This instructable guides you through the basic process of laser cutting veneer for marquetry purposes and hopefully covers some of the terminology and tips that I found useful. It was initially used to create a kindle case for my wifes birthday and then the tiles and board for my tile game.
Marquetry is the art of applying wood veneer to an item to create a picture or a pattern. The designs can be very detailed and intricate which would be tricky to cut out by hand. Accurate and repeatable cuts make for work that is particularly well suited to the laser cutter.
If you're in Nottingham, UK and would like to know more about this subject then come along to the Nottinghack space tomorrow night where I'll be giving a small workshop
Step 1: Calculating Laser Kerf
When the laser cuts it vaporises a small piece of wood directly under the cutting head and this cut has a width. The width will vary depending on the power of the laser, the speed of the cut and the material you are cutting in to.
James Williamson has written a great post about how to calculate the exact width of a laser cut. His method shows that cutting 10 stripes of veneer side by side allows you to bunch all the kerfs together and take a much larger, easier, reading of the amount of material lost. I calculated that the kerf for this tile setup was roughly 0.1mm and I used this figure while designing the tiles and veneers.
Another thing to consider is that the laser does not create parallel cuts. As the laser penetrates the wood the power drops off and the cut actually becomes narrower. This leads to '\ /' shape cuts in the wood. The veneer I used was only .6mm thick and this effect was still visible, the effect is very noticeable in the material I was adding the veneer too. This can be used to our advantage to create 'male' and 'female' parts. By cutting a mirror image of the veneer parts and cutting those it is possible to create parts that compliment each other. When the piece is 'flipped' back up the right way the edges of the two cuts can be aligned to make '//' edges.