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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First, thanks for looking. Long story short - I've been asked by 2 wineries to make wooden serving trays, cheese boards, cornhole boards and kitschy signs with their logos laser-engraved on them. (Sounds like a good idea as gifts for family and friends, as well.) So, through Google searches I see a laser engraver/cutter can be had pretty reasonably up to as much as I want to spend. Not looking for an industrial model, just one that turns out 2-3 pieces per day with 4" to 12" patterns on wood.

I know absolutely nothing about them and am looking for some beginner's guidance. What am I getting into that I should be aware of before even making a purchase? What purpose-specific questions should I ask myself before purchasing one? Specs that I should look for? Options/features? Additional tools I should get in advance of trying my first job? Ongoing costs that I should consider?

Thanks for any guidance!

J.R.
 

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Which laser(s)are you considering? Mine is a Chinese made 5.5 watt diode laser that'll burn 15" X 11" . The software that comes with it is totally useless for my needs. The best software is called T2 laser. Costs about $40.
Depending on where you use it, you may need to rig up an exhaust system. It will make smoke.
It's not fast. A 5X5 portrait will take me 80 minutes but, logos text and, etc. Will be much faster.
 

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Thanks so much, Gene. So, is it really that easy? Buy a laser, install software, and start laser-engraving JPegs, PDF's, etc.? I mean, I know there's going to be a learning curve, like setting depth depending on wood type, power settings depending on materials, etc. Is there normally a guide for those setting included with the laser engravers or one to be found online?

Would a garage with the door open be enough venting, or is it a bad idea to do these jobs in an open environment like that?

This model is listed as Amazon's Choice, so I'm considering one by Amazon listed as: DIY CNC Laser Engraver Kits Wood Carving Engraving Cutting Machine Desktop Printer Logo Picture Marking, 40x50cm,2 Axis (5500MW) Amazon says it's sold by BACHINCCNC.

Thoughts on this model for laser-engraving cornhole boards, wooden food trays, cheese boards, etc.? Given the size of cornhole boards, I would likely be setting the engraver on top of them...would the 2-axis limitations be a problem, or would I just focus the laser to the board?

Again...thanks so much for your thoughts and help!
 

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David - Machinist in wood
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Welcome to the forum, John! Add your first name to your signature line to clear the N/a in the side panel. Add your location, as well.

Be sure to show us what you get 'cause we do like photos of shops, tools, projects, etc.

David
 

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Thanks so much, Gene. So, is it really that easy? Buy a laser, install software, and start laser-engraving JPegs, PDF's, etc.? I mean, I know there's going to be a learning curve, like setting depth depending on wood type, power settings depending on materials, etc. Is there normally a guide for those setting included with the laser engravers or one to be found online?

Would a garage with the door open be enough venting, or is it a bad idea to do these jobs in an open environment like that?

This model is listed as Amazon's Choice, so I'm considering one by Amazon listed as: DIY CNC Laser Engraver Kits Wood Carving Engraving Cutting Machine Desktop Printer Logo Picture Marking, 40x50cm,2 Axis (5500MW) Amazon says it's sold by BACHINCCNC.

Thoughts on this model for laser-engraving cornhole boards, wooden food trays, cheese boards, etc.? Given the size of cornhole boards, I would likely be setting the engraver on top of them...would the 2-axis limitations be a problem, or would I just focus the laser to the board?

Again...thanks so much for your thoughts and help!
That looks like a decent buy.
An open garage door would be enough for venting. A standing fan might help, too.
For work larger than the machine's work area, boards of the same thickness of your work would be placed under the pads. In T2, the image can be rotated so, you can orient the board, either along the X or Y axis, for your convenience. Then, you'd adjust the focus.
There IS a learning curve for using both the machine and the software. Have lots of practice scrap available. Cardboard is the cheapest practice material. MDF is good, too.
If you use T2, there are a bunch of really good You Tube videos available. Search for Laser Graffiti. And, T2 laser instruction.
On your laser lap top, down load a bunch of fonts. T2 will use them when you are constructing text.
above all, have fun!
 

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There are a lot of factors into getting a quality, or even decent result when using lasers. There is a massive range of laser types and materials. Laser engraving applies more to metals than wood, where it is really just burning in the image onto the wood, and wood having different grains and densities will result in varying quality results, even in the same piece of wood, so consistency may be an issue. Like the previous poster noted, have lots of practice scrap materials on hand :)

I suspect a cheap diode laser will leave you with poor overall results, especially on the cheaper end. you can pickup a cheap CO2 laser setup (the K40 seems popular and easily modified and upgraded, check out the laser builds over at the openbuilds forums), it is not terribly difficult to build a decent CO2 laser engraving/cutting system, from on the cheap to very elaborate and expensive.

There is a ton of software out there, and these days, pretty much anything that uses GRBL will work. For software design, Inkscape is great for logos and lettering for a free product.
 

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Not to drive traffic away from here, but CNC Laser machines are a niche subject here by the looks of things. If the mods have an issue I can remove this post, but I highly recommend you peruse https://openbuilds.com/?category=laser-cutter-builds&id=304
Nice selection of laser specific devices all diy, many with detailed instructions... think of it as advanced lego :)
The forum members there (disclaimer, I am a member, but outside of that I have no affiliation with them, no revenue incentive or anything) are very helpful. Honestly, laser devices are almost identical in function to CNC Routers, and most of the software that I have come across for CNC routers also have laser options.
 

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An inexpensive CO2 laser is a step up for sure. And, they aren't too much more $$. But, with their enclosed architecture, your work size is limited. And, they take up a bunch of real estate. As to the quality of the burn, the one the OP was considering will produce a quality good enough to laser portraits. Of course, those must be manipulated in another program like Paint 3D or Gimp, Inkscape, Photoshop or, the like, before importing to the laser software.
The neat thing about the CO2 machines is that, with their 50+ watt capabilities, you can etch or cut a wider variety of material. A friend has an Epilog machine...around $8K... But, he makes some fantastic knife scales and pistol grips in an ivory like material.
 
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