View Full Version : How do I give these a really nice clean shiny finish?

Khalid Nazim
11-13-2011, 12:32 PM
I have been working with birch ply to make calligraphic and geometric patterns. However, I have not treated the ply before and only applied a urethane layer on the calligraphic pattern. Now is plywood the right wood to do this type of work? And how do I make the finished product look really finished? Having said that, I am so happy with the output that I am getting with the laser :)

Finally, I am using 12"x24" 3mm birch ply from Michaels which are for $7 a piece. Is there a cheaper option for me to purchase from?


Martin Boekers
11-13-2011, 12:43 PM
You may want to check the woodworkers part of the forum or some scollsaw sites they may be able to give you more advice.

Oh, by the way that is some real nice work!

Dee Gallo
11-13-2011, 5:25 PM
Those are beautiful Khalid!

What I do is finish the wood first with 3 coats of tung oil/poly finish, sanding in between each coat. I like to go up to 600 for a silky smooth feel. It's work, but easier than trying to do it after engraving. It's easy to wipe off the soot with alcohol after engraving and then I sometimes do another coat of finish, sanding again.

Most people would think this is overkill, but my pieces are handled a lot by my customers and the feel is an important factor. They always come back for more saying they love the way the things I make feel in their hands.

In reality, the sanding is nothing more than a couple of swipes with Norton No-Fill 600 grit or even those yellow sponge blocks at 360 grit. Wipe off the dust with a microcloth and you're done. I spray some furniture wax on them to make them really smooth and sweet smelling.

It all depends on what you expect your finished product to be like, and whether the price you are getting is worth the extra effort. In my case, it's essential. The higher the perceived quality, the higher the price you can charge. When people feel something wood that feels like silk, they love it. Mine are solid hardwoods (cherry, walnut and tiger maple). I do not know what plywood will be like.

hope this is helpful, dee

edit: I just looked more closely at your photos. You have a lot of background removal going on, so you will end up with both charring and roughness in those large black areas. You might want to consider spray shellac or lacquer after engraving.

George M. Perzel
11-13-2011, 5:45 PM
Hi Khalid;
First of all, Dee is a perfectionist and her method is tough to beat. For those of us with a higher level of impatience, a couple of coats of spray lacquer (dries fast) followed by a rub with paste was and a scotch pad prior to engraving is fine. lacquer should dry overnite but can be recoated anytime prior to waxing. This makes a soft satin finish.
Nextly, baltic birch is not the best engraving medium-contrast is lousy in MHO. Try some cherry ply for great contrast or luan mahogany for low cost material that engraves well.
Best Regards,

Khalid Nazim
11-13-2011, 8:27 PM
Thanks for the complements. It means a lot to come to from experienced people like yourselves.

I have no background in finishing wood so I am going to try the suggestions from Dee and George.

What is the best place to buy the woods that you are suggesting (cherry ply, luan mahogany, cherry, walnut and tiger maple)?

Thanks again for your support.


Dee Gallo
11-13-2011, 9:58 PM

Send a PM to George, he can help you with some of that. He's a great guy and very knowledgeable.

I buy some of my wood locally and have it resawn by a neighbor-cabinet maker who does a great job making 1/4" boards for me from solid wood. Someday I'll buy a bandsaw.... Luan ply should be easy to find at any wood supply place, like Home Depot or Lowes or whatever you have in Canada.

Check out the Friends of the Creek listings too. The red button at the top of this page will get you there.

cheers, dee

john banks
11-14-2011, 8:04 AM
Beautiful work Khalid and Dee. Great advice on this forum. Thanks!

Khalid, how are you finding your 80W Shenhui is matched to this work, particularly in terms of cutting wood like this? Do you feel the power is about right? Kerf angle good? Have you tried thicker wood?

Khalid Nazim
11-14-2011, 1:16 PM
Thanks Dee. I will reach out to George. And I agree. He is a fantastic guy and has been helping me since the time I placed the order for my laser.


Khalid Nazim
11-28-2011, 1:00 PM

As I am a complete newbie to the laser engraving/cutting field, I get wow moments everyday when I make something on the machine. I have cut baltic birch upto 9mm but have not really found out the optimum speed/power settings yet. I have also noticed a taper on the thicker wood that could be because of vertical alignment issue of the lens holder. I need to fix that. Other than that, its fantastic to have this machine! I love it :)