10 Best Woods For Engraving


Are you looking for the best woods to use for engraving? You will find your answers here. The wood engraving process is an art in itself. It is a printmaking process wherein inscriptions are made on a piece of wood via tools. This art has evolved over the centuries, from knives, hammers, and chisels, to the use of burins, rotary tools, and Laser Engravers.

The best wood for Laser Engraving is Basswood. Basswood is one of the softest hardwoods known. It is light, cuts well, and produces a straight grain. For Dremel Engraving, the best wood to use is Boxwood. This wood is hard in texture and also has a high density. Additionally, it is straight-grained; therefore, streaking is uncommon. And like Basswood, it has no characteristic odor.

Various woods are perfect for engraving. The type of wood you choose will be based on the unique qualities of the wood, the type of engraving tool used, and the technique you wish to employ. For the remainder of this article, we’ll bring to you the 10 of the best woods for engraving. We’ll also throw more light on the best woods for Dremel and Laser Engraving.

Top 10 Woods for Engraving

Here we’ll briefly discuss the best woods for engraving and show you features that granted them a place in this list.

1. Basswood

As earlier stated, this is the overall best type of wood for Laser Engraving. It is also commonly used for Dremel/Router Engraving. It belongs to the hardwood family (with a value of 1,820 N on the Janka scale of hardness) but is very soft and lightweight. It also features a variety of colors, from pale white to light brown.

Basswood is very easy to manipulate and is thus appropriate for beginners.

You’ll also appreciate that it has a wide variety of uses. For one, it’s useful for engraving musical instruments such as guitars and woodwinds. It also works well when used to decorate gift boxes. Finally, Basswood has been shown to have little or no allergic side effects, is odorless, and is also very affordable.

2. Boxwood

This is the best wood type for Dremel Engraving. It has a value of 12,610 N on the Janka Hardness scale. Boxwood color ranges from light cream to yellow. It is also a very durable wood, but working with it can come with minor allergic reactions such as watery eyes, itchy skin, and respiratory irritation.

3. Walnut

This is another very popular wood type used in engraving; it is quite expensive, but if you can ignore the cost, it is suitable for Dremel Engraving and engraving with other hand tools such as burins. This wood type has a wealth of colors and grains and is thus suitable for many products.

It has a hardness value of 1,010 N, a mild odor, and comes with allergic reactions like watery eyes and itchy skin have been to this wood.

4. Oak

Oak is known for its high strength. There are different species of oakwood, including Red Oak, White Oak, Bur Oak, Black Oak, Brown Oak, English Oak, Willow Oak, Water Oak, And Chestnut Oak.

English oak, for example, has a hardness of 4,980 N on the Janka scale of hardness and is very durable with an appealing odor.

5. Plywood

This wood type is excellent for Laser Engraving. Plywood holds definition well and is thus perfect for surface engravings: however, they are not suitable for three-dimensional engraving. If you get hold of plywood, do not attempt to hand engrave with it. It is quite difficult to manipulate with crude tools.

6. Pinewood

Pinewood is softwood and is thus very suitable for Dremel or Hand Engraving. The drawback to Pinewood is that it has many knots, which could interfere with the desired outcome of your engravings.

7. Maple

This is another common and easily available wood type that is popularly used for engraving. Maple wood could either be hard or soft. It has a smooth, tight grain and also has a high density.

8. Cherry Wood

The commonest subtype of Cherry wood is the Black cherry, also known as the American cherry. Its colors vary from pinkish-brown to reddish-brown.

With Cherry wood, you’ll notice a straight grain; this makes it suitable for both Laser Engraving and Dremel engraving. While Cherry might be easy to manipulate, it is, however, difficult to stain.

9. Alder

Although many folks might argue that Alder wood is the best for laser engraving since it is not prone to streaking, Alder wood, however, tends to form knots, a feature you’ll not find with Basswood.

This is a common type of softwood. It has a very flexible texture and straight grain; therefore, you don’t need to worry about streaking. It has a high resin content and thus burns darkly. Although it has a few knots, it is generally considered pliable and is used for Laser and Hand Engraving.

10. Engineered Wood

This type of wood lacks any form of grain and is therefore very suitable for Laser Engraving. It is even denser than plywood, and therefore more pleasing results are guaranteed when you Laser Engrave it.

What Is The Best Wood For Laser Engraving?

For Laser Engraving projects, your go-to wood should be Basswood. It is the most appropriate for Laser Engraving.

This very softwood is readily accessible. It is light, cuts well, and gives a straight grain. Also, when it comes to ease of staining, Basswood promises you astounding results with different colors for better finishing. You also won’t need to worry about knots with this type of wood.

Other wood types great for Laser Engraving include Plywood, Engineered wood, Balsa, Alder, Veneer, Douglas, and Cork.

How To Choose the Best Wood for Laser Engraving?

This section will show you features and criteria that must be checked when choosing any wood for Laser Engraving.

Consider the Resin/Sap Content

Resin refers to the liquid substance that functions as an insect repellant. This feature is quite crucial when selecting wood for Laser Engraving. Wood with a higher resin content will produce a darker burn at the end of the engraving process and vice versa.

Some of the best woods with high resin content include Cherry and Alder, while those with low resin content are Apple, Oak, Walnut, and Ash.

