Proudly made in the United States of America

The 135th Airlift Squadron is one of two flying units of the Maryland Air National Guard. It is based at Warfield Air National Guard Base (Martin State Airport) in Middle River, Maryland. Its parent unit is the 135th Airlift Group. The unit flies the C-27J Spartan.
The 135th Airlift Squadron was organized as the 135th Air Resupply Squadron on September 10, 1955 as part of the 135th Air Resupply Group (now the 135th Airlift Group). When it was organized, it was one of a handful of Air National Guard units nationwide tasked with what was at the time called the air commando mission, which included covert infiltration, resupply and exfiltration of special operations troops. It remained a special operations-type unit until 1971, when it was reorganized as a tactical air support unit. In this role, it was tasked with providing Forward Air Controllers to direct air strikes in support of troops on the ground. In 1977 it was again reorganized, this time as a tactical airlift unit. The 135th Airlift Group was inactivated for two brief periods: 1958-1962, during which time the 135th Airlift Squadron continued to function as independent squadron, and 1996–1999, during which time it reported directly to the 175th Wing.

When I was contacted by the Squadron last year about plaques they issue for deployments, I started researching the logos and missions. These folks are involved all over the world. If we have military somewhere, the Maryland Air National Guard is not far behind. The graphics they provided were too low a resolution to make an effective engraving. 135thAirlift GroupI worked on these for weeks before deciding it was best to just redraw them. I did not want to use a black and white outlines as that would look too much like a rubber stamp. I wanted something more along the lines of a carving. Baltimore's Best InsigniaI should probably explain here that I consider cutting (or more accurately burning into the wood) an engraving and cutting away the background and leaving a design standing as laser carving. What I wanted to do was to replicate color with depth and texture. This is the resulting plaque.

The 135th also uses the designation “Baltimore’s Best”. This insignia was even more of a challenge. It features cross lances on a shield which boasts the Maryland State Flag, which is a fascinating and complicated design.The flag of the state of Maryland consists of the heraldic banner of George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore. It is the only state flag in the United States to be based on English heraldry. It took me about 12 different designs and 20 (yes, 20) tests runs to find that combination of deeply cut but not too deep and crisply cut lines. It is a heraldry insignia and the motto “Baltimore’s Best” was adopted in 1987 as a result of the unit being recognized by the Best in Baltimore committee the same year.

I do not think I have ever worked so hard on simple plaques. For reasons I am at a loss to explain, I considered this task most important. The squadron sent me an Arm patch in appreciation which is quickly becoming one of my most prized processions. I enjoyed working with these wonderful and brave Americans. I must say if we ever get into a real scrape, I want them on my side.

I had finished all of the plaques (I made a big batch) and was preparing to wrap them when at the very last minute, I decided to engrave the backs with “proudly made in the U.S.A.” After this experience, I really must say, “I sleep better at night, knowing the 135th and the entire 175th is over head”. May God Bless them all and keep them safe.



