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Best Wood For Laser Cutting: A Complete Guide

Here is a list of the best woods for laser cutting projects in the market.

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Best wood for Laser Cutting

In light of the increasing popularity of laser cutters for wood, one of the first questions that springs to mind are: what is the best wood for laser cutting, and how can I find out?

Consider all of the do-it-yourself tasks you will be able to complete and what you want to do with them.

Laser cutting may be a really exciting process since it allows us to turn our ideas into reality. Before you can start laser cutting, you must decide what sort of material you want to utilize for your design before you can start cutting.

A common laser cutter material is wood, which is one of the most popular choices. One of the essential aspects of a laser cutting project is to choose the best wood possible for the laser cutting process.

Wood is a naturally occurring material that is utilized in various industries for a variety of purposes. For every given application, a material’s physical characteristics can be tailored to meet various requirements. Among these characteristics is the amount of heat it can withstand, its strength, flexibility, and the amount of a certain chemical it can withstand. 

In the next section, we will go through how to choose the right sort of wood for your laser cutting project in further detail. We’ll go through the different varieties of wood that are suitable for laser cutting in this section.

Softwood or Hardwood?

There are several varieties of wood that you may deal with, including constructed woods, softwoods, and hardwoods, to name a few. 

Softwood

Softwoods are ideal if you have a laser with lower power output. Lower-density woods are not nearly as strong or resilient as harder woods, but they are considerably easier to deal with since they are less thick.

Basswood, Pine, alder, balsa, cedar, and poplar are all popular alternatives since they are easy to work with and burn well in the dark. It is possible to cut through wood as thick as 19 mm with a more powerful laser.

Benefits
  • Extremely light
  • Simple to cut
  • It is inexpensive and simple to obtain
Drawbacks
  • Burns quickly
  • Not extremely powerful or long-lasting

Hardwood

Harder woods, unsurprisingly, work well with more powerful lasers. Denser woods are more difficult to cut, but they are also more robust and trustworthy.

Walnut, Maple, walnut, Birch, cherry, and mahogany materials for laser cutters because they are attractive to work. Their density requires higher powerful lasers, although thick sheets can still be sliced with the proper strength.

Benefits
  • Long-Lasting
  • It has a lovely polished appearance
Drawbacks
  • It may be more costly
  • It may be tough to locate
  • More costly machinery are required

Software Requirements

In addition to selecting the appropriate wood, you’ll also want the appropriate software. The majority of laser cutting software makes use of vector files that are generated from images that can be created using virtually any image editing program. 

Lightburn is a popular laser cutting program that many people use, but many more alternatives are available. For more information, see our post on the best laser cutting software.

The software used for laser cutting has three primary settings: speed, power, and the number of passes to be made. Because CO2 lasers have greater capabilities than diode lasers, these settings will be tailored specifically for CO2 lasers.

Recommended Wood for Laser Cutting

Different varieties of wood respond differently to lasers, and the output might vary due to these differences. 

The following are some of the most popular varieties of wood for laser cutting.

1. Balsa:

Balsa is an inexpensive softwood commonly used in the construction of model airplanes due to its low weight. Manual die-cutting is an option. On the other hand, laser cutting ensures that the model is precise and has a tighter tolerance.

It has good mechanical strength even though the wood is light in weight. Because of the extremely low density of this wood, it is possible to make detailed laser cuts. 

The laser power required can also be as low as 30 watts, and the laser can work at faster rates than previously thought. Balsa wood is an excellent material for laser cutting because of its lightweight, durability, and flexibility.

2. Plywood:

Plywood is a form of engineered wood that is similar to particleboard. It is made up of an odd number of layers that are bonded together. Each of the subsequent layers of plywood has a grain of wood perpendicular to the one underneath it. Plywood is made sturdy, water-resistant, flexible, and light as a result of this arrangement.

Because of its characteristics, plywood is an excellent choice for furniture and structural components of structures. Plywood is one of the greatest timbers for laser cutting, especially for fine filigree work. It is also one of the most affordable. It enables the laser to produce precise, exact lines, which makes engraving simple.

Birch laser plywood is the most suitable material for laser cutting operations and is a popular option among enthusiasts and professionals alike. Choose bamboo laser plywood if you want to take a chance on something new.

