Wood is one of the most commonly used materials for laser cutters and engravers for many reasons. It has relatively inexpensive options compared to other materials and looks great when used with benchtop laser cutters and industrial laser cutters. Best of all, it's easy to find at your local hardware store, where you can cut it to the size you need for laser engraving on wood.

wood properties
Origin: Wood is a natural, readily available material derived from trees.

Texture: Different texture densities and orientations can produce different results.

Growth rings and knots: When laser engraving wood, CO2 lasers react differently when trying to cut or engrave knots and other irregularities in the same piece of material. For best cutting and engraving results, try to find wood with fewer knots, growth rings, and other imperfections.

Moisture content: Laser cutting and engraving affect dry wood differently than damp (or green) wood.

Oil and resin content: Wood with high resin and oil content tends to burn more noticeably at the edges and is more likely to have tempering at the bottom of the material.

wood type:
Natural wood (not chemically treated)
birch (easy to find, readily available)
Pine (great choice for laser cutting)
Cedar (soft, straight grain, pleasant smell)
Fur (inexpensive but dull looking. Best when painted)
Mahogany (reddish, moisture resistant)
Ash (hard to find, well done)
birch (ready-made)
Cherry (Furniture Pop)
Mahogany (laser works great, hard to find)
Oak (beautiful texture, easy to work with)
Walnut (works well with lasers, expensive and rare)
Cork (naturally buoyant, resilient and fire resistant)
balsa wood (very lightweight, cheap, great for laser cutting)
Bamboo (technically not wood, but widely used for cutting boards, great for carving, but difficult to cut, works great)

Not recommended for laser engraved or cut wood.
Fibreboard: Fibreboard is made from glulam fibers that suppress laser light and produce undesirable effects as well as toxic fumes.

Exotic hardwoods: Extremely dense hardwoods are difficult to cut and produce inconsistent results when carving. Hardwood maple is included here.

Mexican Elder, Oleander: Smoke from cutting and carving produces harmful fumes.

For other materials that laser cutters should avoid, check out the Full Spectrum Laser Community Forum on Facebook. Someone may have already tried the type of wood you're asking about and has given you tips and tricks to get the best out of you with that type of wood.

Wood Laser Engraving: Applications
General Approach: Start with high-quality wood that is flat and has the fewest knots and blemishes. If you are cutting or engraving plywood, try to find an unwarped slab. Plywood may also give different results due to the density of the different layers and the glue used to hold the layers together.

Edge Burn: Edge burn is a natural phenomenon that darkens the edges as the laser vaporizes the wood. While edge burns cannot be completely avoided, dry wood with less resin and oil will have a lesser edge burn effect.

Thickness: Typically, a 40W to 45W CO2 laser like the Muse Core or 3D Autofocus can cut wood up to 1/4 inch thick, while a laser like the P-Series PS24 or Muse Titan with a 90W tube can cut up to 1/2 inches thick wood. You can use multiple passes to cut thicker paper than this, but your results may vary and you may see too much charring. It is recommended to find the best settings on your laser wood cutter to produce a clean cut in one pass.

Density: Wood has a wide range of hardness, which can affect your strength and speed settings.

wood veneer tips
Cleaning: After vector cutting, there will be soot residue on the edges. Gently wipe off excess soot with a rag. For laser engraving on wood, a rag may wipe off the desired contrast, so wash with mild room temperature water and allow to air dry.

Preservation: A good finish will preserve and protect your work. Observe safety precautions when using finishing chemicals.

Enhancement: Like any wood product, you can stain to enhance the natural beauty of the wood. You can also use paint to add color or mask imperfections in the wood, such as knots. Make sure to use your stain after laser engraving or laser cutting wood, as most stains are oily and can be flammable.

Wood Laser Engraving: Settings
Your power, speed and other laser settings will vary based on factors such as thickness and the type of wood you are cutting or carving. Even your laser power and local environment can affect the setup. For this reason, we recommend not setting things arbitrarily, but doing a material test on an unused corner of a piece of scrap wood or project material. You can download our material tests and logs on our website.

Because of its versatility and usability, you're likely to spend a lot of time working with many different types of wood with CO2 laser cutters and engravers. This article should give you an idea of ​​the do's and don'ts when laser engraving on wood. Your safety is very important, so make sure you take safety precautions at all times, never leave the laser unattended, and carry a fire extinguisher with you.

However, the best way to know what works best when laser engraving on wood is to dig in and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Always have extra material on hand, don't be afraid to experiment. Trial and error will be the best way for you to become a laser expert.

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