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Best wood for laser cutting and engraving

best wood for laser cutting

Is there really a best wood for laser cutting? Yes, and let me explain why.

After spending nearly two three years working at a sawmill i got to see and test out some of the best and worst timbers to throw under my laser cutter.

My first comment to all the beginners out there, is that when it comes to laser engraving and cutting, not all wood is the same

Wood is processed in different ways and at different stages of it’s growth so determining which wood to use or even where to buy your wood,may determine how good your final product is

Store bought wood is usually rubbish

Yes I said it. Most wood I’ve purchased from hardware hasn’t been dried for long enough, which leads to warping down the track.

I’ve found these timbers have high moisture content, and when laser engraving or cutting, can affect the quality of your cut.

Recycled wood

Most people don’t tend to think of using recycled or reclaimed wood for their projects due to putter appearance or edges, but reclaimed wood is the best wood for laser cutting and amazing to work with.

If you own a thickness planer at home , you can remove all of the outer imperfections and get down to the hard dry inner workings to whip up some amazingly detailed engravings

Hardwood is better than softwood for engraves

I ended up spending a lot of time testing this, and for quality of engraves, hardwood is definitely the best wood for laser cutting & better for engraves. The downside to hardwood is that because of it’s density over softwood, it does take a lot longer to make complete cuts through the wood with a low powered laser cutter

Softwood is better for laser cutting

As the term states, it’s softwood. Think of softwood as a hot knife cutting through butter, and hardwood is like cutting through cheese. In saying this, depending on your application, it may be better off using a softer wood for laser cutting and for high volume production runs, to maximise efficiency and the overall time for completion

What I would recommend?

Products i would engrave using softwood for

  • Earings
  • Coasters
  • Trinkets
  • Jewellery
  • Chess peices
  • Small gifts that you are planning on selling for friends

Products I would engrave from hardwood

  • Wall artworks
  • Boxes
  • Signs
  • Plaques
  • Chopping boards

Advantages & disadvantages of using softwood for laser cutting

Advantages

  • Fast to engrave and cut
  • Cheaper to buy
  • Easier to obtain
  • Easier to clean up / sand

Disadvantages

  • Poorer quality cut and engrave
  • Looks cheap
  • Breaks easier
  • Higher chance of warping over time

Advantages & disadvantages or using hardwood for laser engraving and cutting

Advantages

Disadvantages

  • More expensive
  • Harder to obtain
  • More wear and tear on routers and thickness machines
  • Harder to cut through
  • Need high powered laser to cut

Types of softwood I recommend for laser engraving

Balsa, Plywood,  Cork, Douglas, Alder, Pine and Fir are some of the best wood for laser engraving. The amount of resin still contained within the wood will determine the final color output of your engraving.

Janka hardness

Use the table below to cross-reference what wood for laser cutting you intend to use. The higher Janka Hardness the harder the wood will be cut, but in saying that the higher quality at engraving

