CNC Engraved Wood Slabs
CNC engraved wood slabs is a tedious and time consuming task but the effort has incredible results. Materials will vary depending upon location but for this article we will be talking about pine slabs. I will discuss with you the uses of wooden slabs, troubleshooting problems, what to engrave, prepping and finally preserving your slab.
The equipment used is a Camaster Stinger 2 SR-34 cnc router that we manipulate for the purpose of engraving these large slabs. Also milling in a confined space makes things interesting since our shop is so small. I welcome you to take this journey with us to explore your own possibilities of CNC engraving wood slabs.
Wooden Slabs Uses
Wooden slabs regardless of which material you choose have a multitude of uses. From kitchen tables, bar tops, furniture and home furnishings, your only limited by your imagination. For this particular blog I will be discussing wooden pine bar tops fabricated from rough cut slabs. First off, know not only your own limitations but your equipment’s capabilities as well. Perform tasks that have never been under taken before can have disastrous results to people & machinery.
Prepping and Troubleshooting
When prepping for any work with wood regardless of species the materials moisture content has to be taken into account. Most kiln dried material has a moisture content of 15% or less to be sold as such. Raw materials directly from saw mills don’t fall into this category. I have personally purchased green or freshly cut pine in various thicknesses and are forced to wait for it to dry.
If you can purchase material that has been kept inside the extra cost may justify your other wise waiting period for drying. If these cnc engraved wood slabs are a good seller then extra stock kept on hand is a wise choice. I always try for stock with low moisture content to expedite my shop’s handling and delivery times.
Wood shrinks as it looses moisture having varying effects on your material from bowing, crook, kink, cup and twist. None of these results we want as cnc engravers in our shops. Our work surface has to be flat for the engraving to come out correct. This is accomplished in one of two ways.
A commercial planner will do this or a wide belt sander could also flatten our slab.This depending on its severity of defects. I own neither of these tools so flattening has to be done on my cnc machine .
In the second half of this tutorial I will demonstrate for you how I do what needs to be done to plain large slabs. It takes a little extra time but saves me having to transport large pine slabs to another facility to have this task performed.
Not as though wood workers ever run into problems with their materials. In the just in case you might then this is what I’ve personally run into. I’ve found material that has looked so awesome but had a bad imperfection that I took advantage of it.
I’ve had centers that were too porous and once cleaned out left a channel like a stream bed. That channel can be filled with stones, natural or colored depending on the effect. Smaller areas with brass flakes to simulate a gold vein in the piece. Others have taken sea shells and arranged them in place of stones or to complement them. Again your only limited by your imagination or your clients. Try to utilize these effects around your engraving if the theme of the piece calls for it. A pair of deer engraved walking along a stream bed is a nice touch. Knots can provide great effects if your image can be manipulated around them. A knot above an engraved mountain scene could look like a moon, just use your imagination.
What cnc engraving design will go into your wood slab will be up to you, your client or the piece itself. Not knowing until you go to purchase and pick up your material will you know completely what to do with it. A long scene will need space to travel so length shouldn’t be a problem. If your engraving is tall then a wider slab may be necessary for this purpose. There’s many vector graphic designs out there to compare so don’t just settle. If it’s going into new construction then what’s the theme of the room? Is it sports related, outdoors, wildlife, Military, or a formal library.This custom piece you design will be looked at for long time to come.
Preserving, Sealing & Clear coating Your Slab
When material is first brought home and it’s freshly cut I will immediately seal an end to preserve it. You can use different things with different results but I’ve stuck with either Anchorseal 2 Green Wood Sealer or paraffin wax. I apply it to the ends of my slabs and stack it accordingly with spacers until ready for use once dried.
Let us assume for a minute that all important bar top is engraved, sanded and now ready for what ever your going to put on it. Again I only use pine slabs because it’s what’s most available to me so I always use a wood sealer. Pine, cedar and poplar are readily available but porous materials in my opinion should be sealed first. Pine will drink up that expensive lacquer like your buddy at the Pub on your dime. By using a sanding sealer I reduce the clear coats to follow the final stage of the project.
Your finish coat will be entirely up to you but I’ve narrowed it down to three choices for simplicity.
- Polyurethane: Readily available, cost effective, oil or water based, strong and durable
- Spray Lacquer: Availability can be questionable in some locations, sprays like a dream, creates a spectacular top coat, not inexpensive.
- 2 Part Epoxy Pour: Ultra thick, super durable, Waterproof finish, many manufactures, easy to apply. self leveling, can get costly depending on quantity.
I hope this information has helped you in narrowing down your decision to try CNC engraving wood slabs. Once your mind is set, engraving idea found, where it’s going and finally what to coat it with, your almost all set. Please stay tuned for the second half of this tutorial and as always ……………..
Thank You for taking the time to read