Manufacturing Basics: Solid Wood Materials

As I'm chatting with clients I would like to explain answers in more detail but I often can't because I need to field so many questions in a day.  This post is a chance to give you some more info on natural wood and barn wood signs.  I'm a huge fan of how these materials burn in the laser and the variety of things we can do with them.  They look great.  But they have a few limitations.  I'll explain the pros and cons as well as the recommendations I make below:

Size

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When asking for a solid wood sign at low cost you will be limited to the width of the average tree.  Common lumber sizes range from 2" - 6" wide.  These dimensions are based on how big a common tree is.  Larger dimensional timber is available in species like pine (for example 8 - 12" wide), but this is not a material we'd recommend for sign making. 

 

 

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When you'd like your sign to be made from solid wood (compared to our standard plywood material), you will be looking at a max sign width of 6 - 7".  You can make a large sign if your sign is long and narrow.  But it cannot be wider than the above if you're aiming for a low-cost sign.  

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If you're prepared to assign a higher budget to your sign (2-3x minimum) we can source specialty planks in wider sizes.  These have to be brought in as a special order.  Special order planks go up to 12-18" wide.  These planks come from much larger trees.  Large i.e. older trees are rare, and are more costly to cut and transport.  The planks will come at a higher cost.  Special order planks can be any species, including exotics like dengue, bloodwood, zebra wood and walnut. 

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We can also (occasionally) source barn wood in wide sizes.  I've seen barnwood planks come in as wide as 22".  When we see these pieces in the studio we flatten them (wide wood planks tends to curl) and offer them up to lucky clients.  Barn wood panels range from plaque sizes (7 x 10") to more substantial sizes (22 x 36").  Barn wood is limited to the panel sizes we have on hand because we have to source the pieces in advance and put them through our own finishing process.  That process takes 3-4 months.  Each panel is individually sized.  

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You'll see sign makers (such as old-school rotary engravers) biscuit join or laminate planks of wood together to make large sign panels.  You may have seen these at the side of the road as a large lodge or campground signs.  We don't do this type of join here because laser etching a joined natural wood panel will produce different colour variations on each plank.  Unless you're ok with a very motley/rustic look, this is a process we suggest clients avoid with laser engraving.  Long story short - we stick to naturally available plank sizes.

 

Patina

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Lots of clients request barn wood from us.  No wonder, it looks great!  A little word of caution: real barn wood is not the same as the barn wood you see in Home Depot.  It's significantly more rustic.  It's dusty, with deep grooves, and it burns beautifully on the laser.  It makes a gorgeous sign. 

 

 

 

 

When you request barn wood from us, you're getting the real deal.  We do our best to toss and cut away imperfections, but you should expect to see knots, pits, holes and nails.  It's virtually impossible to deliver a barn wood sign that is clear of imperfections.  Real barn wood is a good material for large scale and rustic/industrial spaces. 

 

 

 

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If you have a clinical or corporate environment (or a space like a baby's nursery) you will want greyed modern wood, not barn wood.  Greyed modern wood has a smooth finish and a cool grey colour. 

It looks aged and weathered but is cleaner and more hygienic.  We can produce this material for you in the common lumber sizes mentioned above.

 

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Stain

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We try to avoid mixing stain with laser cutting.  Aside from the toxicity problem, staining woods can create unpredictable results with the wood grain.  We need the grain on your sign to be as smooth and predictable as possible to ensure legibility.  For these two reasons we steer clients away from stains and instead suggest they choose the species that grows naturally in that colour.  For example, instead of adding a dark stain, we suggest you use walnut as your sign base.  Alternatively, we can paint your backer a solid colour.

Legibility

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In the studio we're wary of making sure your sign is legible.  Signs have characters, some very small, conveying information.  The wood grains and imperfections in solid wood planks can easily create problems with legibility.  This is the final limitation of solid wood planks.  We suggest using solid wood planks only for signs with large, heavy type.  It's for high-impact art. 

 

 

 

If your sign has small characters or complicated illustrations we suggest you go with a plywood background.  This is our sign making material of choice in part because it's clear, even and predictable.  We never have to worry about a crucial part of a word falling over a knot in the wood, making the sign unusable.  Plywood is perfectly clean and even.  

 

 

 

I hope this helps!  What did you think of this post?  Let me know in the comments!

Design Basics: The Artwork Proofing Process

Hi All! 

I'm writing this series titled "Design Basics" to help with common questions.

This post is about what happens when you hire a designer.  It covers the design process: both the part you see and the part you don't.  By writing this post I hope to help you make the most of your artwork proof decision.

In the studio we get certain kinds of questions and feedback often so I've set out a standard way of handling them.  