SpeciesForce: pounds-force (newtons)
African Mahogany830 lbf (3,700 N)830
African Padauk1,725 lbf (7,670 N)1725
African Pearwood, Moabi3,680 lbf (16,400 N)3680
Afzelia, Doussie, Australian Wormy Chestnut1,810 lbf (8,100 N)1810
Alder (Red)590 lbf (2,600 N)590
Amendoim1,912 lbf (8,500 N)1912
American Beech1,300 lbf (5,800 N)1300
Ash (White)1,320 lbf (5,900 N)1320
Australian Buloke[2]5,060 lbf (22,500 N)5060
Australian Cypress1,375 lbf (6,120 N)1375
Balsa[10]70 lbf (310 N)70
Bangkirai1,798 lbf (8,000 N)1798
Basswood410 lbf (1,800 N)410
Black Cherry, Imbuia950 lbf (4,200 N)950
Black Locust1,700 lbf (7,600 N)1700
Black Walnut, North American Walnut1,010 lbf (4,500 N)1010
Blackwood1,720 lbf (7,700 N)1720
Bloodwood2,900 lbf (13,000 N)2900
Boire940 lbf (4,200 N)940
Bolivian Cherry3,650 lbf (16,200 N)3650
Boreal1,023 lbf (4,550 N)1023
Box Elder720 lbf (3,200 N)720
Boxwood2,840 lbf (12,600 N)2840
Brazilian Cherry, Jatoba2,350 lbf (10,500 N)2350
Brazilian Ebony3,692 lbf (16,420 N)3692
Brazilian Eucalyptus, Rose Gum1,125 lbf (5,000 N)1125
Brazilian Koa2,160 lbf (9,600 N)2160
Brazilian Olivewood3,700 lbf (16,000 N)3700
Brushbox2,135 lbf (9,500 N)2135
Bubinga1,980 lbf (8,800 N)1980
Cameron1,940 lbf (8,600 N)1940
Carapa guianensis, Brazilian Mesquite1,220 lbf (5,400 N)1220
Carbonized Bamboo (represents one species)1,180 lbf (5,200 N)1180
Caribbean Heart Pine1,280 lbf (5,700 N)1280
Caribbean Walnut1,390 lbf (6,200 N)1390
Castello1,810 lbf (8,100 N)1810
Cherry995 lbf (4,430 N)995
Chestnut540 lbf (2,400 N)540
Cocobolo2,960 lbf (13,200 N)2960
Cuipo[10]75 lbf (330 N)75
Cumaru, Brazilian Teak3,540 lbf (15,700 N)3540
Curupixa1,490 lbf (6,600 N)1490
Douglas Fir660 lbf (2,900 N)660
Eastern Red Cedar900 lbf (4,000 N)900
Eastern White Pine380 lbf (1,700 N)380
Ebony3,220 lbf (14,300 N)3220
English Oak[6]1,120 lbf (5,000 N)1120
Golden Teak2,330 lbf (10,400 N)2330
Goncalo Alves, Tigerwood1,850 lbf (8,200 N)1850
Grey Ironbark3,664 lbf (16,300 N)3664
Guatambú, Kyrandy, Balfourodendron riedelianum2,240 lbf (10,000 N)2240
Hard maple, Sugar Maple1,450 lbf (6,400 N)1450
Heart pine1,225 lbf (5,450 N)1225
Hemlock500 lbf (2,200 N)500
Hickory, Pecan, Satinwood1,820 lbf (8,100 N)1820
Highland Beech1,686 lbf (7,500 N)1686
Ipê, Brazilian Walnut, Lapacho3,684 lbf (16,390 N)3684
Ironwood3,260 lbf (14,500 N)3260
Jarrah1,910 lbf (8,500 N)1910
Karri2,030 lbf (9,000 N)2030
Kempas1,710 lbf (7,600 N)1710
Kentucky coffeetree1,390 lbf (6,200 N)1390
Lacewood, Leopardwood840 lbf (3,700 N)840
Lapacho3,640 lbf (16,200 N)3640
Larch1,200 lbf (5,300 N)1200
Larch590 lbf (2,600 N)590
Lignum vitae, Guayacan, Pockenholz4,500 lbf (20,000 N)4500
Live Oak2,680 lbf (11,900 N)2680
Mahogany, Honduran Mahogany800 lbf (3,600 N)800
Makore1,100 lbf (4,900 N)1100
Massaranduba, Brazilian Redwood, Paraju3,190 lbf (14,200 N)3190
Merbau1,925 lbf (8,560 N)1925
Merbau1,712 lbf (7,620 N)1712
Mesquite2,345 lbf (10,430 N)2345
Movingui1,230 lbf (5,500 N)1230
Natural Bamboo (represents one species)1,380 lbf (6,100 N)1380
Osage Orange[5]2,040 lbf (9,100 N)2040
Paper Birch910 lbf (4,000 N)910
Parana780 lbf (3,500 N)780
Peroba1,557 lbf (6,930 N)1557
Peruvian Walnut1,080 lbf (4,800 N)1080
Piptadenia Macrocarpa, Curupay, Angico Preto, Brazilian Tiger Mahogany3,840 lbf (17,100 N)3840
Pradoo2,170 lbf (9,700 N)2170
Purpleheart1,860 lbf (8,300 N)1860
Radiata Pine[8]710 lbf (3,200 N)710
Red Mahogany, Turpentine2,697 lbf (12,000 N)2697
Red Maple[7]950 lbf (4,200 N)950
Red Mulberry1,680 lbf (7,500 N)1680
Red Oak (Northern)1,290 lbf (5,700 N)1290
Ribbon Gum1,349 lbf (6,000 N)1349
Rosewood1,780 lbf (7,900 N)1780
Santos Mahogany, Bocote, Cabreuva, Honduran Rosewood2,200 lbf (9,800 N)2200
Sapele, Sapelli, Kupa’y1,510 lbf (6,700 N)1510
Schinopsis balansae, Quebracho Colorado, Red Quebracho[4]4,570 lbf (20,300 N)4570
Schinopsis brasiliensis, Quebracho, Barauna, Chamacoco[3]4,800 lbf (21,000 N)4800
Shedua710 lbf (3,200 N)710
Siberian Larch1,100 lbf (4,900 N)1100
Silver Maple[9]700 lbf (3,100 N)700
Snakewood, Letterhout, Piratinera Guinensis3,800 lbf (17,000 N)3800
Softest wood ever measured: a single, unusual sample of Balsa[10]22 lbf (98 N)22
Southern Chestnut2,670 lbf (11,900 N)2670
Southern Yellow Pine (Loblolly and Shortleaf)690 lbf (3,100 N)690
Southern Yellow Pine (Longleaf)870 lbf (3,900 N)870
Spotted Gum2,473 lbf (11,000 N)2473
Strand Woven Bamboo3,000 lbf (13,000 N)3000
Sucupira, Brazilian Chestnut, Tiete Chestnut3,417 lbf (15,200 N)3417
Sweet Birch1,470 lbf (6,500 N)1470
Sycamore770 lbf (3,400 N)770
Sydney Blue Gum2,023 lbf (9,000 N)2023
Tallowwood1,933 lbf (8,600 N)1933
Tasmanian oak1,350 lbf (6,000 N)1350
Teak1,155 lbf (5,140 N)1155
True Pine, Timborana1,570 lbf (7,000 N)1570
Tualang1,624 lbf (7,220 N)1624
Wenge, Red Pine, Hornbeam1,630 lbf (7,300 N)1630
Western Juniper626 lbf (2,780 N)626
Western White Pine420 lbf (1,900 N)420
White Oak1,360 lbf (6,000 N)1360
Yellow Birch, Iroko1,260 lbf (5,600 N)1260
Yellow Poplar, Poplar540 lbf (2,400 N)540
Yvyraro3,040 lbf (13,500 N)3040
Zebrawood1,575 lbf (7,010 N)1575

This should get you started on choosing a wood for laser cutting. If you have any further questions about selecting the right wood for laser engraving and cutting, drop a comment down below

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