First fall update!

Yes, I’m a slacker in updating. Deal with it! Or don’t, since I’m updating right now.
First things first – call it luck, a blessing, what have you but Sandy bypassed us here in the DC metro area for the most part. However, some of my NY/NJ suppliers and were hit pretty hard. I sincerely hope that anyone reading this managed to escape the worst of it and my thoughts are with you if you did not. If you would like to donate, please check out The Red Cross or other recognized organizations.

Work-wise, most of what I have been doing has been fairly routine. A few interesting things were people who wanted their college-aged kids laptops, phones and other valuables marked. In this post, however, I’m going to show a few gift items and a few sample items.

The first gift was for a set of flasks, given for boss’s day. (PS – I think boss’s day is a little goofy. I mean, I feel it’s a gift to my boss every day I show up!! How about dem apples!! J) We did the initials in monogram style without it being fancy.

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Here comes the bride…

Well, since we’re getting into summer (and of course, we just had spring), it’s that time of year! Many people love having their wedding during the warm months, and I can’t blame them. As such, since I attended a few weddings over the last year because I’m also at that age where everyone around me is getting married and also helped with one of them.

First, on the gift side, we have a customer who brought in a cutlery set and wanted to do what we do – make a good gift great. So she told me what kind of flowers the bride used and also brought in her copy of the invitation. The invitation was not something that we could incorporate into the engraving but the flowers we could work with. The presentation box for the knives was a gorgeous dark wood and engraved wonderfully.

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Update on Friday ze 13th!

Well, I finally have time to sit down and update with photos.

1) I still suck at taking photos
2) I love being this busy but man, am I tired.

As I mentioned in the last post, having a bigger bed means being able to do larger things. A gentleman came in wanting a large plaque. It ended up being, to date, the largest plaque that I have ever done. The plaque ended up being overall 22″ x 30″ of solid walnut with brass plates. I have to say, the walnut had a gorgeous piano finish. That sucker was HEAVY. That aside, the challenge was to set up plates to nicely fill that space, have all the information, be legible from a distance AND overall look uniform and nice. Because the customer wanted such a large presentation, I couldn’t have one huge plate. So funny, because a few years ago 12″ x 12″ seemed plenty. Now even 17″ x 29″ isn’t enough!

So, here’s the part where I demonstrate how terrible I still am at taking photos:
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Laser Engraving VS Rotary Engraving

I have been swamped. More than swamped, I’ve put in more OT in the past few weeks since I started working here. Unfortunately, this means I haven’t had time to take photos of my work or write about it. This morning is starting off slightly quietly, though, so I figured this would be a good time for an update.

To customers, all engraving is the same. If only that were the case! My job would be so much easier. So for this “article” I’m going to explain the differences between systems and the materials that each system can work with. Please keep in mind, this is for RS’s systems and does not necessarily apply to other companies!

Rotary

This is “old faithful.” Our rotary machine was here five years ago, when I started working here, and pretty much has never needed any maintenance. It runs on an DOS machine and has a bed size of 12″ x 12″. While that seems like a lot, when making signage, you soon find that there is no such thing as too big but plenty of too small. The DOS system, while limited, can actually do quite a few things and we managed to get by just fine for a while.

The rotary is a contact machine – that is, it comes in contact with the engraved material. This has both advantages and drawbacks. The advantage is that it can engrave INTO metal. This came in handy over the past few weeks when David brought parts of his guns in to be engraved with information and the federal requirements for the engraving required the depth to be no less than .003″. We also have a diamond tipped tool which creates the elegant look on some plaques when the words are just etched into the metal through the “diamond drag” technique. The drawback is that it cannot do delicate, fragile materials. It’s great for simple name plates, badges and room signs. However, because of the old system, it was hard and time consuming to make intricate designs and layouts. Which leads us to our upgrade…

CO2 Laser

This is the machine that we purchased last year. The CO2 laser works as most people envision lasers – with a heated beam. It essentially melts/burns the material away to reveal the next layer. It works best on plastics and wood for cutting and engraving. It also does rubber, fabrics and paper-based materials. Our machine works off of CorelDraw, which means that we can make layouts and designs much more easily and can turn customer-based images into engraved art. It cannot engraving INTO metal; however, with the appropriate chemical compounds, it can create a beautiful, lasting mark onto metal. The only way that this mark comes off, if properly done, is by sanding away the layer of metal to reveal the part underneath.

The bed of our laser is 17″ x 29″, which has added a whole new level to our shop. We are able to manufacturer much larger signs, which I have definitely used. It also has a much deeper bed than the rotary does. We’re able to fit boxes and other large items in the bed. In fact, if anything, I almost wish it was slightly larger! That being said, the laser is by far my favorite machine to work with thus far. The flexibility and the quality of work is beyond outstanding and it’s just FUN. I mean, come on now, who doesn’t like lasers?

Yag Laser

Because we don’t have this, I can’t go too in depth. However, one of the reasons we purchased the laser that we did is because of its ability to upgrade from CO2 to CO2 and YAG/Fiber. This means that we can actually mark INTO metal. I am not 100% sure how this is accomplished but it has to do with a different frequency… or something. I wish a tech person would fully explain to me. But I have seen beautifully engraved rings in platinum. In fact, I want one. Really badly. That aside, if and when we upgrade, I think our shop will almost be complete for the time being, at least in terms of engraving.

