I'm the Director of Photography for American Woodworker Magazine. I've been asked to share with you what I've been doing with the
laser engraver that we have on loan from Epilog. I'm usually taking pictures for the editors of AW to use in their stories. Now I'm taking the pictures AND telling the story so I apologize ahead of time if my writing skills are not the best.
We get all sorts of tools to test here at AW but none of them sparked my interest as much as the Epilog Laser. My background in photography and digital imaging combined with my interest in woodworking seemed a perfect match for a laser engraver. The only problem was what was I going to make first? For some reason I could not come up with a project. Months after the machine arrived at our shop and I had pretty much given up hope on ever using it, I found my first laser project.
I wanted a photo album to hold all of my fine art photos I've taken over the years so I figured this would be a perfect project for the Epilog. Most of my personal photos have a very old gritty feel to them and I wanted a book to match. I dug through my collection of old lumber and found two pieces of a packing crate that were just the right size. The pieces of plywood had a hand painted address on them and one piece had a perfect spot for an engraving. I decided on a very graphic image of a tree for the front cover and mirrored tree images for the inside covers. Since this was my first etching project I spent most of the day doing tests to get used to how the machine worked. Basically the darker the area in the image the deeper the laser etches and the deeper the etching the more it burns the wood. When you're etching plywood the black areas in your image burn through the first layer and reveal the next layer of ply. Now this is the point where my photography knowledge kicks in. Here is the original image for the book cover before I modified it for etching.
I wanted the etching of the tree to be dark with a light sky like in the original image but with less shading to make it more graphic. My plywood packing crate was dark colored with light ply layers beneath. To make the dark layer the tree and the light layer beneath to be the sky I had to modify the image so it burned away the sky area instead of the tree.
The picture above is what I etched on the cover. I inverted the image so the sky would burn the deepest and gave it more contrast to make it more graphic.
The inside of the book is another tree image that I made solid black and white so it would burn the tree image through the first layer of ply. I had no idea how the inside was going to turn out, luckily the laser burned all the way through the first layer of ply and lightly burned the second layer making a very striking graphic.
It took a long time to come up with a project to do with the Epilog laser. After the photo album was done I was hooked! I'll be posting more things I did with the laser so keep checking back.