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Thread: Best Wood for Laser Cutting?

  1. #1

    Best Wood for Laser Cutting?

    Howdy all,

    Being a laser owner for only two months now, I'm still figuring out which woods cut best. I sell a lot of signs and I want to cut 3/8" thick wood lettering with my Epilog 45w. I seem to be having trouble from day to day cutting different materials. Some times I can cut through 3/8" redwood in one pass, and some times I can't in 2 passes. So I'm learning that individual pieces vary in density, and a piece of wood of the same species that has a tighter grain patter will make all the difference whether I can cut it or not. So it's driving me crazy, when I take the time to plane a board down to 3/8", put it in the machine and end up with charred cuts that don't go through all the way. Basswood and balsa cut like butter, but I can only get them in 1/4" maximum thickness. I'm going to try some pine today and see how a 3/8" thick piece cuts. I usually start with 4/100/500 setting and adjust from there.

    I'm also cutting 1/4" mdf and I find that some days I can cut it in one pass at 4/100/500 and some days I can't get through it at the same setting in 2 passes. What's up with that?

    Anyway, here's my question to all you experts... what material reliably cuts the best in 3/8" thickness? I need something easily obtainable. I would prefer it be wood, but another durable material would be okay also since my end product ends up painted.

    I'd appreciate any tips or tricks or advice!

    Thanks for listening to me rant a bit...

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    I've found the grain pattern/density is less of an issue than the oils: things like redwood, cedar, etc cut badly if at all.

    Maple, poplar, cherry, alder, walnut...very easy to cut, at least in the thicknesses my 25W machine will handle.

    Jarrah, oak...slightly harder, requiring the speed to be dropped 20-25%.

    Note that "easy to cut" is somewhat subjective, as it involves both "how much power is required" and "how clean is the edge afterward". Maple is probably the best all-around.

    And don't even think about rosewood or purpleheart.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee DeRaud
    And don't even think about rosewood or purpleheart.
    Agreed. We tried to cut some 1/4" purpleheart, and the laser didn't even make a mark on the wood, much less cut it.

    Paul, you might try alder. We have had great results from 1/4" alder, so 3/8" shouldn't be much of a stretch for your 45W machine. Nice clean cuts - I made drawer dividers for my kitchen drawers on the laser and they are NICE.

    Nancy
    Nancy Laird
    Owner - D&N Specialties, Rio Rancho, New Mexico
    Woodworker, turner, laser engraver; RETIRED!
    Lasers - ULS M-20 (20W) & M-360 (40W), Corel X4 and X3
    SMC is user supported. http://www.sawmillcreek.org/donate.php
    ___________________________
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  4. #4
    Thanks Lee,
    That's interesting... I figured Maple and the rest would be harder to cut since they are more of a hard wood... but I'm off to Home Depot later and I'll pick up some of these to test.

  5. #5
    I've had pretty good luck with cherry, walnut and maple. Of these walnut is most difficult.

    They all cut better if dry.
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Gravograph IS400
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Evolis Card Printer
    CorelDraw X5

  6. #6
    I don't have much experience cutting hardwoods with a laser (I'm a balsa burner mostly) but when woodworking poplar has always treated me well. Of course this assumes you're going to be painting or staining it a darker color as poplar tends to have a green tint to it sometimes.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    I also have 45 watt Epilog and 3/8 is pushing it with some woods. The best cutting woods are solid Oak, Alder, and Basswood. With plywood baltic birch is good up to 1/4", at 3/8 it can vary. Certain varieties of mahogany cut fine, others will catch fire and burn b8ut will not cut even in 1/8". With MDF I can cut 1/4" fine but anything thicker requires 2-3 passes and is messy.



    Sammamish, WA

    Epilog Legend 24TT 45W, had a sign business for 17 years, now just doing laser work on the side.

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  8. #8
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    I have a 45 watt, but except once when I did 1/2" birch ply, I normally do thinner woods, like 1/8" and slightly thicker.

    Like others have said, maple, cherry, and alder all worked very well. Walnut takes a little more power, but works pretty well too. Maple probably had the least char.

    The only redwood I've done was veneer, which was easy.
    Dave Jones -- Epilog Mini-24, 45 watt, CorelDraw X3, Creative Suite CS2

  9. #9
    Okay, so I got some white pine and poplar today at Home Depot, planed them down to 3/8" and guess what? Cuts like buttah. Beautiful. I don't know why I thought redwood and cedar would be easy to cut but they're not... so I'm going to use the white pine from now on. It's cheap and will work fine for what I'm doing.

    I have to mention a little now about Epilog support. Well, I was cleaning the machine earlier today and vacuuming it. The front little magnet on the right side of the lid popped out and I guess it got sucked into the vacuum. I took the bag out, searched and searched... checked all over the floor.... can't find it. Well, of course the laser wouldn't fire without it. So I called Ruben at Epilog support and explained. He said they will send me a new one by Monday or Tuesday! How's that for service?

    Meanwhile I came up with another little magnet and it's working just fine.

    Oh... and when I get the new magnet, I'm going to EPOXY it in!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Innisfil Ontario Canada
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    The magnet fell out of the 'left' side of my top on the TT24
    The laser still works without it, (I think the 24 only requires one to make it work) and I've searched all through the machine and have no idea where it went..
    I have picked up a dozen more at a local supplier, they are a bit larger, (by about 1/32") but if the other one drops out, I will open the holes a bit wider, and epoxy in the larger magnets..

  11. #11
    I think Cherry, Maple, Cork, Plywood, and Alder are good choices of wood for laser cutting or engraving. I've had good engraving experience with cherry and maple. You can know more here.

  12. #12
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    David perhaps you did not notice but the last post in this Thread was 13 years ago.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  13. #13
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill George View Post
    David perhaps you did not notice but the last post in this Thread was 13 years ago.
    Does it really matter? He is imparting information that the laser-engraving community might appreciate. When I first joined SMC (which, by the way, was the source for our first laser), I went back and read thread after thread about how to do things and I asked questions and got answers and, in time, I was able to answer the questions posed by others.

    So what is your gripe??
    Nancy Laird
    Owner - D&N Specialties, Rio Rancho, New Mexico
    Woodworker, turner, laser engraver; RETIRED!
    Lasers - ULS M-20 (20W) & M-360 (40W), Corel X4 and X3
    SMC is user supported. http://www.sawmillcreek.org/donate.php
    ___________________________
    It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nancy Laird View Post
    Does it really matter? He is imparting information that the laser-engraving community might appreciate. When I first joined SMC (which, by the way, was the source for our first laser), I went back and read thread after thread about how to do things and I asked questions and got answers and, in time, I was able to answer the questions posed by others.

    So what is your gripe??
    Nancy, Its common to start a new Thread instead of replying to one 13 years old, and I see moderators say the same thing. Happy Thanksgiving.
    Last edited by Bill George; 11-26-2020 at 1:19 PM.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  15. #15
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    We never close threads, we prefer them to remain open and accessible. If you prefer to respond in an older thread or start a new one either is fine.

    Those who come here and never search our archives will never know what they are missing. Over 18 years of woodworking archives that equates to hundreds and hundreds of years of expertise is stored here. Just for fun try to find woodworkers here who have Superbowl rings or movie actors

    Enjoy!
    Last edited by Keith Outten; 11-27-2020 at 9:44 AM.

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