A Must Have Guide For Small Business Owners Who Use a Laser!!
By Anna Bailey
Laser Wood Engraving has become all the rage, and there is a good reason for it. Using a laser cutter for laser engraving projects has opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
Projects that once took hours and hours of meticulous skill can now be done quickly through the use of software, digital design, and a laser engraving machine.
The ability to quickly make multiples of the same design opens up so many possibilities when it comes to using laser cutting with a laser machine.
These possibilities can be game changers for your small business.
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I remember, way before the mainstream use of the technology of laser systems, the craft that I had seen done with the scroll saw and router.
People would spend hours and hours carefully making small scrolling cuts to cut out their designs in wood. That type of detailed wood cutting and engraving is both beautiful and time consuming.
These pieces would usually be drawn out on the wood, followed by calculated and careful cuts that would often involve removing and reattaching the scroll blade to enter different sections of the piece. While there is still a very special place in the craft world for this type of wood working, it doesn’t lend itself as a good option for rendering multiples of the same design at high speeds.
Enter laser power!
What once was purely an industrial tool in manufacturing has now become a very accessible option for today’s crafters and artists.
Laser engraving and cutting machines are available in many different sizes and levels of power, able to cut through a wide variety of materials.
We have two Boss Lasers and have loved them. When I first started my laser journey I started out with a Glowforge and I found it couldn’t quite manage what I had planned for it. If you are planning larger scale projects I would look into a larger laser like the ones you can find on bosslaser.com, it will save you quite the hassle! I will also note the customer service and troubleshooting team at Boss Laser has been absolutely fabulous!
There are so many great options out there, that I won’t be covering the best laser engraver, but rather the different types of wood and the best wood types for your project.
Wood is a natural material that is sustainable and easily accessible.
The type of wood that you use will be determined by the project and the look you are trying to achieve, as each piece of wood will lend itself to different qualities and characteristics.
Regardless of which wood surface you choose, let’s cover some important factors to consider when choosing your wood product.
All wood has its unique amount of resinous fiber.
Resin is a naturally occurring substance within the wood that acts as a natural protection from various diseases and bugs. The resin content of wood will impact the end result of your laser engraving.
A low resin content will create lighter, more crisp engravings, while a high resin content will create darker engravings with more edge burn, affecting the clarity.
The darker edge burn from the higher resin content is a result of the laser beam needing to first burn through the wood’s resin content while penetrating the wood.
For best results, you will want to pick a wood species that will give you the desired level of burn that you are looking for.
Pro Tip: If you do end up with slight burn marks these can oftentimes be sanded off your wood making it look like they were never there!
I really like the POLIWELL Micro Sander Kit from Amazon. It is compact and perfect for detail work, it also comes with different grit options which I really appreciate!
Sometimes it can be hard to tell the resin content, as it can change with the season the tree was harvested. A great way to know is to test your wood by lasering a scrap piece or on the backside, utilizing that as a way to imprint your logo.
However, you will have great results with the species of wood we’re about to cover.
Along with choosing wood based on its resinous content, another thing to consider when selecting your wood is to choose pieces with a consistent grain.
The wood grain is a beautiful characteristic of wood that often defines the species. We often fall in love with wood because of its grain pattern. However, when it comes to engraving, the grain pattern can take away from the engraving, which negatively affects the readability. For this reason, selecting wood that has minimal streaking is the best option. Choose pieces with a smooth, consistent grain that won’t compete for the eye’s attention.
Finally, consider the color of the wood.
Lighter wood tones are a good choice because you will gain the most contrast. Darker wood will have less contrast with the engraving. Dark wood can be a great accent, but your engraving may not pop as well as it will on light wood tones. As you play with your style, you will discover the balance that will be right for you.
There are so many popular choices for wood engraving, that it’s a good idea to try out several different species to see what works best for your projects.
Laser engraving is so versatile that it can be accomplished on almost any wood with a flat surface. Whether you choose soft wood, hard wood, wood veneer, plywood, or even engineered wood and fiberboard, you can achieve great results.
Let’s take a look at some of the great options for wood engraving. There are so many good choices, but I’m going to share with you my favorites.
If you want an all around good performer, Alder wood is a great choice. As a softwood, it’s easy to work with and has minimal streaking. With its light color and minimal knots, it creates beautiful burns for engraving.
Another great choice is Cherry wood. Its grain is beautiful and consistent, and it is low in resin. Cherry’s beautiful warm brown color will lend to stunning engravings, despite its streaking.
Maple is a beautiful light toned wood with a tight grain. With it being strong and staining well, it can add depth and beauty to your engraving project.
For a darker wood, Walnut is a solid choice. Its beautiful grain and rich color will lend itself to beautiful engravings. This is a great choice for those who prefer a darker wood.
Cork is a fun and unique option for engraving, believe it or not. Cork is found in the heart of wood and there has been cork produced that is made especially for engraving called laser cork.
The hands down best plywood for engraving is Baltic Birch plywood. It has a subtle grain pattern and stains beautifully. The advantage of plywood is that it is more stable in humidity changes throughout the year.
This is hands down the type of wood I use the most often in our lasers. Here are just a few of the projects that have been done with Baltic Birch Wood.
Other great options to play with that work well but may have some minor caveats are Oak, Pinewood, Basswood, Balsa, and wood veneers. Other options to consider are engineered woods such as MDF and HardBoard.
I have engraved on cardboard multiple times for packaging and it always turns out great, I would just recommend doing a few tests with a watchful eye to make sure your settings are correct!
I have loved using White Oak in our lasers. My favorite project we have used it for is our bookmarks, the White Oak turned out so beautifully.
Getting into the art of engraving and creating through the use of a laser machine is an exciting way to up your game in your woodworking business or hobby.
Getting to know several different types of wood and how they work with your laser machine is important for establishing consistent outcomes of your products.
The next step is to create until you find what works best for you. Enjoy the process!
If you want to follow along on my laser journey head to my socials where I post daily updates and behind the scenes of Bailey Builds!