View Full Version : For want of a font - losing business to competition.

Bill Stearns
05-16-2014, 12:05 PM
Hi All - and Mike:

I posted this elsewhere earlier. Mike suggested I start a new thread regarding my quandary. Customers are forever coming in with pre-started perpetual plaques - wanting me to engrave additional (blank) plates. (already attached to their plaques.) Trouble being: the earlier plates were done with rotary engraving, not laser. Unable to duplicate the "same look", I've been having to send 'em to my rotary engraving competitor. Question: is there a laserable "font" that duplicates the "multiple line look" of rotary engraved plates? (explanatory enough, I hope?) Could not find anything on the various "font finding sites". Other issue: even if there is a font as this - are the metal plates used for rotary different than those for lasering? (Would I have to use my own plates?) Hate sending customers down the street, so I am eager to hear. (BTW: No. I can't afford a rotary engraver or Pantograph at this point - and, farming the jobs out wouldn't be profitable enough, wouldn't think.)


Mike Null
05-16-2014, 12:49 PM

Your dilemma is one all of us have faced. At least those who started their engraving business with only a laser machine.

It is very unlikely that you'll be able to match laser engraved plates to those done on a pantograph or computerized diamond drag machine. Sooner or later you'll have to bite the bullet and get some additional equipment or continue to lose that business. I would advise you to begin a search now for a computerized machine. I've had 2 or 3 pantographs and find that they are just too slow for me and they lack flexibility.

If you absolutely don't want to purchase any equipment then you must outsource some of your opportunities even if it means low margin.

Ross Moshinsky
05-16-2014, 1:36 PM
Well you can't do anything with a laser because of the material then you to have someone else do the work. On the other hand, you can offer to change all of the plates to keep the business. This may or may not be a possibility. We've done this on projects with the customer's permission as it's less work for us to replace than match in some circumstances.

As for matching up things, I wouldn't concern myself all that much. I'd say it would be close and move on with life. Our experience with these items are they are treated like absolute garbage. Typically they come in dirty, damaged, and in poor condition. If for some reason they are very anal and want everything to look the same, they should remain loyal to the original engraver.

As for fonts, we will use engraving fonts, adjust the stroke, and run them on the laser to get a similar look if it benefits us. I believe Roland has some free engraving fonts and most likely you'll need a Roman font (2 or 3 line is most common).

Dave Sheldrake
05-16-2014, 1:39 PM
Got a pic Bill? I write fonts on occasion and may be able to do one that imitates what you are looking for? (free of course)



Bill Stearns
05-16-2014, 1:45 PM
Mike -
Probably just my ignorance regarding rotary engraving - just thought somebody out there might've designed a font which replicated diamond-drag/rotary engraving - for laser. (the "look", if not the depth?) My out sourcing to the gal down the street won't work at a profit 'cause in most cases customers only need one to four plates added to their perpetual plaques each time. I tried a pantograph machine once and agree with you. Don't think my rotary-engraving competitor is doing 'whole lot of business - 'cause his engraving-guy was over here 'other day asking for a job. Plus, the owner keeps asking if I'd like to buy his business. And, as mentioned 'fore, I'm just not in a position to purchase new equipment, either way. Customer just came in - got' a run!

Later, Bill

Dan Hintz
05-16-2014, 2:46 PM
There are a handful of fonts that mimic the rotary fonts, but it may be just as easy(?) for you to start scanning the ones brought in and start vectorizing them. After a few plaques I imagine you'll have most/all of the letters, and once vectorized you can resize, as necessary. Of course, creating your own TrueType font is a pretty easy process, so going from a vectorized image to an actual font you could use in any program that supports TTF is pretty straightforward.

Kev Williams
05-16-2014, 3:44 PM
Years ago >a company< attempted to duplicate their engraving font library into True Type fonts. They didn't finish the whole library, but they did make up several.

The reason they didn't finish the library was the work and issues involved. For a True Type letter or symbol to work, it must be "closed" or boxed, it can't have any open-ended lines. This means they had to box every open-ended line of every letter and character that HAD an open end. Fonts like 4-line Helvetica and 4-line Roman aren't so tough, you just have to have the start and end points in the same place. But fonts like 2-line Century or single line block or arial with lots of open lines, they offset them .001" at 1" character height. One benefit (or curse) of the offsetting means the characters effectively engrave twice. Great for when you NEED to, but it eats time if you don't need a second pass. The next problem they ran into was kerning issues. Straight sided characters next to each other are too close, and kerning between open-sided characters is too wide. Of course, there's manual kerning to make things more visually appealing...

Anyway, as I understand it, they decided not to continue, and never released or sold the finished TT fonts.

But.... I have them... :)

However, they were a 'gift', and I'm not sure if it's okay to pass them around. .. I need to make a phone call and find out, which may be next week...

Bill Stearns
05-16-2014, 5:00 PM
Thanks Guys -
Lots to chew on! - DAN You say there are a handful of fonts that mimic rotary fonts? Any chance you recall the names I should be searching for? Also: can you briefly explain how I scan and vectorize text? (I only know that rastor means engrave, vector means "cut".) KEV - yeah, if you do get the okay to share those fonts, that'd be worth my trying for sure. (maybe, pvt message me, if you do, in case this thread gets lost in the shuffle.) Lastly: the idea of my re-doing all the plates over - at a loss at first - well, there's no guarantee they'd be any more loyal to me than to whomever did their plaque in the first place. So, probably not a smart thing to do. Thanks guys - I'll check back later.


