How to Clean Wood after Laser Engraving?

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Laser engraved wood is a versatile medium with a relatively low entry point, ideally suited for hobbyists and creative home businesses. You can create real works of art with minimal preparation and finishing. With some insight into how to clean laser engraved wood, you can refine your technique and create even more attractive pieces.

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Clean Your Laser Engraved Wood Using These Tips

Achieving great things with laser engraved wood takes some experience and trial and error, but there are clear steps beginners can take to hit the ground running. OMTech provides a step-by-step guide on how to use our laser machines to handle projects of all kinds.

Once you've finished engraving your piece, you might notice some imperfections. Smoke residue, unsightly marks, and dust can all mar your results. These simple tips can help you deal with all kinds of unappealing marks on wood and ugly surface issues that are holding back your work from reaching the next level.

Use White Vinegar and a Clean Cloth or Paper Towel

White vinegar is an excellent option for cleaning almost any type of wood. This is one of the easiest methods for how to clean dust laser engraved wood and also deals with minor soot and residue.

Vinegar is a solvent, meaning it dissolves a wide range of materials. You'll achieve much better results in removing minor burn marks and dust from the laser cutting process than using water alone.

Simply apply white vinegar to a clean piece of cloth and wipe off the surface of your work. You don't want to leave it to soak or drench the wood, so be sure not to use too much and dry the surface afterward if necessary.

wood cleaning for wood engraving with white vinegar, wooden brushes and baking soda

Use a Waterless or Orange Hand Cleaner and Soft-bristle Brush

If you already have a workshop, chances are you've come across natural orange hand cleaner. This harsh hand cleaner comes in various brands and is perfect for dealing with all kinds of grease and grime.

You can also use it to clean soot off laser engraved wood edges and deal with burn marks. The hand cleaner is slightly abrasive, which you can undoubtedly feel whenever you wash your hands. However, it isn't so abrasive as to damage the wood.

Use a soft-bristle brush when cleaning the piece of wood for the best results. You don't want to scratch the surface, so soft bristles are the way to go. You can wipe off any remaining hand cleaner with a damp cloth afterward.

Choose a Light Sanding Method

Sanding is an integral part of most finishing methods. However, finishing your laser engraved wood parts isn't always strictly necessary. It may not be required depending on the style you're going for. If you're working with already smooth wood, such as birch plywood, you might not need to sand after laser engraving.

However, light sanding can be an effective method for how to clean laser engraved wood. Sanding works by removing material from the surface of the wood, so you'll be removing any smoke residue, burn marks, and other debris.

Use fine-grit sandpaper if you're just trying to clean the engraved piece. Finer grit sandpaper has a higher grit number, meaning smaller particles. This helps remove residue on the surface without creating visible scratches.

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Try Lowering the Laser Power

Cleaning laser engraved wood at least a bit is common and doesn't mean anything is wrong with your laser engraver settings. However, you should lower the laser power if you consistently get burn marks and serious defects.

A higher power setting allows for faster cut times and makes working with deeper designs in thicker material possible. But it also introduces the risk of burn marks and residue. The higher the power, the more debris gets released during engraving.

The best approach to finding the right power is simple trial and error. Take samples of the wood you'd like to work with and engrave the same design at different power levels. Hopefully, you can find a setting that doesn't leave you looking for how to remove burn marks from laser cut wood.

Check the Focus Settings and Adjust if Needed

Power isn't the only setting to pay attention to on your laser engraver. You can also adjust the focus to achieve different results. Changing the focal length of the laser changes the depth at which the beam concentrates, which can be a factor in any burn marks your piece develops.

Changing your focus settings is another area where trial and error is a great tool. Finding the right setting for your specific type of wood and thickness should only involve a few adjustments to see which works best.

In general, a longer focal length is a potential cause of burn marks. While the longer focal length can help with engraving and cutting thicker pieces, tightening the focal length is an easy way to avoid burn marks.

Use a Thick Masking Tape Around the Area Being Engraved

While some of the burn marks and surface defects your piece develops can be inside the engraved area itself, you're also likely to find yourself dealing with marks and residue along the edges and surrounding that area.

Protecting the surrounding area with thick masking tape can prevent burn marks and residue from taking hold of the wood. You might still have some cleanup to do within the engraved area, but dealing with the rest of the piece is as easy as removing a piece of tape.

A State-of-the-art Laser Engraving Machine Makes All the Difference

Implementing the proper techniques can make a big difference in your finished product. Cleaning, finishing, and other steps can elevate your pieces to the next level. However, achieving quality engraving starts with finding the right laser machine to meet your needs.

OMTech manufactures affordable laser engravers for any experience level, from your first DIY project to running your own home business. Our laser engravers deliver the accuracy and precision you need to create wonderful pieces, along with exceptional reliability and support. See our collections today to find your perfect laser engraver.