How to personalise a desk

How to personalise a desk

Posted Posted in How to

Daniel from D Taylor Woodworking makes bespoke furniture. A customer had commissioned a desk made from maple. They wanted a quote engraved it to make it extra special and Daniel asked if I could help.

Will the wood fit the laser?

Whenever a customer asks about projects that sound big, I always ask what size the pieces are to be cut or engraved.

My machine bed is 1200 x 800mm and even although it’s a good size, it can still be too small for certain jobs. It’s always best to manage expectations at the start of discussions rather than wasting a customer’s time and mine discussing a project that doesn’t suit the machine.

Daniel told me that the piece to be engraved was a thin strip of maple that would be build into the desk after engraving. It would fit the laser without any problem.

Setting up the artwork

Daniel sent a vector file with the artwork text scaled to fit the maple fillet to be built into the fascia of the desk. It was perfect and ready to use.

Vector files are necessary for laser cutting but also work very well for raster (fill in) engraving. The area within the vector lines can be engraved.

maple desk close up

Working with maple

When the wood was prepared, Daniel brought it to the workshop for engraving.

Maple a beautiful pale wood, a bit like sycamore. We got a sharp contrast between the engraved and unengraved areas, and a good 3D effect in the text depth. When engraved wood is finished with varnish, it accentuates these features, making engraved areas look even darker, which is exactly what Daniel wanted.

Personalised desk

Daniel sent me some pictures when it was finished. He was really pleased with it!

He had initially enquired about having the artwork below the text engraved, but it was very detailed. Because of the effect that Daniel wanted to create, he decided that print would work better. This was a good decision as the work surface would remain flat. It would have been textured if engraved.

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

Cutting detailed shapes from plywood

Cutting detailed shapes from plywood

Posted Posted in How to

When Jessica emailed me the vector artwork for her Geo Festive decoration, I knew it was going to be a challenge! The stag isn’t as chunky a design as Geo Bear and Geo Seahorse.

Vulnerable parts of a design

Three of the stag’s legs and its antlers are long and thin. This makes them vulnerable to breakage. After making a prototype, I knew that the legs would be ok, but the antlers were still too fragile. The design worked in print, but when cut from plywood, they were too fine.

I advised Jessica had to beef up the antlers and it made a big difference to the look of the decorations. She agreed that we should make the decoration a bit bigger than the bear and seahorse as it was less chunky. That helped a bit too.

What can go wrong?

Lots of things can go wrong when cutting fragile shapes, especially when the edges are made up of lots of straight lines as Jessica’s decorations are.

When the laser cuts, it accelerates away from corners and decelerates towards them in preparation for the turn. When you’re cutting circles, there are no corners, and the laser head sweeps round at the same speed. When there are lots of angles and the laser slows down for each one.

The general rule of thumb with laser cutting is that you cut as fast as possible at as low a power setting as possible for a clean cut through. Even if the laser power is perfect when the machine speed is constant, it can be overpowering for the same material at a slower speed. As a result, there can be burning on the backs of the items as there’s enough time for the material to catch fire! 

This meant that I had to fine tune the machine settings very carefully. I used a few sheets to complete the order. As different sheets of plywood vary in thickness, I had to tweak the machine settings for each sheet. Slightly thinner or marginally thicker sheets had to be cut slightly faster or slower respectively to compensate. It was a fine balance, but necessary to achieve a high product quality.

balancing stag decoration

Balancing the decorations

Jessica wanted the stag to hang in a ‘prancing‘ position rather than sitting horizontally. After making several prototypes, I found the sweet spot. Moving the hole slightly to the left or right affected the angle significantly.

Geo Festive was the most difficult of Jessica’s decorations to find the balance point for the hole for. The bear and seahorse have more obvious centres of gravity and tweaks to hole location had a less dramatic impact.

