View Full Version : Best wood for laser engraving

Tom Sweeney
09-07-2003, 1:08 PM
Keith or anyone else,
What would you say is the best wood for engraving a wedding invitation on? This would not be the invitation itself - I'm thinking of making a box for a wedding gift for my sister & I'd like to have their invitation engraved on the top. I'm guessing a light colored wood with no real grain paterns or different colorations. How about cherry? I know it's not light but I have a bunch & I love using cherry & figured maple on things.

Also ballpark on cost & turnaround time for something like this? I don't know how big it is yet but figure about 8"X5" to be safe.


Keith Outten
09-07-2003, 2:20 PM

Some people believe that cherry is the absolute best wood for engraving as it does provide nice contrast and is normally a very smooth grain hardwood. I use a lot of cherry when I can get good quality and the price is reasonable. Remember that cherry does darken with age and the contrast of the engraving to the background color diminishes. In some cases this would actually be a good thing, very detailed engraving starts looking much more rich with age.

Another choice is west coast alder, a wood that used to be thought of as junk...not even fit for firewood. Alder is also a wood I use frequently, it engraves really nice with a very dark chocolate brown marking which contrasts nicely since alder is a very light colored wood. The sign I did for Ken Salisbury was made from alder.

Maple also is a good choice, walnut engraves really well but there isn't as much contrast. As you can see there are lots of choices and it really is much like selecting a wood species for any project. We all have our favorites, most of mine engrave well.

Pine and oak are not on the list of woods that engrave well.

Cost is relevant to time...design time plus engraving time. I've done boxes for as little as 5 bucks and as high as :) When your ready send me a picture with the dimensions of the box and a scan of the invitation, I'll get you a price that is very reasonable since your a member of SawMill Creek.

Turnaround time is about one week, after we agree on the final design. Normally I work up the design and send you a graphic for your approval before I do the work.

Mike Leonard
09-07-2003, 5:07 PM
I had Keith engrave some cherry and hickory for me. Both came out really nice. I especially liked the hickory and got some very nice comments on it. Just another option.

Keith Outten
09-07-2003, 9:13 PM
Thanks Mike,

I had already forgotten about how nice your hickory engraved, I'll have to call Yukon Lumber tomorrow and get a current price for a few board feet of hickory for some plaques. I was in my shop untill 2am last night sanding a whole stack of alder plaques for my inventory...got them all done and ready to finish. Last month I did a batch of walnut plaques of various sizes, now I should add hickory to my inventory and a few more cherry plaques.

Cruising my stash of project pictures this morning I found a clock design that would be great spun on my lathe and laser engraved. I just have to finish my clock face design I've been working on.

Just got a newsletter from Laserbits and they are now selling 12" square sheets of adhesive backed wood verneer. Somehow I didn't think about using verneer in my engraving projects but I have given it some thought today.

I hope you picked up a keyhole router bit, I refined my setup last night and routed about 30 elongated keyholes in the back of the plaques I sanded. Using a fence, the XY table and two hand screw clamps it was a snap.

Tom Sweeney
09-07-2003, 9:48 PM
I'm not even sure I know what finished Hickory looks like. :confused:

Mike you don't have a picture of your 2 engravings you could post do you?
I'll search around for some project pics with Hickory to see what I think. It's good to know that Cherry works well - I'll definately think about going with Cherry.

Keith I should get one of the invitations in the next few days so I'll decide what I want to do then. Mainly depends on if I think I could get the box done before the wedding. I have no doubt that I am the slowest woodworker on the planet. You put out 10 major projects in 3 different mediums in the time it takes for me to make a plain old cutting board.

Thanks again.

Jim Becker
09-08-2003, 9:05 AM
I'm not even sure I know what finished Hickory looks like.

Go into the kitchen cabinet displays at the 'borg. They usually have hickory cabinets; at least the ones around here to.

Mike Leonard
09-08-2003, 3:10 PM
I didn't get a picture of it since I was on a short timetable for delivery. But, I do think that Keith got a picture of it for his records before I left his shop.

Bob Janka
09-11-2003, 1:15 PM
...Maple also is a good choice...


How do Curly Maple(aka Fiddleback, Flame, Tiger stripe, etc.) or BirdsEye Maple compare to plain Maple? For that matter, do you all see much, if any, difference between the "soft" maples and hard maple?


Keith Outten
09-11-2003, 7:47 PM

How do Curly Maple(aka Fiddleback, Flame, Tiger stripe, etc.) or BirdsEye Maple compare to plain Maple? For that matter, do you all see much, if any, difference between the "soft" maples and hard maple?



I can't say that I have had the opportunity to engrave very many species of maple. I have engraved soft maple local to my area. How well any species of wood engraves is based mostly on the amount of resin content. Since the resin content determines how dark the burn is the only other concern is soft spots and grain that would detract from the text or graphics being engraved.

On the extreme end I engraved a piece of real Heart Pine months ago. This was from lumber salvaged from an antique barn...Heart Pine is extinct I believe. It did not burn at all but the laser did engrave it really nice and deep with clean sharp edges. When these types of wood are engraved you use a paint fill to provide the color.