An Introduction to Wood Engraving Tools: Lasers vs. Hand Carving

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Wood engraving has been a part of human expression for centuries, serving not only as a functional method of crafting objects but also as an art. Wood carving dates back thousands of years to early civilization, when people etched symbols and narratives into wood to preserve their stories. Compared to those early days, the essence of wood engraving has remained, but the methods have changed drastically. 

In modern times, hand carving with wood engraving tools is less common due to the emergence of CNC routers and laser engraving machines. These devices can quickly process wood materials, offering higher efficiency than traditional methods. However, hand carving is a unique form of expression that deserves support and appreciation. We’ll be discussing the different types of tools for wood engraving so you can decide which works best for you! 

Traditional Wood Engraving Tools: A Testament to Time

Hand carving is the classical approach to wood engraving. It is an art that requires an understanding of wood grain, an eye for design, and a steady hand. Beginner wood carvers should acquire these tools: 

  • Chisels
wood worker hammering chisel for wood carving

These tools come in various shapes and sizes, ideal for shaving away slivers of wood. Comprised from a flat metal front and an ergonomic wooden handle, these chisels are used to chip away at the material. The sharp, metal end is driven into the wood by a mallet, taking off a smooth strip of debris. 

  • Gouges 
gouge for wood engraving
Similar to chisels, gouges are used to remove wood from the material. Gouges, however, are designed with curved, rounded edges to carve large divots into the wood. For this purpose, they are faster at removing wood than chisels.
  • Veiners
veiner for wood engraving
Just like gouges and chisels, a veiner requires a mallet to remove material from the wooden block. Unlike these other tools, the veiner blade is shaped into a V, allowing it to perform narrow cuts and small details.
  • Mallets
using a wood engraving mallet for wood work
More reminiscent of a lint roller than a hammer, a wood carving mallet typically is a cylindrical, blunt object used to hit chisels, gouges, and veiners to drive them into the wood. These mallets are typically made from incredibly durable materials and come in a variety of sizes.
  • Scorps
scorp wood engraving tool hollowing out bowl
Scorps are utilized to hollow out tight, narrow cavities where a gouge or other instrument might not reach. Their angled necks allow them access to deep hollows, making them ideal for digging and cleaning out holes. 
  • Carving Knives
carving knife for wood carving

Wood carving knives feature small, sharp blades that allow artisans to make precise and intricate cuts while engraving. They are typically designed with comfortable, ergonomic handles to provide easy grip and control. 

An artisan’s wood engraver tools tend to be an extension of themselves, as each piece requires hours of dedication. This method results in beautiful, intricate pieces that bear the unique signature of their creators. 

CO2 Laser Engravers: Modern Wood Engraving Tools 

In contrast to traditional hand carving with engraving tools for wood, the CO2 laser wood engraver stands as a pillar of modern technology in the art of wood manipulation. The CO2 laser is the culmination of precision and efficiency, suited for both mass production and personalization.

At its core is a tube filled with a gas mixture, predominantly carbon dioxide, where light is amplified by mirrors at each end. The partially reflective mirror releases the laser beam when it has gained sufficient intensity, directing it onto the material to be cut or engraved.

laser engraver engraving wood

The beam's generated heat vaporizes the material, allowing the laser to etch with impressive accuracy. The wavelength of its infrared light is particularly apt for a wide variety of materials, such as plastic, leather, stone, and wood laser engraving! 

The Duality of Engraving: A Comparative Look

Hand Carving:

  • Celebrated for its unique character and the ability to connect a craftsman to their work.
  • Offers a tactile experience that is deeply satisfying, though time-consuming.
  • Each hand-carved piece is inherently unique, a quality highly regarded in bespoke creations.

Laser Engraving:

  • Provides unmatched precision and consistency, surpassing what the human hand can achieve.
  • Easily customizable through software, allowing for intricate and repeatable designs.
  • Significantly faster than manual methods, perfect for high volume and consistency.

The OMTech Edge: Laser Efficiency Personified

omtech desktop co2 laser machine

When it comes to laser engraving on wood, OMTech stands out for delivering efficiency without compromising on the precision of the craft. Our CO2 laser engravers offer significant advantages such as quicker production, complete autonomy, and safer operation compared to blade-based cutting.

The Future Favours Lasers

In weighing the merits of laser wood engravers against traditional hand carving, one must consider factors such as the rate of production, the standardization of output, and the adaptability to various designs. While hand carving remains revered for its artistry and the personal touch it provides, laser engraving, exemplified by OMTech, presents a compelling case for a future where efficiency and accuracy are paramount.

For artisans and businesses alike, the decision often leans towards technology that can keep pace with evolving market demands and creative explorations. If you’re looking to take your small business to the next level, a wood engraving machine might be the investment that propels your company to new heights. 

Check out OMTech’s wide range of wood engravers! Our CO2 laser engravers for wood come in power ranges from 40W to 150W, offering you the ultimate tools for etching on wood. Those looking for the best wood engraving equipment around can head on over to OMTech!