Tag Archives: engraving

Why Go For Bespoke Engraving?

Why you should choose Able Engraving and Design for bespoke projects

Bespoke engraving image by Pressmaster (via Shutterstock).

Everything done your way: we at Able Engraving and Design can turn our hand to bespoke projects with ease. Image by Pressmaster (via Shutterstock).

For over three decades, Able Engraving and Design have offered bespoke engraving services for customers in the South East of England, and further afield. Our company was formed in July 1986 by Mr. A. Douglas. Back then, Wham!’s swansong The Edge of Heaven topped the UK singles chart. This was the year of Diego Maradona’s Hand of God against England, in the World Cup Finals. On the telly, we watched Duty Free, Howard’s Way, and Surprise Surprise!.

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Third Gerald Valck Map Found

One of three engraved maps by Gerald Valck found beneath the chimney of Drumnahoy House

Gerald Valck map from the Boston Public Library collection.

One of three surviving maps by Gerald Valck, from the Boston Public Library collection.

You may remember the final episode of the three-part Only Fools and Horses 1996 Christmas Special entitled Time on our Hands. After several episodes of Del and Rodney saying “this time next year, we’ll be millionaires”, the brothers find they’ve been holding onto a fortune for fifteen years. That of a rare J. Harrison pocket watch. A real life equivalent of this was found early this week: one of three engraved maps by Gerald Valck.

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In Video: Traffolyte Engraving

A selection of Traffolyte engraving clips, detailing the process, and how Traffolyte signs are engraved

120V AC Warning Sign, created with Traffolyte engraving techniques

Just to recap, Traffolyte engraving is so-called after the birthplace of the method: Trafford Park Industrial Estate. The plastic was originally derived from phenolic plastic sheets. There are standard colours with, for example, a Traffolyte sign being made of a top and bottom red layer. Like a liquorice allsort or a strawberry split ice lolly, it has a ‘bit in the middle’. For arguments sake, this may be white. Text is die cut onto the top and bottom layers of the ‘sandwich’.

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Why Traffolyte is Alright

More reasons to use Traffolyte signage

A Traffolyte Valve Disk with valve name

A Traffolyte valve disk with a valve name.

One of the greatest things about Traffolyte is its use in labelling. Lettering is well defined and legible with text on a high contrast background. They are often used on electrical installations as the plastic does not conduct with electricity. This was why Metropolitan Vickers invented it for their Trafford Park works in 1927 (hence the first six letters of ‘Trafford’ forming its name).

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Teeth Brace Engraving

A Putin and Trump Engraving on Your Teeth?

Unusual engraving project fulfilled to commemorate Trump’s and Putin’s telephone conversation after Trump’s inauguration

Teeth Brace Engraving Image by Studio La Magica (via Shutterstock).

Imagine this beautiful smile being besmirched by a portrait of your favourite political figurehead? Image by Studio La Magica (via Shutterstock).

This, without a doubt has got to be the strangest engraving related story we have come across. It is one where engraving’s role in cosmetic dentistry meets a bizarre customer request. A while back in the Daily Express, we learned of a patient who went to a dentist in Sochi, Russia for porcelain crowns and veneers. This is the most run-of-the-mill part of an unusual story.

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Lollipop Lady, Bournemouth

Laser Etching and its Role in Road Safety

How laser etching is being used to create illuminated lollipop signs

Lollipop Lady, Bournemouth (image by Lewis Clarke). Could laser etching lead to illuminated lollipop signs?

On a clear day, a normal lollipop stick would suffice. In dark or dull conditions, the use of laser etching could be good for illuminated lollipop sticks. Image by Lewis Clarke, 2010 (Creative Commons License 2.0 – Attribution-ShareAlike).

The lollipop lady or lollipop man is a stable of British life. They enable children to cross the road safely, to and from school. Over the last forty years, their uniform has changed, which makes them more visible to motorists. Over the same period, the lollipop signs they wield haven’t changed at all. That was till Andrew Turner found a solution to this problem. Laser etching has also made this possible.

