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.

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Perspex legs for designer table

Perspex legs for designer table

Posted Posted in Designers, Furniture, Perspex

Trevor Coston is a freelance designer based in the Highlands. Bisque commissioned him to design and install a conference table for their London radiator showroom. They wanted their radiators illuminated through glass portholes in the tabletop as a focal point. Bisque loved the results.

Subsequently, the Zehnder Group commissioned him to design a coffee table around one of their own radiators. It would be one of the first things that visitors would see in their new multi-million pound Customer Experience Centre.  Something special was required.

Making an invisible table

Trevor investigated about a dozen different designs using different models of radiators. He decided to suspend one of their Classic column radiators almost invisibly under a glass top. 9mm Perspex seemed the obvious choice for the legs, so he pared the shape down to the minimum required to hold the weight of the radiator and table top. The next challenge was to find a suitable supplier to make them, and he got in touch with LaserFlair.

I laser cut the table leg shapes from 9mm Perspex and sent them to Trevor. During production, I left the protective film on the Perspex sheet to protect the it from the heat of the laser. Heat makes it turn cloudy around the cut edges which detracts from the finish. It’s also useful to leave the films on Perspex products to protect them during shipping as Perspex can get scratched easily.

radiator table perspex top

Another happy customer

Trevor said: ‘I found LaserFlair through a Google search. Instantly, I knew that it would be my first choice of supplier. It was a fairly local small company and very competitive on costs and lead times.

The components arrived on time, machined exactly as I requested. Once assembled, the table looked fantastic. I now have quite a few projects in mind that I would like to use LaserFlair for. It’s very exciting  to think about what we could achieve together in the future.’

 

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sandford country cottages keyrings

Sandford Country Cottages keyrings

Posted Posted in Designers, Wood

Evelyn Hardie from Sandford Country Cottages got in touch. She and her husband have six holiday cottages at their lovingly restored Arts and Crafts property, Sandford House in North East Fife. As a finishing touch, she wanted to create beautiful wooden keyrings for her customers to use.

Pieces of oak

You can never go wrong with oak. It’s so beautiful and looks wonderful when engraved. Evelyn’s joiner created fobs from leftover oak complete with drilled and countersunk holes, and she brought them around to the workshop for engraving.

Keyring artwork

As Evelyn is a designer, she created all the artwork for the keyrings herself. She wanted all the keyrings to have the Sandford Country Cottages logo engraved on one side and the cottage names on the other side. Three keyrings were needed for each cottage, plus a master keyring with the logo engraved on both sides.

Evelyn set up the artwork in rectangles representing the oak blocks so that the engravings would be correctly positioned on each keyring. Locations of the holes were shown on the artwork as a reference so I knew where the engravings should be in relation to them.

Sandford keyrings artwork

Engraving the keyrings

Evelyn had been concerned that the fine nature of her logo would be a problem when the keyrings were engraved. I knew the engravings would look good if I used the correct machine settings.

I always slow the machine down for fine work to make sure that the edges of engravings look sharp. They can look ragged if a higher speed is used. I knew that the logos would look best if the engravings were a good depth. A more pronounced 3D effect gives fine engravings better definition.

When machine speed is halved, the power required can be halved to compensate for the dwell time of the laser on the material doubling. I did some tests before I started production to get the right look.

Evelyn loved the keyrings and took them home to treat them with a protective finish. As well as protecting the wood, it also enhanced the engravings further. She sent this picture of them all finished and ready for her customers to use.

 

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creating a massive floor jigsaw

Creating a massive floor jigsaw

Posted Posted in Designers, Exhibitions, Wood

The Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther asked Wendy from The Malting House Design Studio to create some interactive exhibits. One of the items was to be a massive floor jigsaw. She wanted to know if I could help and if so, how best to make it.

Decisions, decisions!

I had worked with FifeX to create two giant jigsaws, so I knew this was possible. A good place to start was to decide the dimensions of the jigsaw, and what material to use.

Wendy wanted to make the jigsaw as large as possible. As my laser cutting bed is 1200 x 800mm, she chose to work with that. She wanted to make the jigsaw chunky and robust. As the laser can cut 9mm thick mdf, ply and Perspex, we discussed the merits of each.

Mdf feels like a jigsaw and cuts well. Thick plywood is less good for cut work. Knots in the laminated layers prevent clean cut throughs as the wood is more dense, and this can ruin a job. Perspex is good for cutting, but edges can be sharp and could hurt children. As the jigsaw needed to be printed with artwork, the decision came down to material properties and printability.

We agreed that mdf was the best material as it could be sprayed white before printing to make sure the colours popped. It would laser cut well, and the pieces would be safe to handle.

Artwork for printing

Wendy planned to create and adapt all the artwork required herself. She had a picture by Jurek Putter for printing onto the jigsaw, and the first step was to print the mdf board at the right size.

