View Full Version : Brand New to Site and Laser Engraving

Mark Fitzmorris
05-04-2006, 5:08 PM
Hi I just found this site this morning and wish I had found it months ago (it would have saved me alot of research time). I have just retired from the Coast Guard and am starting a gift and engraving business. I have ordered a Laserpro Mecury 25 watt and just got a call from the shipping company that it will be here tomorrow. The rep will be here next week to set it up and provide training. I am new to engraving and want to make sure that I get the most out of the training is there any thing that you all would suggest I ask about while he is here? Also any lessons learned from those of you that have already started and are running your business would be greatly apprecated! I have spent a good part of this day reading the threads on here and this looks like a great site, I am very happy that I found it many questions that I have been wondering about I found answers to here!

Mark Fitzmorris

Bruce Volden
05-04-2006, 5:21 PM
Mark, There are a lot of knowledgeable folks here at the creek who will be more than happy in anyway they can to assist you and answer question, share files etc. Good luck in your endevours. Where are you located??Bruce

Dave Jones
05-04-2006, 5:44 PM
I'd suggest trying to get your hands on a small assortment of materials that you might be wanting to engrave, and slap together a few simple designs so you can have the rep use some of those while teaching. The designs and materials he brings may make your laser look great, but once he leaves you'll be using your designs and your materials.

One tip I picked up here that I think is great is to have a notebook next to the laser and each time you experiment with new material, write down the power and speed settings that worked best, and any comments about the results. If it's a material you don't use often, you might forget the details by the next time you use it.

Mitchell Andrus
05-04-2006, 6:23 PM
One word of advise... If you plan to make money, even spare cash to supplement retirement, understand that you are running a business first, and engraving stuff second.

I retired at 40 and now 10 years (and two careers) later I'm busier than ever because I don't just build furniture, I build loyalty. I sell service, pride and value.

Remember also to allow those who retail your work (assuming you'll be retailing through gift shops, trophy shops, etc.) to make a profit. They'll keep you busy only if you share the wealth.


Mark Fitzmorris
05-05-2006, 7:42 AM
Thanks for the advice and kind words, I am looking forward to learning from all of you!

Bruce I am located in Suffolk VA.

Dave your tip about a notebook sounds like a good one that I will make sure to follow.

Mitchell your business advice is very sound and again I will make sure to follow it.


Rodne Gold
05-05-2006, 10:07 AM
I know the mercury well , I second the advice to get materials of your own and a few designs. What I do suggest is to spend more time on the Driver , it's characteristics and strategies to position stuff in the laser and how Corel/whatever interacts with the driver than on the design package itself.What I mean is not to get caught up in how to put a circle withing a rectangle and have text follow the circle and so forth , rather get to grips with where you must put the circle on the page and what colour to make it so that the laser adopts some strategy with it. IE mopre on how to output your design than the way to do the design.
Pay particular attention to demonstrations on machine maintenance. Do not get too involved with bells and whistles like 3d engraving or stamp engraving with the rep , leave that to if and when there is spare time.
Go thru the way to use the rotary attachment 5x , its not intuitive , buy some glasses to use on it. Make sure you can work it without help.
Get some cerdec and practice metal marking , in the gift industry a lot of ppl have metal items.
Get the basics down pat , also get him to show you how various setting influence engraving time and quality.
Do not spend a lot of time on the machine menus (not driver based , but in the hardware itself) like linking files and changing job ordering etc. IE dont spend time on hardly used arcane stuff
Do not let him leave untill you have executed at least 3 different jobs on your own right from design to finished product without ANY help from him.
It's a great machine , very reliable and ideal for your application.

Mark Fitzmorris
05-05-2006, 10:20 AM

Wow great info thanks alot! You now have me thinking about things that would have never accured to me! How long have you had the Mecury? Any quirks that you have run into?


