We are starting something really exciting here at Havok where we want to actively answer all of the frequently asked questions we receive via email, on our social media pages, and at our live events. The most asked questions are based around the main process we use to create all of our products: laser cutting.
So, okay like what IS laser cutting anyway? Well, did you know that the word laser itself is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Crazy right?! Therefore, simply put, laser cutting is a computer operated process of cutting or engraving a design into or through a chosen material (such as wood or acrylic) using the precision of a laser beam to do so. Think of it like a hot knife cutting through butter [the knife being the laser and the butter being the wood or acrylic.]
Ok, so that seems easy enough to understand, but what about the process? How do you go from having a bare piece of wood to a completed product ready to be sold online or in stores? First, it all starts where all products begin, with a design.
Customers ask us if we do all of our designing on the computer or in a sketchbook. The answer is both. Sometimes when I am at a coffee house, on the couch, or just not in the mood to be on the computer I draw out our design ideas into a sketchbook adding little notes, questions, and other ideas right alongside each drawing. Once we feel good about the design and want to work it further, it is either scanned or redrawn in Adobe Illustrator. We'll add the line widths, layers, correct sizing, and additional details at this time. After that is all figured out, the file is sent over to the computer that runs the laser engraving machine, and using Corel Draw, we finalize all the line widths and engraving areas prior to printing it to the machines software.
Of course your materials have to be taken into consideration. Our main material choices are maple wood, cherry wood, and walnut wood. Each board is typically about 1/8" or 1/4" thick. We sand down each board to a smooth finish and protect it with masking prior to any engraving or cutting happens.
Now that we have a smooth wood board and a digital file for the design, we finalize all the settings for the project in the laser engravers software, telling the machine exactly which lines or shapes to engrave or cut and at what speed and depth to do so. [These settings vary depending on the actual design and the materials being used.] Then we press "G" on the computers keyboard to tell the machine to "GO!" and this is what happens...
[This is a time-lapse video showing the process of engraving and cutting out our Charlotte Skyline Wall Hanging. In reality, it actually takes about 45 minutes to engrave and cut out.]
After the machine has cut out the design, we decide if any necessary revisions are needed, or if it all looks good, it then moves on to the finishing process. The finishing process is different for each item depending on the use of the item itself. Most pieces are transferred to a finishing board where they are coated with light layers of non-toxic wood finish spray to protect and seal the wood, while also bringing out the natural colors and woodgrain. Other items are further worked by hand on our belt-sander, with a Dremel, sanding blocks, or sometimes all three as is the case with our wooden rings.
Certain items are stained, painted, or adhered to other wood pieces for a layered look after being laser cut. Those steps are required to be completed prior to applying any coats of finish. Then the last step of each item is the final assembly, i.e. adding the earring posts, bow tie bar pins, chain and other jewelry details for necklaces, etc.
And there you have it! A little peek into our process from beginning to end. We hope this introduction into our FAQ Series was enjoyable, and we realize that this was just an introduction. So if you still have more questions about the laser cutting process just let us know and we'll be sure to answer them in future FAQ posts! Or if you have other questions you want answered, leave them here in the comments! This will be an ongoing series so please send in your questions any which way you want: email, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, postcards, carrier pigeon, or telegram!
Thanks for reading!
Havok the planet,
kristen | Owner | Havok Designs