Laser cutting felt fairisle brooches

Laser cutting felt fairisle brooches

Posted Posted in Designers, felt

Donna Smith Design is a knitwear designer on Shetland. Donna teaches knitting and design workshops around the world. She got in touch because she wanted to create felt brooches of her own design and wondered if they could be laser cut.

Fairisle jumper artwork

Donna sent me vector artwork with a design for a fairisle jumper. It had a pattern of round holes that were to be cut out around the yoke. There were also slit cuts to be made at the cuffs and the waist of the jumper. Both sets of details were well spaced and robust

I made a prototype from 3mm plywood as I don’t have felt in stock. It was possible to see through the slit detail, something that I’d never cut before. Donna was delighted with the effect.

Felt properties

Donna sent me four colours of felt to cut the jumpers from. I hadn’t cut felt before. It’s always interesting trying out new materials! Sometimes it all goes to plan and sometimes the unexpected happens.  

With a soft, flexible material like felt, you have to think about products stretching and distorting as well as general robustness. But this felt was much thicker, stiffer and chunkier than other felts I have come across and it wasn’t easy to stretch. It was better suited to making brooches than I’d expected.

Prototypes

I test cut some brooches to check the results. First, I tried my short focal length lens as felt is usually only several millimetres thin, but the felt was getting scorched.

Next, I tried a longer focal length lens that would be focused further away from the surface of the felt. This time, I didn’t get any scorching and I cut the rest of the brooches. The felt cut really well and the cut out detail worked really well.

Contrasting detail

When Donna published photos of the finished brooches, I noticed that she’d added contrasting detail with wool embroidered through the small laser cut holes. It finishes them off perfectly!

 

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 cut business cards for Ritchie Design

Laser cut business cards for Ritchie Design

Posted Posted in Designers, Paper

Courteney Ritchie is a recent graphic design graduate and has started her own business, Ritchie Design. She wanted to create her own bespoke business cards and had a clever idea for a two ply laser cut card that she wanted to have laser cut and engraved. She had an idea to play on her surname and make her business cards look like Rich Tea biscuits!

Business card vector artwork

Courteney sent me artwork for the layers to be cut from brown kraft card that she had delivered to me. All the artwork was in vector format as it’s perfect for laser cutting and vector engraving, a similar process to cutting but using much less power. This allows the surface to have a good contrast mark without being in any danger of cutting through the material.

The top layer of the business cards was to be completely laser cut and the base layer was to have all the detail vector engraved so that when the layers were put together, this detail would be visible, giving more depth to the cut detail. I made a prototype and the engraving underneath the cuts really did throw the layers into sharper relief.

Engraving thin kraft card

My biggest challenge in this project was engraving the bottom layer so that the laser didn’t cut through. This kraft card was thin, and engraving on my lightest settings did cut though in places, especially at the corners of the letters where the laser slows down to change direction.

I did some tests and decided that I could use a little less power for engraving so that I’d still get consistent but lighter mark with no danger of cut through.

Finishing the business cards

I sent all the card discs to Courteney and she glued the layers and added a printed backing with her contact details. Haven’t they turned out well? Here’s her blog about personal branding where she talks aboout them.

 

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

Designing artwork for robust pins

Designing artwork for robust pins

Posted Posted in Designers, Prototyping

Sophie Pieroni is a designer and she contacted me to ask if I could make some pins of her greyhound design. She wanted them laser cut and engraved from 3mm ply and 3mm black perspex to sell in her Etsy shop.

Vector artwork design

Vector artwork is a good basis for any design for laser cutting and engraving.

As Sophie wanted to use cutting and raster engraving for her pins, I pointed her to my blog about designing artwork for laser cutting as a good place for design tips. To make the pins, I’d programme the vector lines around the shape to be cut through and internal detail would be programmed for fill in engraving.

Watch out for the eyelashes!

Sophie’s design was perfect for what I needed, but there was one problem. I cut a prototype from plywood, and the greyhound’s eyelashes on the left of the pin were very thin and vulnerable as you can see from the picture at the top right. The lashes on the right were fine as they were engraved but not cut around.

Pins are generally small, so detail like this is more challenging to make robust. If the artwork was laser cut at a larger size, the eyelashes could be chunky enough to be robust. Miniaturising designs for cutting and engraving presents so many challenges.

Sophie Pieroni pins
Sophie Pieroni perspex pins ready for the shop!

Making designs robust

I sent Sophie a picture of the prototype and she came up with the perfect solution.

She made the pins bigger, and created an unengraved margin around the shape of the greyhound that she defined with engraving. As the unengraved margin was wide enough to accommodate the eyelashes, it made them indestructable. The greyhound’s nose and ear were also strengthened, and the engravings looked better with surrounding unengraved space. You can see the difference that the design tweaks made in the picture at the top.

I sent Sophie a photo of the improved product, and she was happy. We had a working prototype after only two iterations.

 

New product release

Sophie has released her two new pins in her Etsy shop now she’s painted the perspex ones and finished them all. If you love greyhounds or know someone who does, they could be right up your street!

