How To Engrave Wood

It has become commonplace for people to design their own gifts. Wooden designs have been favorable for many years as they can be both complex and shallow.

Wooden engraving is used in a variety of decor and can produce customized pieces that are invaluable.

How To Engrave Wood

How Do You Engrave Writing Onto Wood?

The vast majority of people will want to carve letters into wood as this creates a succinctly distinctive look to each piece. The following processes are used to engrave writing on wood:

1) Dremel: These whirring tools dictate the grooves in any piece of wood 

2) Chip carving: Using a chisel allows you to influence the shape and depth of each letter. Gashes in the wood can be smoothed over, and the gouges used to formulate hand-carved excellence.

3) Lasers: Lasers are a neat way to engrave wood. They are typically used to make plaques or family crests or to mark certain accomplishments, 

4) Wood-burning. A wood burner is easy to use for novice engravers. A wood-burner pen allows you to design specific patterns whilst making the job as easy as possible. All you need to do is apply enough pressure to gouge the wood effectively. 

You can also employ a professional engraving company to craft a unique design if you want to mark specific details.

You can cultivate stunning pieces of work by hiring a professional who is guaranteed to make the process as smooth as possible.

However, if you wish to engrave wood yourself it is best to have a concrete awareness of which wood works best for etching. 

The Best Wood For Etching 

Hardwoods are incredibly difficult to engrave and thus, it is better to use softwood.

The amount of resin contained within the wood will determine its appearance and you’ll need to remember to use wood with a higher resin content if you are seeking darker results. The best woods to use are:

  • Oak
  • Alder
  • Basswood
  • Ash
  • Mahogany
  • Walnut 
  • Cherry

Wood that contains a lower resin content usually work better for abstract engravings and these woods include: 

  • Fir
  • Juniper
  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Spruce
  • Yew

Best Method To Use When Engraving Letters

A hand tool will provide the letters that you engrave with a succinct look. The more that you work on your wood and follow a precise design template, the better your results will be.

You should trace your letters onto the book using some carving templates to ensure that your work remains clean.

Approaching the wood from a specific 20-30 degree angle will also ensure that you are attacking it appropriately. Implementing the following tips will also ensure that you are engraving your wood effectively:

  1. Use a rotary tool like a chisel to make succinct engravings on the wood. Failing this, using a laser engraving machine will ensure that you are engraving accurately and neatly.
  2. Have a design in mind prior to making a customized design or decoration on the wood itself as it’s hard to rectify mistakes when engraving.
  3. Hold a right-angled chisel on your wood to cut away larger pieces. These are available to purchase at the vast majority of hardware stores. You should bear in mind that chisels will come in a wide range of sizes, and you should choose the appropriate width for your design.
  4. If you are carving block letters, you should ensure that you point your chisel inside the outline of the engraving.
  5. Tilt your chisel forward in order to carve neatly. You should start engraving using shallow cuts and carefully follow your template. Continue to tilt your chisel downwards to remove the wood as you work within your outline. 
  6. When attempting to break off smaller bits of wood, you should use the edge. If you are using a flat chisel, it naturally has a smooth and sharpened edge that can be used to emphasize your specific cuts. Tilt it to the required angle and push it in until you have reached the required depth. You should work into areas that have already been cut. 
  7. Make sure that you are wiping away any shavings during the process as these may scupper your vision. 
  8. Remember straightened edges are the easiest to achieve when using specifically flat chisels.
  9. Use a mallet on the end of the chisel if the wood is too hard to be chiseled by hand. Gently stake the mallet in order to avoid gouging any wood that you do not want to. If you are hesitant to use something as strong as a mallet, then attempt to use your alternative hand. Hardwoods like white oak will typically always require a mallet to be carved. 
  10. Remain working on your letter until it is finished and try to stay within your outlines in order to achieve a clean cut finish! You should bear in mind that cutting into more than 34% of the wood’s thickness can cause the vast majority of wood to weaken.
  11. Sand the edges of your design to remove any unwanted wood. After you have finished carving your design, you should smooth over any cuts with a 100 grit sandpaper. Once you have sanded the wood, wipe the sawdust away in order to reveal which areas still need work. Continue to work on your wood until the edges are smoothed over. You should bear in mind that overspending can reduce shallowly-engraved letters resulting in a loss of detail. 


To conclude, engraving wood is an easy and stress-free process. All you need to do is purchase a flat edge chisel and use wood that is specifically suited to your required design.

You should approach your wood from a 20-30 degree angle and chisel away accordingly, following a template or outline of your design.

If you choose to use hardwood, then bear in mind that you may require a mallet to chip away at your wood, and you should try to avoid applying an abundance of pressure to the mallet during the process.

Engraving wooden designs is the perfect gift especially when adding personal touches to furniture or other household items. 

Wooden engravings are also great for memorabilia and there is nothing quite like a hand-made gift during all seasons of the year.

Make sure that you have stocked up on sandpaper before attempting to implement your design as you will need to stand down the edges of your engravings in order to assess which areas require more work.

Shallow letters can fade easily, and you should try to make sure that you have engraved your design with enough depth to last for a long period of time, therefore, exercise caution when overspending letters or aspects of the design that are specifically shallow. 

Conversely, you should try to avoid engraving into more than 34% of the wood as this can cause weakness within the wood itself.

Striking the right balance when engraving wood is essential and the more you practice, the neater and more distinctive your designs will become. 

Michael Moore

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