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

Adapting print artwork for laser cutting

Adapting print artwork for laser cutting

Posted Posted in How to

Earlier this year, Jessica Taylor commissioned her Geometric Bear and Geometric Seahorse designs as laser cut decorations made from 3mm laser plywood. Jessica and her customers loved them, so she decided to commission her Geometric Festive stag design as Christmas decorations.

Is artwork for print suitable for laser cutting?

Not always. Each project needs to be taken on a case by case basis. It depends on how the artwork has been created. If the effects required from printing and laser cutting are very different, then different artwork files may be required.

At first glance, all three pieces of Jessica’s artwork were perfect vector files. But on closer inspection, they weren’t. Here’s why.

All the printed lines had been created as rectangles of the right thickness to be printed like the chef  in The Edible Alchemist’s logo. Hairline lines would have been too fine for the printed effect that Jessica wanted. But laser cutting and engraving needs hairlines.

In the picture above, you can see how much thicker the printed lines of the whale are in comparison with the engraved detail on the deer and bear decorations.

double lines for print line thickness
double lines for print line thickness

What would happen if the artwork wasn’t adapted?

If I laser cut and engraved using the printed artwork, all the lines have been engraved as two lines in parallel as you can see in the geo bear artwork above.

Also, there would have been lots of burning on the backs of the items  as only one cut is necessary to get through 3mm laser ply, not two.

Unnecessary cuts degrade product quality and add to production time. This means you get a poorer quality product at a higher price!

How Jessica tweaked her artwork

I explained to Jessica that I needed all the lines to be thin lines only, not rectangles.

All the lines to be engraved would be vector engraved. Product outlines had to be one complete hairline surrounding the shape so the products would be cut out completely in one continuous line. Cut out areas like between the front knees should be the same to maximise product quality.


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

How to raster engrave fine logos

How to raster engrave fine logos

Posted Posted in Corporate, How to

Xander Cloudsley  is a chocolatier. He started his business, The Edible Alchemist, in Glasgow this year.

He decided that he didn’t want sticky labels with his logo to put on his boxes of chocolates. Something more special was in order. After having a good look through my Instagram feed for some inspiration, he sent me a message asking if I could help.

An artwork conundrum

Xander knew that he wanted wooden circular tags about the size of a £2 coin with his logo engraved on.

When he sent me the logo file, I could see how fine the lines to be engraved were. I hoped that I could vector (line) engrave the lines to make sure they were clear.

Although he provided a pdf version of his logo which is made up of thin lines, it presented me with a few problems as illustrated by the logo image below:

  1. the lines making up the text, the chef and his spoon were made up of two lines where the space between the lines should be infilled
  2. the bubbles and the bowl were made up of single lines that should be engraved as the same thickness as the chef, spoon and text line thicknesses

I couldn’t vector engrave the lines in the first category as the laser would have drawn all the visible lines and there’d be no infill.

If I vector engraved the category 2 lines, they’d be too thin and would look lighter than the other lines of the chef, text and spoon.

What should I do?

The Edible Alchemist logo artwork
The Edible Alchemist logo artwork

To raster engrave or vector engrave?

Raster (fill in) engraving was the only way to go without lots of logo surgery being necessary. I saved the logo as a high quality pixellated image. This allowed me to raster engrave all the lines so they’d be the right thickness. My only remaining challenge was raster engraving such fine lines clearly!

I suggested to Xander that 3mm ply would be best for the tags. As well as being very robust and good value, it’s very pale in colour. This makes it easier for fine logos stand out without getting lost amongst wood grain.

After I made a prototype that was 30mm in diameter to make sure the lines engraved nicely, Xander decided that 40mm was closer to what he wanted.  The logos on both were beautifully clear. After seeing both sizes as prototypes, he decided to place an order with a mixture of both sizes.

Engraving fine lines

The video below shows some of the tags being engraved and cut.  I used a slower engraving speed to make sure all the fine lines in the logo detail looked sharp.

