What Is The Best Wood For Laser Engraving? Top 3 Choices
Laser engraving is a great way to personalize gifts and crafts, but you have to select a material on which to engrave. Wood is often the number one choice for laser engraving because It is attractive, affordable, and readily available.
Even so, you can’t select just any wood for laser engraving projects. On the contrary, there are certain woods you should not use for this project due to streaking, resin content, and wood type. Most laser engravers agree that alder wood with a high resin count is the best, but there are other options to consider based on factors relating to your project.
Keep reading to learn what wood is best for laser engraving and which factors to consider for your project.
The 3 Best Woods for Laser Engraving
Technically, you can use most wood types for laser engraving, but not all wood is best suited for the job. Here are the three best kinds of wood to consider for laser engraving projects.
Alder is the favorite wood type for laser engraving products. It is technically a softwood, and it darkens over time. It often has a higher resin content, which produces a dark burn that laser engravers love. If you are unfamiliar with this wood, it looks a lot like cherry.
Speaking of cherry, cherry wood is another highly popular material for laser engraving. It looks pink whenever it is first cut, but it darkens to a rich reddish-brown color. It is easy to work with and cut, but it is expensive.
Hard Maple is a favorite for outdoor laser engraving products. It is incredibly dense, but it finishes beautifully and is highly durable.
What About Plywood?
Plywood can be a difficult wood material for laser engraving products. The end result ultimately depends on the quality of the plywood. High-quality plywood includes 45-degree grain rotation, which increases axial strength. Low-quality plywood only has right angle grain, making it unsuitable for laser engraving.
If you find high-quality birch and bamboo plywood, you can consider engraving on the surface. Birch is dense and relatively easy to work with in a plywood form. Beginners may enjoy birch plywood for this reason. Bamboo plyboard is a bit more difficult to work with because of its more delicate nature, but it is a good option if you are experienced and have a steady hand.
Factors That Impact Which Wood You Should Select
Whenever you are selecting a wood type for laser engraving, there are three factors you have to consider: streaking, resin content, and hardwood versus softwood. These factors will help you select the best wood types so that the final product is uniform and attractive.
Streaking describes natural smudging on wood. The streak is the dark stain that runs on the lighter wood. Most laser engravers will avoid streaking because it takes away from the design. That being said, other laser engravers like streaking and incorporate it into their design to add character to the project.
If you are opting for a detailed engraving, you probably want to avoid woods prone to streaking. However, streaking will add to the object if it has a minimalistic design. Considering the streak carefully can help you create the best final product.
Wood naturally has wood resin or sap levels. These different levels will impact how the wood burns. If your wood has a high resin content, the burn will appear darker as it burns the sap. Wood with lower resin content has a lighter color because there is less burning. Tree type, season, and moisture levels all impact how much resin is within the wood.
In order to see what you are working with, test out your engraving laser on a small piece of wood. This will give you an idea of what the final appearance will look like.
Hardwood vs Softwood
All wood types classify as either hardwood or softwood. Hardwood is naturally darker, heavier, and denser, which makes it more naturally weather resistant. It is also more expensive. In contrast, softwood is lighter and often requires treatment so that it lasts for many years.
Depending on the intended purpose of the project, you should select hardwood and softwood carefully. Any projects that are intended for outdoor use are best made from hardwood, but indoor projects can be made from softwood instead.
Alder wood is traditionally considered the best wood material for laser engravings. It is easy to work with, but it has a high resin count which produces a dark burn. Alder wood is good for detail work and minimalistic designs alike. You can also opt for cherry, maple, or high-quality plywood instead if you prefer.
Before you decide on which wood type to use, consider streaking, resin content, and hardwood versus softwood. These factors will help you to determine which material is best for your design. Although alder is generally considered the best wood, another wood type may be better based on these factors.
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