First, a quick primer on what a designer does -

There's a good chance you've hired a designer in part for their technical skill.  Usually something's come up that's made you decide to hire them.  Whether it's a print company asking for a vector file, or not having the time or skill to do the digital drawing yourself.  

While knowledge of design software and professional processes are part of a designer's skill, our most important tools are line, shape, proportion and colour.  Add a background in art history, knowing cultural references, skills in layout and marketing communications and you have a complete design professional.  The last bit is the highest value part of what we bring to you.  Yes we have technical skill (knowing the computer programs, understanding how to measure & spec a project, manufacturing processes, materials science...), but our skill in visual communications is the most important part.  We know how to make your project look gorgeous and generate more sales for you. 

Because design can sometimes be a misunderstood profession I'm going to use a second profession alongside design to help illustrate the idea of professional competency.  For this post I'll use a lawyer in my example.  The highest value part of what a lawyer brings you is their knowledge of the law and how it works.  Yes, they fill out paperwork but usually we hire them for the above. 

On to your design project -

When you hire a designer, they'll ask you about what you'd like and what your goals are for the project.  In that conversation your designer will ask more questions to find out how you define success, what you feel is impacting sales, who your audience is and whether there are detailed requirements (i.e. the finished product must include your web address).  

If we use the example of a lawyer - You've hired them because you're being sued and you want to win the case.  Your lawyer will sit down and ask you the details of the lawsuit, what your ideal outcome is, whether you'd be willing to negotiate and what your budget is.

Back to design.  We let you know we'll be sending you an artwork proof. 

Now the behind the scenes work begins...

Your designer will use their background in art and marketing communications to design a product that will do a number of things.  This includes but is not limited to: being legible in its intended context, appealing to your target audience, matching with an existing theme or branding, meeting the budget you've set aside, meshing with manufacturing requirements and achieving your project outcomes.  We do this for ALL projects, whether it's a brand design or a name sign for a baby's nursery.  All projects get this level of attention.

To do these things we employ all the tools in our toolbox: line, shape, proportion, colour, typography, cultural references, marketing practices, knowledge of art history... all the obvious and subtle things humans use to communicate with one another.  We're experts at this in particular: visual communication.

Similarly, a lawyer is an expert in working with the law. 

Let's go back to him for a minute...

At this stage, your lawyer will determine the best way to argue your case so you'll (hopefully) win.  He'll do this using his professional tools and processes.  He'll look at the background of the case, examine applicable laws, consult professional texts, read case studies, assemble evidence and so on.  Because he practices this as his profession, it's his forte. 

In design, once we've designed option(s) for you we put our top recommendation into something called an artwork proof.  This is a single page of visual option(s).  It includes the research we've done on your project, the behind-the-scenes experimenting, the outcome of testing several different ways to solve the design problem, channeling our background in arts & communications and using our technical skill to synthesize both a visual and a project that can be physically successful (i.e. it can be manufactured and will perform as expected once its a real product).  It includes our top recommendation for line, colour, typography, logo use, layout and other visual elements.  A great deal of time, expertise and background work goes into creating the proof.  It's the presentation of our professional recommendations.

This is akin to your lawyer sitting down, after all of his research, to tell you how he suggests you go about winning your case.  He'll give you his professional recommendation, which could include: what to say, what not to say, which evidence he plans to present, how the judge is likely to react and which laws are applicable to your case.  He'll share his professional opinion on the best course of action to take to win your case.

Here's a common scenario:  We send out an artwork proof and our client pushes back on aspects of the design.  This is no problem.  It's something we want to have resonate with you so we don't mind taking the time to explain.

If you communicate that something about your goal has changed, we can make changes to suit the new goal.  For example - "I thought my target audience was teenagers, but I realized their parents are included in my audience too."  Or, "I wanted my road sign to have a car in it, but my partner mentioned our boat services are equally important - it needs to address both themes."  We can apply our expertise to find solutions for these shifting needs.   

This is like saying to your lawyer - I thought I'd be willing to negotiate, but I've changed my mind.  I feel strongly and I'm not willing to budge.  Your lawyer would go off and adjust his strategy to accommodate the change of heart.

Flipping back to design: Where feedback becomes challenging is when a client details very specific changes to the design.  You may not realize it, but you are inadvertently wading into our toolbox.  For example: a client asks us to take the underline out, make the logo bigger, change blue to yellow and swap out the image we've selected.  These requests may seem subjective or like a matter of personal taste, but to a trained professional they're not.  There are proven solutions we know will work and specific, well-researched choices we've made while putting the design together.

