How to Clean Up Laser Burnt Wood




Introduction: How to Clean Up Laser Burnt Wood

About: I'm an inventor / maker / designer based in the Bay Area. My background is in residential architecture, film set design, animatronics, media arts, exhibit design, and electronics. I use digital design and fa...

The one thing we all hate about the laser cutter: burnt edges. You mitigate this by masking the material with wide painter's tape before cutting, but even with that you still get soot coated edges. Here's an instructable on how to quickly and easily get rid of laser burn.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

All you need is a little pumice liquid soap and a brush. A toothbrush would probably work best, but this fabric brush did the job for me. You can easily get the burn marks off the face of the wood with sandpaper, but it's practically impossible to get into tiny crevices with sandpaper.

The pumice granules act like sandpaper and the brush bristles allow you to reach tight spaces (just like the toothbrush companies promise in their ads) and scrape off the ashes.

Step 2: Scrub Off the Soot

After about 2 or 3 minutes of scrubbing, the soot on the surface is completely gone, and the edges (though a bit caramelized from the heat) are no longer black- the ash layer has been scraped off. An added bonus- IT DOESN'T SMELL LIKE LASER-BURNT WOOD ANYMORE!

The pieces shown here are solid wood so there's no danger of de-lamination that might occur if you get plywood too wet, but since the only water used is the small amount in the soap itself, I doubt this would be a problem anyway.



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8 Discussions

Any ideas about removing the resin from a laser etching on a finished surface ( color dipped and sealer applied ) ? The woods I am using are maple, birch and ash. Tried turning the laser power down. Yes, less residue but shallower engraving. Longer cure time on the sealer has helped but time is not always an allies. I have tried cleaning with (all surface) windex. But I still can't keep wiping without dulling the finish.

Someone tried a magic eraser,man did that donk up the finish. Any thoughts or ideas would be greatly appreciated. Cheers and Thanks in advance

I just use one of those foam pan scourers and a little water, soot comes straight off and no damage to the wood.

I should have mentioned this in the instructable: this is solid wood, not plywood, so there's no danger of de-lamination.
As for the edges, scrubbing them with pumice soap made a major difference. They're definitely more brown than the surface or the wood (they were burned through with a laser after all), but there is no trace of any ash.
Pumice soap is doing the work of sandpaper. The granules of pumice are scraping the surface the way sandpaper would. The difference is that it wouldn't be possible to sand all the tiny crevices on these pieces with sandpaper, whereas a brush has no trouble with that.
Thanks for the tip regarding oven cleaner and the febreeze!

1 reply

wetting any wooden surface will raise the grain which is why when a finish is applied a slight sand is required between coats.

Thanks! I wouldn't have thought to try that. The oven cleaner method sounds interesting too.

I'd be interested in seeing if a paste made from baking soda and water would do the same. Baking soda is often used for its tiny-granule-abrasive qualities. I would think that it's a more common item as well.

I sometimes like the look of the burnt edges (and strangely I really like the smell).

For the times I don't like a singed circumference, this is a great tip!

I'm not sure where you are getting the 'soot'. If you mean the top and rear surfaces then is can easily be sanded away, whereas wetting the surface raises the grain of the wood which then would need to be sanded. If you mean the edges then the only way to remove the burnt material is by sanding. A laser, as I am sure you are aware, cuts by burning through the material therefore unless you completely remove the burnt material in some way it will always be there.

Generally on timber products the surface 'soot' is resin, glue or natural sap from the timber which has been liquified by the laser, blasted on to the flat surfaces by your air assist system, cooled and stuck to the surface. This the same material that you get all over the honeycomb in the laser machine which can be easily cleaned with environmentally friendly orange based cleaner used for ovens and bbqs.

To get rid of the burnt smell I put my products whether they be wood or fabric) in a plastic tub with a lid and spray with Febreeze odour remover. Works a treat with no effort and no damage.