Watch the beautiful results of high speed laser engraving

Originally published at:


Holy cow! It even made the PEW PEW sound. I want one!


Far less interesting but here’s one I did as an experiment (time lapsed).

Drafted in Excel (the vector drawing program of champions /s), converted to pdf, and engraved on to a sheet of anodized aluminum.


What is the “industrial industry”?


That first video looked like “Engraved using genuine disco balls!”

The cool things about examining something that was engraved the old fashioned way is that it was done by highly-trained human beings using fairly basic hand tools. Something that is equally if not more amazing than a laser guided by computer code.

Still, those videos were pretty entertaining.

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Before lasers and CNC, decorative patterns were applied to watch faces and other light metal objects using a process called guilloche. Guilloche uses a turning engine that looks like a lathe with a complicated headstock; the patterns are cut with a tool similar to an engraver’s burin. High end watchmakers like Roger W. Smith still use the process, as do some of the big companies like Patek Philippe and Rolex. The patterns on the face of this R.W. Smith Daniel’s Anniversary Watch are all guilloche work.

Vacheron Constantin employs a Master Guillocheur and are doing some creative things:

There aren’t many people doing Guilloche work in the US. I was lucky enough last year to attend one of Brittany Nicole Cox’s workshops where I got to try out her vintage rotary and straight line engines. This is one of my experiments:

Brittany Nicole Cox is amazing even if you’re not into guilloche (though I can’t imagine that). Check out this piece about her if you get a chance.

Her website is



I love this stuff! I grew up seeing it called engine-turning and I wasn’t familiar with the term Guilloche before now. This work is another example of a Wonderful Thing. I loved those videos too, thanks!

The US Mint (and those of some other countries) used to use a machine called a Janvier reducing engine or lathe, which was used to engrave master dies (“hubs”) for coin making. I imagine that it was kind of like a Guilloché lathe plus a pantograph. Other reducing lathes were used for the same purpose before the introduction of the Janvier engine.

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I hadn’t heard of engine turning at all until a sculptor I’m friends with got interested in making orrerries with elliptical orbits. He decided to modify a small jeweler’s lathe for the task and asked me what I knew about rose engines, which was exactly nothing. I got interested pretty quickly once I started looking into it- I’m sort of a closet watch and clock works nerd.

The Janvier Pantograph is new to me, thanks for posting the link! I think you’re right- leaving out the reducing function, it operates on the same principle as the z-axis rosette patterns on a rose engine. I’m adding it to the list of tools I will have once I have made my fortune…

BTW, if you are interested at all in watchmaking or toolmaking, the blog Adventures in Watchmaking is pretty great. The author decided he wanted to build a replica Daniels timepiece from billet stock (with little or no prior experience), so he bought a Cowells lathe and jumped in. He doesn’t update that often, but he takes a lot of pictures and his work is meticulous. I browse it sometimes when I need a break from the raging stupid that is everywhere these days.

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