When asking for detailed changes you are unknowingly asking us to make the project less effective and limit the success of the outcome.  That could mean making the finished product harder to read, causing the project to generate fewer sales, creating something visually overwhelming or creating something that's unclear or unappealing to your target audience.  In some cases you may be hampering the ability to have it physically manufactured or installed.

When clients tinker with the tools in our toolbox, without having comparable education, experience or professional knowhow it puts us in a challenging spot.

I'll use our lawyer to illustrate...

You respond to your lawyer.  Instead of saying your feelings have changed and you're no longer willing to negotiate, you start wading into his toolbox.  You tell him to take out two pieces of evidence he's put there to prove your case.  You tell him to put more emphasis on an argument he said would be irrelevant to the judge.  And you tell him that two parts of the law he's mentioned don't say that.  They say something else.  You hand these requests to him and tell him to change the strategy.  You'll wait on an update. 

You can see how this puts him in a tricky position.  He either has to defend the merits of his strategy, or make the changes you're asking for, knowing it will damage the outcome of your case.

Back to design.  This is how we've chosen to handle this:

1)  Clients who are well-informed about design trust our expertise and professional ability at the outset.   They have small requests or ask for clarification, but as a whole they know they've commissioned a well-executed piece of professional work.  Once we've clarified anything that needs to be discussed they'll normally see how the finished product will benefit them and approve the project. 

The lawyer equivalent is sitting down to the meeting where he tells you his legal strategy.  You listen to what he says, ask for some clarification, and trust his legal opinion on how best go about winning your case.  You ask him to go ahead.

2) Clients who are new to design may inadvertently wade into our toolbox when giving feedback.  When this happens we'll spend one email helping our client understand the process of design.  That can include illuminating the work and processes that went into making the artwork.  We may address specific requests, justifying our original recommendations and why they are in place to achieve your target outcome.  We may also help by showing how your suggested changes will be counterproductive to achieving your goals.

The lawyer equivalent looks like this:  You tell him to take out 2 pieces of evidence that are designed to help you and that the law doesn't say what he thinks it does.  Your lawyer responds by telling you those 2 pieces of evidence are important to winning your case.  He recommends leaving them in.  And he takes the time to explain that he's familiar with the law, by way of his professional training, and the law states what he'd originally mentioned to you.  

3) If we still get pushback after taking the time to explain and justify our original recommendations we stop explaining.  We'll make your changes verbatim.  

The lawyer equivalent is he stops justifying.  He takes out the 2 pieces of evidence you wanted removed, even though he knows it will damage your ability to win the case.  And he nods his head and says "sure the law says that", when it doesn't.  

The alternative for the lawyer is to return again and again to the same conversation, trying to assert his professional competency and failing.  His reason for stopping this cycle might be to maintain his dignity, or it might be in the interest of saving time so he can move on to the next project.  Our reasons are the same.

A quick recap:

  1. We'll send you an artwork proof.
  2. If given feedback we'll give clarification and explain our reasoning to illuminate why these choices have been made and why they're our top recommendation.  We may make small changes to the artwork but we'll largely stick to our professional recommendations.
  3. If faced with further pushback we'll stop justifying.  We'll make your changes verbatim.

I hope this helps walk you through the proofing process.  This post is not meant to make you feel bad (at all!).  Client interference is common.  Design is a widely misunderstood profession.  If you've inadvertently waded into a designer's toolbox, chances are your designer didn't take it personally, but they will want you to trust them so they can make your project a success.  That being said, don't be afraid to ask for some changes.  Usually we can accommodate one or two small requests. 

But be conscious of steering the things in our toolbox.  Avoid language addressing:

  • Proportion
  • Line
  • Shape
  • Colour
  • Typography
  • Layout
  • Art Direction
  • Cultural References

DO:

  • Communicate Your Feelings & Impressions
  • Clarify Your Goals
  • Speak To Your Audience
  • Share The Biggest Challenges You Face
  • Share Any Specifics That Must Be Included (i.e. web address, phone number)
  • Lay Out Technical Limitations (i.e. room size, indoor/outdoor usage)

We can recommend a visual strategy to address these things. 

A great tip for trusting your designer is to give it space.  Opening the initial design always produces an emotional reaction - whether it's good, bad or indifferent.  A new design needs time to percolate and settle.  If you open the design and you're unsure about it wait at least 24 hours before replying to your designer.  Review the design with fresh eyes before responding.  When you reply, ask for clarification and avoid detailing numerous changes that fall within our toolbox (see above).  Instead, speak to your feelings and goals.