3. Alder:

It has a lighter hue, which draws attention to contrasts in design. The natural grain pattern of alder wood is lighter in color than the grain pattern of other wood species. Because of this characteristic, it is an excellent choice for engraving tasks.

Because of the wood’s delicate nature, it is simple to work with a laser. The sole disadvantage of alder is the potential of the existence of knots in the wood. Alder contains a significant amount of resin, which results in a darker burn. 

Because of this difference, the woodworker has greater creative freedom. Furthermore, the color becomes darker as the finish is applied. The dark tone enhances the sharpness of the etched patterns.

4. Cherry:

Cherry wood is a common choice for furniture construction, particularly in the construction of cabinets. It is classified as a hardwood because of its density and hardness. 

It has good durability and moderate strength, and it is capable of withstanding screws and nails. A pliable wood, cherry is easy to cut and carve, and it is also inexpensive. Because of these characteristics, it is an excellent material for laser cutting.

On cherry wood, laser engraving is simple and makes a noticeable difference. Depending on the species, its straight grain fluctuates from a deeper brown to a lighter blonde. 

It has a smooth and glossy texture, which makes it excellent for use in furniture construction. When compared to other prominent hardwoods, cherry harvesting is rather infrequent. However, it is less expensive than comparable woods such as walnut.

Tips for Choosing Wood for Laser Cutting

In the process of selecting wood for laser cutting, there are several considerations to keep in mind.

  • Before beginning the process, inspect the wood to ensure it is in good condition:

The width and wood that you use for your wood cutting job will have a major impact on the overall outcome of your project. Your laser cutter’s power, speed, and other parameters are all important considerations.

The power of your laser and the atmosphere in which you do laser cutting can influence your laser cutting settings. Because of this, you should test the material on a tiny piece of wood before proceeding with a larger piece.

  • Examine the amount of resin in the product:

Wood generally burns brighter or darker depending on how much resin or sap is present in the material. 

Choosing wood with a high resin content, such as Cherry or Alder wood, will burn darker. If you want to leave as little burn residue as possible for a given application, you should use wood with a reduced resin concentration.

Utilizing your wood laser cutter machine to engrave your company’s logo in a location that will not interfere with the overall customization of the product is a smart method to test for resin content in wood without wasting any material. 

This test allows you to brand your goods and determine the level of darkness or lightness of the burn as a result of the test.

  • Choose a lighter-colored wood:

In contrast to paper, whose color may be easily changed, the basic color of a laser-etched hardwood object remains constant. 

The color of the base color is always the same as the color of the wood. As a result, it is important to examine the color of the wood to obtain the best possible result.

When choosing a wood hue, avoid working with dark wood unless necessary. The laser etching lines are generally obscured when using darker wood, making engraved photographs or text difficult to see or recognize. 

On the other hand, lighter wood produces a black and deep burn when etched, resulting in well-defined markings that are easily seen in bright light.

  • Choose wood with the least amount of splintering:

When it comes to furniture, streaks on the wood are beautiful, but they can be distracting when engraved photographs. Wood striping may soon detract from the fine details of an engraving. When looking for wood to laser engrave, look for a smooth, uniform grain with few streaks or imperfections.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of thin wood is the best for laser cutting?

Thin plywood sheets are a popular material for laser cutting because of their lightweight. It is a strong, dimensionally stable material that is readily accessible in a variety of thicknesses.

How do you flatten wood so that it can be laser cut?

When working in a high-humidity environment, it may be feasible to flatten wood by dampening the material rather than soaking it directly and pressing the flattened material until it is dry.

To cut tiny wood pieces, which is the best CNC laser cutter?

When dealing with wood, CO2 lasers are the finest alternative. These generators are widely utilized for various applications due to their various power choices and affordable pricing.

Wrapping Up

When you choose to begin your wood cutting laser job with a quality piece of wood that is flat and has just a minimal number of flaws, you will be rewarded with a satisfying result in the end. Take into consideration the thickness required to get the desired effect.

Make sure to use a rag to softly brush out any debris that may have accumulated after you have completed all of your cuts and are happy with the appearance of your wood after you have finished. Additionally, you may choose to protect and maintain your piece of wood by adding an appropriate finish to it.

The most straightforward approach to ensure that your project is successful is to select the most appropriate laser cutter in conjunction with the most renowned laser cutter software available.

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