Working With Wood

This week we were asked if we could laser-engrave onto some beautiful circular wooden slices. We said we’d give it ago!

wooden horizontal disk slice with clear wood grain provided for laser cut project as a test piece for Nice-Cuts leeds a laser cutting service.
Wooden disk slice.

The disks arrived in the post, sent to me by Gemma Richards of Designed By Gemma, a graphic designer and wedding stationer from Cardiff. Gemma specialises in beautiful caligraphy and had also sent me some artwork to test out on the surface of the slices.

I had a think about the best way to go ahead with this request. The slices, though beautiful are each slightly unique with an irregular bark pattern. I’m uncertain about which exact type of wood they are made from, though with a quick amazon search found this supplier which looks similar.  I decided I needed to make a jig to be certain of where the artwork would be engraved.

Measuring up…

I measured up all the way round the slice to find the largest point of diameter. I then amended the artwork so the circular part would be slightly larger than the disk diameter. I centred the text to the new jig size.

Vector artwork for laser etching.

Then I cut this out of a cheap material, MDF, in order to create a jig which would show me where to correctly position the wooden slice ready for the next step, engraving.

Laser cut MDF jig positioned ready for engraving on wooden slice.

Being carful not too remove the remaining MDF jig (I firmly held this down using weights), I removed the test circle (shown above on the right). I positioned the wooden slice in the hole checking that there was a more or less equal spacing all the way around.

At this point it’s important not to forget to re-align the the height of the laser head to keep a perfect focus. The slices are not altogether uniform, and I found some were fractionally tapered with some being better than others, but generally there is a rough thickness of 1cm. As, in this instance I am not planning to cut through the wood, only engrave on it, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Laser-etch on wooden slice.

First i tried single line etching. I was really pleased with this result. I think the ‘Mr and Mrs Watson’ text is clear and pretty elegant. There is no smoke stain which is good.

Next I go for a laser engrave or ‘fill’ setting.

Solid fill laser cut engraved wooden slice
Wooden slice with laser-engrave or ‘fill’

This looks fantastic on the larger text, A&S, but not so good on the ‘Mr and Mrs’. There’s quite a bit less clarity with the lettering, and though lovely, I think it gets a bit lost amongst the grain rings. I am however, pretty blown away with how beautifully the rings show up! This close up shows the lovely texture inside the cut.

Notice the beautiful wood grain rings

All in all I am pleased with this experiment and enjoyed the problem solving aspect of it. To the client I think I would recommend a combination of laser-engrave for the larger text, and laser-etch for the smaller. It would be nice to play about with some real wood again in the future!

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