Cutting/engraving clay before it has been fired?

Does anyone have any experience in laser cutting or engraving clay in its plastic stage (wet clay that hasn’t been fired yet) My hope is to cut and engrave rolled out slabs of clay and then handbuild with it. If it is possible, does it dry out the clay where it has been engraved? I would love to hear if anyone has tried this?

I usually work with stoneware and porcelain


Interesting idea, I found this

What a great idea!

I have no experience with lasers and clay. I did however spent 10+ years as a hobby potter almost exclusively doing stoneware slab building [I just sucked at throwing :wink: ] it seems logical that the heat of the laser will dry out the edges of the leather hard cut/etch.

I don’t know what the temp of a 40w laser is – but if I remember correctly stoneware vitrification starts to happen at about 2100F. And you’d have to hold at that temp for a while (and lets not forget the time to ramp up and down to that temp). While the laser is going to be passing over a tiny area fairly quickly. Possibly too fast to do anything more than bisque the edge (?).

@dan (or some other nice soul from GF) may be able to tell us the laser temp?

[[edit for clarification]]

If you can’t laser engrave clay, you should be able to laser engrave something like a piece of acrylic. Just invert your gray scale (so black is white and vice versa) and make a mold you can press your clay into.

I imagine that the laser wouldn’t vaporize material that is intended to be made permanent by the application of heat, but very often there other ways to get the results you want.

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Plastic clay will have a lot of water in it, and water is easy to turn into steam. Seems like you ought to be able to lase some kind of mark onto damp clay.

good points! I’m thinking etching would dry out the clay too but maybe it could be reclaimed (with a wet paper towel) enough to hand build with it… this could stress the clay to the point of cracking though

As mentioned if the clay engraving doesn’t pan out the glowforge can be used to make stamps that would result in a similar outcome. Can’t wait to test it out!

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This is an area I really want to explore! Fine mud, natural clay, glass dust, small rocks, etc.

Sorry if this is a silly question and for highjacking your post as I have nothing to offer. I am hoping to find out if engraving terra-cotta is safe as far as the fumes?
I assume it is but I just like to know for sure before exposing myself any further.
I am making tiny herb pots

Thank you!


This is a great question for Beyond the Manual - try asking there! It looks really cool.

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