Wood engraving is a technique of imprinting pictures and letters onto a wood surface. Many people now do laser wood engraving as a hobby, but there are those who do it as a job. Even if you’re a hobbyist, I am certain you would want satisfactory tools.
Although you can use the laser to engrave metal, glass, paper, and leather, wood is still the most sought of material to engrave.
It’s fairly easy to find a good laser engraving machine that will meet your requirements, but many neglect the importance of the fact that you need to decide on what wood to use for engraving.
I know how frustrating it is when you read thousands of product reviews online and then at the end of the day, you’re still unsure about which one you should buy. The main problem is that the reviewers fail to inform you how well the products do the task in detail.
I’ve done laser wood engraving for several years now. I have had many mishaps before I found the perfect wood to engrave on. Therefore, I will try my best to present you with the best solutions when purchasing products and what to consider before buying.
- Best Wood for Laser Engraving
- What is the Best Species of Wood to Use for Laser Engraving?
- Wood Species Recommendations For Laser Engraving
- How Does Laser Engraving Work?
- Advantages of Laser Engraving
Best Wood for Laser Engraving
Here are some of the best woods for laser engraving that you can use to make something special. Let’s take a look and see everything about these products.
Boao Blank Wood Squares
For our first wood product for laser engraving, I strongly recommend these wood squares. They are quite the thing for basically any type of engraving you would like to do. Also, their size and shape are suitable for a lot of different approaches and possibilities when it comes to laser engraving.
Due to having very high product ratings, this product has become very popular and people are talking about it more and more.
What Boao does great is designing their wood to have smooth round corners. They have flat surfaces designed by round corner in order to avoid any harm that can be caused by peaked corners.
Aside from laser engraving, these wood squares are also very convenient for writing, painting or oil brushes and can be used for craft projects. But when talking about laser engraving it’s the thickness and sturdiness that really stands out in this product, making it one of the best wood products for laser engraving.
If you are a beginner in laser engraving, or your task just isn’t very complex than you can feel safe buying this product, we have no doubt that it will suit your needs.
Pros and highlights:
- Smooth round corners.
- An excellent quality/price ratio.
- Very convenient for beginners
- Thick and sturdy
Cons and potential flaws:
- You may want to continue looking for wood with different specifications if you have a complex laser engraving task.
Boao Unfinished Wood Circle Round Wood Pieces
If you are looking for round wood pieces instead of square ones, then you can definitely consider this product from the same manufacturer.
These are wooden cutouts with a smooth surface. The work on the edges is very nice, and there is very little possibility that you will find any burrs so you can be safe that you won’t hurt your hands.
These round wood pieces have a variety of uses since both sides of the surface are blank. You can punch a hole through and hang them up, and perform laser carving to provide material for whatever your next actions are.
It is an overall great quality item, the thickness is very nice, it is sturdy, and it is well-cut. Plus, it’s very inexpensive, so it’s for everyone’s pocket really. It will surely be of use for almost any laser engraving project you have in mind.
Pros and highlights:
- Sturdy and nice thickness.
- Well cut.
- Has a variety of uses other than laser engraving.
- Very good round design with almost no burrs.
- Works great for small projects.
- Quality item.
Cons and potential flaws:
- The round design might not be what you are looking for if that is the case check out the next few choices.
ilauke Unfinished Wood Pieces
This product is really the state of the art when it comes to wood pieces. They already have a great reputation when it comes to laser engraving so it’s definitely a safe purchase. Here are a few reasons why they are so good for laser engraving.
Most importantly, this product is 100% natural and very durable, and it is made from high-quality plywood. They are sturdy, have a smooth finish and crisp square edges.
They differ from other wood pieces by having straight rounded corners with a small arc, while others might have large splicing gaps, burrs, and sharp corners. It’s designed to be safe, but it’s also very elegant looking.
