tartan installation with Glenfiddich artist

Tartan installation with Glenfiddich artist

Posted Posted in Artists, Perspex

Jeehee Park is an artist in residence at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Aberdeenshire. She planned to create an art installation using Perspex to create an effect like tartan for an exhibition at the distillery, and she needed help with laser cutting and engraving them.

Maximum panel size

Jeehee had created pieces in a similar vein before, but wanted to experiment with her ideas further. She sent artwork for two large panels at 1200 x 800mm, the largest size that I could cut. Four smaller panels to create a box effect were also required, along with lots of small square spacers to help with assembling the piece.

Engraving clear Perspex

The Perspex for the panels was all clear and colourless. Jeehee wanted lots of parallel lines vector engraved across their widths. This effect works well on clear acrylic as the lines catch the light and look white, a subtle effect which becomes more pronounced the deeper the engrave is.

Jeehee wanted the engraved lines to be 2 – 3mm deep into the 10mm thick panels rather than just on the surface to catch the light in the way that she wanted. As I knew that I’d need to use a power equivalent to cutting 3mm perspex, I left the protective film on the engraved sides of the Perspex during production. It protects the surface from the heat of the laser which turns Perspex cloudy white around the engraved lines.

Test piece

Jeehee asked for a sample so that she could see exactly how the effect would work. Then she could make changes before I cut and engraved the large panels. She was very pleased and wondered whether to make the lines deeper, but was worried that the Perspex panels might bend under their weight if they were engraved too deeply. In the end, she decided to err on the safe side and asked me to proceed with 2 – 3mm depth as we had agreed.

Making the panels

I ordered sheets that were 1220 x 820mm to give a little margin without much wastage. First, I engraved the lines on the panels and then cut the rectangles to keep the edges as smooth as possible. If I had cut the rectangles first, the engraved lines would have made grooves on the cut edges.

My biggest challenge was finding a carrier to ship a parcel that was 1300 x 900mm and weighing 27kg. 10mm Perspex is very heavy in large sheets. Most couriers won’t take heavy parcels in such large dimensions.

The finished installation

Jeehee was delighted with the panels when they arrived at the distillery. After a few weeks of suspense while she assembled the piece,  I was blown away when she sent these photos taken by John Paul. I love the way the horizontal engraved and vertical colour elements work together.

The current exhibition featuring this work is open until Sunday 20th August.

 

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sandford country cottages keyrings

Sandford Country Cottages keyrings

Posted Posted in Designers, Wood

Evelyn Hardie from Sandford Country Cottages got in touch. She and her husband have six holiday cottages at their lovingly restored Arts and Crafts property, Sandford House in North East Fife. As a finishing touch, she wanted to create beautiful wooden keyrings for her customers to use.

Pieces of oak

You can never go wrong with oak. It’s so beautiful and looks wonderful when engraved. Evelyn’s joiner created fobs from leftover oak complete with drilled and countersunk holes, and she brought them around to the workshop for engraving.

Keyring artwork

As Evelyn is a designer, she created all the artwork for the keyrings herself. She wanted all the keyrings to have the Sandford Country Cottages logo engraved on one side and the cottage names on the other side. Three keyrings were needed for each cottage, plus a master keyring with the logo engraved on both sides.

Evelyn set up the artwork in rectangles representing the oak blocks so that the engravings would be correctly positioned on each keyring. Locations of the holes were shown on the artwork as a reference so I knew where the engravings should be in relation to them.

Sandford keyrings artwork

Engraving the keyrings

Evelyn had been concerned that the fine nature of her logo would be a problem when the keyrings were engraved. I knew the engravings would look good if I used the correct machine settings.

I always slow the machine down for fine work to make sure that the edges of engravings look sharp. They can look ragged if a higher speed is used. I knew that the logos would look best if the engravings were a good depth. A more pronounced 3D effect gives fine engravings better definition.

When machine speed is halved, the power required can be halved to compensate for the dwell time of the laser on the material doubling. I did some tests before I started production to get the right look.

Evelyn loved the keyrings and took them home to treat them with a protective finish. As well as protecting the wood, it also enhanced the engravings further. She sent this picture of them all finished and ready for her customers to use.

 

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.

 

Other blogs that you might find helpful about food truck signage include Fish and Frites festival menu boardsFlahute Coffee Company signs and Oak sign for The Crepe Shack.

creating a massive floor jigsaw

Creating a massive floor jigsaw

Posted Posted in Designers, Exhibitions, Wood

The Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther asked Wendy from The Malting House Design Studio to create some interactive exhibits. One of the items was to be a massive floor jigsaw. She wanted to know if I could help and if so, how best to make it.

Decisions, decisions!

I had worked with FifeX to create two giant jigsaws, so I knew this was possible. A good place to start was to decide the dimensions of the jigsaw, and what material to use.

