Orkney Museum table top game

Orkney Museum table top game

Posted Posted in Designers, Wood

Rhona Jenkins is a designer in Orkney. At the start of this year, she was working with Orkney Museum to create new Viking and Medieval galleries. She contacted Ken Boyd from FifeX as she wanted to create interactive exhibits. One was to be a large tabletop game, and Ken asked if I could help him as Rhona wanted the detail laser engraved.

Constructing the table top

Ken knew that there are limitations on the sizes of pieces of wood that I can cut and engrave, and on thicknesses that I can cut through.

He wanted the table to be chunky and thick. As the maximum thickness of ply that I can laser cut is 9mm and thick ply is slow to laser cut, we decided that it would be best if Ken sourced the plywood. Then he could choose the look and thickness that he wanted, cut it to size and finish it. Then he would bring the relevent pieces to me for engraving.

As the table top was to be made of two layers, this gave us lots of flexibility. Ken could make the table base the size that he wanted. There would be four large engraved pieces that would sit on top of the base along with the square game pieces. All these parts would be engraved and he could be made at sizes to fit the laser. You can see the two layers in the pictures.

Medieval game detail

The centrepiece of the table was to be a large map of medieval Kirkwall covered with geographical features like rivers, the natural harbour, the site of the town and the new cathedral. Ken designed it to be 1174 x 794mm so it fit the laser bed. It took a whole day to engrave due to the size!

Surrounding the map at the edges of the table are three long panels describing aspects of Kirkwall life and the trades of the people, all beautifully illustrated. Each of these pieces was 1170 x 166mm.

Finally, I engraved the game pieces with symbols of the local tradesmen including barrels, musical instruments, fish and leather hides. Ken cut and prepared the counters and attached them to two small boards so I could engrave a grid of 5 x 5 symbols on each set.

These pieces were all cut to size by FifeX and I engraved them which saved a lot on production costs. Ken provided all the artwork as black and white vector files.

Finishing touches

FifeX assembled the table. When it arrived in Orkney, Rhona arranged for colour wash to be applied to the sea areas of the map. It looks lovely, and I love the illustration. The exhibitions opened during the summer.

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Cask ends for Diageo

Cask ends for Diageo

Posted Posted in Corporate, Wood

My earliest high profile job came as a result of networking.

Whilst visiting the new bottling plant at Diageo‘s Leven site with Fife Chamber of Commerce, I met Richard the site manager. I had a chance to tell him about LaserFlair and that I could help with customised engraving jobs that might come up. Within two weeks, he was on the phone asking if I could help with a project.

Top secret!

Richard told me that in a fortnight, a VIP was to open the new bioenergy plant and distillery expansion at the Cameron Bridge Distillery near Leven. He wanted two cask ends to be engraved with the Cameron Brig logo and details about the grand opening.

One cask end was to be hung on the wall at the distillery to commemorate the visit, and the other would be part of an oak cask filled with Cameron Brig whisky. During the opening ceremony, the VIP would ‘hammer in the bung’ of the filled cask. It would then be stored for maturation before being auctioned off for charity. Richard told me that this project was be top secret because of the identity of the VIP.

 Cameron Brig artwork proofs

Artwork set up

A week later, one of Richard’s colleagues sent me a copy of the Cameron Brig logo with the wordings to be engraved. Ian also gave me a diagram of how he wanted the engravings to appear on the different cask ends. I sent him proofs that he approved. All the black detail was to be raster (fill in) engraved. The outer green circles represent the cask end diameters and the space between the concentric green circles would be hidden by the cask rims.

hammering in the bung

There was a wee cooper

My next call was from Alan, the cooper from Diageo’s Alloa site. He was making the oak cask for the ceremony and would be present to help the Prime Minister hammer in the bung should he need it! Alan’s in the middle in the photo above with his apprentice to his left.

He wanted to bring the cask ends to the workshop for engraving and asked if he should bring the cask ends varnished or unvarnished. It didn’t make a difference to me, but the finish would look better if the engraved areas were varnished too. He decided that he’d prefer to have them engraved and then varnish the cask on one go. It would be more efficient and time was tight. He came that day, I engraved the cask ends and he picked them up less than 24 hours later.

Everyone was delighted with the engraved cask ends, and the hammering in of the bung went without a hitch.

 

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Bespoke keyrings for Burntisland Prinary School

Bespoke keyrings for Burntisland Primary School

Posted Posted in Other, Wood

Burntisland Primary School wanted to have some bespoke keyrings made. A week before the school broke up for summer, they decided to act quickly so they could be given to the teachers as thankyou gifts.

Meeting a tight budget

One of the parents at the school works with wood and can generate computer based artwork, so they asked him if he could help. Once he had an idea of what they wanted, he got in touch with me and we discussed materials, thicknesses and designs that could work well.

Which material to choose?

As the budget was tight, I suggested using 3mm plywood. It’s good value, robust and tactile, and looks woody. Choosing a thinner material means that cutting will be faster, making production time shorter, keeping costs down. And I had some in stock so I could make the keyrings quickly.

We discussed Perspex as it’s colourful, but it costs a lot more than plywood. The only option that would have been slightly cheaper than plywood is mdf, but it wouldn’t look as nice.

Burntisland Prinary School keyring

Bespoke design

Jonnie said that the school were thinking about jigsaw piece shapes of around 50 x 60mm with a hole cut out for the split rings. I said that from experience, interesting shapes are more appealing than simple shapes like squares or rectangles. A jigsaw piece would be a fun and interesting shape, but would be robust in the parts of the design more vulnerable to breakage.

He asked if I could cut and engrave 70 keyrings from 3mm ply within a set budget. I thought I could, so he set about a final design for the school to approve.

Making the keyrings

After some thought, the school decided that the keyrings should be engraved with something fairly generic so that they could be used for different purposes. They chose ‘Team BPS’ with their motto, ‘Belong, Participate, Succeed’ below. After a final sanity check on my quote, Burntisland Primary School approved everything. I made a sample and sent a photo to Jonnie so he could see how they would look.

I made the keyrings that day. BPS were delighted with them, and with how quickly we had made this happen.

 

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https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=hInaK7mOToY
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!

 

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

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.

 

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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.

 

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