You simply can't beat a well placed plaque! They're all over the place, whether they're for opening ceremonies, information plaques, memorial plaques, commemorative plaques, bench plaques, the list goes on; as do the different styles. We make a lot of plaques and what has become noticeable to us over the last few years is that the traditional brass plaque is not as popular as it once was. Don't get me wrong, we still do plenty of them and I think they're quite hard to beat, with the deep-engraved text paint filled in a nice shiny black then mounted on an oak plinth. But times are changing; people want something slightly different I suppose. We do around 5 times more stainless steel plaques now, the odd aluminium one and a fair few laminate ones. The laminate plaques I understand, they're often much cheaper than the brass or metal equivalents, but why the move towards stainless steel? Comparing prices they're much the same as brass. Is it down to wording? Brass is forever tied to "traditional" whereas stainless steel is considered "modern"; or is it just because no one like polishing brass!
Dare I say it, wooden signs are making a comeback. you can't get anymore traditional than that, though unfortunately the traditional way of making them with hand tools is all but gone. More on that later.
The same can be said for bench plaques, we do far more stainless steel plaques for memorial benches than we do brass ones, although the mix is more 60/40 in favour of stainless steel in this case.
Wood making a comeback.
We also do our fair share wooden plaques, including weird and wonderful plaques like the one bellow, reproducing a 16th century oak plaque for a local building. This was originally carved into the stonework on the exterior of the building but had degraded to such a point it was unreadable. (That was after 514 years though, so money well spent at the time!)
Replacing traditional skills with CNC machines is such a shame. I only wish I had the skills to hand carve - there are still a few around who offer the hand carved service but they are fully booked for the next 500 years or so. As a result of this limited pool of clever woodworkers we had to replace them with a CNC machine. We use "V-carve bits" and a clever toolpath to mimic the traditional V carving of days gone by. The problem with a CNC is that is is exact and precise, a new sign will never have the character of an old one.
The upside of a CNC engraver is that they are very, very clever! the plaque below was all done on one machine. A couple of tool changes, but apart from that I put my feet up and waited until it was done. This is now hanging in the reception of our local hospital.
Super new techniques
Any tool with a spinning blade will have its limits, the diameter of the tool itself becomes something that needs factoring in, especially with detailed pieces. this is where the laser will by far blow most other methods out of the water, by having a "tool diameter" or laser beam less than 0.005mm they are capable of immense detail, and with the lasers ability to vary power as it sees fit, it produces almost unbelievable results as seen below.
Thanks for reading!