View Full Version : More use for my Laser

Doug McIntyre
06-16-2004, 5:10 AM
Hi, new to the forum but not to laser engraving. I do the odd job for wood turners and a bit of glass engraving but I'm still looking for a 'real everyday use' for my machine to maybe earn a little extra income when I retire soon. I enjoy working with wood but my skills are mainly limited to using the computer and the laser. Setting up a commercial website is not a problem - anybody got any ideas?

Thanks to the forum I was reminded yesterday of the great idea of engraving on denim. I burned a few holes in an old pair of jeans before getting some mediocre results, possibly because the denim needs to be darker in colour - anybody tried it?

Great forum, it's the only one I know of with a dedicated laser engraving section and useful information as well.

Tyler Howell
06-16-2004, 7:07 AM
Welcome to the Creek Doug!

That Star Wars stuff is a little "Too Scary" for me but we'd all love to see your work. I know there are some real pros in the group for support.
Enjoy. ;)

Keith Outten
06-16-2004, 8:02 AM

You will find lots of good information and advice here in our laser forum. Lasers are new to most woodworkers so it will be awhile before this forum grows but we are doing well for such a short period of time. We have several new engravers who just purchased machines and have already been producing some really nice work so there is plenty of talent here.

Engraving denim is really slick however as you already know dark material is best. You can purchase a cheap denim bag at Walmart to practice on and they make a great source for project material as well. Have you tried engraving leather yet? Leather is a great material and is capable of photo work. Black marble is a material we are all using these days, the results are stunning and it is an unusual material so it is very popular. Corian is another material that has huge appeal, it is available for free, scraps from cabinet shops, and is just awesome for sign work.

Doug McIntyre
06-16-2004, 9:20 AM

I think I've tried almost every organic material that is commonly accepted as 'Laserable' but I really haven't come up with anything that can be made into a product that is marketable and in everyday demand on my side of the Atlantic. We don't seem to go for personalised products quite so much as in the U.S. - I haven't tried black marble as yet, but again it is a material more suitable for one-off personalisation. I have used corian and it makes great engravings although I always feel that it is punishing my machine with the amount of power it needs to get a good depth on the engraving. I've also used leather and it's a great material for photos especially using PhotGrav but again it's more suited to personalised products.

I'll find what I want to do with the machine one day - all contributions greatfully received. My apologies for the Non-American spelling - BTW why do you spell laser with an 's' ?


Keith Outten
06-16-2004, 12:31 PM

Sorry but I wasn't consulted when the word laser was included in the lexicon, I can't be much help with this issue :)

Given that personalization isn't popular in your neck of the woods you might consider precision machining with your laser. I've done a few jobs for some local high-tech companies and found it to be very proffitable, in the neighborhood of $350.00 per hour. You should have some experience reading engineering drawings and will need various precision instruments to verify the finished product meets the specifications.

I should note that all the jobs I've done actually saved the companies money and produced a superior product over conventional machining methods in plastic materials.

Shaddy Dedmore
06-16-2004, 1:45 PM
Laser: Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

Try looking around for some scroll saw patterns
(this link has the categories on the left)

They aren't necessarliy personalized items. Look carefully at the clock patterns. Once you get the pattern worked out (I've been using CorelTrace, then CorelDraw), you'll be able to make some nice stuff, I've seen those cost a couple hundred apiece.

I'm just starting, and haven't made a clock yet, but I've done other scrollsaw patterns. takes forEVER on the computer. Maybe photograv would be better than Corel, but I haven't invested in that yet. But oyu get a really nice product when done. Plus you only have to do it once, now I have a couple working patterns and can cut one whenever I think I can sell it.

You may find a market with some of those patterns. Don't be afraid to aproach businesses as well, metal shops might like anodized aluminum business cards, cabinet/carpentry shops might want wood businesscards. You can also make up little plates/tokens with thier symbol and name on it, that they can attach/inlay in thier work. Not a huge profit margin, but it's a start.

Plus go to a flooring/tile place, take a picture of their store front, put it on a piece of black marble, then show it to them, ask them to set it next to a register, and you can custom some stuff for thier customers through them. They'll get a cut, but you can't beat that kind of advertising. Once your picture is vector, you can enlarge it, and span it over several tiles. I saw a deer walking over a creek with trees n stuff at my Epilog Rep's store spanned over a 4x5 group of tiles. looked amazing. Would fit nice in my entry way (c: Order a bunch of sample tiles and practice on them. I'd think some with a matte finish might laser OK. Then you can give them a list of the tiles you can engrave.

There are tons of things, keep thinking, don't give up.

Side Question... For CorelTrace, the black lines I'm scanning are too thick, when I use "Centerline" for my vectors, some of my smaller loops get closed off, and the lines are too wavey. What looks best, is to use "Outline", then in coreldraw, I change the fill from black to none, and I'm left with parallel vectors. Then I delete each inside vector, and I'm left with a nicer looking picture.

Is there an easier, less time consuming way? Does Photograv have a Raster-to-Vector feature?

Doug McIntyre
06-18-2004, 4:53 AM
Thanks for the replies - I will be looking at clock designs next and I will try to find some marble for a photograph trial. I have made a couple of clocks before on turned wood with inlays for the numbers but the scroll saw pattern idea is a good one to follow up. If anyone is interested in making clock mechanics, have a look at http://www.woodenclocks.co.uk

In reply to Shaddy I have only used Corel Trace for creating simple outlines for cutting out (silhouettes). I have never been very impressed with it compared to Engravelab (I had the use of it in a previous job) so I can't comment on how good Corel is in vectorising photographic type images. PhotoGrav is a good old fashioned program that can produce better and more consistent results than just using Photoshop. It works using bitmap images so I would think it has severe limitations if you want to do large sized images.

Ian Barley
07-01-2004, 8:34 PM

Bear in mind that I know just about zero about lasers but a little bit about marketing. There is a potential demand among model makers (RC racing cars etc.) for small, precision machined components from carbon fibre based materials. No idea if this is suitable for the laser you have but it is a small, high value item which is not terribly well serviced at the custom end of the market. Might be worth a look??



Aaron Koehl
07-02-2004, 8:59 AM
Sounds interesting, Ian. The lasers vector cut on a 2D plane, like a scrollsaw. Would these components be okay 'flat'? Also, the precision is about .002", is this enough precision?

Ian Barley
07-02-2004, 11:28 AM

The stuff that I have seen people trying to source is cut from a flat carbon fibre sheet. The reason I know about this is because of a friend who has traditional CNC router for another business and has been approached to do work that he couldn't do in this area.

I stress - I am not an expert but if I was looking to fill time on a capable machine I would at least spend a couple of hours finding out a bit more about what the potential demand is.

Aaron Koehl
07-02-2004, 11:56 AM
Ah, good. Not being familiar with the lasering properties of carbon fibre (I do know what it is), I don't know whether the low-powered lasers would be able to cut it. On the other hand, if the CNC router is good enough precision, then the laser definitely is.

Sounds like a really neat application--thanks for the tip!