Arrow Light Plaques with a new wrinkle

Arrow of Light Plaque

Arrow of Light Plaque with Special award engravings

Over the past several years I have made hundreds and hundreds of Arrow of Light plaques for Scout packs all over the country. After awhile, this can get boring. So with the help of some packs, we came up with the idea of adding special achievement awards on the plaques. Awards such as the Nova science award or the Super achiever award could with some graphics work be added to the plaque.(click on the picture above to see full size) This makes each plaque unique and highly personalized. This takes a bit of time but makes a neat effect. I also like the fact that after so many tears, the work is still new and still pursuing better all the time.

If you are interested in these, it is best to contact me via email. I get pretty swamped with orders and my bench fills up fast. I can only make so many in so much time. I will of course as per my promise, “Do my best”.


A Checkered Past At Fishers Laser Carvers

When people ask me what I am doing these days, I often find that difficult to describe. I do my best to explain the concept of enhancing hand made wooden objects with a laser and they invariably ask “How in the World did you get into that?”. That is a strange story. a wooden hand plane

I have pursued woodworking my whole life. The books by James Krenov (A Cabinetmakers Notebook, The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking and The Impractical CabinetMaker in particular) were inspirational to me. I was especially struck, not only by his use of hand planes, but that he made these tools himself to fit his hands. I decided over 25 years ago that this was something I must master. Thus I started making hand planes.

I made quite a few and I use them everyday. Then one day this odd idea popped into my head. I had never seen a hand plane with checkering added for the grip like a rifle stock. So I began to research the craft of gun stock checkering. Laser checkered planesThis lead me to read several books and took me to a few scary gun owner web sites. I bought some checkering files and started my pursuit of this tedious art. In my research I discovered that most modern gun stocks are checkered with lasers. Lasers? I thought. This took me off to explore the abilities of laser engraving. I thought lasers were interesting and more than a little bit cool. I went to trade shows and watched every demonstration I could. I thought perhaps, I could use laser engraving to fund my woodworking pursuits and well as, of course, have checkered hand planes. The only ones in the world to the best of my knowledge.

Recently, I was contacted by the Irish Setters Club of Greater Tucson about some awards for a dog show. They wanted an award that was simple and understated but symbolized the sport of gun dogs. These dogs are trained to fetch quail. The dog and the rifle and the shooter work together. We tried several standard borders and the typical “First Place” “awarded to” trophy, when the idea came to me once again; Why not gun checkering? After all this familiar pattern is certainly well know to gun enthusiasts. We could even use a Remington or Winchester diamond pattern for the checkering. One of the club members had drawn a lovely quail graphic used by the club (these folks are really into this as I am sure are the dogs). So perhaps just a quail and gun checkering as a border. The plaque to the right is the result. The members were thrilled and the plaques were noticed by representatives of the ASPCA.

The wonderful lady who developed these plaques with me told me they were a big hit and no one has ever seen such a thing. I was relating this story to her and she mentioned I had quite a background. Isn’t it wonderful how one thing can lead to another and to another. I suppose one could say I have a checkered past.



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.”



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.”



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.


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 Solas 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.



Fishers Laser Carvers Goes International

The internet is a fascinating and very large place. I have received visits from England and Ireland, Australia and Italy and very foreign places like Louisiana. It is a vast sea and mine is just a tiny boat. So I am always pleased and excited when my little home is found. I received a request from Canada asking for a plaque of a special size and wondering if I would be interested. The plaque needed to be 24 or 25 inches by 9 inches and needed to contain the words “Remember to whom you belong”. I wondered about that quote and thought perhaps this was for some wayward child. It also needed to be made of maple (Canadians have this thing about Maple). I contacted my local UPS store about shipping to Canada and they assured me they would get it there and quoted a rate. I relayed this information to my customer, and after about 8 proofs we came to agreement and the commission was accepted.

I had just finished several bread boards and pastry boards and was out of maple, especially in such a size. I was about to head off to the lumber yard when I decided to check my little lumber shed one more time. There, in the very back of the shed and hidden behind many boards, was a piece of curly maple. I thought, just maybe, this is wide enough, so I measured the board and found I almost had a 1/4″ to spare. I uncovered the board and carried it into the shop and began milling very carefully. What was revealed was a beautiful piece of curly, sometimes called tiger maple or fiddle-back maple due to its preference in use on the backs of violins. This unique board was warped, of course, and I had just enough to try to meet my customers request. The grain was very pronounced and tended to tear out if touched by any power tools such as jointers or routers, so I carefully and slowly hand planned all surfaces,using light and careful strokes with very sharp blades. The board was magnificent. I was apprehensive about lasering for fear of ruining such a wonderful surface. The length was right at the max for my laser but with care and several light passes, all went well. The finished piece was carefully wrapped and boxed and taken to the UPS store, where I learned about customs declarations and the 5 pieces of paper it takes to get something out of this country.

