A wood laser engraving machine is an essential item on the wish list of most woodworkers or DIYers. Learning to use a diode laser engraving machine and a desktop laser cutter is necessary for beginners.
The wood laser engraving machine is a great tool to help you cut/engrave designs for various crafts.
With today's technology, many brands of basic cutting machines are often on sale. If you are on a budget, you can also find a laser cutting machine that is right for you.
This article will teach you about wood laser engraving, including choosing wood, cutting machines, and engraving techniques.
How wood laser engraving works
In layperson's terms, laser wood engraving uses a laser to instantly sublimate the wood in the engraving area to achieve the engraving effect. You may wonder if the high heat will cause the wood to catch fire.
The answer is: yes. If too much laser power is selected to cut wood, it can cause wood to catch fire or smoke during the cutting process. A video of normal wood cutting is shown below.
You can use a laser to cut beautiful patterns in the wood.
How do I use laser engraving on wood?
Laser wood engraving is a very popular technique, and we can usually summarise the process of laser wood engraving in five steps.
Selecting the right wood: wood laser engraving is a general term and can be divided into plywood laser engraving, softwood laser engraving, etc. Choosing a suitable wood is important; a beginner can start with basswood to practice cutting.
Basswood is a type of softwood, and it is one of the easier types of wood to cut for beginners. If you start with plywood, you may produce a lot of smoke during the cutting or engraving process, and the result may need to be more satisfactory.
- Creating designs: You can choose from various design software such as AutoCAD, Solidworks, Inkscape, CorelDRAW, PowerPoint, Illustrator, and many more. You can use these to create your laser wood engraving design or the software with the machine to create a creative design.
- Setting up the laser cutter: This requires you to set the power, speed, air assist, and focus of the cutter according to the type of wood you are cutting and the engraving depth. The higher the power of the laser, the thicker the thickness of the cut.
- Prepare the surface of the wood: Keep the surface of the engraved wood as clean as possible, then place the wood on the work table, after which you click to start engraving. If you feel the wood is too monochromatic, you can also personalise it with designs such as painting and sanding.
You will need practice and patience to create more detailed and stunning designs in wood laser engraving.
Wood laser engraving projects for beginners
The following wood engraving ideas are easy to use and suitable for beginners to start their cutting projects.
Laser engraving a chopping board
Engraving your favorite designs on wood is an easy and creative wood engraving project. Engraving a chopping board is one of the first engraving ideas that come to mind. When we receive our wood laser engraving machine, we can't wait to engrave or cut some boards to test the machine's performance, and this is where chopping boards, wooden plates, etc. come into the picture.
Wood engraving animals is a great cutting project for home education. You can design several wood engraving animals using the laser cutter. This is mainly done by cutting multiple veneers and then gluing them together. If you find this idea difficult, you can find the design files in Gweike's offline project. Afterward, you import the file into a computer, and the cutter will automatically start cutting out all the panels.
You can make storage boxes with wood engraving or create lots of art on them with creative ideas. Just like this SpongeBob SquarePants storage box, just a few pieces of plywood are needed to create an amazing design.
Wooden Carving Puzzles
Making some of your educational puzzles benefits children's education and facilitates their learning. It allows them to learn 26 letters in a fun way. Many kindergarten teachers choose this way of teaching.
How to choose a wood laser engraving machine
When you want to start your own wood engraving business, the first step you need to take is to buy a wood laser engraving machine. Many types of lasers are available, and their pros and cons vary. The following are the three most common and most used types of lasers.
CO2 laser cutter:
This is one of the main machine types we will discuss today. A CO2 laser cutter is the first choice for cutting wood, acrylic, and non-metallic materials. It uses a mixture of gases that interact with each other to produce a laser beam. The resulting laser wavelength is particularly suitable for cutting non-metals.
The disadvantage is that the laser tube that stores the gas mixture has a lifetime of around 10,000 h, which means you need to replace the laser tube after a certain period.
Diodes laser engraving machine:
This is a more economical alternative to the CO2 laser cutter. They have a small focal point size, which makes them ideal for high-precision engraving. Diode laser cutters are also available in blue or red, which determines the type of material they are suitable for engraving. Generally, we have blue light for metals and red light for non-metals.
The disadvantage of diodes is that the lower laser power is unsuitable for cutting wood. Usually, with a 10w diode laser cutter, we only use it for cutting wood up to 5mm. More often, we use the diode for wood engraving.
Fiber laser cutter:
This is the opposite of the CO2 laser cutter. It is a special cutter for metal.
If you need to cut wood from 5mm upwards regularly, the CO2 laser cutter is your best choice; on the other hand, if you frequently engrave thin wood panels, the diode laser cutter is your best choice at a lower cost.
The best laser engraving machine for wood carving
The Gweike G1 is a 10w diode laser cutter that can easily perform a variety of high-precision engravings. It also supports one-off cutting of 5mm basswood.
The machine is equipped with air assistance to help make wood engraving even better. 0.08*0.06mm ultra-fine spot makes it easy to apply highly concentrated laser light to the surface of the wood, leaving a clear engraving pattern.
You can also purchase a pad foot to increase the wood engraving depth, which means you can engrave higher materials.
