Fabulous Art: White Bear Lake Laser-engraved Wooden Lake Maps

Wades Custom Creations carves out a niche with wooden lake maps.
A 3D wooden lake map of White Bear Lake from Wades Custom Creations.

Lakes are natural works of art. Poets have written about them, singers have sung about them and many people, especially around this neck of the woods, have fond memories of days spent in their crystalline waters and along their shores. This love of lakes is the inspiration for local custom-engraving gurus David and Beth Weidner and their most popular item: 3D custom laser-engraved maps. Many of their customers grew up visiting a particular lake every summer and wanted to forever capture those memories with a timeless memento. And some just like lakes. The wooden lake maps the Weidners create are both intricate works of art and conversation pieces.
David and Beth Weidner launched Wades Custom Creations in 2010. In addition to creating wooden lake maps, Wades Custom Creations makes engraved stepping stones, cutting boards, coasters, custom signage and more.
David had been in the engraving business with a recognition awards company for eight years before starting his business. The creative side of David’s former job intrigued Beth, so three years ago, when the fragile economy made employment an uncertainty for so many people, the Weidners decided it was time to pursue a business venture of their own. So they purchased an Epilog laser and started Wades Custom Creations.

Beth lets us in on a secret: There is no person named Wade. The word is an acronym of Weidner, Austin, David, Elizabeth and Samantha. “That’s our family,” says Beth. “We get a kick out of it when customers say, ‘Tell Wade he does good work.’ I tell them, ‘I surely will.’ ”
Beth says she enjoys the creativity and instant gratification (after design, a completed product can be done in a matter of minutes) of their business. “Creating an image and giving it to David to produce on whatever our clients desire—glassware, wood, cutting boards or wine totes—is very exciting.”
Recently the Weidners incorporated the process of dye-sublimation—using a computer to transfer dye materials onto the medium, creating the desired image or text—and started using a heat press, allowing them to work with a wider range of colors and products. They can put pictures from a family vacation on coffee mugs or a photograph of a family lake cabin and affix it to a 110-piece puzzle.
But it’s those wooden lake maps that are most popular. Wades Custom Creations can create a wooden map of any lake; however, most requests they receive are for maps of White Bear Lake. Lake images are obtained from the Department of Natural Resources, and can include depth levels and fish species in the finished piece. Additional customized details can include a drawing or photographic likeness of a client’s lake cabin.

“Artwork can be ready for the laser in a day,” David says. Maple plywood is used for each layer of a lake map’s depth levels. Cutting typically takes four hours, followed by several hours of hand-gluing and an application of clear coat sealant. The finished maps are then matted and framed.

“Our laser is 3 feet long,” says David, noting this allows for large-scale projects perfect for wall art. “We once made a laser-cut map of Mille Lacs Lake that was 22 by 18 inches. It was pretty large and turned out well.”

In addition to maps, Wades Custom Creations caters to bridal parties and home brew clubs. “We’re able to laser-etch beer pitchers, mugs and wine glasses with custom names and logos,” says Beth. “People think such customization is expensive, but we know how hard people work for their money, so we keep prices reasonable. We want everyone to enjoy something special from the memorable moments in their lives.”

The Weidners also give back to the community by providing customized items for sale through a fundraiser section on their website. Proceeds from those items support Matoska International School’s annual fifth-grade field trip to Camp Widjiwagan in Ely.

The couple feel fortunate to be able to do something they love for a living. They hope to continue expanding their business and eventually locate in downtown White Bear Lake. As Beth puts it, “We are a family business that, God willing, we can pass down to our children.”