Shetland Wool Week plywood brooches

Shetland Wool Week plywood brooches

Posted Posted in Jewellery, Prototyping, Wood

Donna Smith lives in Shetland and designs and writes knitting patterns. She also teaches workshops and classes in knitting and design around the world.

Donna is a past patron of Shetland Wool Week, and was asked to design and commission brooches of a Shetland jumper for this year’s event.  So she contacted me to ask if I could make them from plywood.

Brooch artwork

Vector artwork is ideal for projects where products are laser cut and engraved. Donna sent a perfect file.

Her design included the square and cross elements from the Merrie Dancers Toorie pattern by this year’s Shetland Wool Week patron, Elizabeth Johnston (Shetland Handspun). She wanted the intricate pattern around the yoke raster engraved.

She also wanted a ribbed effect at the cuffs and the waistband of the jumpers. These details would be created by a series of cut through lines.

Shetland jumper brooch prototypes

Protype brooches

As soon as Donna had confirmed how she wanted all the details of the brooch to look, I made prototypes to ensure I could make something that Donna would love.  These brooches are 68 x 45mm which is not especially small, but the details on them are very fine. Yoke detail would need to be very crisp and fine cuts can be liable to burning on the backs of products if settings are even slightly out.

Donna agreed that 3mm plywood would be fine. I created two prototypes with different weights of engraving to choose between. One brooch featured a lighter engrave and the other a darker engrave with more depth that was created using more power. You can see them in the picture above.

Selecting a product

In the end, the darker engrave was selected and Donna asked me to proceed with making the brooches. She needed enough time to attach the brooch clasps and send them out to their premium members before Shetland Wood Week begins on 22nd September! The video above shows how they’re engraved and then cut out on the machine.

 

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

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.

Distinctive

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.

Jaggedy Thistle acrylic jewellery

Jaggedy Thistle acrylic jewellery

Posted Posted in Artwork, How to, Jewellery, Perspex

LaserFlair makes fun and funky acrylic jewellery for Jaggedy Thistle in Dunkeld. We laser cut their reindeer brooches in the run up to Christmas along with highland cows and Scottie dogs. This is how it all happens.

We need vector artwork to create items like this.  Jaggedy Thistle provide the artwork for their bespoke products, and the acrylic in the colours they require.

Vector cutting detailed shapes

Vector artwork is very simple. It consists of hairline shape outlines, and the laser follows the lines in the artwork to cut out each shape. There is a vector line for each outline cut on a piece. In the case of the reindeer in the picture, we cut the eye shape first. When the body is cut, the whole reindeer can drop out of the acrylic sheet and is then in the wrong position to cut out internal detail. This is why we set the machine’s cutting order so that internal details are cut before outline shapes. We minimise waste by using our laser cutting software to tile shapes which maximises yield from the acrylic available.

Protecting the pieces

Acrylic has a protective film on each side to prevent the surfaces from scratching. We leave it on during production to protect the acrylic surface from the heat of the laser which causes discolouration near the cut edges. After manufacture, it protects the pieces during shipping, keeping each shape in perfect condition as acrylic is easily scratched.

When Jaggedy Thistle receive their delivery, they remove the protective film from each brooch. Then they add the red noses and brooch pins, and mount them on cards for sale. Aren’t they cute!

how to brand chunky wooden rings

How to brand chunky wooden rings

Posted Posted in How to, Jewellery, Wood

I love these wooden rings! But when Waiata Bespoke Jewellery (nga waiata as they were then) first got in touch and asked if I could engrave the backs of their chunky wooden rings with their logo, I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

Engraving on a curve

First of all, rings are cylindrical. Lasers need a flat surface to engrave. This is to maintain the right focal length for the laser beam for best results.

Secondly, the rings have such knobbly stones on them and nga waiata wanted to supply them made up rather than without the stones. How could we support them securely in the laser so they wouldn’t wobble or fall over during engraving? Any of these scenarios would be disastrous for engraving quality.

It’s amazing what you can do with Blu Tac! I use it all the time to support jobs on the machine. A nice big blob on the engraving bed floor held each ring securely, even although the stones are all different shapes.

My secret weapon

Now for the engraving. The text was small and fine and was to be centred in the middle of each ring back. I used my longest focal length lens which helps maintain focus better over curved surfaces. I also slowed the engraving speed down to maximise precision and minimise any wobble from the machine. This ensured crisply engraved letters, with a nice depth of engraving to give good visual impact in the chunky wood.

laser cut wood edges

Laser cut wood edges

Posted Posted in Artwork, Jewellery, Recycled wood, Wood

Yesterday, a customer asked me if I can make laser cut wood edges as black as possible as it would enhance her products. She wanted this even if it caused some charring on the surface which could be sanded off. No other customers had asked for this before. They just accepted that the edges would look as they came, and I would prepare them for what to expect.

The colour of a laser cut wooden edge is more to do with the colour of the wood used. A pale wood like birch or sycamore will have a lighter cut edge. Oak will be darker and mahogany darkest of all.

Best machine settings for laser cutting wood

The golden rule of laser cutting is to cut through cleanly in one pass as quickly as possible with a maximum of 90% power. This should minimise damage to the material and maximise product quality. If you cut more slowly than you need to, you don’t get a darker edge. You just get charring and flaming on the back of the wood. And it’s possible that the flaming could ignite the wood and cause a fire in the laser machine.

In this case, all the woods from plum to sycamore had quite dark laser cut edges. Kirsty makes wooden jewellery from the tiny shapes and sometimes paints them. You can find her as Hamespuns on Instagram.