Iain got married last Saturday. He presented his Best Men with high quality axes that he’d asked me to engrave for him. This is how we did it.
Engraving high quality axes
Iain knew he wanted axes, and he wanted them personalised for his friends. He searched for personalised axes, but he couldn’t find any of high quality, so he decided to buy the axes he wanted. He brought them to the workshop and we discussed how he wanted the engravings to look.
We had two options – to engrave the wooden handles, or the leather head covers. Iain decided he wanted the head covers engraved on the presentation side . There were logos on the wooden handle.
Axe head metal isn’t usually compatible with laser engraving as I’ve found from past experience, and the engravings would be more likely to be damaged during use.
I engraved a leather cartridge belt recently. Iain had seen the pictures on social media and liked the effect.
After some thought, Iain decided to go with his best men’s initials and the date of the wedding. He wanted to keep things simple and bold, so we settled on the Arial font. There was a nice flat area on the leather covers for 30 x 30mm engravings.
We agreed that the engravings would look best orientated so the text of the engravings and axe branding all read on the same plane.
I created proofs for him to approve, making the initials 48 point and the dates 24 point to create neat 33 x 23mm rectangles that would fit the covers nicely.
Engraving the axes
I set up individually in the in the laser to get the engraving positioning just right. Then I wedged some perspex blocks under the blades to lift the areas to be engraved so they were as flat as possible to keep the laser in focus. This was much easier to do withthe covers were in position on the axes to keep them steady.
Iain loved the results and picked the axes up a couple of days before the wedding.
Tom and Karen opened their new Scotch whisky gift shop, The Wee Couper of Fife, six weeks ago. Initially, they asked me to laser cut gift box foam inserts for them. Then they had another idea. They’d ordered stainless steel hip flasks for inclusion in some of the sets, but their supplier sent the wrong size for the gift boxes!
Rather than returning the 200 flasks, Tom and Karen wondered if I could engrave them with their logo so they could sell them separately.
Engraving stainless steel
My laser can mark some metals directly, but stainless steel isn’t one of them unfortunately. However, there is a wonderful product called Thermark that changes this. It’s a grey paste made up of fine glass particles and black pigment. After it’s been painted on and left to dry, I can engrave as usual.
This process leaves a matt black enamel mark on the metal surface and the remainder of the paste can be washed off. It’s weather proof and highly scratch resistant, and it sits slightly proud of the metal’s surface.
I knew it would be perfect for the hipflasks as it would give a high contrast engraving. Tom and Karen liked the idea.
Branding artwork proof
Tom asked if I could make up a design using their logo with the text they wanted underneath. He sent me a copy of the logo in vector format so I could rescale it without loss of image quality. This is really important for achieving a high quality engraving.
Tom asked for the artwork to be approximately 45 x 45mm so it would fit onto any hip flask size they had and we could use one size of artwork for them all. The flask in the picture at the top is one of the shortest flasks and you can see how the engraving fits.
Engraving sample hip flasks
Tom and Karen liked the proof and brought around a box with two sizes of large and small hip flasks. Both they engraved well. They were so pleased that they decided to have them all engraved, even the ones in the gift boxes! It’s a great way for the Coupers to add more branding to their products. Their customers will still use the hip flasks long after the miniatures have been consumed.
Courteney Ritchie is a recent graphic design graduate and has started her own business, Ritchie Design. She wanted to create her own bespoke business cards and had a clever idea for a two ply laser cut card that she wanted to have laser cut and engraved. She had an idea to play on her surname and make her business cards look like Rich Tea biscuits!
Business card vector artwork
Courteney sent me artwork for the layers to be cut from brown kraft card that she had delivered to me. All the artwork was in vector format as it’s perfect for laser cutting and vector engraving, a similar process to cutting but using much less power. This allows the surface to have a good contrast mark without being in any danger of cutting through the material.
The top layer of the business cards was to be completely laser cut and the base layer was to have all the detail vector engraved so that when the layers were put together, this detail would be visible, giving more depth to the cut detail. I made a prototype and the engraving underneath the cuts really did throw the layers into sharper relief.
Engraving thin kraft card
My biggest challenge in this project was engraving the bottom layer so that the laser didn’t cut through. This kraft card was thin, and engraving on my lightest settings did cut though in places, especially at the corners of the letters where the laser slows down to change direction.
I did some tests and decided that I could use a little less power for engraving so that I’d still get consistent but lighter mark with no danger of cut through.
Finishing the business cards
I sent all the card discs to Courteney and she glued the layers and added a printed backing with her contact details. Haven’t they turned out well? Here’s her blog about personal branding where she talks aboout them.