Wendy wanted to make the jigsaw as large as possible. As my laser cutting bed is 1200 x 800mm, she chose to work with that. She wanted to make the jigsaw chunky and robust. As the laser can cut 9mm thick mdf, ply and Perspex, we discussed the merits of each.

Mdf feels like a jigsaw and cuts well. Thick plywood is less good for cut work. Knots in the laminated layers prevent clean cut throughs as the wood is more dense, and this can ruin a job. Perspex is good for cutting, but edges can be sharp and could hurt children. As the jigsaw needed to be printed with artwork, the decision came down to material properties and printability.

We agreed that mdf was the best material as it could be sprayed white before printing to make sure the colours popped. It would laser cut well, and the pieces would be safe to handle.

Artwork for printing

Wendy planned to create and adapt all the artwork required herself. She had a picture by Jurek Putter for printing onto the jigsaw, and the first step was to print the mdf board at the right size.

I suggested that we should make the mdf board a bit larger than the jigsaw needed to be. An extra 5mm in each direction would making the board 1210 x 810mm. If the edges became scuffed during printing or shipping, if wouldn’t matter. I would laser cut the final shape when I cut the jigsaw pieces so all the edges would look the same.

Wendy arranged to have the image printed a little bigger than 1200 x 800mm with 2 to 3mm bleeds at each edge. This standard printing practice would make sure that the jigsaw would be printed right to the laser cut edges.

Laser cutting a jigsaw

To laser cut the jigsaw, I needed a vector file with lines that the laser would follow to cut each shape.

My top tip for Wendy was to have sets of horizontal and vertical lines that the laser would cut once only. The laser can cut 9mm mdf in one pass. Cutting the same line twice means that the back can be damaged by heat and flaming if the material catches even momentarily. Working this way reduces production time and improves product quality while keeping costs down.

Wendy wanted the jigsaw to contain lots of interesting shapes that were not necessarily fully interlocking. She wanted to have four shapes, a barrel, a cross, a bird and a window incorporated into the design. I agreed that she could have whatever she wanted if she stuck to my vector artwork design tips!

All our careful preparation paid off.  Wendy made the outline rectangle of the jigsaw 1200 x 800mm and asked that the Jurek Putter mark at the edge of the artwork was included. The jigsaw cut cleanly and beautifully. The picture at the top is of the jigsaw on the laser after cutting. It filled the whole machine bed. Laser cut mdf edges are black and they contrasted well with the picture side and the white back of the puzzle.

Wendy was delighted with the results, and so was the Scottish Fisheries Museum.

 

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.

 

Other blogs you might find helpful about oak signage include Oak signs for Milly’s Kitchen and How does engraved wood look.

whole paper cut

Intricate paper cutting

Posted Posted in Designers, Paper

One of the most delicate commissions I’ve had was for wedding invitations.

A mother of the groom approached me for help. As a graphic designer, she had created artwork for the invitations and she wanted them laser cut from paper. It was absolutely beautiful, showing an Edinburgh skyline and the happy couple’s beloved cats.

Intricate artwork

Judith’s artwork was perfectly produced for laser cutting. All the lines were hairlines and they all joined beautifully within the vector files.

But the design was highly detailed, and this presented a challenge. This meant that the paper cuts would be very fragile. Spires and flagpoles on the buildings were thin and unsupported, text was tall and thin, and the book titles at the bottom were so small at the scale required that it would be too thin to hold together.

Designing in strength

Usually, I suggest to customers that they make the thinnest parts of their design 2 – 3mm mm wide to make them robust. Weak points can make products very vulnerable to damage, even if they’re made of thicker and stronger materials. All it takes is for a ring to catch or a little pressure in the wrong place and a whole piece can be destroyed.

If this can happen with 9mm mdf or 10mm Perspex, you can imagine much more vulnerable a design in paper or card would be. In this case, the paper designs were to be glued onto cards which would give them support and some protection, but cards still get handled fairly roughly.

 

papercut zoom

Robust paper cuts

I suggested to Judith that we should remove some of the finest detail from the text at the bottom. When I cut a sample of the ‘Harry Potter’ area, the card struggled to hold together. We tweaked the spires and text to make them a little wider, and simplified the flower bowl, buns and teacups. If the design had been cut at a much larger size, none of this would have been a problem, but the invitations had to fit on A5 sized cards.

Testing a sample

When we had finished, I produced a sample and it came out well. Many areas of the design were 1-2mm wide, but it worked and Judith understood that gentle handling would be required. She was delighted and asked me to cut 50 pieces from the dark charcoal paper that she’s provided. Each piece took 6 minutes to laser cut because there was so much laser cut detail.

 

For more details about designing artwork for laser cutting, check out our artwork tips page and blogs on designing artwork for laser cutting and laying out artwork.

 

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