Rodne Gold
05-05-2006, 11:30 AM
I had a few mercuries some time ago and upgraded to explorers and have just bought 3 spirits which are descendants of the mercury. There really are no quirks with the machine. One of the nice features is the ability to move the head by hand to an area you want to engrave and start from there. You can pause a job , move the head out the way to inspect it and continue again , the head goes back to where you moved it from. Make sure your air assist is both moisture and oil free , it passes thru the lens box and oil/water can contaminate the lens and damage it.
In giftware , you are faced with a ton of small jobs on to differing items as well as large runs of corporate gifts etc.
So your biggest problem will be positioning templates and jigs for items or templates for the item itself. I suggest buying a scanner and scanning the object and importing it into the graphics package , that way you get a real life size outline of it. Modeling clay and wood blocks of various sizes make good jigs. A set of V blocks is great for pens and cylindrical objects
blocks with a V cut into them so the object sits like this \o/. Make sure the laser is aligned 100% when delivered. The Alignment can go out quite easily with the mercury as its mirror housings are not the most solid etc - make sure the dealer shows you the diagnostic menu and some basic alignment so you can do it yourself if the dealer is a long way from you. Check the Autofcus with the physical gauge provided and tune it (on the laser itself it has a facility to do this) Ask the dealer to show you how to use cluster for objects where there is a lot of unengraved space between em. Your ideal is to cut cycle times of engraved items to the minimum whilst maintaining quality.
I found the GCC manuals less than ideal - the rotary attachment is , imho , a weak point due to its clamping facilities and its complex way of using it. Do not leave your vector cutting table to get dirty or let the cells get knocked out of shape , clean residues with acetone or thinners and straighten bent fins regularily.

Mark Fitzmorris
05-05-2006, 1:29 PM
Rodne again thanks for the great info I am indebted to you and all that have posted! I just found out that I will not be getting the machine today, the delivery man called to get my location and to ask how I planned to get it off the truck. It weighs 522 lb and his truck does not have a lift gate! A quick call to jorlink and hopefully it will get resechedualed with a truck that at least has a lift gate!

Kamal Omar
05-06-2006, 3:41 PM
Hi Mark,
hopefully your system is running well!
mark.. do you need sombody to assist you in this job,
7 years experience in working with Laser machines, corelDRAW, and applications as well as technicals and maintenance ?
with a very stronge background in different applications of Laser (CO2 and Nd:YAG as well)

if yes, please post your reply to this mail for more details:

and wish you all the best with your new machine!

Mark Fitzmorris
05-06-2006, 8:32 PM

Thanks for your generous offer. I would be foolish not to listen to advice of you and others on this board as you all have much more experience then I do. I look forward to learning from all on here.

Dave Fifield
05-07-2006, 3:40 AM
I find it hard to believe that a 25W laser engraver with a 25" x 18" work area has a shipping weight of 522 lbs. Are you sure that's right Mark?

My old 35W Epilog 24TT weighed 96 lbs (by FedEx's weighing scales) when it was all packed up to ship to its new owner. How come the Laserpro Mercury is so heavy?!

Anyway, all the best with your planned business venture. I have heard that laser engraving cellphone cases is really big right now....so you might consider that angle too.

Dave Fifield

Rodne Gold
05-07-2006, 3:51 AM
Dave , its a floor standing model and comes in a seriously big packing crate , you need at least 3-4 guys to offload it from a height.
It's made from fairly heavy duty stuff and the dfimensions are 1125mm x 720mm x 1005mm , unpacked.

Dave Fifield
05-07-2006, 4:00 AM
Wow! It is a big 'un! I took a look at the specs online just now Rodne - seems like it's a really solidly built machine with lots of room for upgrading to higher power etc. Nice!

You be careful moving it Mark!

Dave F.

Mark Fitzmorris
05-07-2006, 10:43 AM

I too was shocked when I heard the weight! I quickly called jorlink (the dealer) and was told that a good portion of that weight is the packing crate it is shipped in! Still have not recieved the machine ( I am hoping for Mon). It will be interesting getting it into the office!

Joe Pelonio
05-07-2006, 11:29 AM
My Epilog 24tt was shipped on a pallet in a box with styrofoam around it. The shipper had a hand fork lift to get it into my warehouse. Not wanting to wait for help I managed to unpack it and carry it 15 feet to the laser room by myself, without ruining my back, but I don't recommend that.

