Wood Laser Engraving: A Beginner's Guide

by Winnie Li Posted in March 22, 2023
laser engraving on wood

In this article, we will guide you through everything you need to know about laser engraving wood. You will learn how to select the best wood for engraving, how to choose the right laser engraver for your needs, and some useful tips and tricks to achieve perfect and professional-looking engravings on wood.

By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of how laser engraving wood works and how to use it for your own projects.

Highlights

  • Laser Engraving is an efficient way for wood engraving.
  • Diode laser engravers are entry-level machines for wood engraving, while CO2 laser engravers are the more advanced choice.  xTool D1 Pro is a diode laser engraver ideal for laser engraving wood.
  • Take resin content, shade and streaking fo the wood into consideration when choosing wood for laser engraving.
  • Power and speed setting,  laser bed and air assist are essential to avoid burn marks on wood. 

How Laser Engraving Wood Work

Laser engraving wood is a technique that uses a focused laser beam to burn or vaporize the surface of wood, creating permanent marks or designs. The laser beam acts like a chisel, removing layers of material with high precision and speed.

How to Engrave Wood Using a Laser?

The laser engraving process involves three main steps: design, setup, and engraving.

Design: The design is created on a computer software such as CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator. The design can be text, graphics, logos, images, or any other pattern that can be converted into vector format. The vector format allows the laser beam to follow the path of the design accurately.

Setup: The setup involves placing the wood piece under the laser module of the laser machine and adjusting the focus distance and power and speed of the laser beam according to the type and thickness of the wood. The focus distance is the distance between the laser lens and the surface of the wood. The power is the intensity of the laser beam, and the speed is the speed at which the machine moves the laser beam. These factors affect the quality of the wood engraving.

Engraving: The engraving starts when the laser beam hits the surface of the wood and rapidly heats it up, causing it to melt or vaporize. The melted or vaporized debris are then blown away by an air assit that accompanies the laser beam. The laser beam moves along the contour of the design, melting or vaporizing the material as it goes.

By using a laser for engraving wood, you can produce fine and detailed designs that are not possible with other methods such as carving or stamping, which can be used for various purposes such as making signs, personalization, decorations, gifts, art pieces, and more.

Wood Laser Engraving Ideas for Beginners

Here are a few engraving ideas that beginners can try on their laser engraving machines. 

1. Laser Engraved Wood Cutting Board

A cutting board is one of the easiest wood engraving ideas for beginners. You only need to take a piece of wood or a pre-made cutting board. Then select a suitable design for engraving. It can also be used for decoration purposes.

laser engraved wood cutting board

2. Laser Engraved Wood Wall Art

laser engraved wood wall art

3. Laser Engraved Wooden Coasters

Lasr engraved wooden coasters can be customized by engraving names, images, or slogans. They are great for special events, such as Halloween or Christmas. The coaster can also be used for decoration. The pre-made wooden coasters are available in online stores, so you only need to select the design.

laser engraved wooden coasters

4. Laser Engraved Wooden Rolling Pin

Wood rolling pins can be engraved to make different patterns on the dough. According to the event, you can engrave the designs on the pin. You need to use the rotary attachment for the purpose.

laser engraved wooden rolling pin

5.  Laser Cutting & Engraved Wooden Jewelry Box 

An amazing jewelry box can be made using plywood. A couple of millimeters of thick plywood can be engraved and cut as required. Then, these pieces can be joined together to create an amazing jewelry box.

laser engraved jewelry box

6. Laser Cutting & Engraved Wood Jigsaw Puzzle  

For kids, you can make a jigsaw puzzle. First, you need to engrave any design on the plywood. Then, you can cut the pieces of wood like a jigsaw puzzle.

laser engraved wooden puzzle

How to Choose a Laser Engraving Machine for Wood

One of the most important decisions you need to make when you want to laser engrave wood is what type of laser engraver to use. There are different types of laser engravers available on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The main types of laser engravers are:

CO2 laser engravers: These are more powerful and versatile machines that use a gas mixture to produce a laser beam. They can cut and engrave thicker wood materials with faster speed and higher accuracy. They can also cut or engrave other materials such as acrylic, leather, fabric, paper, etc. However, they are more expensive and require more maintenance than diode lasers.

If you want to cut or engrave thin wood materials with fine details, a diode laser might be enough for you. If you want to cut or engrave thicker wood materials with faster speed, a CO2 laser might be better for you. You should also compare different models of laser engravers based on their specifications such as power, size, speed, software compatibility, warranty, customer service etc. 

Best Laser Engraver for Wood Engraving

laser spot of xtool d1 pro

It features compressed laser technology along with a high focus lens, which combines more than one diode laser at one spot using several reflectors. Then, the beams are passed through a convex lens to compress the beams at a very tiny spot. This tiny spot is 0.08 x 0.06mm ~ 0.1*0.15mm, depending the laser module's watt (5W, 10W, 20W, and 40W).

Because of the fine laser spot, xTool D1 Pro is capable of engraving wood and other material with high precision and accuracy. Even fine details in the engraving are clearly visible. 

laser engraving a cat pattern on wood

Heat dissipation is crucial for both the quality of wood engraving and the performance of the machine. If the heat is not dissipated properly, it can leave burn marks on the wood or damage the machine. xTool D1 Pro 40W has an internal laser fan that contains an internal laser fan, which makes sure the heat generated during the engraving can be dissipated quickly, ensuring an optimal temperature for the best engraving performance.  

laser engraving cylinders

There is a wide range of compatible wood types that can be engraved using the xTool D1 Pro. It includes basswood plywood, walnut plywood, Fraxinus mandshurica plywood, cherry plywood, and various other solid wood types. With that being said, the user has a wide range of wood types to choose from and create different objects and products.