How to Determine Resin Content

Checking the resin content is quite easy to do on your own. All you need to do is quickly burn the back of the workpiece briefly. The darker the burn, the higher the resin content, and the more striking your engraved artwork would appear.

Avoid Woods that Streak

Streaking of wood occurs during Laser Engraving. This happens when the grain burns to form additional lines or streaks. Streaking diminishes the beauty of the engraved artwork; hence, you want to choose a wood type with straight and irregular grains to avoid streaking.

Consider the Grain Type of the Wood

The grain refers to the fibers of the wood and how they are arranged. Wood grains are flat grain, straight grain, spiral grain, interlocked grain, irregular grain, and curly grain.

Grain in wood varies based on how the wood is cut and sliced. As aforementioned, it is best to choose wood with a straight gain to avoid streaking during laser engraving.

Consider the Shade of wood

Woods with lighter shades generally do better with engraving because darker woods tend to obscure the laser marks. Even within the same wood type, there can be different shades; hence, choose the color/shade wisely that best suits the result you wish to achieve.

Observe for Knots

Knots are branches of trees that were cut off but still retained within the tree’s trunk, leading to an obvious circular bulge on the tree trunk. It is a blemish that could either occur naturally or due to a fungal infection.

The lesser the knots in a piece of wood, the better the result yielded after engraving.

Therefore, all these qualities need to be carefully considered before choosing the wood type used for Laser engraving. Your choice also depends on the result you desire.

What is the Best Wood for Dremel Engraving?

The best wood for Dremel engraving depends on your level of expertise. For those who are just learning how to engrave on wood, or those experimenting with engraving, the best woods for you are softwood, most especially Pinewood. Others include limewood, willow, horse chestnut.

Softwoods are generally cheaper, weigh lighter, are more readily available, and can be manipulated with little stress. However, they have a higher sap content, looser grain, and poor resistance to fire – so be careful as they pose potential fire hazard risks.

If you are more experienced at wood engraving, the hardwood types are the best woods for you to work with, most especially Basswood. Others include Cherrywood, Apple, Maple, Oak, Olive, and Black walnut. These have various patterns and colors and thus add flavor to the art.

Hardwoods are more expensive and harder to come by. They are also heavier, but they have a lesser sap content, close grain, and good resistance to fire.

Where to Buy Wood for Engraving

Wood for engraving is always available on the Amazon store; you can check out some of the best wood for Dremel, Laser, and other forms of engraving there.

Here are some product recommendations;

One product we’d like you to give a trial is the William Craft pinewood slices. This is the best option for not just Laser, but also Dremel and even Hand Engraving.

These packaged unfinished slices of natural wood are perfect for all your favorite DIY projects. Each has a diameter of 3.5-4 inches and is 1cm thick.

The JNMMPEARL wood slices are another readily available wood perfect for Laser Engraving. You won’t need to start jumping around the woods looking for the perfect wood. It also takes away the struggles of cutting down large chunks of wood that you don’t need.

The JNMMPEARL wood slices are all-natural. It contains no preservative or glossy coating and also doesn’t contain melamine.

Other Forms of Wood Engraving

Apart from Laser and Dremel Engraving, there are other techniques of engraving on wood.

Hand Engraving

This is the oldest form of engraving on wood. This involves using crude tools such as chisels, burins, and hammers/mallets, which drive the Burins to make indentations on the wood. Burins are typically easy to procure and even easier to make on your own.

Use of Liquid Medium

Rather than go through the rigor of hand engraving, you could print out words or pictures on a piece of paper and then transfer the ink onto a piece of wood via the use of a liquid medium. Examples of such mediums are Polycrylic, Acrylic Gel, and Acetone.

This process involves placing the printed paper on the surface of the wood piece and applying the medium on top of the paper, leaving it to dry for some hours, and washing off the paper with the aid of a brush. The ink is then transferred from the paper to the wood piece.

Ironing

Another easy do-at-home method of engraving ink on a piece of wood is the use of a pressing iron.

Similar to using a liquid medium, the words or pictures to be engraved are printed on a piece of paper and then placed on the wood itself and iron pressed (as if ironing clothes). The ink is then transferred to the wood piece. This, however, may not yield satisfactory results.

Soldering Iron

This is an easy way of engraving on wood without the need to use a paper interface. A soldering iron can be easily fashioned at home using copper wires, a piece of steel (maybe from a screwdriver), and a fire source.

The soldering process burns the wood’s surface, giving it a characteristic effect similar to that of Laser Engraving.

Check out our article Beginner’s Guide To Wood Burning to learn how to engrave using a soldering iron!

Always Adhere to Safety Precautions

As amazingly surreal as it is, the engraving could also be dangerous; hence, it is advisable to stick to safety precautions while engraving on any piece of wood.

  • Always wear a glove
  • Keep your engraving tools sharp – rotary tools, knives, burins, and so on
  • Wear safety goggles to avoid wood dust from entering your eyes. These safety goggles should also be fog proof.
  • Always wear a dust mask to prevent yourself from inhaling wood dust, which could lead to respiratory problems in the future.

Final Thoughts

The art of wood engraving comes with a great deal of satisfaction if executed perfectly. Therefore, it is important to pick out the best type of wood that works for the engraving technique you wish to use, giving the desired outcome you envisioned.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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