And what happens if, in your heart of hearts you just can't bring yourself to approve the design?  Even after changes?  Communicate!  Your designer will be happy to help.  Your designer will know how to address what you're bringing to them.  When they've deemed a challenge unsolvable they'll recommend a different designer.  If you've communicated and there is no way to reach a consensus - it may just come down to a difference in working style.  That's ok too.

What do you think?  Was this post helpful?  Let me know in the comments!

Laser Cutting Services

How To Get The Best Price On Laser Cutting

If you're like most product designers you're looking for a laser cutting service that is affordable.  Designers & product developers need manufacturing services that are priced low enough to be able to wholesale, then retail the finished product once it's complete.  Keep reading below...

I work with a range of product developers, each with different needs and areas of specialization.  The prices I quote can vary from client to client.  The source of this discrepancy is the number of hours the studio needs to spend getting the order ready to print.  The more production-ready you are, the fewer hours we need to spend getting it ready. 

I thought I would break all this down to clarify.  This will give you an idea of what services the studio is providing to you in your quote (hint - it's not strictly cutting).  It's also a way for me to share what goes into the job of product development.  If you're new to creative and technical design you may be surprised to find out how much work it takes to take and idea and make it into a real product.  If you're an experienced designer it might show areas where you can better streamline your order to save money.  No matter where you are, I'll give you some tips on how to save money on laser cutting.  

Let's start with a fully trained product developer who specializes in vector files:

 

Graphic Artists, Industrial Designers, Product Developers

What Your Order Looks Like: Vector File, Outlined, Set Up In Correct Artboard Size, Cutting Lines Labelled Red, Duplicate Lines Removed, All Parts Are Located In the Same File, Appearance Attributes Removed, Clipping Masks & Compound Paths Removed, Fills Have Been Removed, All Raster Elements Have Been Vectorized, Type Size Has Been Tested For Legibility, Thicknesses Have Been Verified For Durability In Chosen Material, Interlocking Parts Have Been Set To The Material Thickness Used in This Studio, Patchy Vector Lines Have Been Repaired To Form Continuous Cutting Lines,  Unlinked Type Has Been Linked Or Bridged, You Have A Clear Understanding Of Materials & Their Attributes, You've Chosen A Suitable Material Without Advice, You Will Be Handling ALL Finishing Processes (sanding, painting, assembly, etc.)

What You Pay For: Set Up Fee & Cutting

Who You Are Hiring: Straight Laser is a Piece Goods Manufacturer to you.

How To Save Money: Make the best use of your set up fee, material panels and shipping costs by ordering in quantity.  As with any manufacturing process, once the set up is done and changes minimized, your costs will drop significantly.  Order repeats through the same service provider to save money.

 

PRODUCT Businesses EMPLOYING A Professional Graphic Artist 

What Your Order Looks Like:  You Have Your Logo In A Vector Format, You May Have Vector Files For The Product You Want To Cut, Your Understand Product Development Even If It May Not Be In The Graphic Design Industry (Examples: Skincare Company, Clothing Designer, Pet Accessories Company...), You Can Provide Specs And Have A Good Handle On Estimating Size, You Can Provide Comprehensive Detail On What You Want, You Have A Basic Handle On Materials And Have Preferences, You Have A Clear Design Direction

What You Pay For: Some Consulting On The Best Materials For Your Project, Some Size and Construction Spec Work, Graphic Design Time To Develop Your Digital File, Graphic Design Time To Make Your File Production Ready, Test Cuts, Set Up Fee & Cutting, Sometimes Finishing 

Who You Are Hiring: Straight Laser is your Product Developer & Finished Goods Manufacturer.

How To Save Money: If you're partial to your internal graphic designer, hire them to fully complete the product you'd like to create.  Otherwise we can help do the design work to complete the product you'd like to have created.  Graphic design needs to happen either in your business or in this studio (you can't skip it).  Get clear on the exact sizing you need and read the list of materials we stock in the studio to know what's available.  The more you can have these things decided on before you contact us the less time it will take and the less it will cost overall.  If you're seeking post-cutting finishes but the price isn't a fit, consider ordering raw parts and doing the finishing yourself.

