BEST Woods For Laser Engraving (How To Choose The Ideal One)

best wood for laser engraving

Wood is one of the most popular materials used for laser engraving projects. It’s a versatile material that gives you a natural feel. However, it is important to know the type of wood you use for your laser engraving project because it has a huge impact on the result of your project.    

So, what are the best woods for laser engraving? Cherry, Maple, Cork, Plywood, and Alder are the ideal choice for laser cut projects made of wood. The factor that determines whether your wood burns lighter or darker is the resin content in the wood. Often it will depend on the type of project you are doing. Any wood that has the following characteristics will produce well-crafted and beautiful engravings: 1) the wood must be lightweight 2)the streaking must be minimal.

In this article, we discussed the things that you need to know to choose the best wood for your laser engraving projects. Let's dive right into it...  

5 Best Wood For Laser Engaving

5 Types OF wood Best For laser engraving

1. Alder

This softwood passes the entire test. Alder has the following features:

  • Light in color; this produces a pleasant dark burns
  • It has a few knots
  • Supple texture
  • Streaking is minimal

Alder can be the best wood you can use to give you a unique and attractive engraving. 


2. Cherry

Do you know cherry is one of the most popular woods for making cabinets and furniture? Also, it originates from the Eastern United States. It has the following characteristics: 

  • Low resin content
  • Reddish-brown in color 
  • Streaking is high

Cherry makes attractive engravings, despite its high-level streaking. It is a good choice for laser engraving projects.


3. Basswood 

These are one of the most commonly used kitchen cabinet hardware. They enhance Stainless Steel appliances. 


4. Baltic Birch Plywood 

This is an excellent material for laser engraving, painting, crafting, and cutting. It is dense enough through its thickness to be worked on by a laser. Baltic Birch Plywood comes in large sheets. One advantage it has over solid hardwood is that it is more stable.


5. Balsa

Balsa is a tree that is grown in South American rain-forests. Some of its pros are:

  • It cuts well
  • It is easy to work on
  • It can retain paint 
  • Easily stained and finished

Read More ON: laser cutting wood

  • The ideal high quality wood is the first step to make your laser engraving projects unique and attractive. The next and MOST IMPORTANT step is to have the best laser that cuts wood.  


Things That Make Woods Best For Laser Engraving?

things that makes wood best for laser engraving

You need to consider some factors when determining the best wood for laser engraving. Wood is a natural material and original. However, some inconsistencies come alongside with wood. These inconsistencies can easily make your laser projects look awkward. To determine the best wood for laser engraving, discussed below are five important factors to consider.


1. Higher Resin Content

Resin can be defined as a highly viscous substance exuded by trees to protect themselves against diseases.

The higher the resin content in wood, the higher its importance in laser engraving. 

Because wood burns lighter or darker, which is dependent on this factor. 

If you are in search of wood with a lighter burn, choose wood with low resin content and vice versa.


How to know the level of the resin content in your wood?

This can be known by:

  • Doing a quick burn test on your wood plaque.
  • You can also eyeball it by comparing it with the actual color of the wood species.


2. Minimal Wood Streaks

The natural lines in wood determines the orientation of the wood-cell fibers. These can be in the following forms:

  • Irregular
  • Interlocked
  • Straight
  • Diagonal
  • Twisted
  • Wavy

Irrespective of the shape of the lines, I’ll advise you to choose the wood that is consistent in its form. Streaks are cons in the wood when we are talking about laser engraving.

Reason being that streaks get the first attention than the real engraving, just like the saying goes "the first appearance matters a lot".

Choose wood with minimal streaking.


3. 0.5 - 12mm Thick Wood  

This is an important factor to consider when choosing the best wood for laser engraving.

There are materials with large thickness, this will be near impossible for your laser cutter to cut through unless you want to damage the machine. 

A typical laser cutter can only cut through wood with 0.5-12mm thick. 

Unlike a CNC router that can easily handle thick materials. Go for materials with the thickness that your laser cutter can cut.


4. Lighter Color Wood  

When searching for the best wood, go for a lighter wood. This is a very important factor because a dark wood naturally has obscured laser etching marks.

This defect makes it hard to visualize engraved text or photos. 

When you go for lighter wood, there are more chances that your engraved text or photos will get high visibility, because it burns deeper and darker when etched.


5. Pick According To The Power Of Your Laser Cutter

When choosing the materials for your project, go for a laser cutter that can cut through your materials.

The typical power rating of a laser cutter ranges from 30W and 120W.

Types Of Wood That Is Best Suited For Laser Cutting 

types of wood best suited for laser engraving

There are many types of wood and it is always difficult to choose the best type suited for laser cutting. Below is a short list of the best choices for laser cutting.

1. Softwood - The Best One

Balsa is a popular softwood and a great wood for modeling, it can be laser cut and engraved at a very fast rate with the use of a lower power level.  Softwood can be painted or stained.


2. Hardwood 

These are wood denser than other wood.  They require a higher level of power for laser cutting. and engravings. However, when compared to Balsa, they give more contrast after engraving. Typical examples are cherry and oak.


3. Veneers  

These are made by applying real wood on the surface. In other words, they are thinner than 3mm and glued to make flat panels. Veneers are known as thin slices of wood. Their engravings are in similitude with solid wood panels.

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4. MDF

Cognomen Medium-Density Fiberboard, it is a wood product that is engineered and manufactured by defibrillating wood fibers that are chopped softwood or hardwood residuals.

The wood fibers form panels that have gone through high temperature and pressure by combining fibers with a resin binder and wax. They are more dense than plywood.


5. Plywood

As the name implies, this wood is derived from plies. Plywood consists of thin veneers that are joined together with adjacent layers.

Their woods grains are rotated perpendicular to each other and are a great choice for many laser cutting and engraving projects. 

However, when choosing plywood, choose the one designed for laser use because there are many types.


How Thick Of Wood Can A Laser Cut? 

You need to consider two factors before knowing how thick of wood your laser can cut.

  • Type of material
  • Type of laser cutter

There are laser cutters that can cut wooden materials as thick as 20mm. However, most machines are designed to cut materials within the rage of 0.5-12mm thick.


Frequently Asked Questions -


1. Can a laser engraver cut wood?

Some folks are always confused about the differences between a laser engraver and laser cutter. Both are the same machine. Most lasers can engrave and cut at the same time. However, this depends largely on its primary uses. For instance, if your laser is largely used for engraving, it is termed a laser engraver. If cutting is largely done through your laser, it is referred to as a laser cutter. So, a laser engraver can cut wood.


2. Can a 40w laser cut wood?

Yes, a 40W  laser can cut wood. BUT, it depends on how thick the material is. For example, a 40W laser can only cut up to 1/4" thick of the wood.


3. Can a 5w laser cut wood?

A 5W diode laser is a powerful upgrade. It is capable of cutting and engraving wooden materials such as plywood, and MDF. They are mainly used for etching and can cut wooden materials that are up to 1/6” thick.


4. Can you laser cut MDF?

A big YES is my answer! But only MDF that is up to 1/4" thick can cut through and ensure you use a slow speed of about 2% maximum power, while the PPI will be 200.


5. Can Plywood be laser cut?

Lasers can cut through wood, but it’s always difficult to cut through glue. Plywood is a sandwich of glue and lasers experience difficulty while cutting through. Plywood can be laser cut, but any inconsistencies inside the plywood will disrupt the cutting process.



Conclusion

I believe you are closer to choosing the best wood for your laser engraving projects. Ensure you read and understand this blog post over and again to make sure that you make the best selection available. Consider your laser power, resin content, streaks, color, and other factors .