Mark Fitzmorris
05-08-2006, 6:16 PM
Well another day and still no machine:mad: . I talked to the dispatcher today to reshedule the delivery and he claimed that I would have to pay extra for a truck with a lift and they would not deliver until I paid. Another quick call to jorlink and they assure me that they would call them and straighten it out. Then I recieved a call from the shippers in NY to see if the machine had been delivered yet. It seems that they had talked to the local dipatcher this morning and authorized the lift truck and they had been told it was being delivered today:confused: . I told them what the dispatcher had told me and another round of phone calls began! The last word I have gotten is that the local shipping warehouse does not have a truck available until Wed. I hope that works out cause on Thursday Jay from jorlink scheduled to be here for the install and training!

Dave Jones
05-08-2006, 7:05 PM
Lift gate deliveries do cost extra. They range from $50 to a couple hundred depending on the company. If you don't have a loading dock (at tractor trailer bed level), or have a forklift handy, then something that heavy would need a lift gate truck.

Mark Fitzmorris
05-08-2006, 8:10 PM

I understand the charge for the lift truck but that is what was originally paid for! The shipper in NY admitted that they messed up and are paying the charge but the problem now seems to be the local delivery people do not have a lift truck available. As I said I just hope it gets here by Thurs!

Michael McDuffie
05-09-2006, 2:46 PM
Welcome to the world of laser engraving.

When my Epilog was delivered, the driver was a macho type and was going to just run up the driveway with the pallet jack in tow. It was very hard not to laugh as he picked himself up off the ground. The jack hit the edge of the curb and stopped dead.

Get help moving it into position, my back hurt for days afterwards.

Hang a lamp or mount a goose neck lamp or something above it, it can be dark down in there when your setting stuff up. Also keep a flashlight handy. Buy some blue masking tape, it's the bomb for holding things in place. I've propped stuff up with twist ties, books, tape rolls, bits of wood, whatever is handy. Search for my posts for pictures of jigs.

If the rotary is adjustable like mine, get a cheap level and level the item (if it's a cylinder like a flashlight) so the whole thing is in focus. Don't be afraid to put stuff inside what your putting on the rotary if it is too light to be driven consistently. Just be careful to pick something that won't roll back and forth and make your part move around. As an example, I'm doing some anodized aluminum tubes right now. The are 1/2" ID by 8" long. They are too light to drive consistently but an AAA MiniMag without it's reflector and O-ring fits perfectly inside and I'm good to go. Also, don't let your cat sit on top of the laser. He WILL slide of the front and press reset just before the part is finished.

It's hard to focus on wine glasses. I don't have auto focus and don't know if that helps. What I do is find the highest and lowest points in the engraved area and focus mid way between that.

The notebook will be invaluable, but I go one step beyond. The desktop in Corel doesn't get printed. I type in relevant info above the "paper" and revision info as I go. I use 24-36 point text so I can read it when zoomed all.


Mark Fitzmorris
05-09-2006, 3:01 PM

Thanks for the advice! I am still chuckleing about your drivers abrupt stop! Today has been another day of phone calls between the shippers in NY, the local delivery company, jorlink and myself! Still no firm delivery date/time but I have been told they will be calling within the next half hour to confirm delivery! (ok that was a half hour ago and still no call so we will see!) I do want to state that this has not been the fault of my dealer (jorlink) they have been very supportive and helpful in trying to get this resolved! In fact they seem more concerned about this then I am! So I do not want anyone to think that I am blaming them in any way! This just strikes me as "one of those things" and I am sure that it will be resolved soon.

Michael McDuffie
05-09-2006, 3:41 PM
You are welcome Mark,
A friend of mine called falls like that "ego hacks". The driver went down like a ton of bricks and it had to hurt but he just laughed it off.

The cheap wine glasses from Bed Bath and Beyond, along with the cheap glass plates, engrave quite nicely. I think they are still a dozen for $9.99.


Keith Outten
05-09-2006, 4:25 PM
For what it's worth I never use autofocus anymore. I found it to be very dangerous when it burped and almost destroyed my Legend 24. Manually focusing only takes a few seconds and has proven to be absolutely reliable.