I always check on the progress of my shipments to make sure that all goes well. I checked on my Canadian shipment and noticed that delivery was attempted but the driver was unable to collect customs duty. Customs Duty! What Customs Duty? I called UPS who transfered me to UPS Canada who told me that because the declaration stated “wood” there was a tax and duty assigned. Apparently some over zealous customs agent thought this was some plot to take over the Canadian lumber industry. This amounted to about 50% of the price of the plaque! However, I could not contest this because I am not a Canadian citizen. My first thought was “Well, no wonder they have free health care!”. I considered writing the President and saying “Dear Mr. President, I have this health care issue solved, just charge 50% tax on everything coming into the country and we will have this fixed in no time.” International politics aside, I wrote my customer and told them what had happened and offered to pay the tax if that was needed for them to receive their plaque. They assured me that was not necessary and that they had received the plaque and were very happy with it.
My customer told me ” I cannot describe how brilliant the plaque is. Truly, my family all love it and are incredibly appreciative of your effort. (We can’t stop looking at it and rubbing our hand over the grain!)”
“The plaque was a gift for my brother. He has recently converted to Christianity and was baptized on Sunday. The quote is one of his favorites it is from The Purpose Driven life by Rick Warren. The full quote is:

“Being included in God’s family is the highest honor and the greatest privilege you will ever receive. Nothing else comes close. Whenever you feel unimportant, unloved, or insecure, remember to whom you belong.”

The last part of the sentence resonated deeply with him and I thought it would be wonderful to have that simply inscribed in wood as a baptismal gift.”
I think it is wonderful. I will always remember this plaque for several reasons; it was my first international order, it was the largest plaque I have made, it was a beautiful and difficult piece of maple and I made some new Canadian friends. This is “To Whom you belong”.


The Peacemakers

The cause of peace is an ongoing struggle. Peace does not only mean the absence of war or conflict, but also means peace of mind and freedom from fear and poverty and the ills that keep human beings from reaching their true potential. Imagine a world where our words and deeds and money is spent helping not harming, uplifting not oppressing, bringing smiles not tears and hope not fear. This is the true nature of making peace. The people who dedicate their lives to these pursuits are the peacemakers, who for very little or no remuneration, quietly serve the cause of peace serving milk to children or teaching the ignorant or removing the rubble after a disaster. Such a person was Andrew Grene, a United Nations peace worker who lost his life in Haiti. Andrew dedicated his life to the belief that all human being have potential. In January, Andrew gave his life while working for this cause. Haiti was biggest single day loss of United Nations workers in the organizations history.

In February, a client called me and asked if I had received their request for a custom plaque. I did not receive it. Come to think of it, I had not received any forms for custom plaques. This prompted me to send some test forms and I discovered, to my horror, that the submission form on my website was not working! I called my web designer in a panic, who contacted Go Daddy and in about an hour they informed me all was righted. My email lit up like a Christmas tree with several dozen past requests! I frantically started contacting these potential customers, explaining the problem and saving the orders. One young lady had written me asking for a plaque that contained “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God”. She further explained that a dear friend of hers had lost his twin brother in the earthquake in Haiti. She further stated that his brother worked for the United Nations and she would like the U.N. logo on the plaque. That young man was Andrew Grene. I contacted her but alas I was too late. Too much time had passed and she had chosen another gift to help express her solidarity with her friend and his family. I was very moved by her story and I felt badly that a glitch in my system had caused a late response.

I was making a plaque of the Beatitudes and the words “Blessed are the peacemakers” kept reminding me of the lost plaque request.As I held the finished Beatitudes plaque, my eyes kept finding the words “Blessed are the peacemakers”. I decided to make the peacemakers plaque anyway. I decided that I would give it to this young woman. I further decided that the commission I might have received for this plaque, I would donate to the Andrew Grene Foundation.

This is “The Peacemakers” and it is dedicated to the United Nations workers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause in the peace in Haiti.

You can learn more about Andrew and make a donation to help continue Andrew’s work by visiting http://www.andrewgrene.org



Sophia’s Baptism

I accepted a commission from a client to do a plaque for her niece’s baptism. She desired the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. The entire chapter. I was a bit concerned about fitting so much text on one plaque but I did several designs and after a few attempts, we arrived at a simple design. She needed this piece before Easter so I set about straightaway on the engraving. As I began to work on the plaque I thought about Sophia and what an important day this was to be.There are a few days in our lives that we always remember, perhaps a birth, a marriage and baptism. It reminded me of my daughter’s baptism. It reminded me of my baptism, so many years ago.

