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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Strathearn Stone and Timber (SST) planned to exhibit at The Home Building and Renovating Show in Edinburgh. After rebranding and relaunching their website, they wanted to make the right impression at the exhibition and show off as much as possible! This was the moment to build an impressive stand to reflect the beauty of their products.
Mark, the MD, wanted to line the walls and floor of their stand with their wooden floor and wall panelling products. And they had a cunning idea to add branding. Knowing how good their products look when laser engraved, they asked us to engrave several pieces of panelling with their logo. These boards would be mounted in strategic places around the walls and floor of the stand to best effect.
SST sent a vector version of their logo in black and white. This was perfect as I needed to rescale it to fit comfortably within the width of the wooden boards. Jpg and png images can loose quality when resized but that doesn’t happen with vector files, so we knew that the artwork quality would be print quality. And black and white artwork is perfect as the laser engraves or doesn’t engrave. There’s no ambiguity, and the laser engraves the black areas and doesn’t engrave the white areas.
All the boards were the same width, so one piece of artwork was required to engrave all the boards. We set up the artwork so that the logo was centred on each board.
Strathearn Stone and Timber provided wooden boards from their ranges in oak and pine and brought them to the workshop and we engraved them with a nice deep raster (fil in) engrave. It was important that the branding should stand out clearly and be visible from a distance
After the boards were engraved, Strathearn cut them to size and finished them. Their stand exuded the quality and natural beauty of their products.
InkPaintPaper is an artist and illustrator in Norfolk. She makes hand painted personalised plywood decorations and signs, all to her own design.
She had ideas for new products to add to her plywood signs line. One of her wrapping paper designs has a unicorn motif, the same one that she has on her logo, and she thought it would be a fun shape for bedroom door signs. So she got in touch with LaserFlair to discuss the feasibility of her plan.
InkPaintPaper and I have worked together for a few years now. She knows that we need vector artwork to cut out shapes and understands that chunky shapes are most robust. Her artwork was perfect first time with a single hairline line surrounding each unicorn. The most vulnerable point was where the unicorn’s tail meets its body, but at 10mm wide, it not a cause for concern, especially as she wanted to use 4mm laser ply. Being formed from laminated layers in birch, plywood is inherently strong and the unicorns would would be robust enough to send through the post.
This was a pretty straight forward product development project. InkPaintPaper knew exactly what she wanted, her artwork was good, the product robust and the material choice clear.
We laser cut some prototype unicorns for InkPaintPaper to decorate and test the market with. She hand painted them and got feedback via social media. It wasn’t long before she came back with an order for a production run of unicorns in the run up to Christmas!
Pat Bray, a local artist, won a commission for an art project for Letham Glen, a lovely park in Leven, Fife.
Pat designed 37 stencils with interesting facts about the park’s history. She included stories of local witches and ghosts, performing bears, and the local miners who built the swimming pool.
The stencils were to be used with chalk spray to create signs on the ground at points of interest around the park.
First, we selected a material for the stencils. It was important that the stencils were easy to carry around the park for spraying. They also had to be waterproof so they could be used outdoors, placed on the ground for spraying and washed off without damaging them.
Pat chose mylar. It’s a light, flexible, waterproof plastic, and perfect for laser cutting. It’s very robust too, so the small pieces between letters are strong enough to withstand regular usage.
Choosing a font
Next, we had to choose a font for the text. Pat wanted the insides of letters like p to remain as part of the stencil, so we picked a stencil font. There are lots to choose from, so we selected a clear one that was easy to read. The stencils had to be legible when placed on the floor.
Finally, Pat decided to have two stencil sizes. Six of the stencils had more text than the others, so we created large and small stencils to make sure all the text was legible and the text on all the stencils was the same size.
Pat was delighted with the stencils. They have withstood the rigours of park life well! They’re robust enough to use again and again to entertain and inform visitors to the park.