As we said the wood is natural so it’s very durable, eco-friendly, and you don’t have to worry about some poignant smell. They can also be used for things other than laser engravings, such as painting, coloring, writing, or carving.
This is probably the safest and most efficient wood for your needs out of the products we have listed so far. It may be a tad more costly than the previous ones, but you can be sure it’s worth the extra few bucks.
Pros and highlights:
- Natural wood.
- Durable and sturdy.
- Very nicely designed.
- Variety of uses.
- No burr.
- One of the smoother products.
Cons and potential flaws:
- It’s made from plywood not solid wood, so that may not be for everyone’s taste.
Blisstime 36 PCS 4 Inch Unfinished Wood Circles
If you haven’t found what you were looking for in the previous Boao wood circle product that we have mentioned then this one will almost certainly be to your liking.
This product is made from popular plywood guaranteeing the smooth and sturdy surface most professionals look for. It is also lightweight, environmentally friendly and doesn’t have a pungent smell.
The edges are also laser cut, so you don’t have to worry about any burrs on the product that might harm you.
The sturdiness and thickness of these circles is really one of the best you can find, plus the overall great quality and design of the wood makes this a purchase that you don’t want to miss out on.
There is also one more advantage if you decide to get this product, it comes with a sanding sponge for cleaning, it can be of great help if you need to polish the surface or the surroundings of the board.
Pros and highlights:
- Smooth and sturdy surface.
- It comes with a sanding sponge.
- Wide application.
- Made from popular plywood and very durable.
Cons and potential flaws:
- You might need a stronger laser for this product.
What is the Best Species of Wood to Use for Laser Engraving?
The choice of best wood engraving mainly depends on the type of project you are planning on doing. For engraving photographs, first, select HD high contrast photographs, and you should use light-colored wood with minimal stripes.
You can be more relaxed if you’re only engraving text since it is easier to transfer onto the wood surface. Furthermore, you may choose to color in the letters. With this technique, you needn’t search far and wide for perfect wood species. Most wood species will do! It is just about how durable, strong, and hard it is.
Unlike other materials that are already processed to some extent, wood is mostly all-natural material. This can make it a challenging material to engrave, because of all of the specifications and intricate details every wood species possesses. Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised if even the most similar wood yields very different (or unsuccessful) results.
However, once you get used to your laser engraving machine, i.e. you get the hang of the laser beam speed and strength, you will see it is not as difficult as it seems.
But, first and foremost we need to establish several aspects that come into play when you are choosing the right wood for laser engraving:
- What is the resin content?
- Lighter or darker wood?
- Is there severe streaking?
This depends on what you prefer. Wood can “burn” light or dark. So, if you want a dark burn left from the laser, you will want to choose wood with high resin (sap) content, On the other hand, if you prefer lighter burns, opt for wood that has low resin content.
To test the color of the engraving simply try out your laser machine on the piece of wood you won’t need.
Alder and cherry are types of wood with the highest resin content.
There is one thing to consider here. You may have come across a problem where you’ve purchased the wood (with high resin content) you always purchase. You’re using the same machine and the same settings. But, the burn is lighter. What happened?
For this, you will need some background knowledge of trees. During the autumn, trees usually accumulate all their resin on the bottom of the tree trunk so as to prepare for winter months. And in spring, it redistributes the sap back up. So if your plaque is lighter than usual, it just means that the tree was cut down during autumn.
Color of the Wood
It is hard to manipulate the color of the wood because you cannot paint it like you can glass, or paper. For the best results, you should always use light-colored wood.
Dark-colored wood will oftentimes conceal and mess up laser markings; therefore, making it difficult to recognize and see what is engraved, whereas lighter wood will ensure a deep, crisp, and clean burn.
You should opt for wood that has smooth and consistent grain and minimal stripes (streaks). If the wood is really streaky, it will make your engraving blotchy, inconsistent and difficult to see.