Branded chocolate box tags

These wooden tags are another example of a design that can work hard. Xander not only uses them as tags on his chocolate boxes. They’re handy as point of sales branding at outlets including coffee shops that sell his chocolates. The picture below was taken in Artisan Roast‘s coffee shop in Glasgow.

Wooden label used for branding at point of sale


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

How to make designs work hard

How to make designs work hard

Posted Posted in Designers, How to

Katie Gammie makes bags and lampshades with her screen printed designs, and creates prints too. As her business is called Katie Birdie (inspired by her school nickname) she commissioned some bird shaped tags with her logo on. They would be ideal for branding her products, especially her lovely bags.

Designing the tags

Katie wanted two sizes of tags for flexibility. She sent me vector format versions of the Katie Birdie bird shape and of her logo with the text of her business name.

I suggested that 3mm plywood would work well and that I could vector engrave the inner curve of the wing rather than cut it. I made up some proofs, resizing the birdies and the text to suit. Then I made a couple of prototypes to make sure that the tiny logo text would engrave well. I often engrave very small text, but I like to test each new product incase there are any surprises!

Katie loved the prototypes and commissioned a production run of both sizes to get her started.

Katie birdie tags

Putting the tags to work

It wasn’t long before Katie was posting pictures of the tags in use on Instagram like the one above. People posted comments asking Katie if she could make key rings.

Christmas inspiration

A month or two later, Katie had another idea. Christmas was a couple of months away. She realised that her birdies would make great decorations. In her next order, she asked for quantities of both tag sizes with and without logos. Then she added some red fabric to the decorations and turned them into robins!

Here’s a picture of one that Katie made into a brooch and wore on her dungarees. The hanging hole doubles up as the robin’s eye.

Katie Birdie robin brooch on dungarees

Flexible designs

It’s great when customers can think of lots of applications for products like this to increase their sales. If artwork is in vector format, it’s easy to rescale for different applications, and design elements can be added or removed easily.


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

Laser engraving tiny text successfully

Laser engraving tiny text successfully

Posted Posted in How to, Wood

Maggie’s Fife is a much loved local charity that supplies practical support to cancer patients, helping sufferers with advice on everything from wigs to insurance, and how to explain things to families and friends.

Tu, their Centre Fundraising Manager got in touch. She wanted to create some baubles that people could sponsor as a Christmas fundraising campaign and wondered if we could create something together.

Bauble artwork

Tu wanted a bauble shape with the Maggie’s logo in the centre. She sent me a black and white pdf which was perfect for my needs. She also found artwork for a bauble shape she liked that was free to use and asked me to make the bauble shape 7cm in diameter.

After some feedback on an initial prototype, Tu sent a snowflake shape that she wanted dotted around to add more interest as the baubles looked a bit bare. To add variety, I suggested that I could vector engrave them. As vector engraving is more efficient than raster engraving, it would help to keep the cost down too. I added three snowflakes, resized and slightly rotated so they’d all look different.

Tu loved the proof, approved the quote and asked me to make an initial production run to get them started.

How to engrave tiny text

I knew that the biggest challenge with the baubles would be engraving the second line of text in the logo, ‘Everyone’s home for cancer care’.

When any artwork is miniaturised, whether logos or anything else, all details become smaller. It can be difficult to get good engraving resolution. In cases like this, I always do tests to ensure I’m happy with the results. If I’m not, I’ll offer solutions which can include enlarging or tweaking the problem details. Elements can be deleted altogether, or the whole product can be enlarged.

In this case, slowing the engraving speed significantly was enough to do the trick, along with selecting the right power so the text was clear, but not too heavy.

The E of ‘Everyone’ is just under 2mm high, and the smaller letters are just over 1mm high. They’re the smallest text I’ve engraved I think! It helped that the of the font was fairly bold to start with.

Tu wanted 50 baubles to start with, with the option to come back for more if they’re popular! If you’re interested in supporting the campaign, you can contact Maggie’s Fife.


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