Introduction: DIY Laser Engraved Inbox

About: I try desperately to gain a smidgeon of fame.

The inbox. The place that sits on your desk at work where people throw useless crap in and expect you to do something about it. In this Instructable, I decided to make my own take on this classic by laminating wood strips together. The end result looks pretty legit, and has a very cutting-board-esque feeling to it! This is a fairly easy build, but is really rewarding and teaches skills on the laser engraver and other tools in the wood shop! If you don't have a laser engraver, you can find one at a makerspace, library, or school. The engraver I am using is at my school. Well, without further ado, let's begin this nifty build!

Step 1: Materials & Tools

The total cost for this project is about $35, if you have all the tools. Most of these things can be found fairly commonly, though, so let's get started!



  • Belt/Disk Sander
  • Jigsaw/Circular Saw/Table Saw/Hand Saw/Band Saw/Portable Band Saw/Wire Saw/Reciprocating Saw/Chop Saw

  • Planer

  • Jointer

  • Clamp
  • Laser Engraver

Step 2: Squaring Boards

We will make sure that our wood strips are straight by squaring the boards now. Begin by planing the boards down to 0.75 inches thick. If you're unfamiliar with how to use a planer, check out this Instructable. After that, use the jointer to make the edges straight.

Step 3: Wood Strips

The entire thing is made out of strips of the different types of wood. Cut the boards of wood to the width of 1.75 inches on the table saw. You should have about 3 strips for each board of wood. After this, cut the strips of wood on the chop saw to the specified lengths and quantities! You will need the following quantities for each type of wood:

  • (8) 18-inch long strips of Oak wood
  • (8) 18-inch long strips of Birch -or- Alder wood
  • (4) 10-inch long strips of Oak wood
  • (4) 10-inch long strips of Birch -or- Alder wood

Later on, we will cut these strips down to 12 inches long and 9 inches long.

Step 4: Base [step 1]

In this step, we will make the base of the tray. Glue 3 long strips of light wood and 3 long strips of dark wood together in the pattern shown using wood glue. Clamp together and let dry for about 8 hours for a firm hold. Don't worry about imperfection, later on we will plane, joint, and square up the resulting board to make it perfect!

Step 5: Base [step 2]

Now we will make the base perfect. Begin by planing the entire thing down to 0.50 inches. After that, find the smallest imperfect edge and cut off the smallest amount possible with a chop saw. This will make the edge straight. After that, measure 12 inches across from that and draw a line there. Then, cut at that line using any type of saw. Now we have a perfect base!

Step 6: Sides & Back [step 1]

Begin by laying out how you will assemble the sides. I used 2 strips of wood on the back and one on each of the sides. Your color choice may vary, but because we will be laser-engraving the top strip on the back, I prefer to use light wood there and dark wood on the sides. Begin by gluing the two back strips together. While they are drying, plane down both of the sides to 0.50 inches thick. Wait for the back to finish drying, then plane it down to 0.50 inches thick. After this, you will want to cut the back down to the width of the base, which is 12 inches. You're done with the back!

Step 7: Sides & Back [step 2]

Now, find out how long you should cut the sides down to. Theoretically, it should be exactly 9.5 inches, but it may vary. For me, it was 9 11/16 inches. To find it, put the back in position, and then measure the distance from the back of the back to the front of the base. After you have cut the sides down, you may want to use a disk sander to curve the edges. Now, lay out the entire thing assembled, but not glued. Good job, we're almost finished!

Step 8: Laser Engraving

Now, we will laser engrave the back of the inbox. If you are not familiar with using a laser engraver, check out this Instructable. I centered the text of my name on the top part, but you may want to variate. I used a setting of 100% power and speed. This should work for you.

Step 9: Assembly and Gluing

This step is pretty straightforward. Just glue the entire thing together! Do not worry about overhang on the sides, but make sure that the rest of the inbox is very precise! Once it finishes gluing, use a bandsaw and disk sander to smooth out the rough patches and get rid of excess wood.

Step 10: Finishing Touches

Now, we will treat the inbox with mineral oil. Mineral oil is an intestinal lubricant, so in addition to getting rid of constipation, it brings out the natural wood color and accents the contrast between the wood colors. Use a rag to smear it on. Then, let it sit for about 6 hours, and you are done! If anybody builds this, please let me know. It was a really fun build for me, and I hope you enjoy reading about it! It builds skills with various wood tools, and ends up being a great product! If you liked this project, then you can vote for me in the contests I am entered in. Thanks for reading this Instructable!

Full Spectrum Laser Contest 2016

Participated in the
Full Spectrum Laser Contest 2016

Make a Box Contest

Participated in the
Make a Box Contest