Reasons for Choosing Wood Laser Engraving

Wood laser engraving is finding increasing application in woodworking, and here are some reasons for choosing laser engraving technology for wood. Wood is one of the most common materials in laser applications, and compared to traditional woodworking machines, a laser device can be used for cutting and engraving on almost all wood projects.

Wood laser engraving combines convenience and significantly improves processing efficiency and product quality. By simply cutting shapes and precisely engraving patterns, not only is the desired easily achieved, but the work is also quiet and clean. The flexible and free design allows for fine and exquisite end products.

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Common Categories of Wood for Wood Laser Engraving

In laser processing, the most common materials can be roughly divided into plywood, solid wood, veneer wood, MDF boards, etc.

There are hundreds of wood materials on the market, and combined with various manufacturing techniques, there are countless types of wood. However, all of these materials can be processed by laser devices. It is only necessary to adjust the corresponding parameters according to the properties of each wood.

The Most Suitable Wood for Wood Laser Engraving

The principle of wood laser engraving is that the energy of the laser carbonizes the surface of the wood, making it dark, and thus creating contrast patterns with the original wood color tone. If the wood has a high resin content, deeper engraving traces are created.

Therefore, woods with high resin content, light color, and no coarse grain are particularly well suited for various fine vector graphics and even photo engravings. Woods with low resin content, dark color, or particularly pronounced grain patterns may be somewhat more difficult to render engraving details.

For optimal contrast engraving, choosing dark woods such as walnut may not be the best choice, as it essentially results in making dark engravings on dark wood. In contrast, engravings on lighter woods like maple often start a little lighter and darken slightly over time. Cherry wood is another good choice, as it has beautiful grain patterns and colors, and the engraving comes out deeper and more even.

Of course, dark woods can be creatively used in deep engraving of vector graphics and 3D reliefs. As long as the surface is smooth and even, any wood can be used for wood laser engraving. By adding additional steps such as sanding, polishing, coloring, and varnishing, beautiful wood carvings can definitely be produced.

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Wood Laser Engraving Cutting: The following three wood species offer particularly easy handling and excellent results:

  • Cherry Wood:

    Cherry wood is one of the most popular woods for cabinets and furniture. Although it is pink when first cut, it turns into the well-known, rich reddish-brown color over time. Cherry wood is easy to work with and cut.

    Maple Wood:

    Maple wood looks similar to cherry wood, but its color darkens over time. It is a softwood and is considered one of the best woods for wood laser engraving as it can produce dark burn marks.

    Hard Maple Wood:

    Hard maple wood is a wood with a grayish-white, brownish-gray or pale yellow color. Due to its density, it is more difficult to work with than cherry wood, but it is excellent for wood laser engraving and has an attractive surface.

Other Woods to Consider:

  • Linden Wood:

    Linden wood is a soft, lightweight wood that is easy to work with and well-suited for quick and simple carving projects.

    Softwood:

    Softwood is a soft wood suitable for wood laser engraving, but it has a coarse texture. The heartwood has a reddish-brown color, while the sapwood is grayish-white or brownish-gray. It does not have a high sheen, but it can be stained and worked well. One issue with softwood is that it gets scratched and dented easily. Therefore, careful processing is required to achieve optimal results when laser engraving on softwood.

Can You Use Laser on Plywood?

Plywood consists of thin veneer layers that are glued and pressed together. Due to the cross-lamination manufacturing process, expansion and cracking are reduced, making it a relatively stable wood product.

When laser cutting plywood, the result depends on the quality. High-quality plywood has a wood grain that rotates every 45 degrees and increases longitudinal strength, while thinner, lower-quality plywoods are only arranged at right angles.

Two plywoods that work well for laser cutting are birch plywood and bamboo laser plywood. Similar to maple and cherry wood, birch wood is a dense but easy-to-work hardwood and readily available. It is particularly useful for beginners in laser cutting as it allows for an even and reliable cut.