 

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

Ethical pins

It was important for Sophie to make an ethical product. She said:

‘It seems the best way to get a place on Etsy and Instagram is to make pins and patches. Patches aren’t so much the problem if they’re  manufactured in the UK, but pins are a big unethical pit.

It’s impossible to find enamel pins made outside China. Trust me, I tried. I don’t think it should be news to anyone that workers in China aren’t fairly paid. You can see that in the prices it cost to get pins manufactured. I decided I didn’t want to contribute to that industry. Laser cutting is the best alternative for me. I wanted to find a UK based supplier and decided to go with LaserFlair who’s based in Fife.

After getting my designs cut and engraved, I hand finished each one myself, you can see videos of this on my feed. So when you buy one of my pins, you’re supporting small businesses like myself and getting something proudly made in Scotland.

I hope if you weren’t aware of the enamel pin business this has opened your eyes and given you an insight into what I’m trying to do.’

geometric plywood decorations

Geometric plywood decorations

Posted Posted in Designers, Wood

Jessica Taylor is a graphic designer in Ayrshire. She prints her geometric animal designs on prints cards and tote bags, and makes enamel pins too.

After following each other for a few months on Instagram, Jessica got in touch and asked if I could help her make some new products. She liked the idea of making decorations from her designs and wondered what might be possible.

Decoration ideas

Being familiar with Jessica’s work, I suggested that her artwork would be perfect for plywood decorations. Shape outlines could be laser cut and the internal geometric lines could be vector engraved with excellent contrast. Plywood is beautiful, light and good value. 3mm would be robust enough, and it would be easy to add holes for hanging. Jessica liked the idea.

Artwork adjustment

Jessica decided that she’d like to start with her geo bear, geo seahorse and geo penguin designs. She wanted the bear to be 70mm long  and the penguin and seahorse 70mm high.

Vector artwork is required for laser cutting and vector engraving which is like cutting, but just marking the surface. Jessica sent a sample file, but all her lines were made up of thin rectangles to give them the right thickness for printing. Unfortunately, this was no good for the laser as it would cut and engrave around each rectangle which is not what we wanted, so Jessica adjusted all the lines with perfect results.

geo seahorse for Jessica Taylor

Plywood prototypes

Once the artwork was sorted, I made some prototypes so Jessica could see how they’d look. I also wanted to find the balance points of each shape to make sure the holes would be in the right place.

Jessica was delighted! She particularly loved the bear and the seahorse and placed and order. When it arrived, she wrote me a lovely review on Facebook because she was so pleased.

She hangs the geo bears and geo seahorses with jute string and lost no time in adding them to her Etsy shop.

 

 

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Waymarking posts for Kinghorn Creative

Waymarking posts for Kinghorn Creative

Posted Posted in Designers, Stainless steel, Thermark, Wood

Ritchie Feenie from Kinghorn Creative was asked to design and create six sign posts for Kinghorn Community Land Association. He asked if I could advise him on design and then laser engrave the sign posts.

Style of post

Ritchie sent me some pictures of how he wanted the posts to look. He wanted them to be square in profile and a metre high, but he wanted the tops cut at an angle with engraving on the angled surface. Would this be possible?

I knew this would be tricky as the posts would have to be propped up in the machine to make the angled surface horizontal, and the posts would have to be limited in length to 1300mm to fit inside the machine.

Then Ritchie had an idea. If we had engraved metal plates on the angled surfaces, we wouldn’t need to put the posts in the laser for engraving so we wouldn’t have to worry about their size. I could order stainless steel plates and engrave them much more easily.

We decided to use green oak or larch for the posts as they’re great for outdoor use without treatment. As larch was the cheaper option, Ritchie settled on that.

 

Deciding on the artwork

Initially, Ritchie’s customers wanted all the engraving to be on the stainless steel plaques. Ritchie sent me a proposed design. My initial thought was that too much detail was squeezed onto the plates. I was worried that the details could be too fine for good engraving results, especially on the Lottery logos. As the project was lottery funded, the logos needed to be well defined and easy to read.

As nothing that could be lost from the design, Ritchie suggested to his customer that some of the engraving could be on the wood under the metal plates. It was agreed that this would be a good place for the Lottery logos that could be made much larger and clearer.

Creating waymarking posts

Ritchie ordered six 1300mm larch posts and brought them to the workshop for engraving, and the Lottery logos came out as well as I’d hoped. I put the posts sideways into the laser, dropping the machine bed to suit the depth of the posts. Then, I engraved the logos sideways onto them to they were in the right orientation on the posts.

I ordered six metal plates in marine grade stainless steel plates. It’s ideal for coastal locations as it can withstand salty conditions without corroding. We decided to get plates with radiused corners to make the corners rounded to match the edges of the posts.

To achieve an engraving on stainless steel, I spread Thermark paste onto the plates, let it dry and then engrave. Thermark leaves a weatherproof, abrasion resistant enamel mark where the laser has melted the glass particles and trapped black pigment onto the metal surface. You can one of the plates after engraving in the picture above. Excess Thermark is then removed, leaving the shiny plate with a high contrast engraving.

Once I had glued the plates onto the posts, they were ready for Ritchie to install.

 

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