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Thread: laser engravers

  1. #1
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    Default laser engravers

    I'd like to add some inlays to my ukulele projects, something a bit fancier than round dots. My fine motor skills aren't up to cutting them by hand so I wondered if a small laser engraver would be the answer. I'd like to hear from anyone who has experience cutting inlays with these.
    Thanks in advance
    Bill

  2. #2
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    Jan 2004
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    Norwich,United Kingdom
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    Default Re: laser engravers

    I can't help with laser engravers specifically.I have tried inlaying with a small CNC router and the free program F-engrave.The small Chiwanese CNC router/engravers aren't so far away from the laser engravers in price.Its worth taking a look at the youtube videos from Scorchworks who developed F-engrave.

  3. #3
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    Sep 2007
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    Benfleet Essex UK
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    Default Re: laser engravers

    Most schools in the Uk have laser cutter / engravers, I work as a technician so use one all the time!
    Very versatile bit of kit but not cheap, there are two basic types of Co2 laser the first has RF tubes which are metal ceramic. These have a tube lifespan of up to ten years approx the lifespan of the machine. Downside is they are considerably more expensive to start with. The one i use Is a Laserite 6040, it has a 30 w RF tube that is air cooled & a bed 600 x 400mm it is a big machine & takes up a big chunk of space.
    Next type is a glass tube DC Co2 laser that is water cooled, they are not as accurate & cut quality is not quite as good. They are considerably cheaper but the laser tube has a drasticaly shorter lifespan of approx 2 years cost approx 400 to replace every time. This tube replacement cost needs to be factored in & then you have servicing costs as alignment of tube & mirrors is critical
    The software to drive it is important, most manufacturers have their own software on board & will accept Dxf files etc from other cad programs. Most schools in the UK use Techsoft 2d design which is a simple program that kids can learn quickly. A few use solidworks but its cost puts finance managers off!
    I often use it for cutting sound holes in Cigar box guitars & you can do inlays easily. Materials that can be cut or engraved are Plywood (typically Birch ply) mdf or hardboard. Plastic best for cutting & engraving is Acrylic (Perspex) few others work very well & some such as PVC are highly toxic if cut with a laser. You can cut paper, card & leather (if you can stand the stink) You will definately need extraction to outside or an expensive filter unit as the fumes & smoke emissions are not good for you.
    I dont have any experience of cheap desktop machines but suspect virtually all will be far eastern in origin. Support from dealer or manufacturer is important. Hope this helps.
    Last edited by keith66; 06-11-2019 at 04:49 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: laser engravers

    Thanks for the replies fellows, I've realized that both the price and the learning curve for these things are too steep for me . I'll just have to learn to cut simple inlays by hand or do without them.

  5. #5
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    Ronneby, Blekinge, Sweden
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    Default Re: laser engravers

    One trick with inlays is the same as with dutchmans (dutchmen?), you cut the piece you want to inlay first, hold it onto the surface and cut around it. Doesn't work for inlaying veneer, but for solid wood it's pretty fool-proof.

    /Mats

    Elected Swedish Yourneyman of the Year 2019

  6. #6
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    Default Re: laser engravers

    I should add that one should use a single bevel marking knife so the cut line comes right at the edge of the piece being inlayed, and that by "solid wood" I mean a thicker piece of wood. The extra thickness is planed or sanded down to be level with the "background" after the glue has cured.
    Small mistakes can be fixed with a mix of glue and sawdust.

    /Mats

    Elected Swedish Yourneyman of the Year 2019

  7. #7
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    Default Re: laser engravers

    Just send your uke out for the work. What material do you want to inlay into the instrument? CO2 lasers won't cut metal or mother of pearl so if you want that you would have to cut that out by hand and then scan the inlay piece for engraving.

    Other then that just have a design. The pic is of laser engraved 1/8" basswood into cherry for a chair.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    Default Re: laser engravers

    Looking on ebay you can get a basic machine for not a lot of money, 350 or up, All seem to be watercooled dc laser tube jobs, as said their lifespan is limited to about 2 years if used a lot then its a retube time with all the alignment issues, at the price of the cheaper machines they are effectively throwaway items if it goes wrong its scrap.
    Can you justify the money? or can the machine realistically earn enough to pay for its replacement?
    Learning curve isnt too bad, hell if i can do it anyone can.

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