Wood Species Recommendations For Laser Engraving
Of course, you can consider these factors and choose the wood species you desire, but I will provide you with four best wood types for laser engraving.
- Cherry: it is one of the most popular wood species for any kind of furniture. This also makes it one of the great options for laser engraving. It is a hardwood that is high in sap content and light in color. It is very streaky, though. With time it will turn into rich reddish color it is best known for.
- Alder: good for beginners. It is a softwood that is lightly colored, with rich texture and minimal streaking. It produces a nice dark burn. After applying a finish it will darken substantially, so it will resemble cherry wood.
- Hard Maple: it is known for its durability and strength. It also has high resin content; it is creamy and light in color and minimally streaked. It is often referred to as super wood for photoengraving. However, it is not so suitable for beginners, because it is fairly harder to work with than with cherry or alder.
- African Mahogany: it is a very durable wood that will give you almost iridescent reddish finish. It is quite easy to work with. It is a great substitute for the classic Mahogany which is endangered now and therefore not permitted to cut down and use.
- Aspen: it is one of the whitest woods for laser engraving and also one with the most uniform texture you can find. Aspen is another beginner-friendly type of wood. This is greatly due to the fact it is a softwood, but super strong.
- Walnut: another popular choice of many woodworkers and carpenters. It is rich brown, with some streaking, although not overwhelming. It is very easy to work with.
- Bloodwood: as its name suggests bloodwood is bright or deep red, with yellowish subtle streaks. It is particularly strong and hardwood. But because of this, it is very brittle and kind of hard to work with.
- Basswood: almost white in color. Its softness and even texture make it a really great surface for laser engraving.
How Does Laser Engraving Work?
Knives were the first tools that artists used for wood engraving. As technology progressed, a new tool called engraver’s burin appeared in the workshops. With the burin, it was easier to create thin lines and intricate images but it was nevertheless one of the most difficult tasks to do.
Thankfully, long are gone the days of laborious and time-consuming work that comes with wood engraving. Today, we have something called a laser that does all the work for us!
Laser engraving is a subset of laser marking. But unlike laser marking, engraving won’t change the color of the material, nor will it char, or melt it.
Laser machines consist of three main parts:
- A laser – Lasers serve as a drawing tool.
- A controller – Controllers determine the direction, intensity, and speed of the laser.
- A surface – Surface is chosen to match the type of the material being engraved.
The most usual machine is where the surface is stationary, and the laser moves around in two directions.
During the process, the surface of the work-piece (in this case wood) is melted (vaporized) by the heat created by the laser beam. This part is known as material removal. Lastly, the recess formed on the work-piece is engraving.
Advantages of Laser Engraving
As I’ve mentioned, prior to laser technology came to exist, wood engraving was difficult and it could lead to injuries. But, now with this advanced and available technology, all the pains of the wood engraving process are gone!
The main advantages of laser engraving are:
- Easy to use – You will just need to acquire the appropriate software. In the software, all you need to do is to import HD image you wish to engrave into wood and voila!
- Low maintenance – The only thing you need to do with the machine is to clean the focus lenses from time to time.
- High accuracy level – Laser engraving is the most precise method of processing currently available because it has the ability to engrave very detailed graphics onto the smallest material surfaces owing to approximately 1,000 ppi (39 pixels per mm) resolution.
Wood engraving has come a long way indeed. The tools have changed, and the time spent working has changed. One thing that hasn’t changed however is the species and type of wood chosen for engraving.
As we have seen, you should always work on a wood that’s lightly colored, has smooth grain, minimal striping, and has high resin content.
I quite like darker woods like cherry and mahogany. And regarding wood types, I mostly use cork. Cork is really easy to work with – it is lightweight and quite durable. Moreover, I like the dark, almost black burn that creates a minimalistic and effective look for my art.
I hope this article provided you with some good recommendations to pick the best wood for laser engraving for your projects. Any questions or recommendations, please let me know via Jack.Toildrop@gmail.com