Sep 22, 2020 12:55:00 PM Brian Boe

Have you ever seen an image lasered onto a piece of wood in breathtaking detail? How about one that didn’t turn out as expected? Wood laser engraving can create beautiful results, but those results are not guaranteed. 

C02 lasers love wood, but getting those beautiful results requires a bit of know-how. Consider the following tips to ensure you get the most out of your wood laser cutter. 

Choose your wood wisely

Laser engraved wood  - cutting board with names engraved in cornerSome woods respond to laser cutting and engraving better than others. Choosing the best wood will be based upon your end product goal. Both hardwoods and softwoods have the ability to engrave really well, however, choosing a non-porous wood would be best for a 3D engraving and usually has a better cut quality.  Some examples of ideal wood types for laser engraving are maple, cherry, birch and select white pines. 

If you are looking for a surface etching, choosing a non-porous wood isn't as big as a factor. Getting your desired look will be about how the etching looks to the contrasting raw material and your speed and power combinations on your laser system. 

Another thing to look out for in wood is the knots. Knotted areas are harder than knot-free areas. As a result, wood laser engraving will be inconsistent across knotted wood. 

Many of the considerations around wood focus on its natural attributes like hardness, grain structure and knots. But plywood is a human-made wood, and as a result, it responds differently to laser etching and engraving. 

Treat plywood differently

While plywoods and veneers hold definition well, making them great candidates for surface engravings, they are not a great choice for 3D engraving. Plywoods and other plys made up of many layers are full of glue and air pockets, which get in the way of 3D laser engraving. 

When a laser has air in front of it, that air causes the beam to expand, causing you to lose focus or detail. With a hardwood or solid piece of wood, the beam has a tunneling effect, which allows the beam to stay in focus and results in crisp, clean engravings. 

It's worth noting that cutting can be a challenge on plywood also. The glues and chemicals that go into the plywood can cause flames and burning. These problems don't occur with solid pieces of wood, allowing them to cut a lot nicer. If you are planning to cut plywoods, do it at a faster speed to decrease burning and reduce the chance of charring. 

Ensure properly planed wood

In order to get great results with wood laser engraving, it’s vital to have a flat, consistent surface. Woods must be planed down properly, otherwise they will not engrave nicely. 

Choose a high-quality image

If you start with a poor-quality image, you’re not going to get a good engraving. Anything blurry or pixelated won’t leave you with a sharp, detailed laser engraving. In addition to image quality, it’s best to select images with a lot of contrast. If an image is dark, the fine details will likely get lost. Contrast is going to help the laser create more detail. Using photo editing software to manipulate the contrast helps.  

Getting the most out of a C02 laser when cutting, etching and engraving wood isn’t difficult, but like anything, it does require some effort. We provide in-house training for all laser system purchases. During training, customers are given valuable information and education about how to deliver precision with every application.

See and feel the precision of Kern lasers.Request a sample kit.