lids with his logo to complete the look.

Converting the logo to black and white

The Orangetide logo is very complex and colourful. Lasers can’t engrave in colour. The colour of engravings depending on the material used and the power of the laser applied. As the laser either engraves or doesn’t engrave, black and white artwork is required for best results.

Colin sent me a black and white version of his logo in a vector file format. This was ideal. I knew I would have to resize the artwork for the two different box lid sizes. Vector artwork can be rescaled repeatedly without loss of quality.

Orangetide small box

Locating the logos

Colin settled on a large box lid size of 200 x 200mm. He wanted his whole logo on them. As there was plenty of space, he decided to have the logo sized to 135 x 135mm. I set up the logo artwork on a 200 x 200mm square so that the logo was centred between the top edge of the box and where the lid handle would be located.

On the small (98 x 80mm) box lid, Colin decided to have the text element of his logo only. This lid was much smaller, and I was worried that a lot of the full logo detail would be lost if it were scaled down so dramatically.

Colin asked me to cut and engrave all the box lids from 3mm ply so that they’d fit the box grooves.

It’s all in the detail

As the logo and the logo text were all very fine and needed to stand out, I opted for a heavier engrave.

After the first order Colin decided that he’s like the small box lid engraving to be even heavier for more definition which was easily done.


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Branded coasters for Welsh Oak Frame

Branded coasters for Welsh Oak Frame

Posted Posted in Corporate, Wood

Welsh Oak Frame are award winning designers and builders of beautiful oak frame buildings across the UK. Becky, their Marketing Manager, contacted me in December to ask if I could make 120 oak coasters for a corporate event they had this month.  She wanted them to the same design as I had made for them previously with their logo centred on an oak heart at 100 x 100mm.

Tweaking the logo

Welsh Oak Frame’s logo oak frame part of the logo in white against a shaded background. When the original design was settled on, I suggested that we could either engrave this component as it was, or invert it so that the A frame shape itself was engraved along with the text. We decided that the latter option would look better on the coasters.

Sourcing oak

I had a month to make these coasters, and I knew that my biggest potential problem was sourcing the oak in time. Max McCance is a local furniture maker, and he rips up batons of oak for me to make lovely sanded strips at 6 – 7mm thick, perfect for creating coasters and other bespoke products. Thankfully, Max had the right oak in stock and made the batons for me before Christmas.

Welsh Oak Frame coaster

Making the coasters

I set up the artwork for production so that the outline of the heart was cut through, giving the coasters the tell tale dark edges.

Raster engraving the logo makes the engraving stand out much more than if their outlines alone were vector (outline) engraved. It gives the logo a pleasing 3D effect that feels satisfying in the hand as well as looking smart.

Finishing touches

After production, I sanded the coasters lightly if they needed it. Then I applied coats of oil to protect the oak and enhance the wood grain. You can see the difference it makes in the photo above. The coaster was treated, but the small heart wasn’t.

Each one looks different as the grain in each coaster is unique. That’s the real beauty of wood.


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How to engrave flyreels

How to engrave flyreels

Posted Posted in Anodised aluminium, Corporate

Simon from Simba Rods hand builds bespoke fly fishing rods in Crieff. He decided to expand his range to include reels, and wanted to have his logo and item numbers laser engraved onto them.

Engraving challenges

Simon said that most of the reels were made of anodised aluminium in silver, black and red. All engravings on anodised aluminium are silvery white, so I told Simon that there may be less contrast for engravings on them.

As the engravings would small and the logo is fine, I wasn’t sure how the logos might come out. To make things more complex, Simon told me that some of the areas he wanted engraved were concave, some were convex and others flat. I was concerned that depending on the heights and depths of the concave and convex areas, the laser might lose focus and the engraving quality might suffer. And metal is not forgiving to engrave at the best of times!

l talked Simon through all my production issues so he could understand the challenges I faced. I suggested that performing test engraves would give us a clear idea of what results we could expect, and he gamely agreed.

Simba Rods logo

Engraving the samples

Before Simon came, I traced his jpg logo to create a vector version. I could rescaled it without loss of quality to increase our chances of high quality results. This is particularly important for small engravings on metal.

Simon brought his sample reels to the workshop. He had a range of sizes- larger salmon reels and smaller trout reels, with black, silver and red parts to engrave. First, we measured the areas on the reels where he wanted the engravings to be and scaled his logo to three sizes, 15, 19 and 24mm wide.

The biggest challenge was setting up the reels in the laser. I created a stack of slates that the reels could sit on so the engraved surfaces were uppermost and the handles could face down beside the slates. Then I had to keep the reels stable by pushing small stacks of ply business cards under the reel rims. It was a bit of a faff, but it worked!

We decided to start with the easiest scenario first. I set up a reel with a black flat area. The results were of excellent quality with crisp finish and great contrast. Encouraged, I tried a convex red area next. Again, the results were fantastic. Finally, we tried a silver concave area that needed the smallest engraving size. this too engraved beautifully with better contrast than I’d expected. Simon was delighted with the engravings.

Simba Rods reel in black
Salmon reel with engravings on black and silver anodised aluminium. The engraved spindle rotates.

First production runs

Simon had ordered 48 reels of different sizes and colours. When they had arrived, he brought them to the workshop for engraving. He unpacked them all and checked with me what should be engraved where on each reel to save time. And he’s brought me a red bean bag that he hoped would help with setting the reels up in the machine. It was perfect. You can see it in use in the top picture.

Then he brought a second delivery. While he was here, he had another idea, but I’ll save that for another blog!


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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.


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tiny logos on beard scissors

Tiny logos on beard scissors

Posted Posted in Artwork, Corporate, Stainless steel, Thermark

One of my most unusual enquiries came from Beard Juice. Wayne wanted to sell some beard accessories alongside his new range of beard oils, and chose surgical stainless steel beard trimming scissors. He wanted to brand them with his logo, but knew that this would be a challenge on two levels. Could I engrave on metal? And could I engrave his logo small enough to fit on the largest area available – the hinge area of the scissors?

Engraving tiny logos

Wayne sent me a copy of the Beard Juice logo in black and white. I worked out that to engrave the logo in the right place, it could be 19mm wide maximum. I was concerned that the detail in the logo wouldn’t come out clearly enough as the text lines were very fine, and the feathering around the edges might be completely lost at that scale. It was clear that the copyright logo at the top right would be too small to be seen clearly, so Wayne said I could remove it.

Beard Juice logo


Wayne send me some scissors to perform some sample engravings on. We needed to check whether the stainless steel of the scissors would be compatible with the Thermark metal marking paste. It was also important to see whether or not the logo would engrave at a high enough quality.

Thermark is a mixture of glass particles and black pigment. It looks like a grey paste and it is spread onto the surface to be engraved. After it has dried, it can be raster or vector engraved. We chose raster engraving in this case. The laser melts the glass and traps the pigment onto the surface of the metal as a layer of black enamel. Residual paste is then washed off.

Beard Juice logo zoom

It’s a great technique offering good contrast against stainless steel. But it hasn’t worked with every stainless steel sample I’ve engraved using this method. It did in this case, and the logo came up beautifully despite all my concerns. There’s no substitute for preparing samples. Then customers can be confident that they have a good product at the right price before they commit to investing in new product lines.

I sent the prototypes back to Wayne who was delighted and promptly ordered more for engraving.