View Full Version : Laser cutting inlays

Michael Ramsey
09-20-2017, 11:29 AM
Ok guys, since I don't have my laser yet to play with I have to live vicariously through you all. One of the things I want to do is some inlay work with wood.

1. When I am designing a piece for an inlay do I use the same vector for the cut of the inlay piece as I do for the relief cut? Trying to understand the relation of the albeit very small kerf from the laser to get a clean tight fit.
2. For the relief cut, do you just raster engrave it out of do a cut on the perimeter and chisel it out? My ut tells me you chisel it out.

Kev Williams
09-20-2017, 11:44 AM
Chisel? Nah, raster out the relief, but plan on a learning curve for the depth. Suggestion- learn to do dithered photo engraving, and so this when hogging out the relief, the dithering will result in a smoother bottom. If the inlay can tolerate sanding, then a little deep is okay as you can sand it flush after.

Sometimes I compensate for kerf by .004". Offset only ONE of the layouts, dealer choice, you can outline the male or inline the female. Remember when outlining to cut your compensation in half, so if you're adding .004" for kerf your inline/outline distance will be .002". However, you may find no compensation works. More learning curve as it all depends on YOUR machine.

Michael Ramsey
09-20-2017, 11:57 AM
Yea, the depth part had me a bit confused since there is no 'depth' setting on a beam of light.

Keith Outten
09-20-2017, 12:29 PM
You adjust your speed and power settings and test them on your material until you get the necessary depth. I have settings for Corian that will consistently provide a depth of 0.034" for ADA signs but Corian is an engineered material. Wood will vary from one species to another and most of the time one board to another.

Kim Vellore
09-20-2017, 1:46 PM
The density of wood varies all over the place the densest being the knots and grain lines. For the negative you will not get a flat bottom with laser raster. On the grain lines and knots you will have less material taken off than the other areas. You could over raster and fill with wood filler and glue. One other way is to use two veneers one for positive and other for negative and glue that on the work piece.


Mike Null
09-20-2017, 2:31 PM
It's not complicated. Raster the area for the inlay. The adhesive can solve most depth problems. Cut out the inlays from the back side.

On the chisel---certain woods raster unevenly and a small chisel handled carefully, can remove the unevenness easily. Those woods are generally of the coniferous variety.


Wilbur Harris
09-20-2017, 10:02 PM
George Perzel showed me one way to inlay (post on here telling how). You just raster the base, reverse raster the fill, glue them together and sand off the fill piece. Attached is a piece I made for myself. Got a bit too aggressive with the sander near the bottom edge but I did it again and it turned out well. Don't know what happened to the "good" one....it's here somewhere!

Walnut and maple I think it is:

Michael Ramsey
09-21-2017, 6:55 AM
Nice work guys! I am looking forward to trying this.

John Blazy
09-26-2017, 3:46 PM
Great responses - great idea to reverse and cut the inlay material from the back - never thought of that, because the laser kerf is about a 2 degree "V", and you want the draft for fitting tight. When I inlayed the neck of this guitar, I cut the the mortices in the maple with the original cut file, vector cutting the inlay cavity perimeter, then enlarged the same file manually by about .006" before lasering out the dichroic inlay material, and only needed slight sanding for fit.
Vectoring the outline in maple is exactly as Mike says - test scrap first to measure depth, then cut away - so fast to test, that all seasoned laser users pretty much always throw a test pc in the bed prior to real cutting.
The laser cut cavities routed out real fast - like in fifteen minutes to do the whole fingerboard because once the router got near the lasered edge the scrap popped out, and I never once went beyond the line.

Mike Null
09-27-2017, 8:49 AM
Very nice work John.

BTW, the dichroic inlay material is of John's making and it's for sale. I have some beautiful pieces. Just contact him by PM.

John Blazy
09-27-2017, 10:23 AM
Very nice work John.

BTW, the dichroic inlay material is of John's making and it's for sale. I have some beautiful pieces. Just contact him by PM.

Thanks, Mike! I can't help but continue to invent (at great expense), and recently put unidirectional carbon fiber into my "quilt" mold and ended up with the world's first 6A grade quilted carbon fiber. Too bad it doesn't laser, but it CNC mills great, glues to wood with Titebond, and has same expansion/contraction as wood (zero longitudinally, but allows movement cross grain, or stays put when laminated to plywood). Once I get some capital, I will likely offer sheets for Creekers to use and maybe offer a design contest.

gary l roberts
09-27-2017, 10:42 AM
Nice material!

Kev Williams
09-27-2017, 12:29 PM
John is that rarity that can be described as a "piece of work" in a GOOD way :D-

His creations are nothing less than extraordinary http://www.engraver1.com/gifs/bow.gif

John Blazy
09-27-2017, 2:39 PM
John is that rarity that can be described as a "piece of work" in a GOOD way :D-

His creations are nothing less than extraordinary http://www.engraver1.com/gifs/bow.gif

Thanks Kev! Stay tuned, because once I come up with the $5K minimum order, I will be laminating gold Aramid fiber (Kevlar), which I believe can be laser cut (Laser just bounces off the carbon fiber). Imagine the quilt pattern in gold. Much higher chatoyance than real quilted maple. So as not to hijack further - go to my thread under musical instruments - http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?252565-quot-Dichrocaster-quot-a-laser-cut-Guitar/page2 and you will see other laserable laminations I've done recently. My favorite so far is my wave textures backed in mirror PET, which both reflects AND sends back the transmitted colors. Perfect for awards, trophies, etc. Then it can be laser engraved right through the AR coating, then paint filled, and when paint filled, the letters reflect off the backing as well. Easily solvent wipe the lacquer off the face - no solvent nor abrasives scratch the surface.