 

Service Businesses, Retailers, Resellers, Businesses That Don't Employ A Graphic Designer, Artists Working In HAND DRAWN Formats

What Your Order Looks Like: You Are Coming To Me With An Idea, A Problem To Be Solved, Or A Request (Maybe for a sign or printing), You Created Your Logo Yourself Or Through An Online Generator, You Have A Raster Version of Your Logo & Don't Have Access to The Vector File, Your Business Doesn't Use A Style Guide, You're Requesting Atypical Materials or Custom Sourced Products, Your Request Is A One-Off Item To Solve A Specific Problem, You Would Like To Create A Product But Are Not In The Business Of Design or Product Development

What You Pay For: Sometimes Logo Creation & Branding, Converting Raster Logos To Vector Format,  File Clean Up & Repair, Product Costing, Design Direction To Ensure Product Aligns With Business Branding, Custom Materials Sourcing, Material Selection & Testing, Consulting On Proportions, Size, Fit & Finish, Design Direction For The Product Being Created, Consulting on Specs & Construction Methods, Product File Creation, Making File Production Ready, Test Cuts, Set Up Fee & Cutting, Finishing

Who You Are Hiring: Straight Laser is your Designer, Product Developer & Finished Goods Manufacturer.

How To Save Money: Hire a professional graphic artist for your logo and branding.  We provide this service in the studio.  Please ask us for a quote or hire another designer.  Doing so will save money over the long term as you develop your business.  Determine exactly what you need the finished product to do with as much detail as possible (Example: it has to fit on a shelf that is 7" tall...).  Provide lots of photos: either inspiration pics, or pics from inside the office where the item will be used/placed.  Read the list of materials we can process and try to align your project with a material we stock.  If you'd like custom materials sourced, order in enough quantity that it lowers the cost of bringing it in.  If your idea is out there in the market or can be solved with a ready-made item it is almost always cheaper to go that route.  Consider product development when your idea is custom, branded or it just isn't out there in the marketplace.

 

Summary

There are a lot of steps in product development that may be invisible if you're encountering it for the first time.  Even for seasoned pros, each manufacturing process has its unique needs and set up process.  I hope that by describing the product development job I've shown you a few areas where you can do some prep work to lower your laser cutting costs. 

Thank you for reading.  Was this post helpful?  Questions?  Let me know in the comments! 

 

 

Weddings & Event Decor

How to order A Beautiful Script Sign

With wedding season coming I thought it would be good to do a post on romantic script lettering.  This is a popular request for signs.  There are a few ways of going about it.  Read on below...

Script Lettering For Weddings

If you see gorgeous script on Pinterest or Instagram it's been created in one of two ways: through a font or handwriting.  Both can be done, but they're approached a little differently.  

 

FONTS

As a graphic artist, I keep tabs on the most delectable fonts out there and set aside a purchasing budget to buy them.  We keep a bank of fonts in the studio and draw from them to create signs.  If you're getting a design quote from us it will mean receiving artwork made with a font.  There are some brilliant ones out there and they do a great job. 

Our online shop has listings that include a menu of popular fonts. 

Click here for signs. 

Click here for monograms.

Pros of Using a Font: Great for signs on a budget.  Fast.  You can request quick, no-cost adjustments.  

Cons: It is less expressive and unique than handmade lettering.  It can't be completely customized.

 

CALLIGRAPHY/HAND LETTERING

If you're looking for something more unique, we have relationships with calligraphers and lettering artists.  When you see beautiful writing with lots of flourishes and a layout that seems to be made for the words - that writing has been created by hand.  If you like unique, organic and handmade, this is the way to go!  If you go this route we'll source an artist that matches your aesthetic and put calligraphy in your quote.  Expect it to increase the sign cost by 30-50%.  The artist will create one-of-a-kind artwork from your request.  

Pros of Using An Artist: Your piece will be totally unique.  It can be built with custom details like different letter shapes and flourishes.  It can be laid out in a custom arrangement.  Hand lettering has an organic, human feel to it.  

Cons: It requires more budget than a font-based sign.  Revisions come at an additional cost.  It adds to the lead time and is not ideal for rush orders.

 

SUMMARY

Our Instagram feed is a mixture of font-based and calligraphy-based signs.  If you contact us about a specific image we can tell you whether it was made by a font or an artist.  In 90% of cases we'll be able to identify the artist and commission work for you.  

What we can't do is recreate an artist's work using fonts.  The results won't be the same.  This scenario means adjusting expectations to align with the results of a font, or setting aside a little extra budget to have an artist create the piece for you. 

If you do the latter, you'll end up with something gorgeous that no one else has.  And you'll be supporting an artist in their craft.  If you do the former, you'll also receive a beautiful sign.  There are lots of pretty font options out there.  It just may not be identical to an inspiration image you've found that was made using hand calligraphy.

 

HOW TO ORDER

Every sign we design in the studio is custom made.  Here's how to request your sign:

  1. Check out our most popular fonts in the listings that offer them: Here and Here.
  2. If you don't find something you like you can initiate a custom design.  Scan through our Instagram feed and tell us about signs you like.  If it's in the feed, we know who the original artist is.  A sign can be created through the artist, or through the studio if it was designed in-house. OR  Send us photos from Instagram, Pinterest or the web.  We can create it through the original artist or create a unique work in the studio using fonts.  OR  Describe the style you're looking for and allow us to apply our design expertise to the request.  For example, "I want French Provincial" or "It's a Great Gatsby theme".  We can create options from there.  

