View Full Version : Laser for firearm receivers/wooden stocks?

Casey Wigginton
04-26-2009, 2:43 PM
I'm finally to the point where I'm able to quit my day job. I posted on here awhile back considering doing laser engraving as a side job to the job I dislike. But I instead decided to open a gun store. I'm now working the job that's no fun, then getting off work and going to job #2 that I enjoy, the gun store. I'd like to eventually build the store up to the point I can leave job #1, and am looking for added avenues of income from it. I think laser engraving on firearm receivers and stocks might be the answer. I know it's going to be a long learning curve, but I am familiar with using Corel and Photoshop (as I worked as a photographer for about 3 years), and I've always been interested in laser engraving. My initial hurdles will be figuring out exactly what I need, and then how to use it. What kind of laser should I get to be able to cut firearm receivers and engrave in wooden stocks? Price is important, and I need a good balance between reliability, price, and ease of use. I'd prefer to buy used. I'm in a remote area, and there are no engravers at all anywhere near me I could learn from or farm work out to. Thanks for the help!

Dave Johnson29
04-26-2009, 3:40 PM
What kind of laser should I get to be able to cut firearm receivers and engrave in wooden stocks?

Hi Casey,

Good luck with the new venture. The short answer to the first part of that question is, Nd-YAG and that is gonna cost big bucks to engrave metal. No CO2 laser under about 1000 Watts is going to do much good with metals.

You need to do some homework on just what a CO2 will and will not do.

Start here...

For wood you would ideally be looking at a modern laser that will do 3D and that is also into some hefty bucks. Any laser 25 Watts and above will burn wood just fine, but to do nice stock-art you would need 3D capability where it uses the gray scale to control the intensity and thus depth of burn.

As far as I am aware the low cost Chinese lasers do not yet do 3D. I have been wrong before though.:)

If you are buying used make sure you get a good warranty on the tube and make sure also you take along artwork and materials and make sure it will do what you want.

Casey Wigginton
04-26-2009, 3:58 PM
Thanks for the fast reply. Am I way off base, or does this even have to be done with a laser engraver? I just know that everyone from the big to small businesses seem to be doing firearm-related laser engraving. Smith & Wesson offers laser engraving of your initials from the factory, and places like http://sullivan-laser-engraving.com/ are engraving on metal surfaces like knife blades and wood as well with pistol grips. Here's another firearm related example: http://www.firearmstalk.com/forums/f54/few-more-laser-engraved-5248/

Mike Null
04-26-2009, 4:07 PM

I believe both of the examples were engraved with a CO2 laser which is what most of us have.

The one appears to be anodized aluminum which engraves nicely, you can also use Cermark on some metals very effectively and here is a gun stock I did this weekend with my CO2 laser.

Casey Wigginton
04-26-2009, 4:16 PM
That's great! Thanks for the example. So any basic CO2 laser can do something like that? Aside from reliability and a warranty, is there any functional difference between the entry level US made models and the ones I can go on ebay and buy for $1500 or so? Are most people here using the ebay/chinese versions?

Casey Wigginton
04-26-2009, 4:20 PM
How about these people? http://www.laserguys.com/custom.htm
What would it take to be able to do what they do?
Here are some examples:

Mike Null
04-26-2009, 4:34 PM
I would suggest doing a number of searches of the forum as all of your questions have been answered in previous posts. You may have to do a Google instead of the forum search.

Most on this forum (I do not have a formal survey) have American made lasers followed by GCC and Trotec. I believe the low priced Chinese lasers are in the minority but they are present and some are quite happy with them.

Dave Johnson29
04-26-2009, 4:47 PM
Hi Casey,

As I said the wood is no problem but getting good 3D is dependent on the software the laser uses and the Chinese lasers do not have that capability yet. So that puts you into the US-made ones and only the last few years at that, I think. The lower cost laser will do the wood, just not with the same detail as a good 3D one.

The checkering in the one one Mike shows has tapered edges to the bottom of the valleys making a "V". That is 3D. If you use a single plane laser the grooves ar e straight sides and look like channels. Still gives a similar visual effect just not as profesisonal looking IMHO.

The ARs are Type III anodized and the CO2 laser will do that but it does not mark the metal it just boils away the color die in the anodizing.

The Alaskan rifle looks to be done with Cermark, an expensive coating you spray on then laser and it turns black and sticks pretty well too most metals. Do some searches here on Cermark for more info. That rifle looks to be engraved by hand or machine with the exception of the text in the foreground. Could be wrong and it may all be Cermark.

As I said in my first reply, to actually remove metal (engrave) with a laser you will need an Nd-YAG laser. Do some price searching on that. :eek:

Mike Null
04-26-2009, 5:08 PM

My engraving is just a straight on engraving without any 3d enhancement.

3d enhancement is possible with CorelDraw software for use on any laser but it takes time to develop the art.

Casey Wigginton
04-26-2009, 5:14 PM
How did you do the V shaped checkering without 3D?

Mike Null
04-26-2009, 6:38 PM
That is an illusion. This is a rastered engraving using two passes for the crosshatch.

Dee Gallo
04-26-2009, 6:56 PM
Good illusion, Mike!

So are you talking about 1) rastering the oval shape down first (sans lettering), 2) rastering cross hatch lines and 3) rastering a slightly thinner crosshatch line down the middle of each line?

thanks, dee

Mike Null
04-26-2009, 7:05 PM

I actually did 4 passes. Two using a black fill where the cross hatch is to give me the depth around the letters then I changed the fill to cross hatch, deleted the oval outlines and ran the cross hatch twice.

