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Wood Laser Engraving: A Beginner's Guide

by Winnie Li Updated on March 17, 2023

Laser engraving is the most modern and efficient way for engraving wood. In the past, these machines were only accessible to industrial users. But now, thanks to the development of affordable and compact laser engravers, you can enjoy this technology at home.

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 laser engraving 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. 

In This Article

  • How Laser Engraving Wood Works?
  • Wood Laser Engraving Ideas for Beginners
  • How to Choose a Laser Engraving Machine for Wood
  • Best Laser Engraver for Wood Engraving
  • How to Choose the Best Wood for Laser Engraving?
  • How to Avoid Burn Marks When Laser Engraving Wood?
  • How to Deal with the Smoke and Smell Produced When Laser Engraving on Wood
  • Conclusion

How Laser Engraving Wood Works?

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

A wooden wall art is an excellent idea for decorating a house with homemade items. You can either engrave an image or design on a piece of wood or create a 3D wall hanging using multiple layers of wood pieces.

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 engraver for wood available on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The main types of laser engravers are:

Diode laser engravers: These are low-cost and portable machines that use a semiconductor material to produce a laser beam. They have a small focal point and can cut and engrave thin wood materials with high precision. However, they have low power and cannot cut or engrave thicker or harder materials such as metal.

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.

Fiber laser engravers: These are the most advanced and expensive machines that use an optical fiber to produce a laser beam. They are very powerful which expecially ideal for engraving and cutting metal. However, they are not suitable for engraving and cutting wood or other organic materials.

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

xTool D1 Pro is a diode laser engraving and cutting machine that is compatible with a wide range of materials, including different types of wood. Its powerful and highly focused laser can easily cut and engrave wood with ultimate accuracy and precision.

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

If the user wants to engrave thick wood at a fast speed, then you can choose the world's most powerful diode laser (40W) for the engraving. With the high speed of 400mm/s and high power combined, it can offer quick and perfect engraving. In addition, if you want to cut wood, that is also possible with xTool D1 Pro.

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.  

xTool D1 Pro can also engrave wood cylinders. It is compatible with RA2 Pro, world's first 4-in-1 rotary attachment that can work in 90% of daily cylindrical engraving scenarios. Users can engrave regular and irregular cylinders using the machine. They can even engrave large baseball bats using the rotary attachment. 

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

For the ease of users, xTool has published accurate settings for engraving different types of wood. In addition, the settings for raster engraving and vector engraving are also mentioned.

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:

$899.00
$1,399.99
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
  • Plywood
  • 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