Now the little church where I was baptized had a baptistry that was supposed to be heated but that never seemed to be working. It was cold. The place where we changed into our robes was in the basement of the church and the only access were these steep, slick concrete steps that were dangerous in good conditions. We knew that the baptism was not a true measure of faith but negotiating those steps while soaking wet and in bare feet could quickly become a “slip and slide”. Yet we believed that our faith would sustain us and it did.

I finished the engraving on the First Corinthians plaque and all was exactly as promised and matched the proof exactly. Somehow I was not quite happy with it. The piece of clear cherry seemed uninteresting and rather plain. It looked like plywood. Acceptable but not quite special. A day as profound as the beginning of one’s spiritual life deserves something special. Well the plaque is made and after all it is as promised. It should be alright.

I was making some tables and I secured some wide cherry boards. These were 13”-15” in width which is rather hard to find, cherry trees being rather small as trees go. I had carefully re-sawn these boards into thinner boards and had sticker and stacked them to dry. I was working on some finishing when I heard a crack and popping sound. At first I thought some critter may have moved into the wood pile, a chipmunk or mouse. I cautiously approached the wood pile when I saw it. A crack at the end of one of my nice wide boards. “Oh No”, I thought as I unstacked the wood and beheld the crack running from one corner diagonally across the end of the board making its full width useless. I felt a little down hearted and then I wondered. I thought about Sophia’s plaque. Could there be enough? I measured from the end of the crack, 8 3/4”. I measured the length, 13”. Just enough for a 8.5” x 12” plaque. I carefully cut out the section, milled it and lay the piece on the bench to plane. As the plane moved over the piece, fluffy shavings fleeing from the plane, the surface began to shine and reveal a rich heart wood color with a deep vein of dark red running through the grain and one corner a bit lighter, almost like morning sunshine striking it. There seemed a resurrection story in this little piece of wood. I decided to remake the First Corinthians plaque.

I could not help but watch as the laser moved over the piece and the words began to emerge, “Love is patient, Love is kind”, “Love perseveres”. I applied some oil to the wood and the grain sprang to life showing it’s full character. A beautiful piece.

I do not know this young woman. I don’t know if I ever will. I felt, however as though I had participated in this event although in a very small way. I was allowed to be part of welcoming a new sister. This is the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. This is for Sophia on her baptism day.

Happy Easter


A Cherry Award Plaque for the Indianapolis Sherwin-Williams District

Last year was a tough year for business. The economy was arguably one of the worst in memory. This did not deter the gritty folks at Sherwin-Williams. They decided to keep battling and to create some good competitive fun in a difficult environment. The Indianapolis Sherwin-Williams District challenged the Detroit Sherwin-Williams District to a contest to open the most new national accounts. Now rilvarys between Indiana and Michigan are well noted and few places in the country have felt the full force of this current economic downturn like the beleaguered people of Detroit. However, there is no quit in those Detroit folks and they accepted the formidable challenge. The gauntlet had been thrown. When all was said and done and despite some good spirited bantering, the brave hearted people of Detroit had prevailed. This was of course a tough loss for the Indianapolis crew but in the words of their District Manager, they decided to “loose like princes” and decided to commission a special award plaque to present to their victorious brothers-in-arms.

I am sentimentally attached to the people in Indianapolis, however I have had the opportunity to work in Detroit and I am fully aware of the tenacity and competitive spirit and occasional trash talking of those plucky folks. I had hoped for an Indianapolis victory but it is hard to not feel good about a victory for Detroit, a city where victories have been hard to come by of late. I felt very honored when I was asked to make them a special award plaque for the aforementioned competition.

I originally selected a piece of clear maple. White and straight grained but lacking any special character. I choose instead a piece of very old curly cherry, dark and aged with ripples of red color running through it. The well recognized “cover the earth” logo of this fine old company presented a few design challenges but looked nice on the old cherry. The most important thing to me was that the client liked it. This special care and personal involvement is exactly what I try to offer my clients. A special contest between such fine organizations in such a tough year deserves a special recognition. It deserves an intensely personal plaque, hand planned, hand chosen and hand made. If you have need of a special piece to commemorate an event or provide an earned “well done”, contact me. I would love to make something special for you.

Congratulations to Detroit on their victory. Well done to Indianapolis for their grace and to The Sherwin-Williams Company for their perseverance in difficult times. It was a pleasure for me make this for them.


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