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

 

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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.

 

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Oak signs for The Green Lodge Aviemore

Oak signs for The Green Lodge Aviemore

Posted Posted in Signage, Wood

Helen asked me if I could make two oak signs for her holiday cottage, The Green Lodge, in Aviemore. It was about to open, and she thought that signs would be lovely finishing touches that would also help visitors to find it.

Making up proofs

Helen wanted two signs, a smaller one to sit by the front door, and a larger one to sit at the turn off to the house. She had a logo that she wanted on both signs. Helen decided that an arrow on the larger one would be helpful too.

She emailed me a black and white logo in PDF format which was perfect.  I could rescale it to two sizes , one for each sign, without loss of image quality.

Helen contacted Frazer at FAR Cabinet Makers to specify the wood and sizes for the signs. Then I prepared some proofs, locating the logos centrally within the shapes of the wood. The sizes I could engrave the logos was dictated by the width of the logo. It’s important to have enough white space around artwork so that it doesn’t look crammed in.

To make sure it was clear, Helen wanted the arrow on the larger sign to be long, sitting across the width of the sign. After she saw the proof, she decided on a smaller one in the bottom left corner. This was  definitely the right decision. While still very clear, the arrow was much more subtle and didn’t dominate the sign.

After a couple of proofs, Helen was happy and I engraved the signs.

Frazer Reid from @farcabinetmakers sanding down the Green Lodge house signs

Posted by The Green Lodge Aviemore on Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Finishing the signs

Helen came round to pick up the signs after I’d engraved them. She took them to Frazer’s workshop where he gave them a light sand and varnished them to protect them from the elements.  She loved watching the process, and made the film above.

Both photos were taken by her after the signs were installed. She’s delighted with them and they really suit the property.

The Green Lodge Aviemore sign lit up

 

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In/out boards for St Leonards school

In/out boards for St Leonards school

Posted Posted in Signage, Wood

Nicole’s husband is the Housemaster at Ollerenshaw House, one of the houses where boarding boys live at St Leonards school in St Andrews. It was completely refurbished last summer.

All three boarding houses have in/out boards where the pupils indicate their location. Nicole and Rupert didn’t want to put up the old in/out board in the the redecorated house as it was functional but not beautiful.  They wanted something special, a piece of furniture that would look the part. They also wanted door signs for the boys’ rooms and keyrings for each room too.

A mutual friend gave her Nicole my name, and she visited the workshop to discuss ideas.

In/out board specification

Nicole had clear ideas of how the two boards with up to 20 names each were to function.

She wanted small wood ‘clickers’, pieces with the boys’ names on them. These would slide along channels under  a header inscribed with the following locations: Home, Campus, Town, Trip and Golf. She also wanted a picture of Ollerenshaw House at the top of each board if possible.

I showed Nicole some engraved wooden signs that I’d engraved for Jupiter Artland and The National Library of Scotland. She also saw sample badges that I’d cut and engraved from 6mm oak for Cambo Estate weddings team. Their size was exactly what she was looking for, and she loved the oak finish. I also explained to Nicole the maximum sizes of board the laser can accommodate.

Working with a local furniture maker

Engraving the house artwork, header text and making the clickers was possible for me. Making the boards was not something I’m set up for however. So I gave Nicole FAR Cabinet Makers‘s contact details.  Frazer is a furniture maker near Crail. I’ve worked with him on several projects including signage for Cambo Estate.

Getting to work

Nicole liked our ideas and quotes, and was keen to get to work. She hoped to have the boards made as soon as possible. She send me a list of the boys’ names and year groups and I created proofs for the clickers and the header boards.

Frazer delivered one board and the two strips for location text and two waney edged pieces for the house artwork. It was really useful to have the board in pieces to work on and I could double check measurements and fit.

All the pieces were solid oak except for the backing board. It was oak veneered mdf which made it easier and cheaper to make.

I tweaked the clicker sizes so they’d sun smoothly in the grooves that Frazer had made, making them 65 x 30mm. He kindly planed my oak planks down from 7.5mm to 5mm thick. Just as well I’d checked or they would have been too thick!

Then I cut and engraved the clickers and location strips and treated the clickers with antique oil.

Installing the in/out boards

Frazer  sanded, finished and assembled both boards and installed them in Ollerenshaw House last week. They look great, and Rupert, Nicole and the boys are really pleased with them. They really are pieces of furniture and a joy to use.

 

I’m going to write a separate blog about how I engraved the Ollerenshaw House artwork, and about the keyrings and door signs.

For obvious reasons, I’ve blanked out the name in the top photo as I can’t show pictures where any names can be read.