A tribute desk plaque from Fishers Laser Carvers; Remembering a President

Presidents Day is often a day to reflect on our past presidents and many times wishing we had them back. I remember watching John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural address on a small, by today’s standards, black and white television. In school we were made to memorize those famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you….”. I still recall vividly, as a boy, watching the tradgedy in Dallas and being glued to the screen as the unimaginable poured over the air waves and into our hearts and minds. As a result of this early experience, I spent a great deal of time in my later youth studying the man. I, like most of the country, became fascinated with all things “Kennedy”. How those pictures of a riderless horse or a little child’s salute still move us. Little did we know and less did we suspect that these events would be a prelude to events yet to unfold.
As I reflect on these events, I am often puzzled by why I found this time and this president so inspirational.JFK Desk Plaque I think it was the message of hope and change that we can be all we can be. That somehow, despite the trials that will surely come, we can reach for the moon. I remembered a desk plaque that President Kennedy held in particular favor. A plaque that recites the Breton Fisherman’s prayer “O God, Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small”. (The picture on the right is the original from the JFK museum) The story goes that Admiral Rickover, the father of the modern nuclear navy, had this little bronze desk plaque and the new president expressed his admiration. Admiral Rickover presented the president with this plaque which sat on the president’s desk in the oval office. This was latter adapted in the television series “The West Wing” as “O Lord, thy sea is so vast and my boat is so small”. This little desk plaque has become American Lore. It has also always been one of my favorite quotes.
I had no idea at the time that quotes and plaques would become my passion and my business.(This still astounds me). JFK desk plaque One of the first plaques I ever made with my laser was this quote. That first plaque even bore the little ship logo which become the logo of Fishers Laser Carvers. I still wanted to create a replica of the original plaque which now resides in The John f. Kennedy Museum. The original is cast brass mounted on mahogany wood. I decided to try to make this on cherry as with my other desk plaques. Not a copy or reproduction, I would rather call this an interpretation or tribute to the little plaque that influenced me so long ago. So,if I may, “Let the word go forth”, here is my little rendition. A little piece of work that represents so much of my life and my thoughts. A simple thing that has moved me and moves me still.Something new gleaned from something very old. Who Knows? Perhaps we can still “light the globe.”



Another year with Fishers Laser Carvers

I have just finished and delivered my 500th plaque since I have been on this journey. It was a tumultuous season. Illness and family illness (nothing dire just irratating) prevented me from being as prepared as I needed to be. However, with some late nights and complaining I managed to ship 60 items. hymn plaqueSome very touching and powerful in the personal messages they contain. This once again reminded me of the task of creating these little simple things that touch hearts and send a sentiment. It always gives me pause.prayer plaque

From the special rushed package from one of our boys in Afghanistan to his wife or the simple children’s prayer remembered from long ago, these little pieces of wood attempt to say something. This is an ancient thing. I have been laboring at this for some time and it still pleases and amazes me to have a small part in this process.

We live in a world filled with division and turmoil. The news speaks daily of the angst and fear that people feel in dealing with this uncertainty. I think we need to remind ourselves at this time of year that all are just people. They get their hearts broken, they lose loved ones, they celebrate births, they struggle with jobs and money, they have trials and tribulations and it is not hard in the hustle and bustle of everyday life for folks to start thinking that they don’t matter. They feel as leafs on a river. Well they do matter! I think perhaps that just the reminder that Jesus loves them and I love them can make a burden a little less heavy or a joy a little more memorable. In my poor way I like to think that I play a small part in delivering these messages.Plaque

I received a letter from a customer who wrote; “I can’t begin to tell you what your work has done for me. I was going through one of the worst times in my life and in my hands was the beautiful plaque you made for me. I held the wood and read the words and I began to feel a little better. Don’t ever think that what you do doesn’t matter. I will cherish this always.”

This is my reward. The government and insurance companies take the rest.

Merry Christmas Everyone


The Arrow of Light for the Fishers, Indiana Scouts

The Arrow of Light is one of the most prized awards in scouting. It represents a cub scout’s completion of all requirements and the entry into the Boy Scouts. If you have never attended a Blue and Gold banquet, believe me when I tell you it is a very big deal.

Arrow of lightI was a cub scout and a boy scout. I was really into the scouting experience. This is where I first learned to play with knives and axes. We slept outside and learned to build fires. We hiked with the military at Wright Paterson Air Force base. We even camped out in the snow. Of course we also made pictures from macaroni and paper plates and sold a lot of pop corn. Some of my very first woodworking was making pine wood derby cars. If any of this makes sense to you or is similar in your experience, then you know the arrow of light is a transitional moment in a young scouts life.

When I was approached with the idea of making award plaques for the local scouts, I was more than happy to do so. The scout master stopped by and we started making little samples to select a design. The he threw a curve ball at me. How to attach the arrows. Arrows? What arrows? Now it is often customary that the scout receive an arrow head as a symbol of becoming a man. The leaders wanted to mount arrows on the plaque. They were planning to screw cup hooks into my plaques or maybe just holes to tie a string or pegs. I had viewed several similar awards on the internet and they just didn’t seem right to me. I had not really planned on making racks instead of plaques. Now I had to figure out how to mount them. I remembered my vow, “I promise to do my best”, from so many years ago.

