Cutting foam inserts for gift boxes

Cutting foam inserts for gift boxes

Posted Posted in Corporate, Other

Tom and Karen Couper have just opened their beautiful new shop, The Wee Couper of Fife,  in Anstruther where they sell boxed miniature sets.

Bespoke inserts for a range of products

Tom and Karen wanted to make up their own unique gift sets. They sourced boxes with foam inserts, but these inserts just came as a whole square. The Coupers needed to have shapes cut out of the inserts to match the 14 individual gift sets they planned to start with. Holes were required for bottles, hipflasks, golf balls and jams. And they needed to be snug so that the products would fit in the boxes securely.

The Wee Couper of Fife's Grant's, Hendricks and Grey Goose gift set
The Wee Couper of Fife’s Grant’s, Hendricks and Grey Goose gift set

Can you laser cut foam?

Tom and Karen came to the workshop to show me what they wanted to see if I could help.

Tom had mocked up a gift box to show me how he wanted them to look by cutting one foam square with a knife. It looked smart! But the question was, could I laser cut the foam for them? I’d asked Tom to check if the foam contained any PVC or teflon as they evolve acid gases during cutting, but his supplier confirmed that they didn’t and that they were suitable for laser cutting.

I had only cut closed cell foam prior to this. It cut well and the facing side looked good. But on the back, in areas where the machine slowed down to change direction, the foam melted a bit, creating pits. I tested the sample that the Coupers had brought and found settings that worked. Again, the facing side looked great, but areas on the back where angles had been cut, there were small melted pits. Tom and Karen didn’t mind as they wouldn’t be seen.

Creating artwork for the 14 foam insert styles

Now we knew I could help, the next stage was to create artwork. Fourteen files were needed, one for each set. I’m not a graphic designer, but I work with a few, and one of them is CatMac Design. Catriona created the artwork in vector format, sent it to me to check, and we were ready to go.

Grand opening!

Two weeks ago, Tom brought round the first box of foam to the workshop to cut.

On Friday 15th June, Tom and Karen proudly opened their new shop. Here’s a picture of Tom looking splendid in his uniform kilt with one of the box sets. I love the little half keg display units on the wall behind him, each containing a different gift set.

Wee Couper opening

 

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Forsyth Dancing Shoes decoration

Forsyth Dancing Shoes decorations

Posted Posted in Corporate, Wood

Forsyth Dancing Shoes sells Highland dancing shoes and pumps.  As well as shoes, Nichola has other merchandise like tea towels,  greetings cards and notebooks decorated with  designs she commissioned. She thought that hanging decorations would be a good addition to their range.

Dancing shoes artwork

Nichola’s friend Louise McLaren is an artist based in Comrie. She makes paper cut designs and she creates the artwork for Forsyth Dancing Shoes’ merchandise. Louise adjusted the artwork she created for the greetings cards for the decorations and provided the design in a vector format for laser cutting because she knew that Nichola wanted shapes cut out rather than printed.

What material to choose?

Nichola emailed me the artwork and gave me a call to discuss ideas. She wanted something that would look good spray painted or as they are in a material that would be robust, light and cost effective.

I suggested 3mm ply and mdf, or 2mm mdf if Nichola wanted something even lighter. Plywood is a nice option as the wood grain is attractive, but mdf has a pleasing earthy appearance. Both options are good value and require similar cutting settings at the same thickness.

The artwork included lots of fine detail. Louise had done a good job of keeping the design details 2 to 3mm thick to keep them as robust as possible. Any of the materials I suggested would work well for this new product.

Nichola chose 3mm ply, and I sent her a photo of a prototype. She loved it!

Nichola sells her dancing shoes and other products online and at dancing competitions. Her new decorations will have their first outing at a competition in Inverness this weekend. Hopefully they will be a great addition to her range.

 

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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!

 

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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!

 

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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.
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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.

 

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