 

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How to make giant protractors

How to make giant protractors

Posted Posted in How to, Other

A customer from distillery cooperage contacted me. They needed to replace their giant protractor that they use for barrel making. Their old protractor had had a hard life and was getting very damaged as you can see below. It was becoming inaccurate and unreliable, so it was time for some new ones.

old distillery protractor
Old distillery protractor

Maximum protractor diameter

Two protractors were required at 1000mm diameter. My laser is bed is 1200 x 800mm which meant that the maximum diameter of protractor I could make was 800mm. The cooperage was was happy for me to make them at that size.

Robust materials

The coopers wanted something not too thick and heavy, but robust and shatterproof. It was also important that the degree markings and numbers should be easy to read.

My main suggestions for materials were plywood, mdf and perspex. Plywood is heavier at the same thickness of the other two materials. It’s more expensive and can shatter if dropped. Engravings on perspex are always white in colour and not as clear as engravings on ply and mdf. So we ruled perspex out for those reasons.

Next, I made sample engravings on ply and mdf and sent them for evaluation. As birch ply is lighter in colour than mdf board, it was the option of choice as the engravings were clearer on the blond wood.

To make the protractors as robust as possible whilst keeping them light and easy to use, the coopers asked for 4mm ply rather than 3mm.

Making the engravings stand out more

Artwork for the protractors was right first time. All the cut lines and the degree lines and numbers were a single line thick, and the laser vector engraved all of these, giving thin but clear marks. But the coopers asked if I could make the lines bolder.

I have a cunning way to do this. When the machine is properly focused on the surface of the material, the beam is as small as possible to give a clean cut or accurate engrave.

If the beam is defocused, the beam becomes wider and therefore engraves a wider vector engraved line. I made another sample to demonstrate this and the coopers gave the go ahead to make the protractors using that fix.

Laser cutting and engraving the giant protractors

I did this in two steps. First, I defocused the laser and engraved all the degree markings and numbers. Then I refocused the machine and performed the cutting as shown in the video above.  I did it that way round to ensure the plywood stayed as flat as possible throughout production. It’s easier to do this if the material stays as one integral sheet.

The ply for the second protractor that you see being cut in the video above was more inclined to warp, so I had to hold it flat by weighing it down with slates.

My customers were really pleased with their new protractors. I think they’re rather beautiful!

 

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Upcycled chairs for 'Money for Nothing'

Upcycled chairs for ‘Money for Nothing’

Posted Posted in Furniture, Wood

Sarah Peterson restores furniture salvaged from skips with BBC1’s programme ‘Money for Nothing‘ programme. She has a furniture upcycling shop in Perth called Sarah’s Attic where she restores anything from chairs to retro cabinets. Her creativity also breathes new life into unwanted fabric that she converts into lampshades and cushions.

Money for Nothing

Last November, Sarah got in touch. Jay Blades from ‘Money for Nothing’ had rescued four 70s era cane dining chairs and commissioned her to refurbish them for the current series.

Only the frames of the chairs were respectable, so Sarah decided to  upholster the seats. She wanted to do something special with the backs though. Her idea was to have four identical plywood panels laser cut with a geometric pattern and asked if I could help.

Sarah Peterson chairs before
Four sad chairs. They narrowly missed ending up in the skip!

Creating a design

I explained to Sarah that I need vector artwork files  for laser cutting. My tips for creating vector artwork are here.  As the chair backs would be identical, only one artwork file was necessary. It simply needed to outline each shape to be cut out, including the outer rectangle to show the panel outline. The laser follows the outline lines when cutting the shapes.

Sarah created a file with lots of geometric shapes and asked for a quote for four to be cut from 6mm plywood.

Upcycled chairs

I sent the laser cut chair backs to Sarah. She hadn’t been too sure what to expect, but when they arrived, she loved them and knew they would work with her design.

She decided to upholster the seats in a 1980’s style with blocks of colour provided by bright fabrics. Each chair was to be different, and the colours would work together so if viewed through a class table, the colours would flow from one chair to the next. Sarah screwed the plywood backs to the existing wooden frames to continue the graphic theme.

During filming the chairs. Sarah’s on the left and Jay’s in the middle.

As seen on TV!

It was very exciting to see the photos of the chairs that Sarah shared on Instagram last November when she’d finished them. Their transformation was incredible! They really had looked fit for the skip when Jay rescued them, and Sarah had worked wonders.

Sarah warned me that it would seem a very long wait until the show was aired. The great day was last Friday, 19th October, about eleven months after we’d worked together on the project. It was really exciting to see a project I’d helped with on the telly and the chairs looked even better than in the photos. And Sarah was a joy to work with.

You can see the episode featuring Sarah’s upcycled chairs here. Someone fell in love with them and bought them too!

 

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