October '21

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1 2 G R A P H I C S P R O O C T O B E R 2 0 2 1 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M W ood has always been my favor- ite material to laser. It's got a natural beauty, a timeless look, and many uses in the laser world. It mixes well with other ma- terials, especially as a base to apply metal, acrylic, and even paper-based products. Industry suppliers sell sheet wood prod- ucts of many wood species. The sheets may be solid wood or laminated to a less ex- pensive species or a more solid composite board for flatness and structural integrity. CUTTING WOOD SHEETS WITH YOUR LASER I prefer solid wood sheets for most proj- ects, as I find it cuts better and separates well — especially when you have to weed out small parts. There is a limit to how small a piece you can cut out without burning it. The thinner the wood, the easier it is to cut out small pieces (to an extent). If you can use lower power (lower heat) or faster speeds, as you can with thinner sheets, you will burn the wood less and have more suc- cess. Wood sheet material comes in 1/8", 3/16", 1/4", and even thicker from some sources. You may also find 1/16" and even thinner material. Less than 1/16" is usually a peel-and-stick wood or simulated wood look. You may want to use a wood-sim- ulated acrylic sheet for certain purposes. The structure of the acrylic sheets holds up very well and can even be heated to bend. I found 1/8" and 3/16" material to be ef- ficient for many projects where structural integrity was less critical. THICK WOOD PRODUCTS Thicker wood such as that used for plaques, boxes, and other products will not likely be a material you want to laser cut. Thicker woods laser engrave very well. Just remember, the wood products you buy from suppliers or most other sources are finished wood, generally with a clear coat or gloss paint color. This makes clean up after lasering much easier. Ensure the finish is thick and hard, so cleaning the wood is easy and does not remove the shine, which would give it an uneven look. Products I bought from within our industry never resulted in poor cleaning. Some other What You Can Make from Wood ONE OF THE MOST VERSATILE SUBSTRATES TO LASER ENGRAVE B Y B O B H A G E L A shadow box displaying CAL FIRE graphics for a fire station reopening. (All images courtesy Bob Hagel)

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