The letters were a white fill so they wouldn't engrave.

Actually what you are suggesting is a valid way to create a 3d cross hatch. If you make the line width progressively larger you will get the 3d result.

Dave Johnson29
04-26-2009, 8:16 PM
My engraving is just a straight on engraving without any 3d enhancement.

3d enhancement is possible with CorelDraw software for use on any laser but it takes time to develop the art.


That looks really good.

Some weeks back I tried doing some pseudo 3D with Corel but as you allude it is an acquired art. I finally gave up on it after about 3 days. Decided it was just too hard with Corel. It was similar to what Dee is suggesting but I had about 5 or 6 passes with double lines getting narrower each pass.

I can do it easy in CAD but Corel does not import DXF well for some reason. It left a lot of open joints so I quit.

Toooooooooo hard.

Steve Clarkson
04-26-2009, 8:56 PM

I'd be eternally grateful if you's share your Corel file for that.......it's EXACTLY what I wanted to try tomorrow........

Dee Gallo
04-26-2009, 9:45 PM
Come on, Steve, don't be lazy! Do it yourself, you can handle this! Follow Mike's instructions, it's clear and simple. You will feel completely fabulous after you do it on your own!

And post pictures afterwards so we can all see what a great job you did!

...end cheerleading transmission now...

Mike Null
04-26-2009, 10:57 PM

The files are attached but I suggest that you take some time playing with the Postscript fill tool in Corel.

In the crosshatch window you can set the size of the crosshatch by setting the minimum and maximum distance. If you want a 3d look change the line width only. You could stat with 3, then 6 then 9 then 12 and that would give you a pretty good three d look. Not the same as a grayscale but close.

Steven Wallace
04-27-2009, 2:40 AM
If you look at this thread you will see the pics of the grips I did for my 1911.

Also I did this for a friend of mine so he could get a grip on the second amendment.

Steven Wallace
04-27-2009, 2:54 AM
I have a mini 18 and it is difficult to do anything much longer that 20". You may note that a 10/22 stock is longer than 20" so I have to be creative. If you plan on doing long gun furniture you really need a big (longer) bed. I wish I had one. I have 35w and it is plenty for doing stock and grips. I have also done engraving on the faux ivory for those Cowboy Action Shooters. All I can say about price is that most of the time you get what you pay for. Sort of like, to you want a tack driver or trench gun. I think you get my drift.
Lasering is my second job, luckily I like both of my places of work. One has taught me how to do the other. Good Luck!!!

Steve Clarkson
04-27-2009, 10:28 AM

I went camping this weekend, so I have 23 loads of laundry to do, I have to wash my car inside and out, my daughter forgot her softball gear, so I have to drop it off at school BEFORE I go to her game, and I need to grout my bathroom walls......

(....end whining here......)

Steve Clarkson
04-27-2009, 10:32 AM

Thank you very much for posting that file along with your explanation.....after looking at the file, it does look pretty easy......if I had EVER used a post script fill before! I'm adding that to the list of things to teach myself.

But I should be able to easily modify your file to do what I wanted to do today.....

Thanks again, you saved me atleast an hour's work!!!

Michael Simpson Virgina
04-27-2009, 10:47 AM
Casey, have you tried to find someone locally that has a laser. You could work out some sort of deal with them providing the service for you store. You would also be able to learn more about the actual process involved with both marking metal and engraving wood.

I have been researching Co2 lasers for years. Each year when after I returned home I would start my research again. This year I spent a month on this forum reading every single post. I receive my laser around the first week in May.

One thing that has been mentioned is that if you decide to purchase new or used. Make sure you get some sort of warranty. There are a lot of moving parts in a laser and the tubes are a consumable item. They have to be charged from time to time and that is going to cost you $800-$3000 (depending on tube).

The cheapest you can get a new American laser is around $8000. But you will have other expenses as well. You need a good exhaust blower and ducting. If you are going to do any cutting you will need a compressor for air assist.

Another thing to consider is that you will need a laser with a bed large enough to insert the largest item you plan on marking and engraving. That $8000 laser only lets you place an Item 24" long in the chamber.

Some of the folks on this forum are doing a Mid Atlantic get together in May. I don't know where you are located but if you are on the east cost it might be worth joining them.

Something else you can do is to contact both the Universal and Epilog dealers in your area. Arange to have a demo and take a gun stock with you. A demo is fine but if they arent willing to work with you on your application then look elsewhere.

Dave Johnson29
04-27-2009, 11:21 AM
That $8000 laser only lets you place an Item 24" long in the chamber.

Good point Michael,

Also look for the maximum height you can get under the focus point. I can lower my table for an 11-1/2" high item to go under it. I suspect the $8K laser you mentioned would have very limited height adjustment.

George Beck
04-27-2009, 12:27 PM
These examples looks great! This is what Laser engraving can do. It does not replace true gun checkering or carving or real bulino metal engraving but the cost difference is extreme. Some hand carvers and engravers get up to $2,000 per rifle! The effects (no not true v carved cross hatching) can be wonderfully personal and quite striking like the work Mike and Steve do. Here is a little sample I show some prospects just to show simple effects that be done fairly quickly. I am a novice with a laser ( I have had my Universal 4.6 60 watt since January) and this is one of the first effects I could do on wood. Just one of the things a laser can do. The laserguys use CO2 lasers btw.
Thanks for listening