I suggested that we should make the mdf board a bit larger than the jigsaw needed to be. An extra 5mm in each direction would making the board 1210 x 810mm. If the edges became scuffed during printing or shipping, if wouldn’t matter. I would laser cut the final shape when I cut the jigsaw pieces so all the edges would look the same.

Wendy arranged to have the image printed a little bigger than 1200 x 800mm with 2 to 3mm bleeds at each edge. This standard printing practice would make sure that the jigsaw would be printed right to the laser cut edges.

Laser cutting a jigsaw

To laser cut the jigsaw, I needed a vector file with lines that the laser would follow to cut each shape.

My top tip for Wendy was to have sets of horizontal and vertical lines that the laser would cut once only. The laser can cut 9mm mdf in one pass. Cutting the same line twice means that the back can be damaged by heat and flaming if the material catches even momentarily. Working this way reduces production time and improves product quality while keeping costs down.

Wendy wanted the jigsaw to contain lots of interesting shapes that were not necessarily fully interlocking. She wanted to have four shapes, a barrel, a cross, a bird and a window incorporated into the design. I agreed that she could have whatever she wanted if she stuck to my vector artwork design tips!

All our careful preparation paid off.  Wendy made the outline rectangle of the jigsaw 1200 x 800mm and asked that the Jurek Putter mark at the edge of the artwork was included. The jigsaw cut cleanly and beautifully. The picture at the top is of the jigsaw on the laser after cutting. It filled the whole machine bed. Laser cut mdf edges are black and they contrasted well with the picture side and the white back of the puzzle.

Wendy was delighted with the results, and so was the Scottish Fisheries Museum.

 

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whole paper cut

Intricate paper cutting

Posted Posted in Designers, Paper

One of the most delicate commissions I’ve had was for wedding invitations.

A mother of the groom approached me for help. As a graphic designer, she had created artwork for the invitations and she wanted them laser cut from paper. It was absolutely beautiful, showing an Edinburgh skyline and the happy couple’s beloved cats.

Intricate artwork

Judith’s artwork was perfectly produced for laser cutting. All the lines were hairlines and they all joined beautifully within the vector files.

But the design was highly detailed, and this presented a challenge. This meant that the paper cuts would be very fragile. Spires and flagpoles on the buildings were thin and unsupported, text was tall and thin, and the book titles at the bottom were so small at the scale required that it would be too thin to hold together.

Designing in strength

Usually, I suggest to customers that they make the thinnest parts of their design 2 – 3mm mm wide to make them robust. Weak points can make products very vulnerable to damage, even if they’re made of thicker and stronger materials. All it takes is for a ring to catch or a little pressure in the wrong place and a whole piece can be destroyed.

If this can happen with 9mm mdf or 10mm Perspex, you can imagine much more vulnerable a design in paper or card would be. In this case, the paper designs were to be glued onto cards which would give them support and some protection, but cards still get handled fairly roughly.

 

papercut zoom

Robust paper cuts

I suggested to Judith that we should remove some of the finest detail from the text at the bottom. When I cut a sample of the ‘Harry Potter’ area, the card struggled to hold together. We tweaked the spires and text to make them a little wider, and simplified the flower bowl, buns and teacups. If the design had been cut at a much larger size, none of this would have been a problem, but the invitations had to fit on A5 sized cards.

Testing a sample

When we had finished, I produced a sample and it came out well. Many areas of the design were 1-2mm wide, but it worked and Judith understood that gentle handling would be required. She was delighted and asked me to cut 50 pieces from the dark charcoal paper that she’s provided. Each piece took 6 minutes to laser cut because there was so much laser cut detail.

 

For more details about designing artwork for laser cutting, check out our artwork tips page and blogs on designing artwork for laser cutting and laying out artwork.

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

 

how unicorns are made

How unicorns are made

Posted Posted in Artists, Designers, How to, Signage, Wood

InkPaintPaper is an artist and illustrator in Norfolk. She makes hand painted personalised plywood decorations and signs, all to her own design.

She had ideas for new products to add to her plywood signs line. One of her wrapping paper designs has a unicorn motif, the same one that she has on her logo, and she thought it would be a fun shape for bedroom door signs. So she got in touch with LaserFlair to discuss the feasibility of her plan.

Product development

InkPaintPaper and I have worked together for a few years now. She knows that we need vector artwork to cut out shapes and understands that chunky shapes are most robust. Her artwork was perfect first time with a single hairline line surrounding each unicorn. The most vulnerable point was where the unicorn’s tail meets its body, but at 10mm wide, it not a cause for concern, especially as she wanted to use 4mm laser ply. Being formed from laminated layers in birch, plywood is inherently strong and the unicorns would would be robust enough to send through the post.

Prototypes

This was a pretty straight forward product development project. InkPaintPaper knew exactly what she wanted, her artwork was good, the product robust and the material choice clear.

We laser cut some prototype unicorns for InkPaintPaper to decorate and test the market with. She hand painted them and got feedback via social media. It wasn’t long before she came back with an order for a production run of unicorns in the run up to Christmas!