Joe Pelonio
05-09-2006, 4:47 PM
The notebook will be invaluable, but I go one step beyond. The desktop in Corel doesn't get printed. I type in relevant info above the "paper" and revision info as I go. I use 24-36 point text so I can read it when zoomed all.
I do that too Michael, my biggest problem is remembering what name I gave the job. . .company, person ordering, or what. I'm trying to use the company name every time now in case a different person orders, but then yesterday ran into one where the same person is with several companies
and I had to try several names to find the right file.


Can you be more specific on that auto focus burp? I have the same machine and have not had any trouble with mine. The only thing I find to be a bad design is that if you don't lower the table before using a thicker material it will crash.

Michael McDuffie
05-09-2006, 5:03 PM

I have a folder named customer files. Within that, each customer has their own folder and then, if there are multiple products, like production VS handcrafted those items get their own folder also. Generic stuff lives in a generic folder. I also tend to get descriptive in the file names. Altho I've learned that Epilog Legends don't like numbers as the first character. The jobs list doesn't like spaces so I use the underscore instead. That way I can find the file I need on the laser without to much guessing.

I can spend a lot of time looking for something I'm holding in my hand, so every little bit helps.


Keith Outten
05-09-2006, 6:32 PM

Can you be more specific on that auto focus burp? I have the same machine and have not had any trouble with mine. The only thing I find to be a bad design is that if you don't lower the table before using a thicker material it will crash.


While using my rotary attachment to engrave a metal coolie, you know the things you put can drinks in to keep them cold, my autofocus failed to stop and the coolie was forced into the small air tube just under the lens. The force was powerfull enough to poke a hole right through the side of the coolie. The left side bearing on the beam has a spring loaded release that helped relieve some of the force and probably saved the beam from bending.

I called tech support and described the problem and was told that I was not supposed to be using autofocus with the rotary attachment. My owners manual doesn't address the issue anywhere...how was I supposed to know?

Needless to say I stopped using autofocus permanently and I don't miss it at all. Clearly I could have saved some money by not purchasing something that to me is a hazard to the machine.

Jerry Allen
05-09-2006, 6:49 PM
Something else that can happen with the autofocus probe is that when an item is smaller in diameter than the drive wheel, the probe can hang up on the wheel or motor housing when the head returns or is moved to the home position. It does not matter if you use autofocus. On a small diameter item the probe assembly needs to be raised to avoid this problem. Mine has a set screw for that purpose. (GCC-Merc)
I wish I had known that because it cost me a a probe assembly. Now I raise the probe assembly whenever I use the rotary whether I need to or not.

Rodne Gold
05-10-2006, 6:36 AM
Here's a tip for cataloging , use a freeware program called Xnview
It displays all your Corel files in user selectable sized thumbnails (= a million other formats) and you can instantly scroll thru em , rename em etc.
Marvellous for clipart collections too - best of all , it's free!!
Also DL a program called Romcat , it will allow searches and will build up databases of Corel drawings based on keywords etc.
do a goole search on romcat to get DL sites , also free.

Paul Perkinson
05-10-2006, 8:35 AM
Rodne - I have been reading this site (and others) for a long time but finally became a member today. I am constantly amazed at the depth and bredth of your knowledge. Thank you very much for sharing with those of us trying to learn this fascinating business. I have a 4' x 8' table that is an open system so much of the advice here is a bit too specific to cabinet machines to do me much good and, unfortunately, means that I can't help others much with their specific problems. (Well, that and the fact that I have a bit less than a year of experience.) Somehow though your advice manages to regularly spark new ideas and methods that save so much time and research. Again, thank you very much.

Keith - While passing out overdue thanks...Thank YOU also for providing such a friendly and highly educational place for folks to meet. Maybe I should have started a new thread for this, but seeing Rodne's advice here made me really appreciate both him and this forum.

Keith Outten
05-10-2006, 12:48 PM
Welcome Paul,

Your right about Rodne, he has a wealth of information at his fingertips and has been very kind to share so much of his knowledge with us here at SMC. If you haven't visited Rodne's web site by all means take the time to check it out. Rodne and his partners have built a comprehensive business with an impressive product line.