Arrow Og Light plaqueNow just off the back of my little basement shop is an unfinished little room. This is where the furnace and water heater reside and there is a wash basin( it is also the laundry room) where I often clean up tools or wash things off. I was standing at the basin looking up when I saw the copper pipes suspended with plastic pipe holders. Hmmmmm, pipes are round and about the same size as an arrow. I wonder. I took one of the pipe holders off the beam (yes I now have a dangling pipe held with a coat hanger) and traced it onto a piece of wood. This might just work.

I fabricated the little holders and mounted them on the plaques with dowels wedged from the back.. These hold the arrow not unlike a gun rack. I thought to myself, “Wow” I just got a lousy cardboard certificate when I passed through!”. But sour grapes aside, I think the boys were pleased. I hope it means more to them later in life than it does now. I rather imagine it will mean the most when their sons reach the same and this is how it should be. Tradition, handed down from father to son, the unbroken cycle in the walk of life. This is the Arrow of Light.



Support your local Scouts!

A Handcrafted Mirror Story – or – Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I have not written in a bit. It has been a very busy summer. There were days that I doubted if I was going to be able to keep up. A wise lawyer told me when I started out that there are two things one must consider when starting a business; “What do you do if it fails?” and What do you do if it succeeds?”. Happily I have been struggling with the latter. How am I going to make 14 plaques, 2 pastry boards and 6 boxes in a week? Cherry MirrorSometimes you have to have a long talk with the guy in the mirror.
I had a client contact me with a strange request. Her father had once owned a mirror with the words from Psalm 96, “Then shall all the trees of the forest exalt before the Lord.” He loved this mirror and longed to have it again. She thought perhaps because of my constant use of tree motifs, I could offer a rendition of this mirror. This started me thinking about how to do this. Now since I have begun this journey, I have made plaques with engravings and items with relief laser carvings and I have made picture frames. I became intrigued with the notion of combining engraving and carving (deep relief) and traditional frame woodworking. However, this was not enough of a challenge. The mirror also needed to be arched and sit flat against a wall.
It is not that difficult to get the text to follow a curve in a graphics program. But how does one cut the frame parts to the exact same curve? It is one thing to build a mortice and tenon frame and add a curve, but it must be so that the laser knows how to follow the same shape and curve. I decided to use an old chair makers trick, templates.

When I would visit my great uncle Walter’s shop as a boy, I noticed dozens of thin templates hanging from the rafters. These templates were of various curves used to shape chair backs and set the angles on chair legs. My mother is a seamstress and I have often watched her lay out patterns for dresses and such. It is not important, the exact shape or angle. It is important all be the same. I thought to myself, “Patterns and Templates, that’s the ticket!”

I set about drawing patterns in Corel Draw and then using the laser to cut the patterns out in 1/8″ plywood. It turns out the laser does this very well. I then used the templates to layout the piece and cut to the line. I could even make a template of the mirror and take it to the good folks at Carmel Glass and Mirror to cut the 1/4 plate glass.

I cut the parts and carefully cut to the line of the template. I then cut the mortice and tenon in the traditional manor with chisel and saw. Now the rabbet or rebate for the back. Wait a minute! This will need two rabbets(grooves), one for the mirror and another for the slightly larger inset back. I decided to mill this on the router table, first cutting the larger rabbet and the a second relief for the mirror and finishing the corners with a chisel. This results in a stair step shape. Whew!mirror back

The frame completed could now be engraved and carved. I used two little relief carvings, one of a cherry blossom, as the frame is cherry and one little humming bird feeding from a blossom at the bottom.Cherry blossom A cherry vine wraps the frame. I made my poor customer wait about 16 weeks while all of this was figured out. Sometimes these special unique projects take awhile. The work doesn’t take anymore time but all the design and building of templates and such does. This another of those items thats looks simple but is in fact, rather complex.

