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I've talked on both Instagram and Facebook that we protect our products under the heat of the laser with paper masking tape. It's really remarkable that of all things paper can do this but it can. The paper takes the brunt and therefore the product remains unblemished.
Here's an example where that did not quite work out. As you can see in the photograph, tape was used. However, this object was cut along with several others from a 12" wide board taped with 6" wide tape, twice to cover the board. Thus, an ever so slight gap existed between the 2 pieces of tape and that increases the possibility that a non conforming output could occur.
Here's the protective tape coming off the piece. All of our products are handled with care and you'll see us using gloves to avoid transfer of skin oils to your product. The last think we want to see is a skin oil smudge on a finished product. That's not what customers pay us for. They actually pay us to use a quality process to deliver a nice looking outcome.
Everything looks fine up to this point. But close inspection shows a blemish occurred through the gap in tape from the heat of the laser. This is unacceptable as a finished product for an order and this item will go to the scrap pile.
You can see that the blemish cuts from the N to the G and the G to the E.
We handle the products with care and in the process we take advantage of a 10X light backed magnifier to review our hand crafted products under magnification to ensure there are no blemishes or leftover tape. Additionally, etched products may need to be air blown in the etchings to clear out the dust.
We now use tape to match the wood width and stock 12" and 20" wide tape.