Thank you for reading!

Films and weddings – February 24, 2012

Last week was an interesting one. I got contacted by a quite nice gentleman who apparently reads my blog (hi, if you still are! Update: I started writing this a few nights ago and never finished and he came in and got his engraving. So nice to meet you, David!) and hopefully will get to work with him soon.

Earlier in the week I was called by a lady looking to get a recipe box engraved for her friend’s wedding. It is a really nice box – we ended up Googling it to figure out more about it and are thinking of purchasing a few for ourselves! But furthermore, sine it was for a friend’s wedding, she requested that it be engraved with her friend’s name (perhaps to-be name). Whenever a customer comes in, I usually ask them about the kind of font that they want. It’s easy enough to type up an example in the three main kinds – sans serif, serif and script. That can at least narrow it down. Miss Kimberly pretty much already had the type in mind but seeing it typed up really sealed the deal. So times Roman it was!

Kimberly requested that the information be put on the inside for the box, which actually turned out to be slightly challenging! Not in a bad way – just it was that had to change some settings.  But I digress. First I took the top off of the box which was the easy part. The hard part turned out to be that the box’s lid was high enough that the laser, when it went to zero, would crash as it’d bump the side of the box. Oops.

Luckily, the people who programmed the laser are way smarter than me. The solution was amazingly easy, although I was frustrated trying to figure it out. I just had to set the laser to start where I “pointed” it and to stop at the very end of the engraving. I have to say, though – when it got to the top of the lettering, I was sweating as the head was possibly 5mm away from the edge of the box. And then, in the middle of my engraving, boss David wandered over and was like, “Aren’t you engraving that upside down?” Cue panic while I quickly reassured myself that the times that I positioned it and made sure of it were correct. I could’ve smacked him for trying to give me a heart attack. For a guy, he has a very poor ability at figuring out how things fit together. To be fair, he didn’t take the box apart.

Closed box!

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Projects week of 02/17/2012

First off, let me announce that yours truly had a birthday (and it’s sad that I automatically type “birfday” and have to correct it). Ahem. It was awesome and probably the best one that I had in a while. /end bragging

Last week was interesting. Again, we were thankfully really busy but I did get a chance to have some fun. I made my coworker a Valentine’s Day present TO GIVE TO HIS GIRLFRIEND. I have to capitalize that since he kept running around saying that I was making him a Valentine’s Day present and left off the important part. Grr. That gift was an exercise in patience as it was done on material that I hadn’t used yet. I am happy with how it came out although not so happy how the pictures came out. I also finally got around to doing my iPod and his iPod. Warning: both look beat up as we’re both somewhat addicted to music. At least mine isn’t as crappy looking as his, scratch-wise. I also got to engrave wood frames for the Department of Veterans Affairs. I was rather pleased with how they turned out.

The wood frames were rather neat as not only did they come out well but I also got to utilize the bed size of our laser. It’s something like 29″ x 17″, whereas our rotary engraver is only 12″ x 12″. I was just barely unable to fit three frames in at once. The accuracy on the laser is amazing.

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February 10, 2012 Projects

This week has been both fun and busy. Sometimes being busy is fun, though, so I can’t complain. I got to make a few sample objects this week along with the every day work.

The laser does a freaking fantastic job on acrylic and I love acrylic. I think I have mentioned this before. Glass always frightens me, like I’m going to break it with my giant ham hands (note: anyone who knows me is rolling their eyes at this statement). Aside from which, as the snowflake that we did previously shows, the laser can cut many shapes into laser and have a beautiful, polished edge. Which I probably also mentioned but it bears repeating because I’m so sadly obsessed with my laser.

ANYHOO! Preview time!

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Of photos and multi-color badges

Long story short, I’ve been sick pretty much all of January. It sucks. My family is trying to shove so many vitamins down my throat that I feel a little like a walking herbalist.

Anyhoo. I’ve been meaning to write this entry for a while, especially as one of the projects was a training exercise from when the most wonderful Scott from Trotec was out there showing us how to use our machine. Please note, this part was done around 8pm, when we were all tired, grumpy and hungry. For me, the last two are pretty synonymous.

We wanted to be sure that we could engrave photos before he left. I’d eventually like to do something in marble but for the purposes of this exercise, we had to scale it down to ceramic. First step, choosing a photo:

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Week of 1/9/2013 projects

Let me preface this update by apologizing if anything comes out jumbled or completely lacking in coherency. I have been fighting off bronchitis and a sinus infection so my brain is several pixels short of a clear picture. (Gosh, that was absolutely dorky).

So aside from me being fairly useless, we also had quite a few other projects to attend to. The laser isn’t only for having fun! One of the benefits that I love is being able to run a whole bunch of little tags and having the laser cut them out as well. One of our customers frequently requests small tags (less than 1″ x 2″) to label switches and the laser engraves and cuts out about 75 tags in 17 minutes. That’s nuts, especially compared with how long it used to take us to complete the orders.

So, anyway, I did manage to get a few fun things done this weekend. The teaser is actually from the files that we used to engrave our showcased projects.
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