After your order is placed and paid your artwork will be started.  If it's font-based artwork we'll provide 1-2 options for you to look at.  You'll receive that artwork proof to approve and provide feedback on.  If you requests revisions, we'll do them.  When you give your final OK, we'll make your sign. 

If it's calligraphy-based artwork, your artist will take your inspiration image and written request and create one finished piece for you.  You'll have the opportunity to approve the image or purchase revisions.  After we get your final OK your sign will be made.

I hope this helps explain the options.  Happy shopping!

 

artists

If you are a creator of design work, we provide wholesale laser cutting, at low cost for reselling.  To receive production pricing we ask that you provide an outlined vector file set to the correct thicknesses for your material.  Email us and ask for production pricing.  There is a post outlining what's needed to get production pricing HERE.

What did you think this post?  Was it helpful?  Let me know in the comments!

 

Laser Cutting Services

The Pros and Cons of Using A Laser Cutting Service

Hey there!  If you've found my website chances are you're a designer or business that's taken an interest in manufacturing through a laser cutting service.  Straight Laser provides per-minute laser cutting to exactly your type of business.

I LOVE laser cutting but I spent time in my career in several other areas of manufacturing before I settled on this one.  That gives me an ability to explain how it compares to the other options out there.  Scroll down to read more:

Custom Map Coaster

First let me get to the PROs because I love laser cutting and highly recommend it for any kind of small and medium-sized business.  Using a laser cutting services is great because:

  • Products can be completely custom.
  • It's a process that handles a range of materials.
  • It's ideal for prototyping.
  • It's a great way to produce short-run and small-volume projects.
  • It has a high-end, quality feel.
  • Changes are quick and easy.
  • The end result is textured and tactile.
  • It has a quick turnaround time.
  • It handles detail incredibly well.

A laser cutting service bureau like Straight Laser is ideal for producing small consumer products, components, signage, marketing materials and quality presentations.  We cut flat sheet materials in to shapes and can etch artwork on the surface of those materials.

Now let me touch on the CONs.  That can be important in figuring out where a laser cutting service won't work well.  You may want to choose a different manufacturing process if:

  • You intend to produce tens of thousands of your item.  
  • You're shooting for "pennies-per-unit" cost.
  • Production volume & capacity is more important than quality.
  • You want to create something large (over 3 feet) or heavy (greater than 1/4" thickness).
  • You're looking to specify the depths of 3D relief.

If any of these describe your manufacturing scenario, a laser cutting service may not be the best choice.  If you're running very high volumes, contacting a manufacturer who does die cutting or injection molding may be a better way to go.  A full list of the available manufacturing processes can be found here.

This is a very summary overview of laser cutting services.  There is a lot more to it.  But if you're looking for the basics, I hope this has helped.  As always, feel free to Contact me if you have questions about using Straight Laser's services.  

What did you think of this post?  Did it tell you what you needed to know?  Let me know in the comments!

To order custom laser cutting start HERE.

Business Marketing

How Do I Order A Custom Product Display?

Here at Straight Laser I create custom product displays for a range of products.  These are fun because they can be made in nearly any shape to fit your product. 

They're most often used in store shelving or at point-of-purchase.  I've created an FAQ to get you started.  Read on below...

Custom Product Display

What kind of products do these displays work for?

These displays work for small products that can get messy, chaotic and lost on store shelves.  It's also great for small items that benefit from being elevated so customers can better see them.

They are used in retail stores, professional offices and at consumer shows.  They're excellent for quick set up/tear down.

What are the benefits of a custom display?

  • A custom display makes your product look clean, organized and professional for retailers and consumers. 
  • They're excellent for including your own brand and product labels.  For example, I work with makeup brands that have me etch colour names on their displays.
  • Some display styles can be flat packed to make them easier to ship to retailers.
  • The display will fit your product perfectly, avoiding the awkwardness of generic displays.
  • It will elevate and organize your product, fitting more into a smaller footprint.

What are the max dimensions?

The max dimensions for displays are 17 1/4" x 17 1/4" x 20 1/2".  This can be flexible depending on the proportions.  These are countertop displays meant for setting on shelves or furniture.  They are not large enough to be floor-standing. 

What info do you need from me about size?