Paul, thanks for joining us here at the Creek. So many people cruise the Creek as Guests it is nice to have new people join us and get involved. Everyone wins when they participate...and it makes the experience more enjoyable.

Pat Dowdel
05-10-2006, 6:23 PM
Hi Mark,
Great questions!

I decided to join after reading your post. I also recently retired from the military (Air Force) and purchased a laser, Epilog 45 watt Mini (24x12) in hopes of starting my next life. I'm working out of my basement for now and the laser has been up and running for about 2 weeks. I'm looking at entering the market by providing marking solutions for small businesses and I have my first appointment with a small manufacturing company on Monday (can you say....nervous.....).

Anyway, just wanted to say hi to everyone and I have already learned so much.

David Sabot
05-10-2006, 8:04 PM
I just looked at my sales invoice, says I purchased my Eplogue 25 Watt 10/15/2005. During that time I have managed to figure out this wonderful machine and a entire new program (Corel). It can seem daunting at first, but with a few hours to really sit and concentrate it really comes together nicely.

I sell cigar humidors and accessories online and my busy season starts beginning of November. I got this thing in and setup just when my season started. I started doing nameplates for humidors, then quickly added wood and glass engraving (lookg great and commands lots of money) and metal engraving (Cermark).

I am proud to say that in 7 months I have more than paid for my new machine. Mark from SIgnwarehouse gave me wonderful inforamtion and support, especially when I destroyed my autofocus needle. Also the members of this board are some of the most knowledgeable and caring people I have ever encountered. While I do not post often, I gain so much information and ideas from you all.

Owning a laser engraver is so much fun. When people see the things you can produce they are amazed.

Mike Moffitt
05-10-2006, 8:42 PM
Happy retirement...I'm in the AF (13 yrs and counting). I've got my laser and hope to have a nice business when I retire as well. What type of marking are looking at getting into?


Mark Fitzmorris
05-10-2006, 10:47 PM

I too want to extend congrats on your retirement. It is a nice feeling ain't it? I am very impressed with this site and have already learned quite a bit here so I am sure you will like it also. That sounds like an interesting market idea that you have and I wish you the best with it! What type of business structure using for your business?

Roy Brewer
05-11-2006, 1:35 AM
I called tech support and described the problem and was told that I was not supposed to be using autofocus with the rotary attachment.


I try real hard to not be defensive, but the tech support person mis spoke(IMHO). One of the significant advantages of the Epilog autofocus is that it works *even* on cylindrical items.

Whether flat or cylindrical if the AF plunger does not have room to clear the part, it is possible to damage both the plunger and the part. I always try to train my users to hover their finger over the Stop button (watching for potential problem of any kind) until system actually starts engraving. I am not aware of a single client of mine that would hesitate to use it when doing cylindrical.

Keith Outten
05-11-2006, 7:23 AM

I hear ya, and I had used autofocus with my rotary attachment several times without a problem until the accident with the metal coolie. There was plenty of room to clear the coolie, it is a simple cylinder 3.5" in diameter and the table had to come up about 2 inches.

I still don't know why it happened but I don't have any faith in autofocus left. I found the manual focus to be easy and quick without any worry about the machine stopping correctly. To me peace of mind is worth the loss of the feature.


Pat Dowdel
05-11-2006, 10:59 AM
Mike , Mark
Thanks for the congrats!

Mike...we met at the Epilog training class in Erie. Remember...Allmark...recruiter.... That was a great class, please tell Kerrie I said hello.

My first client is a small manufacturer here in the Springs. If I get the account I will mark with logo/part numbers a variety of their items; mostly plastic and aluminum pen-like items

Mark... unsure what you mean by business structure but I am establishing myself as a direct-part engraver/marker servicing the gov't/manufacturing industries here in the Springs; however I find that my business plan is evolving everyday, particularly within the UID market. It's all so very exciting, my challenge is to stay focus becuase I catch myself wanting to do everything.:eek: