Laser cut letterpress poster

Since acquiring a laser cutter six months ago I have received a significant amount of emails about using the laser cutter with letterpress (laser cut polymer plates, laser cut wood font, and laser cut wood plates).

I created a blog post on our experience using our laser cutter to create woodcuts to some what mimic the process of wood carving. I thought I would share with the community. I am hoping to perfect this process and get constructive feedback.

Here is my post:

Thank you!

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Very cool stuff! I’ve been doing a little experimenting with this process myself in my spare time but not on such a grand scale. Plus I don’t have a proof press for anything that large yet. I just had a sheet of laserable polymer show up a week ago that I am looking forward trying out when I can get to the lab again.

So far my jobs have been limited to smallish 3x5 & 5x8 runs on poplar boards I have laying around. I’ve never used Birch or Luan for this but the poplar has a nice smooth surface as long as you can find a straight piece. I’ve been happy with it but still working on the power/speed settings.

22 min for that burn that size sounds pretty good, what wattage is your laser? I also 2nd your comment on the fire issue, the ones I have access to have an air compressor attached for extra airflow to help with that. One of my runs yesterday cutting 3/8 pine kept catching fire but the compressor kept it from staying lit.

Pete, Dear Sir, Read your post in its entirety, and appreciated it, here in the U.K there are a few working roughly along the same lines with slight variation, in that our end quest is, reproduction of Poster TYPE!!! Sadly a vast amount has been Vandalised, Turned into *Must Have* sculptures or sold on E Bay as individual letters??? Fact of life but still Sad.
Brief resume of the collective efforts so far:- tiny research has shown, (along with quite a few original examples on sight) the Wood type, along with the original amazing Wood Engravings!! was virtually always from/with END grain only? so far we have acquired small amounts of English YEW, OAK, BOXWOOD, MAPLE and seemingly the best, (Although expensive and limited in supply) HORNBEAM>>produces a beautiful face to print from???. All end grain, either taken down to .918 on a precision Printers Power saw (No loss of fingers YET!!) or Milled to .918 on a milling machine, (wicked misuse of precision equipment admittedly, but interspersed with steel chases, milled from steel blanks, for those missing from one or two, table top machines.???)
So far have produced 3 images from Box, Maple and Hornbeam by undercutting on the Power saw, upside down & face down, just regular hatched parallel lines, with depth of drive, approximately the same as the depth of drive on regular original poster type.
Although the growth rings can be seen in every case, (as can the originals) all 3 reproduce(d) equal to the old originals, on reasonable quality stock, and even on crap photo copier paper, reproduction was/is reasonably good, but on ART paper the growth rings showed up, but I assume that, in the case(s) in question would not be, or attempted to be reproduced on Art or Coated stock.???

When Letterpress was in the death throes, (Poster Printing on Wharfedales and similar was long since gone) but up to the Bitter End, Smaller sizes of *TYPE* i.e. 6 Line to 36 line,!!! Were, reproduced, by facing the main body of the *type* with plastic/perspex at about 1/8” of an inch depth. (many examples on sight now)???
With this concept in mind enquiries were made with local Sign Manufacturers regarding reproducing 3 dimensional letters from/with plastic sheet, via their computer driven machine, but was told (unfortunately) that they only cut/ reproduce, single, dimensional image, from self adhesive stock. Although, again/sadly, as with modern computer Typesetting Systems they have, built in facilities, for, metaphorically 1,001 typefaces.
Apologies for *the ramble* but may just sow one little extra seed, possibly.?? Good luck, from waterlogged downtown U.K. Mick

This is cool!

How deep does the laser etch the wood?

Will you try doing a “positive” (etch away everything except for text & image)?


@ Technut27
Thank you for the comments! We are using a 60 watt laser and maxing out the speed to 600. So the process is fairly fast. I have been using about 60% power for the wood.

@ Mick
I agree the biggest issue I have is getting good wood font. Most of it is being sold as one off items on eBay. I will be trying some wood font here in the near future!

@ jdh (Jason)
The laser will etch up to about 1/4 inch but the speed would need to be slower. I like to use the speed at 600 which is the fastest setting. Then to get a deeper etch I 60% of the 60 watt laser.

I will try one the other way (positive etch). I think the main concern will be the small fine lines, but since we are doing posters the font and design will normally be larger!

I will post the design when I have it completed, we are supposed to get 8 inches of snow tonight so maybe I will tackle that project this evening/tomorrow! ha.


Pete, Yes sourcing the right stuff is difficult, follows one or two possibilities, which may or may not be an option for you, 1st, trawled our listed sawmills, (not D.I.Y.) with small modicum of success, i.e. small baulks of Yew and Beech, Beech was O.K. Yew not so good!! even one 12 line character, although from the very centre of the growth ring pattern/trunk the growth rings, showed through on the print. … 2nd, called into local Bona Fide Cabinet Makers and was allowed into the spare timber, carefully stored, good result and they new their wood? = 2 pieces of seasoned Maple, with a little bribery!! put through their Plane/Thicknesser, to my specified height? . . 3rd attempt Architectural Salvage,?? now Locally, (at least) very shrewd but also Business like, if all else fails, may try again… . One more from along long time back when large format Posters were trundling of the Wharfedales, and 2 or 3 or 4 posters were on the go at the same time, 2 on the press, 1 or 2 still standing caused a shortage of some letters, quite normal to take, for example, surplus cap *Q* with big surface area to view, turn it upside down and re-cut by hand to form another big surface area character, (on the principle of *needs must when the devil is driving*) Compositors from that era were pretty clever at that sort of thing, and it did not detract from using in either orientation.
Inherited some treasures a little while ago, which included 40 or more continental Wood letter, at 12 line size, 9 French accents, acute and grave, *E*, (yes poster type with accents?) but at least six! have been recut on the base to form a new character, still reversible, and although .060 (thou) higher than normal, perfectly able to be cut back to normal English height,… First time around **(footnote)** Poster type was never that accurate anyway, as witness, (here) in any one font every 3rd, 4th, letter had been made ready!!
Apologies if my suggestions are NOT an option, for you, but may prompt, *outside the box* train of thought.

**FOOTNOTE** it was also and occasionally normal when very old Poster Type was cracked and split on the face to repair/fill the cracks with either, 2 pack artificial/chemical wood repair, or 2 pack epoxy resin repair material, both stood up well for many impressions and sustained wash up, although usually/only white spirit?? As solvent.
Good Luck Mick.

Can you provide more detail about the laser cutter?
brand, model, cost?



Can you provide more detail about the laser cutter?
brand, model, cost?



Hi LD,
I have a Rabbit Laser 60 watt. The cost was in the $12,000 range. Its a good machine, but as with any Chinese laser there are a lot of problems and a huge learning curve.