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Laser-Cut Unicorns and the Metal Cutter That Makes Magic Behind Logan Needham’s Designs

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It seems appropriate that lasers bring Logan Needham’s ideas to life. Wall-mounted wooden unicorns, repurposed aircraft engine assemblies molded into mirrors, hedgehog-shaped drink coasters — the designs are as eclectic and creative as the mind of the man himself. 

Web designer and programmer. Videographer. Self-taught welder, laser operator, and tinkerer. It’s tough to stick a label on Needham. But what is abundantly clear is when Needham discovered lasers he suddenly had the key to unlock many of the ideas roaming around in his mind. 
Needham runs Rail and Oak, an Etsy-powered provider of “beautiful handmade oddities, gadgetry, and earrings.” (Check out his Instagram handle @pillagethenburn and you’ll find a few more of his metal and wood creations).

Titles are overrated

Web designer and programmer. Videographer. Self-taught welder, laser operator, and tinkerer. It’s tough to stick a label on Needham. When asked what he does for a living, his answer was vague. “That’s a very complicated question,” he said. “I’ve been a maker of sorts for most of my life, and then eight or ten years ago, I was introduced to the world of laser cutting. I was hooked.”Pinning down what this multi-talented creative does on any given day is difficult. It might include a 16-foot-tall purple, low poly Hippo art installation, finishing off a set of laser-cut earrings of his own design, or installing a custom-made metal sign.

“That’s a very complicated question,” Needham said when asked about his occupation. 

Whatever the day brings, lasers have steadily played a larger and larger role in his professional life, transforming the way he creates. 

“I’ve been a maker of sorts for most of my life, and then eight or ten years ago, I was introduced to the world of laser cutting. I was hooked,” said Needham.

That introduction took place at The Generator, a makerspace in Sparks, Nevada not far from where Needham lives. After the introduction, he immediately set to work on all manner of laser cutting. He eventually ended up as the go-to laser guy, maintaining the machine and teaching others how to use it. 

When not hanging out at The Generator, he works as an art director for Living Stones Church, also in Reno. At Needham’s urging, the church invested in a laser for him to use making artwork and signage relevant to each week’s sermons. Coincidentally, his brother also purchased a laser at around the same time, so between the church, the makerspace, and his brother’s garage, Needham had plenty of opportunities to pursue his love of laser cutting. 

Moving to Metal Cutting

There was just one problem. “The most powerful laser I had available to me was a 150-watt CO2 machine, so I was limited to acrylic, fabric, leather, paper, and plywood up to a half-inch thick or so,” Needham said. “And while I enjoy working with all kinds of materials, I wanted to do more with metal. That’s when a friend of mine from the church told me about SendCutSend.”

SendCutSend’s online laser cutting service — Unlike the admittedly wimpy CO2 lasers to which he was accustomed — uses industrial fiber lasers to cut through steel, stainless steel, copper, and more. And while he could have created an account and simply uploaded his drawings, the artist-turned-entrepreneur decided to visit the company in person.

 “I was stoked,” said Needham. “They’re local and their prices were way better than anything else that I’d found online.”

Needham also needed help with a particularly intricate metal project.

“At the time, I was working on a mirror that I’d made out of a four-foot round booster vane assembly for an Airbus A320, and needed a way to hang it from the back without having the bracket visible through the turbine blades,” said Needham. “That’s where SendCutSend came in. With their laser cutting capabilities, I was able to design something that was balanced, precise, sleek, and strong, but also made it appear that the turbine is floating on the wall.”

On the job training

Needham ordered the brackets and received them two days later. They fit perfectly. That was two years ago, and he’s since used SendCutSend’s services on many occasions. He no longer works at the church, but is now the “tactile branding” lead at creative agency Mabble Media, where he designs and implements signage, logos, and other branding materials. “One recent project we did was this big, backlit sign for a nearby ski resort,” he said. “I had everything laser-cut and powder coated; it was really cool looking.”

Needham ordered the brackets and received them two days later. They fit perfectly. That was two years ago, and he’s since used SendCutSend’s laser cutting services on many occasions. He no longer works at the church, but is now the “tactile branding” lead at Reno creative agency Mabble Media, where he designs and implements signage, logos, and other branding materials. 

“One recent project we did was this big, backlit sign for a nearby ski resort,” he said. “I had everything laser-cut and powder coated; it was really cool looking.”

He also works part-time for a local steel fabricator, Old Gold Custom, designing and manufacturing staircases, gates, and fences. 

“Pretty much anything you want, we’ll build it,” said Needham. “I already had this great connection with SendCutSend when I started working here, and we’re now getting all this stuff laser cut that was previously being sent out for waterjet. It’s saved them a bunch of money and the parts look better besides.”

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Needham continues to do side jobs as well as his own projects, and during one of these—a large outdoor sign with laser-cut letters he’d designed for an advertising firm in town—he discovered upon receiving the order that an “I” was missing. He immediately e-mailed SendCutSend, a little worried that he wouldn’t hear back in time to make his deadline, but was pleasantly surprised to receive a response just five minutes later.

“They told me there was another job running right then, but they would put mine next in line,” Needham said. “This was late in the afternoon, so best case, I didn’t expect to get the part until the next day. But they pulled it off. I was able to pick up the missing letter before five that night and start on the sign again in the morning. I think it was an easy thing for them to miss because the I-shape looks a lot like a chunk of scrap material, but just the fact that they turned it around so quickly was awesome. So even though it was a simple mistake, they went above and beyond to make things right. I appreciate that level of customer service.”

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