John Frazee
05-16-2014, 5:11 PM
We utilize rotary, laser and sublimation. At times we even have to replace all the plates because of font and/or other issues. I don't mind losing a few plates and time to make the customers plaque look nice and fresh. You can even tell the customer you replaced the plates to make the plaque look its best instead of admitting you really couldn't offer what they needed. I look at it as one of those things of servicing the customer and hope I can make it up on a future purchase.

Mike Null
05-16-2014, 5:59 PM

I really think an accurate match from a machine font to a TTF is pretty much futile. There are no fonts which will give you precisely the style you need for every character. I swear that the old engravers used to use fonts that were hard to identify and duplicate to keep their competition away.

I wasn't suggesting you outsource to your nearest competitor but I have 3 engravers here in St. Louis who will help out and 2 more out of town if I need them.

Here is a link to some single line fonts though there's not much they'll match. http://www.mrrace.com/CamBam_Fonts/

If you want to send a few items to me by email--not pm--I'll try to provide something that will match.

Here's another link for reference on pantograph fonts. https://www.ishor.com/EngravingType.php

Robert Walters
05-16-2014, 7:07 PM
(I only know that rastor means engrave, vector means "cut".)


In a nutshell...
Raster (or bitmap) graphics are made up of a grid of dots.
Vector graphics are made up from mathematical points, eg "Draw a line (or arc or whatever) from PointA to PointB".

Here's a nice article that explains a little better:

"How To Explain Raster vs Vector To Your Clients"

Bill Stearns
05-16-2014, 9:51 PM
Thanks for all your input 'bout Fonts. - appreciate it!


Bill Stearns
05-16-2014, 9:57 PM
THANKS for all your input 'bout Fonts! (my computer was locking up, so will try to repost.)
Overall, kind' a looks like I am spinning my wheels trying to use my laser to, somehow, replicate the "look" of a "multi-lined" rotary engraved font. (for customers' pre-started perpetual plaques.) On the bright side: my rotary engraving competitor does reciprocate, time to time, by sending me business he can't handle for one reason, or another. MIKE - BTW: looked at the font-site you suggested - did find "double lined" fonts - but, if I was reading right they cost $519! JOHN's idea that I re-do all the customers' plates - from scratch - might be the route to take. Started me thinking: must be some good reason they are turning to me 'stead of the place that did the original work. ?

Thanks 'gain all,

Kev Williams
05-19-2014, 4:03 PM
Here's a sample-- note the material is laserable GOLD aluminum, which isn't intended to be diamond etched, and I had a bit much pressure on the diamond--

Anyway, this is one of the fonts I spoke of, the same font did both versions, lasered version was vectored, not rastered. When trying to match older tool engraved brass/black plates, remember the brass tends to darken after awhile, which makes the lasered version tend to match up with them quite nicely...


Bill Stearns
05-19-2014, 9:17 PM
Yeah, that's kind' a what I would be trying to achieve - it's the lines inside I'm after. (to give the look of rotary engraving.) - just couldn't find a regular Arial or Times-type font created this way. I'll see if I can find this "2-line Century" font. - Thanks for all your efforts. As mentioned: if I can replicate the font style used on these perpetual plaques people are bringing in, I wouldn't have to shoo 'em 'way. (an after-thought! - Just started thinking: maybe, it's the blade that creates the "rotary look" - not the font itself? - if that makes any sense?


merissa rittmaster
01-16-2018, 5:15 PM
"But.... I have them... :)

However, they were a 'gift', and I'm not sure if it's okay to pass them around. .. I need to make a phone call and find out, which may be next week..."

I realize this thread is a few years old... did you ever contact the people who made the diamond drag fonts into laserable fonts? if so, I was wondering if you could let me know how that worked out... Thanks... Merissa

Ian Stewart-Koster
01-17-2018, 6:55 AM
I downloaded a few engravers' fnts 10 years ago, to try on our cnc router, but found them unusable, because they didn't seem to have an 'up' command- in other words an uppercase E had a zigzag front edge joining each horizontal line.

I started 'making' my own using an older version of Corel Draw I had which offered a 'centreline trace' option, before Corel took that out.
It was a bit convoluted, but I'd size the letters in whatever font I wanted, export them as a jpg, reimport them, and vectorise them via the centreline trace option.
It DID work! I had a single line font then I could rout with a 60 degree Vee or engraving cutter or even a skinny ballnose cutter. It wasn't really a font but a series of lines that resembled the former letters.
Later I bought a diamond-drag spring-loaded endmill that you use in the router, with the spindle switched OFF- to be able to scratch-engrave little plaques when the odd nuisance arrived.

Half the trophies these days seem to have lasered plaques, and half the old engraved ones are covered in different fonts, depending on whether it was hand-engraved or which computer system was used in which decade... so it's not difficult to make a decision and live with it!

Of course the E-cut plug-ins for Corel will do a centreline trace from vectors now.