Wood is a great material for your laser engraving projects. But one huge demerit with wood is the residue that the engraving machine leaves behind. In some cases, you might even have to deal with some burn marks on your material.
So, how do you clean laser engraved wood? There are three main methods of cleaning laser engraved wood:
- using hand soap
- light sanding
- using white vinegar
I will explain each of these methods in greater detail below so keep reading.
Method 1: Using hand cleaner
- You will need an orange hand cleaner that is waterless, has no toxic chemicals or ammonia (Here’s a link to a good one I found on Amazon). A soft brush and paper towels will also come in handy.
- Place some of the hand clean on a soft brush and then use it to gently clean the surface.
- Check to ensure the wood is residue-free and then use a paper towel to give it one last polish with a little dab of the orange cleaner.
Method 2: Using light sanding
For this method, you will need smooth sandpaper to gently sanding the engraved wood. Inspect the engraved area and use your discretion to sand off an unwanted mark and burns but remember to be gentle to avoid ruining the intricate laser engraved patterns.
Caution: Don’t use the sanding method on painted wood as it might scrap the paint and leave you with an ugly surface instead of the masterpiece you were aiming for.
Method 3: Using white vinegar
For this method, you will need a paper towel and white vinegar. To clean your laser engraved wood, dab your paper towel in vinegar (you can also use a soft piece of cloth) and then use it to wipe off the residue on your wood. Repeat the process until you are satisfied with the result.
Tips for cleaning laser engraved wood
- Avoid using any corrosive agents or coarse cleaning products as they could easily ruin your wood.
Test a small piece of wood first before you clean your engraved material. This will help you judge whether or not the cleaning supplies will actually work without leaving behind a mess.
- Remember to clean your laser machine as well. Over time, the laser engraver will get lots of dust which combine with the resins to form a sticky mess that can cause your machine to malfunction.
How do you protect laser engraved wood?
You can use lacquer aerosol spray (amazon link) to spray the wood. This is one way of protecting the wood from aging and remaining as beautiful as it can for long. You can spray it immediately after you have finished engraving and cleaning the wood but it might be a good idea to use the spray annually to make it pop.
How do you seal the wood after engraving?
Seal the wood using the varnish of your choice and give it time to dry. Sealing helps protect the quality and value of the laser engraved wood. You can use wood polish to seal the wood properly and keep it away from any damages. If left unsealed, the engraved wood will easily get dirty and the engravings will be more prone to damage.
Should you stain the wood before or after engraving?
When it comes to staining the wood, it depends on what you are looking for. If you want the markings you are making to look lighter, you should stain the wood before engraving.
If you need a darker and bolder look, then stain the wood after engraving it. A hybrid of both is another way to go. You can partially attain the wood before engraving it and then do another straining once you are done engraving. There is really no right or wrong way – so just test he three options and see which one you fancy most.
How to reduce cleaning of laser engraved wood?
In general, cleaning time can be shortened in half by reducing the amount of smoke and residue produced during the engraving or cutting process.
To improve the engraving outcome and reduce the cleaning work, consider the following points.
1. Only engrave as deep as is required for the desired outcome.
This results in a brighter, more detailed engraved image as well as a significant reduction in smoke residue.
2. Reduce the laser power and/or increase the laser speed settings as needed to achieve this.
3. Engrave from the bottom up, so the smoke is drawn away from rather than over the etched region. The amount of residue that can settle on the (hot) engraved area is reduced as a result.
4. Using a honeycomb table and cutting in one pass allows residue to be ventilated off instead of accumulating on the laminate.
5. If you’re only cutting, you can leave the protective masking on the sheet or cover it with masking tape. After removing the tape, you’ll have a clean edge.
So, in a nutshell, remember to clean your laser engraver as well as your engraved material. Cleaning the engraver makes it durable and safer while cleaning the engraved object improves its quality and aesthetic appeal. But as we have pointed out, you should take extra caution while cleaning the wood so as not to damage it. Just follow the steps shared above and you will be fine.
Here is a link to a article I wrote about laser engraving on wood which provides many tips and techniques which may be helpful.