If you’re more adventurous, bamboo plywood could be an option. It has a dense wood grain and provides a fine, exquisite look when carving. It is excellent for processing. Wood laser engraving can offer beautiful design possibilities on both types of plywood.

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Why You Should Avoid Laser Cutting Fiberboards

Fiberboards are made from wood fibers sourced from pulp mills. They are embedded in laminated wood plywood layers and come in low, medium, and high densities. High-density fiberboards (HDF) or hardboards are made from highly compressed fibers, with an average density of 40 pounds per cubic foot up to over 60 pounds, sometimes even higher.

The density of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is somewhat lower, ranging from 31 to 62 pounds per cubic foot. Both are strong enough for construction and furniture use, but that does not necessarily make them suitable materials for laser cutting and engraving.

In the realm of laser cutting, MDF is a more common material. The issue with MDF, however, is that it is too dense to produce good results. When hit by the laser, it tends to char and leave deeper burn marks, looking more like excessive burning than a clean cut.

Additionally, the adhesive used in manufacturing medium-density fiberboards has poor compatibility with the laser. Some sources claim it works well as long as the thickness does not exceed 1/4 inch, but that can’t make up for the drawbacks and doesn’t guarantee a hassle-free process. Wood laser engraving on fiberboards requires special adjustments and careful preparation to achieve optimal results.

Common Applications of Wood Laser Engraving:

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Wood Laser Engraving Processing Techniques:

How to Set Parameters for Laser Engraving Wood:

Carbon dioxide lasers are excellent for working with wood because you can change the power settings and they have many features that facilitate wood engraving and cutting. It’s important to note that the edges will be burned when wood is hit with a laser. The extreme heat causes the material to vaporize, so it’s advisable to use low-resin woods to minimize the burning effect. To make the most of this experience, some other factors, particularly wood laser engraving, should also be considered.

Wood Laser Engraving and Cutting Parameters:

In general, the thickness of the required wood should not exceed 1/2 inch. Parts with a thickness of 1/4 inch are ideal. For 1/2 inch thick workpieces, you’ll need a 90-watt CO2 laser, while half that power is sufficient for 1/4 inch thick workpieces.

For engraving, you’ll need to increase the spot size to achieve darker engraving results. However, this leads to more burning and a softening of details. For instance, when using a laser cutter, you should start with a cutting speed of about 5% and then gradually adjust until you get the desired quality. If you start with a wood piece about 3mm thick (roughly 1/10 inch thick), you can estimate what’s required to achieve a good result for a 1/4-inch wood piece, which is about 6mm.

Wood laser engraving can be optimized by adjusting these parameters to achieve the desired cutting and engraving effects.

To Get the Right Optic Setup:

To achieve better details in wood laser engraving, you need a shorter focal length and the right parameters. Here’s where it gets tricky. While a shorter focal length can bring fine effects, the thickness of the wood requires a longer focal length for optimal results. For wood, please try 1.5-inch or 2-inch lenses. In addition to selecting the right cutting and engraving parameters for the wood type, you’ll also need to note the correct optic setups.

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Recommended Thunder Laser CO2 Machines for Wood Laser Engraving:

The Thunder Laser CO2 machine delivers high-quality results for wood laser engraving and cutting of a variety of woods.

Thunder Laser Small Batch Machines(Nova 24): 

Compact tabletop size, ideal for carving and crafting from smaller wood pieces. Suitable for small-scale hobbyist processing and cutting thin materials.

Thunder Laser Workshop Machines(Nova 35/51):

Standard sheet sizes up to approx. 90 x 60 cm or 120 x 90 cm are accepted. Batch production for laser engraving and cutting of wood is possible.

Thunder Laser Large Batch Machines (Nova 63):

The large work area also allows for continuously loading a sheet feeder or unloading the cut pieces. This enables more efficient processes and higher production speeds, particularly for wood laser engraving.

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