October '21

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G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M 2 0 2 1 O C T O B E R G R A P H I C S P R O 1 7 holders for other odd-shaped products like pocketknives. I created a holder for glassware when masking them for sand etching. Water bottles are another product that must be held flat. I had several wood holders made for a variety of bottle brands and models. SHADOW BOXES AND DISPLAYS Team up with a person who designs and decorates shadow boxes. They are popular to display sports collectibles, retirements, mili- tary, and first responder awards. They often include important graphics (patches and coins) for the receiver. I made many unique cover shapes cut from sheet stock and many with lasered graphics. A few examples include fire department patch graphics for the reopening of a fire station, a badge graphic as a cover for a shadow box for military police, and a unique cover of an airport control tower for a retiring military flight controller. I asked for a photo of the entire tower from a straight-on view. I traced the tower's outline and added some simple graphics and lines. The customer was thrilled when the retiring specialist opened up his retirement gift and was moved to tears. That made the effort we put into the project worth every minute. MILITARY, POLICE, AND FIRE PERSONNEL Some professions seem to take to wood products more than others. The military, firefighters, and police appreciate natural materials. They also love their emblems related to their jobs (MOS - military occupational specialties) and graphics for their units. Obtaining quality graphics from these customers can be a challenge. I used every trick I could come up with to find ways to get these graph- ics myself. The quality of the graphics equals the quality you can laser. I put some of my own time into redrawing graphics for important projects. MIXING MATERIALS I liked to mix materials I could cut with the laser. This allowed me much more control over the creativity I could have over shapes. Sheet wood, sheet acrylics, leather, and the newer leatherettes are all great to work with. This provided me with earthy colors and a full set of bright colors, textures, and metallics to work with. Besides finding a great woodworker to put on your team, creating a relationship with a leathersmith is worthwhile. The leathersmith often needs leather engraved. I would use leather shapes worked with leatherworking tools to provide a unique look and capability few shops offered. BE CREATIVE Everyone has, at the very least, some creativity around things they are interested in. You might just have a spouse, family member, or friend that has a creative side that enjoys a challenge and is willing to help. Some of the best creative ideas come from replacing an existing product with something with a new twist. That might be a new look, new materials, or different use. For example, I cre- ated decorative light switch plate designs from sheet wood with children's, sports, and logoed themes for family rooms, corporate training rooms, and lobbies. Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms are excellent sources for ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Creating your line of products can be very satisfying. You can use them to win ongoing clients for their everyday business. Once they see your capabilities and willingness to create products spe- cifically for them, there is no place else for them to go. They are customers for life. GP BOB HAGEL recently retired after owning Eagle's Mark Awards & Signs for 18 years in Southern California. While owning the business, he offered a full line of personalized products using laser engraving, sandcarving, and full-color UV direct print on products. Today, he consults on starting and expanding personalized businesses and on improving production efficiency and quality. He can be reached at

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