TIPS ON LASER ENGRAVING WOOD
Laser engraving wood yields absolutely stunning results. It’s quite a challenge to get a clean, sharp, and dark engraving. Knowing these things will give you an idea on how we work on laser engraving wood.
Here are some Tips to help you with your project:
1. USE A LOW-TACK MASKING TAPE TO REDUCE BURN STAINS.
When laser engraving wood, the laser beam burns the wood and vaporizes the material during engraving. When wood is vaporized through burning, it creates smoke. As the smoke exits the laser bed through the exhaust, it is drawn across the surface of the wood. This smoke will often leave a sticky yellow or brown stain on the wood.
One technique we use is in our studio, is to cover the surface of the wood with low tack masking tape before engraving. This allows us to cover surface of the wood that we’re engraving. As we run the laser, and after the job is complete, peel off the tape. The tape protects the wood surface from burn marks, making for a much easier clean up. Since it’s low-tack tape, it’s easy to take off as well. Remember, if you are doing an intricate detailed engraving, it can be a little time consuming to take the tape off after engraving, so we use a piece of acrylic or a flexible paint scraper to speed things up.
2. FOR A REALLY DARK ENGRAVING, BURN AT 1200 DPI.
If you want a very sharp engraving and a nice dark contrast for your wood, consider increasing your engraving resolution. The more dots per inch (DPI) you use, the more times the laser will fire, burning the wood darker. Increasing your DPI will make the job take twice as long, so if you are going for fast production, you probably don’t want to go this route.
3. CLEAN UP BURN MARKS EASILY USING DENATURED ALCOHOL.
We recommend cleaning the surface of the wood after engraving. By filling a squirt bottle with denatured alcohol, you can quickly spray some on the surface of the wood, and clean off burn marks. We use white cotton paint rags, and work the surface in a circular motion. Be sure not to use a colored rag, or the dye could stain your wood surface.
4. FOR LARGE ENGRAVING, USE ACTUAL HARDWOOD, RATHER THAN PLYWOOD.
You have different core types of plywood (MDF or veneer core), different veneer grades for the face, and different glue types. Certain glue types interfere with how a laser cuts, which can make a thin sheet of plywood very difficult to cut. Also, with veneer core plywood, you often will get garbage veneers for the core, even if the outside veneer is flawless. Many times the core veneer will have a void in it, leaving an ugly gap in your cut edge.
Also, plywood doesn’t really engrave that nicely. You have to really dial in your laser to get a good dark burn. And if you burn through the top layer of veneer, you are going to expose the first sheet of the veneer core which will have the wood grain running in the opposite direction. That can look bad.
For your wood engraving needs, enquire within.