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LASER—A Tool for Embellishing Old Tools

My wife, Lura, has figured out that finding gifts throughout the year in preparation for the holidays prevents needless stress during an already busy season. I have yet to adopt this philosophy but someday hope to hone this skill as well. There is sure to be last-minute shopping in the near future.

LASER—A Tool for Embellishing Old Tools

By Shon Roti, Sublimation Consultant, Graphic Designer

(Originally published in the November/December 2021 issue of Insights.)

My wife, Lura, has figured out that finding gifts throughout the year in preparation for the holidays prevents needless stress during an already busy season. I have yet to adopt this philosophy but someday hope to hone this skill as well. There is sure to be last-minute shopping in the near future.

However, I do a have an advantage these days with the assist from the equipment that I use for my business—a laser, sublimation printer, heat press, and vinyl cutter. More than just being convenient, my equipment can help me create thoughtful, personalized gifts for friends, family, and clients.


A lasered tool can make a unique gift for that carpenter or contractor in your life.

Joe, our contractor, has handled several remodel projects over the last decade but has planned his retirement after our basement remodel, scheduled to be completed around Christmas time. A superb woodworker, he has done a great job on all our projects and has also become a family friend. I believed that a thoughtful retirement gift was needed.

Using an old plane tool, I picked up at a flea market some years ago (Figure A), I decided to try to customize it with my laser. This would be a new challenge for me because the plane tool was larger than my laser bed.

Figure A

Before placing the plane in the laser, I did a little light sanding with both course and fine grit sandpaper, being careful not to sand off too much of the patina. I used some mineral spirits to clean up any dirt and debris that had been collecting on the 100-year-old wood (FIGURE B).

Figure B

Note: Mineral spirits are flammable. If you use mineral spirits to clean up an old piece of wood for the laser, make sure to allow a day for the wood to dry out completely or use a heat gun to speed up the drying process.

Figure C

My laser is wedged in between a wall and bookshelf, so a pass-through technique (running the object through the laser with the left and right sides of the laser removed) would not be employed here. Instead, I used the door opening on the front to load the plane into the laser. The laser will not fire with the door open, so I had to place a couple of badge magnets over the sensors to bypass this feature (Figure C).

Second note: I’m not sure that the laser was intended to operate in this way. If you plan to use a technique not included in the manufacturer’s recommended usage, you may find that you are on your own to noodle how to manage the project.

Figure D

Figure E

The next challenge was positioning. Knowing that I could support the portion of the plane that extended outside the laser with a stool and a few additional random objects (Figure D), I positioned it perpendicular to the laser bed (Figure E). Figure F shows the layout and verbiage for my project in CorelDRAW.

I masked the area to be lasered, adjusted my focus and my laser settings for wood and sent the job to the laser.

Tip: If you want to see how the lasering will look for alignment on the object before actually lasering the object, place a clear piece of acrylic or cardboard cut to the same dimensions and laser that first (Figure G). Once satisfied with the alignment, remove the acrylic or cardboard and adjust laser settings as needed.

Figure F

Figure G

Have you ever heard of the carpenters’ golden rule: measure twice and cut once? This also applies to our industry. Although our golden rule should be this: proof twice, laser once.

When you have an unreplaceable object to laser it is always a good idea to double check your work for typos, grammatical errors, and misspellings. To my horror, I had made a grammatical error in the text. See if you can find it in Figure F.


I’m sure that I’m not the first to have screwed up the lasering on an important project. It certainly was not my first and will not be my last. Fortunately, this plane tool was my own and not someone’s family heirloom. I used a “cover up the mistake” technique using a piece of anodized piece of aluminum. I cut the plate to fit over the original lasered text yet slightly smaller than the width of the plane. I then attached the plate with double-sided tape and four era-appropriate screws (Phillips head screws were invented around 1936). Not my best work…but it would have to do.

Figure H

My wife and I are anxious to have our basement completed, not only to enjoy the new space as a family but also for the opportunity to have an open house with all the plumbers, electricians, and Joe our contractor to show our appreciation for the hard work. I think the personalized plane tool will be received well, and we look forward to presenting him with the special retirement gift (Figure H).

Shon Roti is the owner of 9th Street Designs, a sublimation and graphic design consulting and promotional products business. A graphic designer, Roti has spent more than 2 decades working as a production artist and instructor in the awards and promotional products industry. In 2014, the Awards and Personalization Association named him Speaker of the Year. Contact him at

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