So here is my first attempt at bringing woodworking, engraving and laser carving together. Who knows, might be a new style of craft. In the meantime, I am back at the bench, happily making as many unique and interesting items as I can. I am reminded of the words of Mother Teresa, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle, I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”



You will never use that!

During my career in the corporate world the question of education came up from time to time. When I disclosed that my degree was in theology and religion I used to get some pretty strange looks and more than a few questions. “How did you get from religion to sales?” or “What went wrong?”, “Did you fall from grace?”, I would be asked. I had one immediate superior who wrote in my retirement letters ” A degree in theology! Are you kidding me?”. He once told me that he thought this was a waste. “You will never use that knowledge!”
Now, I must admit, the use of ancient greek or latin or archeology seldom came up in the industrial sales game. Not many of my customers knew or especially cared about my educational background and I am fairly certain that no one bought from me because of it. Still, I always bristled at that thought that all education is merely vocational training. There was a time when the study of the humanities, as it called back when dragons roomed the earth, that religion and the arts and the humanities were a prerequisite for all advanced studies. One could not think properly or be morally grounded without being versed in the wisdom of the ages. Of course this was in the days before Wikipedia and the internet. They are right. There is probably no practical application for my unusual history.

Recently, I was contacted by a client who was desirous of a plaque that held the word Hupomeno. She stated that she had heard this word in a sermon and it had come to hold special significance in their family. The word Hupomeno appears more than 20 times in the New Testament. It generally translated as “patience or perseverance”. However, the word has more of a connotation of active waiting and anticipation. In modern vernacular I would translate it as “Keep the Faith” or “Hang in there baby”. Given the fact that the first century church was in pesecution, this is altogher understandable. Because of this meaning of “active anticipation” it is one of those ancient words that has become an iconic symbol for many, particularly evangelical churches. Maranatha (Come Lord Jesus) is another such word, but that is a different plaque. I suggested that we make the plaque in the original greek. “You can do that?”, my client exclaimed. Yes I can do that. This made for a quite unique and interesting piece of work.

It was strange that during the same week I received a phone call from another client who had seen my “Ebenezer” plaque. He was searching for this in Hebrew and wondered if I could do that. Yes I can do that. Now it has been a long time since I studied any hebrew and I never was good at it. Ebenezer plaqueThe last time I interpreted any hebrew, there were no cell phones or any such thing as the internet and computer was that big thing at the Pentagon. But I found this interesting and decided to give it a go. Now, keep in mind that this is actually two words combined in hebrew and of course it is written from right to left. The word is from 1 Samuel and means “Thus far the Lord has helped us”. This name was given to a rock by Samuel that marked the spot of God’s victory over the Philistines. This is another ancient word that has become an iconic symbol of faith. I liked the fact that the simple design to the plaque also gives testimony to the origins of the word.

In my adventure that has become Fishers Laser Carvers, I have been able to revisit the wisdom of my education. I continue to happily revisit the great thinkers and wisdom of the ancients. There is a great need in our world today for wisdom and words of Jesus, Gandhi, Tolstoy, Buddha, Thoreau ,Jefferson, Blake and Burke. As I continue to write my life’s story I think often of the words “You will never use that knowledge!” The Lord does work in mysterious ways.



That’s going to leave a mark

My last Christmas package should be delivered today. I must admit there were times, usually about 2 a.m., that I wondered if I was going to make it. There is that anxious moment when I find myself torn between doing my very best work and just getting the work done. I think I avoided the temptation to “just get it done” for the most part. I thought I was prepared, with plenty of stock ready, but after 50 orders, which is a lot for a one man show, I began to secretly wish for the holiday to be over.

Angel plaque

Then I received an email from a customer telling me how I had brought peace and joy to their lives and “filled them with an enlightened view of divine peace.” Now I admit to be susceptible to flattery, but I thought, “Now wait a minute, I am just the guy who puts marks on wood.” It was the words that moved them and their willingness to let themselves be moved that brought peace, not my efforts.