I use your product samples to take accurate measurements of your products.  However, there are a few other things to consider around size:

  • Ask your retailers how deep their shelving is.  They often use something specific, or have a clear idea of how much space they want the display to take up.  This is your "available footprint".
  • Ask your retailer how high their shelving is, or if there are other areas they don't want covered.  These are your "vertical details"  For example, sometimes I hear requests for a display to be high enough to block sightline to the cash register.  Or I hear a request that it must fit in an 8" gap below a shelf.  
  • Be aware of vertical sight lines.  Is there information on your product label you want to be able to see?  Do I need to make sure products on the shelf below don't cover it?  If you have preferences here please let me know.

Which materials to do you use?

I primarily use wood for displays. 

Corrugated, plastics and leather are sometimes an option.  These are used as details within a wood display.

What do you need to design a display for me?

  1. Your inspiration images, size details, wish list and and any other details you'd like me to  include in the design.
  2. Physical samples of each product going into the display.  They can be empty packages, as long as the full dimensions are present. 
  3. Your logo file.  

Samples can be popped in the mail or couriered.  All samples are returned to you with your finished display.  For high-value products like jewelry, detailed specs using a micrometer are acceptable.

    How much does it cost?

    I'm a stickler for providing exact estimates, but 3D displays are difficult to estimate without a file.  For this reason, price is broken down as follows:

    Design - I charge standard graphic design rates for the time it takes to design & test your display.  I can estimate this for you in advance. 

    Production - I can give you an accurate estimate for the display itself once the design is finished.  The estimate is based on how much material the display uses, how long it takes to cut, and how long it takes to assemble.  The price assumes you're ordering one prototype, or a few at a time.  If you plan to order 12+ displays let me know and I'll apply a volume discount.  

    Please note, design is a one-time charge (unless you request changes).  Once you've paid for your design, you only have to pay the production cost to create a display.  

    What is the process?

    1. You send samples, your logo, inspiration pics and your wish list to me.  
    2. Once a deposit is received I will return pencil sketches of 1 (occasionally 2) ideas to get your impressions and feedback.  
    3. Once a direction is confirmed I will created digital files, test the display construction and send you photos of a "rough cut".  
    4. With your feedback and revisions I will cut a final display and send you photos to get shipping approval.  
    5. Once I have approval your display (and any product samples) will be shipped to you.

    What do you send me?

    When your display is finished you'll receive your display(s) as well as the product samples you sent to me. 

    Displays arrive flat packed if they are a flat-pack style. Otherwise displays are shipped fully assembled.  If you're looking for component cutting so you can assemble yourself that's possible.  Just ask.

    How do I get started?

    The first step is to email me with your design ideas.  I will tell you how many hours it will take to design.  If you're ok with the time estimate, I will send you a payment link to take a deposit.  Then the design process can get started.

    What did you think of this post?  Was it helpful?  Let me know in the comments!

    To order a custom display start HERE.

    Business Marketing

    How Do I Order A Sign For My Business?

    We offer a lot of sign options so I thought I'd write a post to help .  I'll explain what we do first, then how to place an order. 

    Feel free to jump to the sections that interest you:

    What You'll Receive

    We make all of our signs from wood and either finish them in colour or etch them.  This gives them a unique vintage feel.   Your sign will have the appearance of a 1950's shop sign.  Wood signs have a slightly rustic feel.  Please keep this in mind if you're ordering for a corporate environment. 

    The signs below are for indoor use only.  We do offer outdoor signage.  If you're looking for outdoor visit this link for the rundown of options.

    What Are The Options?

    We offer three sign types: Cut Letter Signs, Dimensional SignsEtched Wood Signs.  

    Cut Letter Signs

    • Arrive as many separate pieces. 
    • Can be finished in any colour including bare birch, solid & metallics.
    • You must lay them out on the wall.  (Optional Layout templates are available for purchase)
    • You must attach them to the wall yourself. (We include instructions on how to do this)
    • Are best for permanent installation.
    • Can be up to 8ft wide.

    Dimensional Signs

    • Arrives as one piece.
    • Can be finished in any colour including bare birch, solid & metallics.
    • Come with hanging loops at the back.
    • Great for permanent installation OR trade show use.  Easy to move around.
    • Can be up to 45" wide.

    Etched Wood Signs

    Custom Indoor Sign
    • Arrives as one piece.
    • Available in ONE colour only: wood background with dark brown etching.
    • Arrives unmounted so it can be framed or set on a shelf.
    • Can be upgraded to include loops at the back.
    • Can be up to 32" wide.

    Which One Should I Choose?

    The choice comes down to how you'd like to use your sign.  It can also be affected by size.

    If you'd like to use it for a trade show choose a Dimensional Sign or Etched Wood Sign.  Dimensional and Etched Wood Signs are ready to display and easy to move because they come as one unified piece.

