Choosing the Best Wood for Laser Cutting or Engraving Project

Wood is an extremely cheap and natural material that you can get your hands on. In addition to this, wood is the perfect material when it comes to engraving or cutting.

One of the most popular laser applications is known as tailored cabinetry.

Choosing the Best Wood for Laser Cutting or Engraving Project

It is known that the tool is able to create stunning inlays, where you can personalize your projects and let your imagination run. 

However, before you can really get into engraving, you need to make sure that you have chosen the best type of wood.

In this article, we will be discussing what is the best wood you should be choosing from for any laser cutting or engraving project.

Factors You Need To Consider When Choosing Your Wood

When you are working with a material like wood, there can be some natural inconsistencies, which can affect your quality and result.

Therefore, when working with this natural material, you want to find a uniform type of wood that has the right kind of resin content and very little streaking. 

Below we have gone into both factors, so that you can understand them a little better. 

Streaking

Streaking is very obvious to see on a piece of wood. It will look like a dark stain smudged into the light colored wood.

For a lot of carpenters, they will bleach the streaks out, or they will cut around them. This is because the streaks don’t fit in with their design.

However, some carpets like the streaks as they feel it gives the wood itself a lot more character and will include it into their design. 

However, when you are working with lasers, you want as little streaking as possible. This will benefit it and allow you to produce much better details and results. 

Resin Content

The sap levels, also known as the wood resin, makes a huge difference into how the wood burns.

Therefore, a wood that is known to have a high resin content, this means the wood will burn much darker.

This is due to the laser burning the sap that is still in the wood. Therefore, when a wood has a low resin content, then the laser doesn’t burn as dark.

It is important to note that the seasons where the tree was cut will affect the resin levels in the wood. In the colder month, the sap will stay near the trunk of the tree.

Hence, if the wood is cut  from the lower part of the tree during the fall, then the wood could burn darker.

Compared to wood cut from the upper parts of the tree, that will have much less sap and will burn lighter. 

It’s a good idea to test your wood before you begin working and using it. 

Softwood And Hardwood: What’s The Difference?

Typically, hardwood trees are usually flowering trees with broad leaves like maple or oaks.

When it comes to using hardwood, it is usually a heavier and dark wood that is incredibly durable. Usually, hardwood is used to make high quality furniture. 

Compared with softwood, which are normally evergreen trees like spruce or pine. When it comes to using these woods, they are often much less expensive and light.

Therefore, they need to be treated so that they become weather resistant, which helps prolong them and much more durable.

Softwood is seen to have a smaller impact on the environment and will be used as construction materials. 

Best Wood For Cutting And Laser Engraving

Best Wood For Cutting And Laser Engraving

Just like with anything, sometimes some softwoods are easier to work with than others. While some hardwoods may be easier to work with than some softwoods.

As a result, when it comes to choosing the best wood for you to use when it comes to cutting and laser engraving, there are a couple of known species of wood that are better to work with than others. 

Cherry (Prunus serotina) 

Cherry wood is actually one of the most common wood species that are used for furniture and cabinets.

When you first cut this wood, it will have a bright pink color, but as time goes by, the wood will turn a much deeper red to brown color. Overall, this is a very easy species of wood to cut and work with. 

Alder (Alnus rubra) 

Alder wood has a similar appearance to cherry wood. Yet over time, this species of softwood will become much darker.

Alder is seen as the perfect and most popular choice of wood to use for laser engraving. This is because it produces a dark burn. 

Hard Maple (Acer saccharum) 

Hard maple can either have a yellow, off-white or tan like coloring. This species of wood is much more difficult to work with when compared to Cherry or Alder, as it is a much denser type of wood.

However, it is still a great option as it offers you a beautiful finish when it comes to laser engraving. 

Basswood (Tilia americana) 

Basswood makes laser engraving quick and easy. This is due to the fact that it is a lightweight and soft wood; which makes it really easy to work with. 

Balsa (Ochroma pyramidale) 

Balsa is a very soft type of wood, which has a coarse texture. It doesn’t have a very shiny finish, but it can stain well. A real issue with this species of wood is that it is very susceptible to dents and scratches. 

Could You Use Lasers On Plywood?

Plywood is made of very thin layers of wood veneer that are pressed and glued together.

When you try to laser plywood, the results can vary depending on the quality of the plywood. The two best types of plywood to use for laser cutting are bamboo and birch plywood. 

Just like cherry and maple wood, birch is a very dense type of hardwood that is very available. Birch is the ideal option for anyone who is inexperienced with laser cutting, as it cuts really smoothly.

Then you may move onto bamboo plywood, as it’s a dense kind of wood that can look really delicate once it has been engraved. 

Laser Parameters You Should Adjust

When working with wood, you should use CO2 lasers, as you can vary and adjust the power settings. In addition to that, these lasers are capable of a few things that can help cut the wood ready and give a good finish. 

When you use a laser on wood, you will get an edge burn. This is because the heat from the laser burns the wood. Therefore, wood pieces with lower resin levels will reduce the effect of the burning. 

Cutting And Engraving Parameters

When choosing your wood, you don’t want a piece of wood that is thicker than ½ an inch.

When using a ½  inch thick piece of wood, you will need to use a 90 watt CO2 laser, and then with a ¼ inch piece, you only need to use half the power.

While you are engraving the wood, you will need to increase the size of the spot to create a darker result. Then the burn spot will increase, but this can weaken the detailing you may attempt to create.

While you are laser cutting, you should start off with a slower cutting speed of around 5%. Then you can gradually increase the speed until you get the outcome and quality that you are aiming for.

Create The Perfect Optics

When you want to create the best detailing, you need to have the right parameters and a shorter focal length. However, this can be difficult.

A shorter focal length will result in a detailed finish, but the thickness of the wood will need a longer focal length. Hence, begin with a 1.5 or 2 inch lens. 

Preparing Your Wood

Before you do anything, make sure you have taken all the safety precautions, and you have your mask and goggles.

This is because when working with wood, various particles including dust are thrown around.

The type of debris that is produced from the wood can cause malfunctions in your machines. Therefore, to prevent this, attach application tape to your wood. 

This tape will minimize the amount of dust produced and actually reduces the amount of burn on the wood as well.

Once you have finished, you can easily take the tape out, and it’s great to use test pieces first to make sure you have got all your parameters correct.

Alongside this, after you have finished engraving or cutting, make sure you clean everything, to get rid of any dust that the tape didn’t hold onto. 

Conclusion 

Wood is the ideal material to use for laser cutting and engraving. However, certain species of wood are better to use than others. In this article, we have given you  the best wood types that you should be using. 

Now you can engrave and laser cut with the woods that will give you the best outcome and finish possible.

Michael Moore

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