The Crail Preservation Society wanted to refresh the Crail Castle Walkway panorama showing landmarks on the opposite side of the Firth of Forth. The old one was printed and mounted in a box to protect it from the weather, but it hadn’t survived the elements in that exposed spot. This time, they wanted it engraved on a piece of wood to fit the location.
I love panoramas, so I was really excited about this project!
Converting the panorama artwork for engraving
Dennis wanted to use the artwork that had been used for the previous panorama. It had been created by artist Kurt Diggelman. It had to be modified as it was in colour and the laser can’t engrave in colour. Catriona of CatMac Design is a graphic designer who helps me out with things like this, and she worked with Dennis to a create black and white vector artwork conversion of Kurt’s image.
One of my concerns was whether the text would be easy to read without people having to bend down. To check this, I performed some test engraves of the smallest text and they worked better than I’d expected.
A piece of white oak
Dennis knew Frazer Reid of FAR Cabinet Makers, so he asked him about what wood would be best to use for this project. Not only did it have to look beautiful, but it had to be suitable for outdoor display in an exposed spot. Frazer suggested white oak, and supplied a beautifully prepared piece 1330 x 385mm and about an inch thick. The maximum width of the machine is 1340mm, so it was a snug fit!
Engraving the panorama detail
I used machine settings to make sure the detail of the text would be as clear as possible. Then I engraved the wood with maximum power for best possible contrast between the engravings and the wood. Dennis was delighted with the results. It’s hoped that the panorama will be installed this week in its new home.
Customers often ask if I can personalise special gifts. I’ve engraved wallets, wooden boxes and even axes for best men and ushers!
Vicky asked me if I could engrave a leather cartridge belt for her son’s landmark birthday. Leather engraves well, and the appearance of engravings depends on the colour, type and finish of the leather.
This belt was very high quality and if I made a mistake, I knew I’d have to buy a new one!
Creating the vector artwork
Vicky wanted her son’s initials engraved on the belt. I typed them into my software and chose a font that she liked. I suggested choosing a finer font as the engraved areas of leather don’t look particularly attractive. They’re best minimised for best effect.
Personalising the belt
Vicky wanted the engraving to sit to the right of the buckle when fastened. I measured the space between the right hand edge of the buckle when fastened on the tightest hole and the nearest edge of the cartridge holders. Then I created a rectangle to represent that area of the belt, centred the artwork at the size Vicky wanted in it so they’d be engraved in the right place. We were ready to engrave!
What does engraved leather look like?
Engraving leather is like engraving card of different colours. Dye colour and depth of shade, and the depth to which artwork is engraved all contribute to the appearance of the engraving. It’s usually darker than the shade of the material and browner too as engraving is a burning process.
I had some engraved dark brown leather samples to show Vicky. She was keen to have an engraving that would stand out well and possibly be recessed into the leather.
After setting up the belt in the machine and checking it was the right way up so the cartridges wouldn’t fall out, I engraved the belt using my usual raster engraving settings for leather. The first pass was so clear and Vicky was so pleased that she didn’t feel the need to have the engraving any deeper.
Personalised favours are becoming more popular for weddings. Regular enquiries come from couples for individual touches that will remind guests of their special day. Usually wedding favours are requested with occasional wedding logs and stationary embellishments.
Rachel’s son and his fiancee wanted rustic coasters engraved with details of their wedding to give to their guests as favours. Everyone uses coasters, and they can bring back happy memories every time they catch the eye.
Gill and Ali wanted to use slices of tree branches. They asked local company Thomson Timber to make them, and they very kindly recommended my engraving services.
Designing the artwork
Rachel popped round to the workshop with the coasters when they were ready. Most of them were around 85mm in diameter, and they were all different shapes as branches aren’t perfect circles in cross section as you can see in the photo below. Jim had finished them beautifully on their presentation sides, but made sure all the coasters still retained the rustic look that Gill and Ali wanted.
Rachel had a note of the text to be engraved. Each coaster was to be the same with the wedding venue, the couple’s names, and the date of their wedding.
I laid the three lines out, and we chose a font that Rachel was happy with, making Gill and Ali’s names the focal point. We chose a size for the artwork so it would still fit on the smaller coasters without looking squashed. Then I engraved a sample so Rachel could see how they’d look.
Engraving wedding favours
As the text was quite small and fine, I suggested engraving at a slower speed to keep the engravings crisp. This had the added advantage of giving the engravings more depth which helps fine detail to stand out more. Rachel was delighted with the results, and I engraved the rest of the coasters.