If you finish a DIY project and feel it is missing something, consider laser engraving. Laser engraving can make any project more lively and typically only takes a few minutes.
The beauty of laser engraving is that it can be done on a variety of different materials. One of the materials that result in the most beautiful finished product is stone. However, it’s essential to know how to laser engrave custom stone designs to ensure that you achieve the desired result.
You’ve come to the right place if you don’t know where to start. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about engraving stone to create beautiful designs that are accurate and precise.
Stone Engraving With Laser: How Does It Work?
Laser engraving stone involves marking a design onto the stone using a laser. The laser reveals the layer beneath the outer layer of the stone, depending on what type of stone it is.
Laser engraving stone is the best way to get your desired design. You also get prolonged durability that may not be available with other methods. Let’s have a look at what the best laser technology for stone engraving is.
The Best Laser Engravers for Stone Engraving
The type of laser that works best for engraving stone is a CO2 laser, which can create fine and sharp engravings. A Diode Laser is also used more often lately because of its affordable price point. Fiber Laser is also utilized but is the most expensive option.
Let’s have a closer look at each option.
A CO2 laser engraver is made up of a gas-filled tube with mirrors on both ends. One is reflecting, while the other allows a lot of light through. Electric current is passed through a gas tube containing nitrogen, carbon dioxide, helium, and hydrogen to produce light.
The beam is intensified and focussed on one point by the mirrors as it travels through the machine to the laser head. Finally, a powerful laser beam is produced which is capable of engraving on a wide range of materials including paper, wood, rubber, plexiglass, plastic, leather, and of course stone.
What Wattage CO2 Laser is needed for Engraving Stone?
We would recommend a 60 – 100 Watt CO2 Laser for stone engraving. For a 60W CO2 Laser use the following settings as a starting point. If this does not give the required engraving results then reduce the speed.
60W CO2 Laser – 100% Power and roughly 30% Speed
The advantage of this technology is that it allows you to control and specify the exact power levels for each field being etched. There are however no exact settings, you will need to do some testing as the correct settings are to be determined by the type of laser, optical power, and other variables. To engrave stone, only one pass is required.
A 60 Watt CO2 Laser will roughly cost around $2500 – $3000 depending on the brand. More information can be found in this article that I wrote on the Best Laser Engravers Under $5000
Semiconductor lasers are diode lasers, as the name implies. Light is emitted when a current is sent through a semiconductor, which can be used for a variety of applications. Diode lasers are compact, low voltage, low current devices that are widely employed in a variety of applications ranging from laser engravers and laser printers.
Can a Diode Laser Engrave Stone?
Yes, a diode laser engraver can engrave stone as well. Although CO2 lasers are commonly used for this purpose due to their higher power options, a diode laser can also engrave stone and is the most cost-effective option.
The most popular diode lasers emit blue light and have an optical power of 5-20W. We would however recommend using a 10 Watt or 20 Watt Diode Laser.
A Quality 10 Watt Diode Laser like the xTool D1 Pro will cost roughly around $600, more information on the 10W Laser Engravers we recommend can be found on this link. xTool also offers a 20 Watt version for around $1600. So if you require sharper, faster, and darker engraving, the 20W laser is the way to go. The amazon Link to the xTool D1 Pro 20W Laser can be found here.
In the below YouTube Tutorial, you will see the 10W xTool D1 Pro engraving slate coasters:
Fiber lasers are ubiquitous in today’s environment. Because of their vast spectrum of wavelengths, they can be utilized for a variety of tasks including marking, welding, cutting, cleaning, texturing, drilling, and much more.
Fiber lasers employ a silica fiber cable to direct light, and the resulting laser beam is straighter and smaller than other forms of lasers. They also require little maintenance and are inexpensive to run.
Can a Fiber Laser Engrave Stone?
Yes, a Fiber Laser can engrave stone. Fiber Lasers perform best on hard materials like stone, metals, and rigid industrial plastics. Fiber Lasers are an ideal choice for etching metal with complex graphic patterns, serial numbers, or bar codes. They’re also ideal for jewelry engraving and other craft tasks.
They generally cost more than a CO2 and Diode Laser. The drawback for many is the cost as well as the limited types of materials you can engrave with a fiber laser. Unless of course, your main application is metal engraving!
Some of the materials you can engrave with a fiber laser include:
- Industrial Plastics
- Stainless Steel
Fiber Laser pricing roughly ranges from $4000 – $10,000 depending on brand and power options. For detailed information on the fiber laser engravers we recommend then have a look at this article I wrote here: Best Fiber Laser Engravers for you
Types of Natural Stone Suitable for Laser Engraving
Let’s take a look at the best types of stone to use for laser engraving.
While stone is one of the most durable materials to engrave on, not all stone is made the same. Therefore, before starting your project, you want to ensure that the stone you use is suitable for laser engraving.
The best type of stone for laser engraving is a polished stone slab or any stone with a smooth surface. Based on these characteristics, marble, and granite are excellent choices for stone engraving. Other types of stone you can use include slate, basalt, sandstone, and river rock. As a rule of thumb, you should opt for stone with the least possible number of veins.
Something else that is important to consider when laser engraving stone is the shape of the stone. For best results, you want to engrave on a flat surface. Even though it’s possible to laser engrave on stone with a more rounded surface, it works best on flat surfaces, no matter the material. If the surface isn’t flat, your design may be distorted due to the curves in the stone.
Finally, when choosing the type of stone for engraving, you have to keep the end result in mind. What will this stone be used for? For example, both marble and granite are suitable for indoors, but granite is a better choice for outdoor use because it is more durable and resistant. On the other hand, marble can withstand more pressure and higher temperature, making it ideal for projects that might deal with excessive heat.
Now that you know what type of stone you should be engraving on, let’s jump into some tips to ensure your engraving ends as planned.
Techniques and Tips for Stone Engraving
Knowing where to start and what you should look for can be challenging if you’ve never used laser technology to engrave stone before. However, despite its durability, it is essential to be careful when engraving stone.
To help you out, here are some tips for laser engraving stone:
- Before starting, determine the engraving parameters for the type of stone you’re using. Different types of stone are found all over the world, and there is no singular uniform way to engrave stone.
- It’s a good idea to clean the stone’s surface before beginning engraving to remove the dirt or the natural dust layer.
- Some types of stone may have a composition that may lead to low-quality results. To counter this, it’s a good idea to change the settings of your laser engraving machine, particularly your Z-offset value.
- If you’re finding your stone engravings underwhelming, it may help to infill the engraving with paint. Acrylic paint is the best type of paint to use for this.
- The stone can easily clog the nozzle of the laser beam, so it’s important to always check the opening before starting a new project. You can simply wipe the nozzle or rinse it with water.
What Can Stone Engravings Be Used For?
You can do many things with a laser engraver, especially when it comes to stone. Humans have been engraving stone since the beginning of time, from scrolls to works of art. Today, stone engraving is easier than ever, thanks to laser engraving machines, and there are many different applications for stone engravings.
Stone engravings can serve both indoor and outdoor use. One of the applications of laser engraving stone you may be the most familiar with is engraving tombstones. People also engrave stone for DIY purposes, such as jewelry, coasters, or decorative home pieces.
No matter your reason for laser engraving stone, you can be assured that you’ll have a beautiful result.
Engraving stone can result in the most ethereal projects. However, it’s essential to know what laser engraver works the best and how to safely and accurately engrave stone to get the results you want.
Whether you choose to engrave marble or slate, or want to engrave a new centerpiece for your home, using a laser engraving machine will save you time and deliver precision in your final project.