Recently we’ve had a few orders coming in for engraved pieces. While this is something I’ve always thought was nice, I tended to think the expense of choosing to Engrave over plain Etch and Cut was not worth the effort and time. However, the results of these latest orders have been so stunning that it’s changed my mind completely and inspired me to do all sorts of new tests!
One of our regular customers Oh My Dear Julia – (who wrote a guest blog for us a few months ago, check it out here!) – came to us with this order of wedding favours. Slightly different to her usual cut out style, we were happy to give them a go. We suggested birch plywood as a nice choice for the engraving as, with some carful tweaking of speeds and powers (I like speed 150, power 20) you can take off the top layer of wood to reveal the grain running in a different direction. The contrasting colours in the ply wood stack is always something I think looks attractive when using this material, so it’s nice to see it coming through inside the design rather than just round the edge.
Pleased with the results of Oh My Dear Julia’s order, I got to work on some of my own projects…
I took some illustration ideas I’ve previously been creating as fused glass tiles – Check them out here at The Glass Garden. The original sketches for this project were made on Pro-create, an iPad app for drawing. I used an Apple pencil pencil which gives lovely results but you can easily use a dumb stylus which you can pick up for as little as a pound on ebay/amazon. I went back to my orriginal sketches and bulked up the outlines so they would be more suitable for laser cutting. Basically neatened everything up with lovely thick smooth lines.
I’ve previously blogged about using hand drawn artwork imported from a tablet or iPad to adobe illustrator. (Read about it here for detailed instructions!). I’ve found this is such lovely way to work and the results can be very rewarding. Illustrator has an ‘Image Trace’ button which is super useful for turning flat images into vectors! I draw all my work in black and white so that when you select ‘ignore white’, you’re left with a perfect vector of your artwork. Occasionally, if it looks like there are too many path anchor points I use the ‘smooth’ pencil to help cut them down. This nicely simplifies the design so the laser cutter won’t get too upset, but otherwise it’s an accurate representation.
So remember, engraving this file will create a negative of the image. Anything that is white will be etched out. Sometimes I find I can’t picture exactly what’s going to happen in my head until the cutter is underway. Don’t forget to re-select the outside path – the art boundary line – and choose that line as a cut line.
I had initially dismissed MDF as a material choice for Engraving, but as a quick initial test I tried my first cut on a piece of leftover scrap.
…And the result? I couldn’t be happier. He’s turned out beautifully!
So compareing the difference, here’s the exact same design using plain Etch instead of Engrave. It’s in no way as satisfying.
Having compared the difference myself and preferring the Engraved version. I begin to wonder again about my original reservations for using Engraving. Surely the time taken bumps up the cost significantly enough to outweigh the results. Lets take a look!
Putting these bird tests into our own cost spreadsheet I find this. The Eched version taking 0:01:18 works out at £1.13, the engraved one taking 0:10:50 works out at £7.49. So yes there is unsurprisingly a hike in price between the two, but interesting to see the change in value for money in terms of time on the latter. The per minute charge is less than 68p!
I am without a doubt an Engraving convert and will never dismiss it again!