For wood laser engraving beginners, I recommend the Gweike G1. It is versatile but inexpensive and ideal as a starter machine for wood engraving. With the Gweike G1, you can carve various solid kinds of wood, such as basswood, walnut, etc. You can also purchase a rotating attachment to engrave cylinders, which you can use to create more projects.
Gweike G1 setup for wood laser engraving
The machine has a focus pad, so once you have placed the board, you place the pad on top of the board and move the laser head over the pad to focus. The whole operation is very simple.
Gweike Cloud Pro II
The Gweike Pro II is an excellent choice for regularly cutting thick wood. 50W of powerful laser combined with an engraving speed of 600mm/s gives you more efficient cutting.
A water cooler is built to ensure that the laser tube does not get too hot during wood engraving, greatly extending the life of the laser tube.
A complimentary fan ensures that debris and fumes generated during wood engraving can be exhausted outside on time.
The air assist is built to ensure that the wood engraving is effective and reduces noise. The Gweike Pro II is only about 65dp in working order.
The laser wood engraving machine has a rotary axis, so you can easily engrave various cylinders such as rolling pins, baseball bats, etc.
The right type of wood for laser engraving
Choosing the right type of wood can make a big difference to your engraving product. I will now summarise what to look for when selecting the wood.
1. Glue content
For many plywoods, there is a certain level of glue in the wood. The higher the glue content, generate more fumes during the cutting/engraving process. The more glue content will generate more smoke during the cutting/engraving process. Therefore, beginners can avoid plywood or MDF boards with high glue content.
2. Resin content
Resin is a natural sticky liquid with a high resin content, such as mahogany, rubber wood, and other wood. The higher the resin content of the wood, the darker the carving color; conversely, the lower the resin content, the lighter the carving color.
The resin content also affects the hardness of the wood. Wood with a high resin content is generally softer. Many experienced woodworkers are skilled at differentiating between different woods and choosing the right parameters for their carving. If you are a beginner, you can always do a cutting test before each wood engraving session.
3. Wood color
For laser wood engraving, choosing a lighter wood color is recommended to obtain a more pronounced contrast in the pattern.
The grain of the wood has a natural beauty to it. The grain varies from wood to wood and does not usually affect the engraving. However, it can affect the final presentation. It is a great pity when a good product has unsuitable grain. This is why choosing a suitable piece of wood before wood engraving is important.
How to avoid burn marks when engraving wood with laser
Burn marks in laser wood engraving can be very disappointing compared to unsightly textures in the engraved product. Wood laser engraving can cause burn marks on the wood panel by choosing the wrong engraving power or not turning on the air assist.
In order to achieve a perfect engraving result, we have listed a few tips to help you engrave wood with burn marks.
1. Adjusting speed and power
This is one of the most direct causes of burn marks when laser engraving wood. If burn marks appear on the material's surface when cutting/engraving wood, you can reduce the cutting power or increase the cutting speed. The lower the cutting power and the faster the speed, the less chance of burn marks appearing.
2. Using honeycomb panels
The special structure of honeycomb panels helps to dissipate heat during the cutting process and is very effective in solving the problem of burn marks on the back of the sheet during the cutting process.
Some cutting machines have a honeycomb plate, so you don't have to buy one. If the machine is not purchased with a honeycomb plate, you can purchase it separately. If the machine does not have a honeycomb plate and you are on a budget, you can place a metal plate with air holes underneath the material when engraving.
3. Use masking tape
Applying a layer of masking tape to the surface of the wood before cutting can also be an effective solution to the problem of burn marks. You can also easily remove the tape when the carving is complete.
Another reason for wood burn marks is that the chips from the cutting process do not get away from the wood in time, causing them to adhere to the cut surface and cause the wood to turn yellow. As the chips adhere, the surface temperature of the wood rises, and burn marks appear.
Turning on air assists during the carving process and helps reduce the carving area's temperature in time. It blows away any debris and fumes generated during the cutting process.
5. Dampening the wood
The root cause of burn marks is high temperatures. Properly wetting the surface of the wood during wood laser engraving is the most direct way to prevent burn marks from appearing.
How to deal with fumes from wood laser engraving
Whether you are cutting wood or other materials, such as acrylic, will generate fumes during the cutting/engraving process. Although the amount of fumes is directly related to the material itself, certain measures can take to exhaust the fumes directly to the outside or to absorb them.
- Wood laser engraving can be carried out in a well-ventilated environment where the air circulation helps to dissipate the fumes generated during the cutting process.
- Use fans and air assist. The air assist will dissipate the fumes generated during the cutting process, and then the fan and fan duct will work together to discharge the fumes generated during the cutting process to the outside in time.
- Purchase a filter. Suppose you have high fume requirements, do not want to vent the fumes outside yourself, or need more window ventilation in the room where you place the cutting machine. In that case, you can buy a laser filter cabinet to solve these problems.
Wood laser engraving is the first step for many beginners to start laser engraving. We have covered many issues with laser engraving wood, and I am sure you have had a first look at laser engraving. Understanding all aspects of wood engraving will help you choose the best machine.
For beginners, start your engraving business with the Gweike G1 as your starter machine. Not only is the G1 inexpensive, and it has all the features you need for your wood engraving business.