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State of the Flame #5

Happy Easter! It was another busy week for us!

It was an incredibly busy week for us - a combination of some large urgent orders, and trying to keep the Easter long weekend clear to spend with the family! As a result, we didn't get any prototyping done... again... but on the other side, we've had a lovely weekend with our family!

Instead, let's take a look at one of our most popular items!

Birthday Boards

One of our most popular products is our birthday boards. We're not the first or only people to make these, but we did design our own version from scratch, and it takes a different approach to many other boards. It has a distinctive family name cutout at the top, with the celebrations wording engraved as well as the month names engraved.

So how do we make these?

The main board

The first step to making these boards is to design them up. Fortunately, we've developed a good template on the computer where we type in the family name and the computer does most of the layout work. A few tweaks, and it's ready to send off for approval. Once approved, we "cut prepare" the artwork - translate the proof version into something suitable for the machine to make.

And then it's onto the machine! Due to how the engraving process works, they are actually engraved and cut sideways in the machine. They are arranged in batches of up to four boards at once, side by side, as that's how many can fit on the sheets. Each board spends approximately 30 minutes in the machine. The engraving is the bulk of this time (25 minutes) and the cut (the text at the top) is around 5 minutes.

Once off the machine, the board is sanded back on both sides to remove any marks from the laser processing. This is done with two different sanders to be gentle on the cut out text on the top. Then, the hidden screw mount hooks are glued onto the back using a special jig to line them all up correctly. After the glue is set, the boards are oiled with a high quality danish oil to seal them.

Each board has a special black cardboard insert cut to house them during shipping. The insert is cut exactly to fit the text at the top, which keeps it in place and prevents any breakages during shipping. It also gives the board a beautiful presentation, ready to wrap in your own wrapping paper before giving them as a gift!

The tokens

The tokens look deceptively simple - just a 35mm diameter disc with two small holes, one in the top and the bottom. Despite looking simple, there is actually a lot of work involved in them!

We tend to cut an entire sheet of material into circles at once, nesting them on the sheet to reduce wastage. At the closest points, the circles are just 0.5mm apart. A whole sheet results in about 600 circles - or enough for 20 boards.

After cutting, each tiny little disc needs to be sanded to clean it up. And this is where the fun begins! The original setup was a custom jig to turn an orbital sander upside down, which allowed us to sand each disc one at a time against the sander. Only recently we replaced this with a vacuum jig - a table that has spaces for 60 circles, and uses a dust extraction vacuum to hold the circles in place during sanding. Now we can load the jig, sand one side, flip all the tokens, sand the other side, and then remove the tokens. This was designed by us specifically to process these tokens.

After sanding, we oil all the tokens. Individually. This is quite time-consuming but worth the results!

Next, we pre-pack the tokens. They are grouped into sets of 30, and each 30 is placed into a separate plastic container and stacked onto the shelf. When packing your order, we can pull off as many containers as needed for the order. During actual order packing, we pack the tokens into a bag inside the box itself. This allows us to fit all the tokens inside a limited height box, as they are all neatly hand inserted into a bag to keep them flat.

The other parts

But wait, there's more! We cut a custom packing box to post these out in. It's a heavy duty box - made from 7mm thick cardboard - and 6 separate parts - that all slot together to wrap around the birthday board and it's tokens.

We also supply small jump rings that are used to connect the tokens together and connect them to the board. We used to count them out by hand into packs of 30... but there is a better way! We now have a jewellery scale that has a "pieces" mode - by programming it with the weight of several rings, it can calculate how many rings are on the scale. So now we can just pour out rings until it reads more than 30, and pack that.

Did you read this far?

If so - thanks for following along! If you'd like a birthday board of your own, use the coupon code IREADIT for 15% off birthday boards and extra tokens. The code expires on Sunday the 23rd of April 2017. 

Workshop News

We are full steam ahead with our workshop move. We will have the keys for the new workshop this coming Friday, and will be spending the weekend moving the machinery over, ready to continue production on the following Monday. We're excited about this move - it gives us a chance to streamline the workshop and our operations. We'll post some pictures once we're operational again next week!

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