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Royal Mint London

A Look at the New Pound Coin

How the intricate engraving of the new pound coin will deter forgers

The last six months have been an interesting one for collectors of banknotes and coinage. In the last two months, we have been getting to grips with the new plastic fivers. Next year will see the arrival of a new, smaller £10 note. About to make its way in March 2017 will be the new pound coin. Since the arrival of the original ones in 1983, they have been the most forged coins in Britain. Telltale signs of which include the weight of the coin, materials, and its text around the sides.

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Metal typeface block

More Typefaces for Engraving

Another selection of suitable typefaces for engraving trophies and plaques

As we said in the first part, a well thought out typeface speaks volumes about your company’s image. Context as well as clarity is another aspect, and this is profound with engraving and etching. Here’s another selection of ‘must-use’ typefaces. This time, we are focusing on serif typography.

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Metal typeface block

Suitable Typefaces for Engraving

Our look at suitable typefaces used for engraving trophies and plaques

Your chosen typeface says a lot about your company’s corporate image. For example, the Design Research Unit’s Rail Alphabet screams ‘British Rail’ – even in an age where individual rail franchises choose their own typefaces. You expect to see a sombre though classy typeface for a funeral directors’ business (Comic Sans MS will never do). From the smallest of startups to the mightiest of multinationals, clear typography is everything.

With all the typefaces we can download, free and paid-for, we could go crazy and play with decorative fonts. Sometimes, less is more; with engraving and etching, clarity matters. Here’s our selection of ‘must-use’ typefaces, starting with Sans-Serif typography.

Part One: Sans-Serif


Microsoft’s Arial Bold is one of the best-known, and most widely, distributed typefaces on any computer system. Created in 1982 by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders, the Arial family has subtle differences to similar sans-serif fonts, which is why it can be mistaken for similar typefaces like Helvetica Bold or Univers Bold.

Best for: direction signs, room numbers, and plaques.

Helvetica Bold/Helvetica Black

Max Miedinger’s most famous font family was created in 1957 and – like Arial – has its roots in the earlier Akzidenz-Grotesk typeface. It is an excellent all-round typeface for publicity materials but its use in the world of engraving makes for clear lettering that can be read from a distance. It has inspired a fair number of similar typefaces like the Rail Alphabet, Frutiger, and to some extent, Jock Kinnear’s and Margaret Calvert’s Transport typeface (which you see on today’s road signs).

Best for: direction signs, room numbers, and plaques.


If you have an Android-powered smartphone or digital tablet, you may come across this font on a daily basis. Christian Robertson’s Roboto typeface was designed in 2012 for Google’s devices. It is also free to download and makes for a good alternative to Arial and Helvetica. Roboto Bold and Roboto Black typefaces are good for signage whereas the regular Roboto font is suitable for engraving onto trophies. Roboto Black and Roboto Bold Condensed is suitable for headlines.

Best for: direction signs, room numbers, plaques, and headlines (Roboto Black/Bold Condensed).

Helvetica Compressed/Futura II Extra Bold

For the best part of 50 years, the Helvetica Compressed and Futura II Extra Bold typefaces have been a popular choice for newspaper headline text. Owing to their striking nature, they are suitable for being read from a great distance.

Best for: signage and headlines.

ITC Avant Garde

Created between 1970 and 1977, Ed Benguiat’s Avant Garde font family was never committed to hard type (which, in other words, means we didn’t see the typeface in metal type form). Starting out as a phototypesetting based face, it was a popular choice from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. The Medium, Demi Bold, and Bold weights are suitable for signage whereas the Book and Medium variants are suitable for engraving trophies.

Best for: direction signs, room numbers, and plaques.

In Part Two…

For the second part, we shall be looking at serif typefaces and mulling over which ones would be suitable for engraving work.

Able Engraving, 26 September 2016.

Trafford Park: the birthplace of Traffolyte.

More About Traffolyte

A look at the plastic material which is suitable for engraving

Cast your mind back to 1927 when Trafford Park, Europe’s first industrial estate, was in full swing. The industrial estate was dominated by Metropolitan Vickers, which in its prime employed 10,000 people. With the formation of the Central Electricity Board (which led to the creation of a national power grid network), 1927 was a record year for Metrovicks. During the same year, there was a quiet revolution at Trafford Park, incidental to changes in Britain’s electrical supply: the creation of Traffolyte.
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