Best Wood for Laser Engraving

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The time-consuming yet classically attractive art form, wood engraving, was originally developed in the 18th century and is still to this day a decorative option for many products. Wood engravings are created by cutting fine lines into a wood surface to create the picture. Besides the traditional engraving tools, laser engravers are now widely used as a modern-day tool that delivers beautiful results in a fraction of the time. Laser engraving also helps to handle bigger workloads. This article will walk you through some things to consider when choosing the wood for your engraving and also list out 5 kinds of wood best suitable for laser engraving.

Things To Consider When Choosing The Best Wood For Laser Engraving

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The type of wood you will use is an important factor considering it determines the result and also affects your laser engraver. You will need to know what attributes to avoid and what to actually look for in order to be able to pick the best wood for your engraving.

Check the Resin Content

Different types of woods contain different portions of sapwood and heartwood. The sapwood is more flexible and softer, while the heartwood is harder, denser and more robust. Sapwood plays a vital role in how your overall engraving will turn out, so the resin/sapwood content is something you’ll need to look at closely. The higher the resin content, the darker and denser the final result. Though usually choosing the type of wood that typically has a high resin content, such as Alder or cherry wood is advisable, if possible you may also look for wood that comes from a tree that was harvested during summer or spring as opposed to winter or fall since wood from the upper part of the trees that are cut down during that time tends to contain less resin affecting the engraving’s result. A good hack you may use to gauge how your engraving would look is to first print something quite small, on a small piece of your chosen wood, before you actually start on your wood engraving project.

Opting for Lighter Wood

Quite an obvious one, the lighter the color of wood, the more it makes the darker burnt engraving stand out. While this does depend on your own personal preference, lighter wood allows for a better contrast between the burnt color and the natural grain of the wood. This not only looks better but also helps the small intricate engraving be more visible as compared to a dark black or brown engraving in a darker wood.

Select Wood with Minimal Streaks

Avoid woods with knots and other types of dark marks, streaks or patterns. You want your engraving to pop rather than be overshadowed by streaks or knots. Knots and other blemishes tend to make the burnt engraving less visible and you will end up with a somewhat messy-looking end product, especially when your engraving is small and detailed. While this also depends on the size of your engraving’s design, knots and streaks are less noticeable when your overall engraving is big. So it’s better to go for larger engravings with lighter wood rather than smaller engravings with darker wood.

What Is The Best Wood For Laser Engraving?

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Laser engraving is a technique for changing materials into vapors and imprinting permanent, deep markings on them. The laser beam operates like a chisel, cutting into the surface of the material by removing layers. To generate the high heat required for vaporization, a laser focuses its beam on specific regions with massive doses of energy. You will need to know the wood’s density, hardness and thickness in order to choose the right one. Remember that different types of woods also have a variety of color variations and resin content which affects the quality of the burnt engraving. You may want to consider going for a wood that is more uniform and light in color and does not have a distinct grain.

Different Types of Wood For Laser Engraving

To ensure you are working with quality wood for your laser engraving, you must know the characteristics of the materials in order to choose the right one.

1. Alder 

Alder is an extremely sought-after hardwood with a high resin content. It is easy to cut and offers smooth burning characteristics, allowing for crisp results. Use it when looking to engrave detailed images or symbols. Fun fact, alder wood due to its distinctive color and grain patterns came into the limelight as a more affordable alternative to cherry wood gaining another name as the “poor man’s cherry”.

  • Other Common Names: Mountain Alder, Red Alder, Western Red Alder, Pacific Coast Alder, Alnus rubra
  • Origin: Coastal Pacific Northwest
  • Color: Light tan to reddish-brown wood color, the color deepens and reddens with age
  • Sizes: Generally, thicknesses ranging from 1/16″ to 3/4″ in sheets from 4″ to 8″ wide are available

2. Basswood 

Basswood is an inexpensive, lightweight softwood with fine grain patterns and consistent texture. It is also easily accessible and offers smooth cutting and engraving characteristics, making it easy to work with. Use this wood when looking to engrave basic shapes or signs in an economical manner.

  • Other Common Names: Linden, Limewood, Tilia americana
  • Origin: North America (southeastern Canada and most of the eastern United States)
  • Color: creamy white or pale brown, may have a slight pinkish hue
  • Sizes: Generally, thicknesses ranging from 1/16″ to 3/4″ in sheets from 4″ to 8″ wide are available

3. Cherry 

Cherry is a hardwood with rich coloring and finely grained wood texture. This wood offers easy cutting and engraving with smooth results. A blonde cherry is pale in color and has a high resin content. The higher amounts of streaking are the only reason it isn’t number one. Use this wood when looking to engrave detailed images or symbols in a polished fashion. Cherry wood is often used to create plaques with engravings to honor achievements or milestones.

  • Common Names: Black cherry, Wild cherry, American cherry, Prunus serotina
  • Origin: Europe, West Asia and North Africa
  • Color: Light pink to rich reddish-brown, darkens with age
  • Sizes: Generally, thicknesses ranging from 1/16″ to 3/4″ in sheets from 4″ to 12″ wide are available

4. Hard Maple

Hard Maple is a hard, heavy wood with light coloring and fine grain patterns. It is a bit harder to work with compared to the other woods mentioned above, but still offers crisp and detailed cuts and engravings. Use it when looking to make fine lines, details and curves. Due to its light hue, medium-brown is the typical color that its engraving turns out to be, but it gives it an excellent and unique contrast. Hard maple is solid and long-lasting, with an incredibly smooth finish.

  • Other Common Names: Sugar Maple, Rock Maple, Acer saccharum
  • Origin: Eastern North America
  • Color: White with some reddish-brown hues
  • Sizes: Generally thicknesses range from 1/16″ to 3/4″ in sheets from 4″ to 12″ wide available

Also Read: Types of Maple Wood

5. Baltic Birch Plywood 

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Birch from the Baltic is recognized as one of the world’s toughest plywood. The reason for its strength is that it is entirely constructed of thin birch layers. Baltic birch veneers are thicker than other plywood kinds with each layer of birch measuring to be of the same thickness. Although it is more sturdy than solid hardwood, its thin stock is simply too thin and wide to remain perfectly flat. The majority of pieces will lay flat enough on your laser bed to cut; however, if you’re having trouble with stubborn pieces sticking up, make a jig or frame to hold them. Typically a few pieces of tape on the back of the plywood will help you in your quest to keep it in place. Light and stunning, Baltic birch plywood is the best choice for projects that require both functionality and beauty.

  • Other Common Names: Baltic birch, Russian birch, European plywood, Betula spp.
  • Origin: the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
  • Color: Pale white to reddish-brown or yellow
  • Sizes: Generally thickness ranges from 1/8″ and 1/4″ in sheets available (usually comes in metric thicknesses)

Conclusion

There are many types of wood that can be used for laser engraving. Hopefully, you have found the ones mentioned above to be helpful. There are so many more kinds of wood out there – it is a matter of finding the one that works best for you. Other woods commonly used for laser engravings include Walnut wood, Boxwood, Oak and pinewood. Though be careful to avoid Fiberboard, while strong enough to be used for construction and furniture, it chars and produces a darker burn when being laser engraved, that looks more like an overdone design rather than a clean cut. So, now that you have all the knowledge you need, good luck with your future wood laser engraving endeavors, and don’t forget to clean your laser on a regular basis to keep it in excellent working condition.

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