The more I thought about this, the more I thought how ancient and human it is to leave marks. As far back as we can imagine, people have been marking images and words on stone or wood or bone. This means there was always someone like me, who would make the marks, etched or carved, whether by rock or chisel or laser, that would add some permanence to human thought and feeling. Our need to express ourselves and leave a mark to share with others in the hope that they may share our feelings by seeing the marks.Music sheet plaque

I have made many marks this year. Songs and sonnets, limericks and speeches, prayers and promises, hopes and dreams and expressions of loss. Lives being etched upon little pieces of wood to leave a heart. This has always been the case. We see the great monuments. We read the markers and the stele, from the rosetta stone to simple grave markers. Who made these marks? Rarely is that remembered. Does it matter? I think not as long as the marks hold their meaning and mystery and magic.

I imagine that way back in ancient times some Emperor or Pharaoh would approach someone like myself and say “We would like this etched onto stone. Can you do it?” My ancestor answering “Sure, I can do that!” Then the Pharaoh would say “Now, I am going to need this by the end of the week!” My ancient counterpart saying “WHAT??”
And so it goes.

Thanks to everyone for your support. Have a peaceful holiday.


Veterans Day

I wanted to make something for Veterans Day. I am not a veteran but I am proud to say I am the son of a veteran. A very proud veteran, I might add and rightfully so. Our country has no greater possession than our young people who demonstrate such a sense of sacrifice and such valor that moves us, or should move us, to tears. Valor is a very special thing. It is the ultimate expression of love. “A man has no greater love than to lay down his life for another”. It is impossible for anyone who has not served in the military to completely understand this. Valor requires a complete surrender of self for another. There is, in my opinion, no greater human act. Considering that our country has a volunteer service makes this sacrifice all the more poignant.

MacArtheu Plaque

I often confuse my friends and family with my views on this. They say, “But George, you are always the first to speak for peace!”. You disdain war and are usually among the first to shout ‘Bring them Home!”. “Yet you also go on and on about your admiration of veterans and the military. How can this be?”

These are good questions and does seem to be an apparent contradiction. I think it is because I so admire valor. This most precious commodity and sense of sacrifice is so precious and so valuable that it should never be wasted. The sacrifice of the best of us, should always be most heavily questioned, least it become ill spent. Valor should never be for some ill conceived enterprise, or vague political motive and certainly not on spotty intelligence or hasty decisions. If one is to spend the lives of those whose love and higher sense of sacrifice are willing, then this should be only after all other options have failed. Those of us who came of age during the Viet Nam war struggled with this question. The wasted valor and ill fated use of our brave young men during that time haunts me still. However, I could never help but admire those who, when called, stepped up. I will probably go on being a contradiction.

I am reminded of the words from the movie “The Karate Kid” who when asked why train to fight the answer was “So I do not have to fight.” One should not confuse respect for the military with a love of war. By like token, one should not confuse the love of peace with lack of courage or disdain for the sacrifice made by others. I will continue to urge our leaders to weigh carefully the sacrifice asked, because brave young Americans will, God bless them, never hesitate to make it.

I selected these words from the farewell address of General MacArthur, given at West Point. I have always found this a most moving speech and should be considered, along with the Gettysburg address, as one of the great speeches in American lore. The seal is a deeply carved Seal of the United States Army. This is a tribute to all of our Veterans from a lover of peace. To all who stand on a wall or drive the bomb laden roads or gallantly rush into whatever gore may be required, I have only the highest admiration and gratitude. To those who serve and have served, Thank you, God Bless You and your families and God Bless the United States of America.


G’day Mate

It has been a challenge and great fun for me to make so many personalized plaques this year. Some are funny, some are touching, all are intensely personal. We have just added a new page to the website under the new tab “Personalized Plaques” where you can view a few of the many custom plaques I have made. The wonder of the world wide web is that I get to correspond with people from all over the world. I have shipped to Canada and Ireland and Great Britain. Recently, I received a request from Australia.

