How does engraved wood look?

How does engraved wood look?

Posted Posted in Signage, Wood

Karen Elwis of The Learning Cauldron became a friend through Fife Women in Business. She tutors students in English, German and French from her home. Recently, she asked if I could engrave a sign with her logo so that pupils would know where to come.

She had also been short listed as a finalist for the Perthshire Chamber of Commerce awards for 2018 and wanted the sign in place when the judges paid her a visit. This increased the urgency of the request considerably!

The Learning Cauldron logo

When Karen had her logo designed, she wanted it to look like as though it was written with chalk on a blackboard. The Learning Cauldron text is all white on a black background, except for the TLC letters which are all in chalk colours.

Laser engraving can’t be done in colour. The laser either engraves or doesn’t engrave, and the engraved surface of wood is a shade of brown. This is darker if the wood is darker and a higher power setting is used during engraving.

I suggested to Karen that there would be two ways of engraving her logo. It could be done so that the black square would be engraved and the letters unengraved. This would look closest to her logo. Otherwise, I could engrave the outline of the square which would be left engraved, and the text. This way, the logo would be recognisable with minimal  engraving. Both options would look great depending on what she preferred.

The Learning Cauldron oak sign
The engraved but unvarnished sign

What does engraved wood look like?

It was important that Karen knew what to expect. Most signs have small engraved areas like text. Karen’s logo was different to most that I’ve worked with as the engraved area would be much larger.

I showed Karen samples of how engraved oak would look. It’s such a beautiful wood with a lovely grain which would show through the engraving. Engraved areas would be slightly recessed into the wood, and growth rings of different densities would engrave to different depths. After engraving, varnish, stain or oil protect the wood, evening out and enhancing the engraved areas and improving the contrast between engraved and unengraved areas. You can see the difference it makes if you compare the picture above with the lead picture and video.

Karen was keen to have the sign looking as close to the logo as possible, so opted to have the square engraved.  She asked Frazer Reid of FAR Cabinet Makers to make the oak sign. He dropped it off at my workshop and I got to work.

This piece of oak was less dense than some I’ve worked with, and the engraving had a nice depth to it. And the wood grain rippled like a wave across the surface and this was pronounced in the engraving, enhancing interest in the area. As there was so much engraving, a lot of dust was created as it is a burning process, so I gave the sign a good rub with an old sock and then gave it a hoover for good measure to remove as much as possible. Karen was delighted with it and decided to varnish it herself.

Varnishing surprise

The challenge in this job arose unexpectedly as Karen finished her sign at home. While she was varnishing it, black specs from residual charred dust stuck to the brush and spread across the sign. It also contaminated the remainder of the pot of varnish I gave her from engraving my own house sign. Usually when engraved areas are small, the brush doesn’t contact the bottom of engravings and this problem doesn’t arise. In this case, a quarter to a third of the sign surface was engraved and  it was a problem that I hadn’t even thought of. I learned something new that day!

Karen rang me up and we chatted over how we could sort it out. She removed the affected varnish from the sign using solvent and sanding as she thought best. Once all of the engraved areas had one complete coat of varnish, it was sealed.

A splash of colour

Karen wanted her sign to look as close to her logo as possible, and enlisted her friend Claire Brownbridge’s expertise. She mixed some acrylic paint to match the chalk colours in the logo and painted the T, L and C. Varnishing the sign first made it easier to remove stray paint from unwanted areas. Then Karen completed the final coat with a clean brush and a new pot of varnish.

Karen’s sign is now proudly mounted outside her door for judges and pupils to admire!

 

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

medical squadron cap badges

Medical Squadron cap badges

Posted Posted in Signage, Wood

Sergeant Gordon Fullerton recruits medical personnel for 152 Medical Squadron based in Glenrothes.

He contacted me because the troops were refurbishing their mess area. They wanted their cap badges engraved on four oak cask ends to hang on the wall and wondered if I could help.

Cap badge detail

Gordon sent me artwork for the four cap badges for the Medical (RAMC), Nursing (QARANC), Logistics (RLC) and Staff and Personnel Support (SPS) corps. They were all very intricate with lots of detail, particularly on the crowns and the snake on the RAMC badge.

Gordon wanted them all engraved at 250 x 250mm. As all the badges  were different widths, we decided to make them all 250mm high to keep them the same size as all the cask ends would be displayed together.

Cask ends

Gordon had found four different looking cask ends that he wanted to have engraved. You can see the cask end in the video has very irregular wooden boards. As the troops wanted the tops of the barrel staves to be part of the cask ends so it would look as if barrels were sticking out of the walls, Gordon used metal hoops to hold the stave ends securely in place.

Engraving the cask ends

Gordon wanted the boards of the cask ends to be vertical, and he’d allocated one end of each as the top for hanging. Once I positioned the cask ends in the laser in the right orientation, I found the central points and lined up the laser with them. This made sure the engravings would be centrally located. Then I started engraving.