    If you're using your sign in an office space where it won't be moved, all three options work.  Remember, Cut Lettering can be made in larger sizes.  Dimensional and Etched Wood Signs come in smaller sizes.

    How Do I Determine Sizing?

    The Dimensional Wood Sign has more info under "Additional Info".  Click there then scroll to the bottom of the page for photos of each size, to scale, inside common trade show booths.  This should give you a good idea of how your sign will look when it's inside your booth. 

    For Cut Lettering I suggest measuring your visible wall space.  That is any space you plan to include the signage in, minus any countertops that may be blocking the view:

    How To Measure My Office For A Sign

    Once you've measured leave a buffer of at least 1 foot all the way around.  From there, it's up to you how you'd like it to be laid out.  Some clients want to use the whole space, while others want their logo to take up a smaller footprint. 

    Etched Wood Signs have a smaller footprint than the above two styles.  Estimate using a ruler or piece of cardboard held up to the area you'd like to use it in to gauge scale.

    How Will My Sign Be Sized?

    When you're buying a sign on our website you're buying a footprintA footprint is the total area available for your sign.  It's not the actual dimensions of your sign. 

    Most logos/artwork will not match the exact proportions of the sign footprint.  When maxed out in the footprint, your artwork will be either shorter or less wide than the footprint.  The picture below shows a visual.  We will not stretch or squish your logo out of its original proportion.  That request will make the artwork looks distorted:

    Maintaining Image Proportions

    In sign making you can have length OR width, not both.  Your sign will either match the width measurement of the footprint, or the height.  You can't pick which one.  It's determined by how your logo naturally fills the space.  When we make your sign we'll expand your logo until it touches either the top or the sides of the footprint - whichever touches first. 

    Please select a footprint that roughly matches the proportion of your logo.  For example, if your logo is sort of square, choose a square footprint.  If your logo is a skinny rectangle, choose a footprint that is long and skinny.  In this way you can maximize the use of space and spend as little as possible on your sign.

    If you're looking for specific dimensions please send us an email and tell us the exact size you'd like.  Size can be specified in width only.  We do not work with letter height because it can change the size quite a bit.

    How Do I Place An Order?

    Though each sign is completely custom, almost all signs are covered under one of the three sign listings. 

    Choose the style you'd like (Dimensional, Cut Lettering or Etched Wood), pick a size, a mounting option if needed, then add to cart:

    How To Order A Sign

    As soon as you place the item in your cart a pop-up box will ask you detailed questions about what you'd like:

    How To Order A Custom Sign

    If there's anything else you'd like to add please send us an email.  We match all email requests to their order as soon as the order comes in.  

    What Else Do You Need From Me?

    As soon as you've placed your order please email us your logo file. 

    Vector files are the best for sign making.  These files end in .ai, .eps. or .pdf.  If you're not a graphic designer but your designer has sent you files, it's often the file that won't open on your computer.  Please send this file.  It's the one we need.  

    If you didn't have a designer create your logo or you're not able to request a vector file from your original designer we can work with .jpg, .png and .tiff files.  Please send the largest file you have.  If you have more than one to choose from pick the logo that appears largest on screen and has high KBs under "file size".

    Can You Make Me A Logo?  Make Changes To My Logo?  Lay My Sign Out Differently?

    Absolutely!  We do all types of graphic design.  However, this service comes at an additional cost and isn't included in the sign price.  We'll cover small design jobs like converting .jpg files to vector files or adding a circular shape around your sign free of charge.  If your request involves more than that please email us your request and we'll send you a quote. 

    Note: Designing a logo is a big undertaking.  If you need a logo designed you should have a separate budget set aside for this job alone.  

    What Happens Next?

    When an order comes we'll look over the details, check your file and confirm the order is ready to go.  If we see issues or have a question we'll contact you before moving your order forward.  

    We don't provide sign proofs because your sign will look identical to your logo file.

    Once your order is confirmed you won't hear from us for a little while.  Signs take 2-3 weeks to finish.  As soon as your sign is finished you'll get an email with a tracking number telling you it's been shipped.

    If you've shared a deadline date with us we'll make note of it and ensure your sign arrives on time.  Your sign will ship on time to arrive by your deadline date.  If we can't meet your deadline we'll flag this right away.

    What About Rush Orders?  

    Please contact us at least 4 weeks before you need your sign.  Rush orders are occasionally possible but signs must have curing time.  That's a stage that can't be rushed.  If you email us we can let you know what's possible, but please understand the time estimates we give you are not negotiable because signs takes time to make.  

    What did you think of this post?  Was it helpful?  Let us know in the comments!