Considering all the features, xTool D1 Pro is the best laser engraver for wood engraving. It can engrave almost all commonly used solid and engineered wood types. The result of the engraving is ultra-fine with high accuracy. It considers the fine details and offers optimal precision. Therefore, it is an ideal machine for wood engraving. 

xTool D1 Pro Settings for Wood Laser Engraving

By looking at the table there, users can adjust the power, speed, and number of passes according to the wood type and thickness. There are separate settings for different laser modules.

xTool D1 Pro Diode Laser Engraver

xTool D1 Pro diode laser engraver

Price:

Learn More

How to Choose the Best Wood for Laser Engraving?

While selecting wood for laser engraving, there are three things that the user should keep in mind.

1. Resin Content

Resin is a natural viscous liquid present in the trees, especially in the resinous trees known for producing resins. If the resin content of the wood is high, the final engraving will be darker. It is due to the burning of the resin when laser beams fall on the surface. Contrarily, woods that contain low resin content have a light engraving pattern.

Resinous trees are soft as they contain the resin liquid, and on the other hand, non-resinous trees have very hard wood. For instance, cherry wood is soft because it contains resin.

If you are an experienced craftsman and have been seeing different types of wood for years, you might have an idea of the color of the wood. If the color of the wood is lighter than usual, it is low in resin content.

2. Shade of the Wood

The next important factor in choosing wood type is the shade. This factor is self-explanatory, and the shade of the wood can easily be seen.

Engraving is actually the burning of wood, so the result is a pattern that is darker than the original color of the wood. But if the shade of the wood is already dark, the engraving won't be much visible. Thus, it is better to choose wood types that have a lighter shade.

3. Streaking

Streaks refer to the lines that are naturally present in the wood. These do not create any hindrance in engraving, but they affect the final result. The streaks are visible after engraving, and they ruin the beauty of engraving. The streaks should be as minimal as possible to make the engraving more visible to the viewer.

Some of the common natural and engineered wood types preferred for laser engraving are:

  • Alder
  • Cherry wood
  • Maple
  • Basswood
  • MDF
  • HDF
  • Balsa

How to Avoid Burn Marks When Laser Engraving Wood?

When laser beams strike wood, the surface starts to burn, and the particles start to burn and vaporize quickly. Due to burning, there can be burn marks after laser engraving that give a bad look or unfinished appearance to the engraved object. It is a must to avoid burn marks to ensure the attractiveness of engraving.

1. Adjust Power and Speed

The first that you can do is adjust the power and speed settings of the laser engraving machine when laser engraving wood. If the laser machine is giving off excessive power, it will definitely leave burn marks. High power starts burning the wood and particles from the edges. Thus, you need to reduce the power as low as possible.

Speed also plays an important role in avoiding burn marks. If the speed is low, the laser beams will spend more time on the object and cause burn marks. So, the speed should be high enough to reduce burn marks.

Power is directly proportional to burn marks, while the speed is inversely proportional. Both should be set to get the best results.

2. Use the Right Laser Bed

When laser beams strike the object, excessive heat is produced. It is essential to dissipate the heat; otherwise, it will increase the temperature of the wood. If the heat dissipation is not optimal, there will be burn marks for sure.

It is recommended to use a honeycomb panel for engraving. It not only saves the surface underneath it but also prevents burn marks by offering excellent heat dissipation.

3. Use an Air assist

Due to engraving, smoke is produced from the surface of the wood. This smoke accumulates around the object and increases its temperature. Therefore, it is another reason for burn marks because of its high temperature. In addition, the smoke also turns the wood yellow.

The smoke can be blown away with the help of an air assist. For a laser engraver, an air assist is an essential part. It provides a steady and high-pressure airflow to blow the hot smoke. 

4. Use Laser Engraving Masking Tape

Laser engraving masking tape is an excellent idea to avoid burn marks for wood engraving. When you apply the tape, the first thing that comes in contact with the laser beams is the tape. It prevents the smoke or fumes produced during engraving, so the burn marks are prevented. After laser engraving, the tape can easily be peeled off from the surface.

5.  Apply Water to Wood

The reason behind burn marks is the excessive temperature. When you make the wood piece wet, the water helps in reducing the temperature. It is one of the easiest ways to prevent wood burns, but after doing it, you need to let the wood dry. Keep in mind that water can also affect the wood's shape and appearance.

How to Deal with the Smoke and Smell Produced When Laser Engraving on Wood

First of all, laser engraving should be done in a well-ventilated space. It helps in removing the smoke and smell produced during engraving. If there are windows, you can open them and use ventilation fans for air circulation.

The smell and smoke accumulate around the object. Therefore, it is necessary to use an air assist. The air assist blows high-pressure air on the object. It disperses the heat and smoke in the area. Due to the powerful air pressure, the user does not feel the smoke and smell if the area is also well-ventilated.

an air assist blowing away the debris when laser engraving wood

Also a smoke purifier is suggested to be applied during the wood laser engraving process.

Conclusion

Laser engraving is an excellent idea to for wood engraving. But before you start wood laser engraving, it is a must to understand it from every aspect. It will help you in selecting the right wood and engraving machine in the correct way. We have discussed almost every aspect of wood laser engraving in detail.

Beginners now have an idea of wood laser engraving, how they can do it, and various other valuable pieces of information. Beginners can use xTool D1 Pro to engrave wood with extra precision and without any hassle. The machine is ideal for beginners to start wood laser engraving and turn it into a profitable business.

For more questions. Please join our Facebook group to get inspired!

Related Articles