Laser-etched river stones - perfect for Mothers' Day gifts!

Picture of Laser-etched river stones - perfect for Mothers' Day gifts!
In this instructable you'll learn how to use a laser etching/cutting machine to etch words and/or graphics onto the surface of smooth stones.  "River stones", which are rounded and smooth, and have a fairly flat surface, make the perfect material for this project.

Once etched with your favorite inspirational, romantic, or comical message, these stones make perfect gifts.  With Mothers' Day coming up fast, now's your chance to gather some stones and get etching some inspirational/loving messages for Mom onto pretty, permanent stones.


I made it at TechShop!
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Step 1: Materials list

For this project, you'll need:

1. A selection of stones to etch.  I've found that flat "river stones" work best, since they have a smooth, fairly flat surface onto which you can etch your messages.
2. Play-doh or other type of modeling clay, which you'll use as a moldable base/jig to support the stones on the laser etching table.
3. Ruler or calipers to measure the flat, etchable area on each stone.
4. Pencil to mark the etchable area on your stones.
5. Access to a laser etching machine.  I highly recommend the Trotec (and other) lasers available through membership at TechShop (

Step 2: Mount a stone onto modeling clay, level and measure the etching surface

Picture of Mount a stone onto modeling clay, level and measure the etching surface
- Examine your stone to select the best surface onto which you will be etching a message/graphic.  Look for the flattest surface, with the fewest blemishes and most attractive appearance.
- Make a ball of modeling clay and push your stone onto the top of the clay, with the surface to be etched facing up.  Adjust the stone by eye (or with a small bubble level) to make sure the etchable surface is as horizontal/flat as possible.
- Use your calipers or ruler to measure the height and width of the flat area on the stone onto which you want to etch a design/graphic.
- Mark the top left corner of the area you measured with a small pencil mark. You'll use this mark to align the laser head to the top left corner of the etching area once you place the stone on the laser etching table.
Where the heck would an every day person get a laser etcher ?? And mrmerino your comment made me crack up :-)

some kind person on this site tells you how to make a laser etcher ,if your brave enough to give it a go.

kde leon31 year ago
Hi I have access to one in Fountain Valley, CA , it's by membership :)
lime3D1 year ago
For irregular shaped objects, I generally use the "center" etch option, instead of trying to find the upper left corner of your etching area.
mrmerino1 year ago
I'd love to do this to a bunch of these (I have a pile of them next to my house), but carve a bunch of dirty words on them and just leave them around.
apexchaser (author) 1 year ago
Thx! Not sure where you're based, but maybe there is a TechShop or hacker-space in your area that would give you access to a laser etching/cutting machine. Good luck!
mnmama1 year ago
These are very nice, just wish I had the big toy needed to play. Good instructable.