My customer wanted a plaque that stated “David’s cooking, as always, can be mystifying!”. I do not know if this is a good comment on the cooking skills of David or ill, however I thought it interesting. The problem was going to be shipping. This is just about as far as I can ship an item. Any further and it would be coming back! Shipping to Australia via UPS or Fed Ex would cost so much, the shipping would far exceed the value of the plaque. I inquired about sending it via the U.S. International mail. This was going to be about $16. So we decided to give it a go. The plaque was made and packaged and I faithfully took it to the Post Office to fill out the customs paperwork. They informed me this would take about 10 days.

Twenty days later, I received an email from my customer stating that he had not received his plaque. “Rats!” I thought. I went to the Post Office to inquire, fearing they had dropped it somewhere in the Pacific. The nice lady at the Post Office informed me that it had been delivered to Australian Customs 10 days ago and she advised that I call them. I did. It seems many packages get held up in Customs these days. The recent terrorist activity combined with the economic cut backs has really stressed these already over burdened agencies. I started wondering if the terrorist’s real plan is simply to bankrupt us. Making it so expensive to defend against them that we will just give up. If so, I think they are sadly mistaken. Of course, they are crazy anyway.I resigned myself to thinking, “Oh well, I can just refund the purchase and say I tried.” After all, I would only be out the $25 it took to make it and the $15 in shipping. This would not be the end of the world.

Yesterday, I received a happy email from Australia! My customer received their plaque and like it a lot! “Whew”, I thought. I never really intended to become an international man of mystery, involved in the intrigue of international customs laws and security, but here I am. One never knows where a journey will lead. Now I have a new friend in Brisbane.



Something Old, Something New

I just received notice that it is time to “re-up” the shopping cart and the domain. I cannot believe it is getting close to a year since I began this little venture called Fishers Laser Carvers. I have made a lot of nice things over this year. I was just chatting with Miriam, the wonderful designer of DetroWunderWood web design who along with her husband Liam helped me so much, about some major changes we will making soon to the web site. We will be adding a gallery page showing some of the hundreds of custom plaques I have made. We will also be adding custom boxes and picture frames and 3D graphics. This conversation caused me to pause and reflect over the past 10 months.

People seem to really enjoy working together to create a special present. The excitement and anticipation of holding something precious made just for them is very rewarding. It has been especially rewarding for me. I recently spent a day with a lovely couple who drove from the Chicago area, just to meet me and share a day. I have shared funerals and baptisms, weddings and graduations with people. I have made humorous things that made them laugh. I have engraved poems that made them cry. I feel I have mostly made friends. These are the times we remember. These are the “tie that bind”.

We live in an ever increasingly impersonal world. We no longer know who grows our food or makes our furnishings. Our lives can be impacted and suddenly changed by events thousands of miles away. Our well being and that of our children can be influenced by people we don’t know. Is it any wonder we feel frustrated and often alone, frightened and alienated?

The ability to work individually with a craftsman on a very intensely personal item is refreshing. I had been laboring at this for more than 6 months before I realized that I am not in the woodworking or engraving business. I am in the sharing business. My customers sharing of their grief has brought me in touch with mine. Their outpouring of their faith and beliefs have strengthened mine. Their joy and celebration has brought me happiness. This is the gift of sharing. I think the reward has been mostly mine.

I have learned so many things during this journey. Some I really never wanted to know about photography and laser spot size and online marketing. I have also learned valuable lessons from the good folks who have visited my little site. Just recently, I was contacted by a client and asked to make a plaque that said only “Ebenezer”. “Hmmmm”, I thought, “Must be rapid Dickens groupies!” My customer explained the troubles they had endured and informed me that this comes from the book of I Samuel. When God had defeated the philistines, Samuel marked the spot with a stone and named the stone “Ebenezer”. This means “thus far the Lord has helped us.” I did not know that fact. I found this wonderfully interesting and inspirational. I learned something new. And so, as I push forward with somethings new, I will retain the things old to guide me. I have no idea where this journey may lead but when I doubt, I will now think to myself “Ebenezer”. Thus far the Lord has helped us.



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