I used my highest power setting to get as dark engraves as possible. We wanted the engravings to show up as well as possible against the oak. All the detail came out very well. The engraving looks a bit fuzzy on the video as lots of dust is created when engraving wood. It dusted off easily after production.

Gordon rubbed some Antique Oil over each cask end when it was finished. This brought out the richness of the wood and enhanced the engravings. He managed to install them in the mess before Remembrance Sunday so that the troops’ families would see them. I’m so please that the troops are delighted with them.

 

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

Vaccines facility sign for GSK

Vaccines facility sign for GSK

Posted Posted in Signage, Stainless steel, Thermark

GSK Montrose was preparing to open their first vaccines facility in the UK. This new £44 million manufacturing site will provide ingredients for more than 400 million vaccinations a year worldwide.

A commemorative plaque was required for the opening ceremony. Dave Mackenzie got in touch to ask if I could engrave a brushed stainless steel sign in time for 15th August when they were expecting the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to do the honours.

Proofs for sign

David sent over a couple of sign mock ups and a GSK logo. He wanted a plain font with the GSK logo in the top right corner. Unfortunately, the artwork was very pixellated and not of high enough resolution to deliver good engravings. To achieve the best results, I created the text in vector format, traced the orange GSK logo to turn it into a vector too and sent a proof to David for approval together with a quote.

David decided to supply the stainless steel plaques to get the size and thickness they wanted.

GSK sign zoom

How to engrave a stainless steel sign

Once David had approved the artwork and the stainless steel plates arrived, I could get to work.

As the laser isn’t powerful enough to engrave stainless steel, I used Thermark, a metal marking paste. It’s a mixture of glass particles and black pigment. Once it’s been spread on the surface to be engraved, it needs to be allowed to dry. Then engraving can commence.

When the laser engraves the paste, it melts the glass and traps the black pigment onto the surface of the metal. This process forms a thin layer of black enamel on the surface of the metal that can just be felt with a fingernail. It’s weatherproof and highly scratch resistant, making it perfect for outdoor display. And the matt black mark gives good contrast against the metal.

When the engraving was complete, the sign was rinsed to remove traces of the leftover paste.

David was pleased with the sign that arrived with time to spare, and the sun shone for the big day!

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

oak sign for The Crepe Shack

Oak sign for The Crepe Shack

Posted Posted in Signage, Wood

Margaux Larg from The Crepe Shack contacted me because she wanted a new sign for her food truck. Like her friends at The Cheesy Toast Shack, she was taking her food van to the Edinburgh Festival and Margaux wanted a sign to show they sell drinks as well as crepes.

A long sign

Margaux wanted a long piece of oak that would span the width of the van’s serving hatch. I asked Margaux how long she wanted it to be as the laser bed is 1200 x 800mm. When she said 8” long, I asked whether she’d be happy to have it made in two parts so they would fit the machine. Initially, she said yes, but the more she thought about it, the more she knew that she really wanted it to be in one piece.

The Crepe Shack at the Edinburgh Festival
The Crepe Shack at the Edinburgh Festival

A bit of imagination

In the past, I have managed to set up the machine so that I can pass long things through the ‘letterboxes’ at the front and back of the laser. This works best if the items for engraving are up to 15mm thick, because I need vertical space to raise or lower the machine bed to maintain focus on the surface of the material. If I use the letterbox, I can’t lower the material as it’s sitting on the machine’s casing. If the material is thick, I can’t raise the bed much which makes it difficult to focus accurately.

When Margaux said that the oak was 15mm thick, I knew I could do it. Ben brought the oak round to the workshop and I got to work.

Splitting up the artwork

As the machine bed is 800mm wide, I checked the artwork from Hasta Inc to see how I could break it down neatly to engrave it in sections. The total engraved length was 2261mm with a logo at each end and five words in between. I worked out that I could engrave it in four sections – first, the left logo and ‘hot chocolate’, then ‘coffee tea’, then ‘soft drinks’, and finally ‘water’ and the logo on the right. It was going to be a fiddle and take longer than if it were done in two pieces, but it would be worth it.

Breaking up the artwork for engraving
Breaking up the artwork for engraving

Engraving in sections

First, I slid one end of the oak into the laser. I held it against the side of the machine so that I could change the position of the wood easily for the next engraving.

I deleted all the artwork except for the left logo and ‘hot chocolate’ and created a rectangle containing them. This included space from the end of the wood to the left edge of the logo for positioning. Then I set up the laser’s origin at the top right corner of the wood and started to engrave.

Crepe Shack first engraving
Crepe Shack first engraving

When the first section was finished (see picture above), I set up the second section of artwork. To get the right spacing between ‘chocolate’ and ‘coffee’, I created a rectangle that started from the edge of the last ‘e’ of ‘chocolate’ and ended at the right edge of ‘tea’. The artwork breakdown picture above shows this clearly. Before engraving, I moved the wood deeper into the machine so that it protruded through the back ‘letterbox’ and aligned the laser head with the last ‘e’ of ‘chocolate’. Then I engraved ‘coffee tea’.

Next, I had to remove the wood from the machine and turn it around, feeding the unengraved end into the machine. I continued to process the artwork as I did for the first two engravings. This time, I rotated the text and logos 180 degrees so that it wouldn’t appear upside down on the sign!

Margaux was delighted with her new sign. She posted a photo on Instagram when the van was set up in Edinburgh and tagged me in so I could see it. It’s such a lovely piece of oak and it looks beautiful in one piece.

The Crepe Shack is near the Gilded Balloon box office for the duration of the festival. Check it out if you’re in the area!

 

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

Signs for The Cheesy Toast Shack

Signs for The Cheesy Toast Shack

Posted Posted in Recycled wood, Signage

Kate Carter from The Cheesy Toast Shack got in touch a few weeks ago. She was preparing to take her food truck to the Edinburgh Festival, and wanted some big new menu boards. As The Cheesy Toast Shack would be located near the Gilded Balloon with other food vans, she wanted her signs to stand out.

Getting the look right

Kate makes the best cheese toasties. As she uses a hotplate and hot irons to heat and compress the toasties, she wanted to go for a rough and ready branded look. After she saw the signs I had engraved on pieces of recycled scaffolding boards for Blackhouse Watersports in Tiree, she knew that was the look she wanted. Her partner Sam was happy to chop up recycled scaffolding boards once she knew what sizes she needed.

Sizing the signs

Kate wanted to know how big she could have the signs. As the laser can accommodate pieces up to 1330mm long, that worked for her as she wanted 800 to 1000mm.

She wanted to arrange the signs in groups on each side of the truck, with one side dedicated to vegetarian options. Each set would have a logo, three menu boards, allergy information and a ‘Make Grilled Cheese Great Again’ slogan. Drinks options to be suspended from the canopy over the serving hatch. Robbie from Hasta Inc prepared the artwork, designing in flaws so that the engravings would look uneven in places to add to the branded effect.

The Cheesy Toast Shack sign

Engraving the signs

Sam prepared the wood and brought the pieces to the workshop. Their surfaces were rough and some of the metal protective strips were still on the ends of some of the boards which were still damp from being outside.

I had shown Kate and Sam various examples of how engraving could look on different woods. We agreed that the deepest, darkest engrave possible would look best and give a good 3D effect. I added that engraving under these conditions could leave a dirty effect around the engravings which could be sanded off, the extent of which would be to do with the wood. More resinous woods like soft woods could be more affected. Kate thought that this would only add to the effect that she was after, and had seen it on Blackwater’s signs.

As time was tight before the Fringe began, I got to work straight away. After increasing the sizes of the artwork to make the text as bold as possible, it took me about a day to engrave all 15 signs. It turned out that the wetness of the wood enhanced the dirty appearance of the engravings, and Kate loved it!

Cheesy Toast Shack sign 2

Finishing touches

Kate had bought four gorgeous ochre suede welder aprons for her staff to use.  She wondered if I could engrave The Cheesy Toast Shack logo on them. After a successful test where I worked out the best machine settings to use, I engraved them all.

Kate also wanted to have some numbers for the prices laser cut from 3mm plywood. Then she could attach them to the boards and change them if required. We picked the Arial bold font to make them as chunky as possible, and added holes for nails or screws.

Kate was delighted with everything. Five hours after she’d picked everything up, the truck was all dressed up with pictures posted on Instagram!

If you’re in the area, look them up. They’re at the Gilded Balloon for the duration of the Festival.

 

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

Oak sign for The Cellar Restaurant

Oak sign for The Cellar Restaurant

Posted Posted in Signage, Wood

Billy Boyter is the chef – owner at The Cellar Restaurant in Anstruther. After seeing pictures of the oak signs I’d laser engraved for Cambo Estate on Instagram, Billy sent a message asking if I could engrave one for him too.

A piece of oak

Frazer Reid of FAR Cabinet Makers had prepared the oak for the Cambo Estate signs, so Billy contacted him to see if he could supply the wood. He wanted the sign to be double sided as it would be hung out over the footpath. This meant that both sides had to be sanded and prepared. As the Cambo signs were fixed to walls and gateposts, they were only prepared on the presentation side.

Rescaling The Cellar’s logo

Billy emailed several different versions of his logo to me. He didn’t have a vector format which is best as they can be resized without loss of artwork quality. The black and white png that he sent was good, so I traced it to create a vector and rescaled it to suit the size of the sign. If I had stretched the png, the image would have looked pixellated. That would have been visible in the engraving too, making curves look jagged.

I sent a proof to Billy to show him how the logo would look on the sign and he was happy with it. As his logo was very fine, I suggested that it might be best to engrave it twice to get a deeper mark. Cambo’s oak from the estate was very dense and there wasn’t much depth to the engravings on their signs, but the engravings looked good as the Cambo artwork was chunkier and bolder. So I quoted for engraving each side once or twice incase the engrave needed more depth.

 

Engraving the sign

After I engraved the first side of the sign, I checked the engraving for depth. It looked fine, so I decided not to do a second pass. After I engraved the second side, Frazer collected it for varnishing and installation.

 

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