Engraving until a very thin layer is left?

Hello Glowforgers! I have a question here for the more experienced of you folks. If I wanted to engrave letters into a piece of plywood or similar so that they were so deep (but not cut all the way through) that light could shine through…is that feasible?

Thx for any pointers…



1/8" baltic is already pretty translucent.

If I were going to do it, I would instead use 1/16" maple hardwood (more consistent, no hidden knots etc) and glue it to a cutout layer behind it, which I would paint black to prevent all light transmission. That way you’d have really consistent thickness and light transmission with crisp borders.

I would use transfer tape like you would for vinyl to get the alignment right.


Good call. I could cut the first in black acrylic then add the 1/16 maple on top, no need for paint then. Any good sources of 1/16 maple?

Duh, what am I thinking…I can just use the veneer stuff with the sticky backing and put that over a cut out from black acrylic. I’ll give it a try…

The sticky veneer might work, but the back would be sticky in the cutouts, and might get junked up over time.

My latest favorite thin hardwood source is Kim Oberlin, we have a thread going about him here:

If you email him and ask for 1/16" maple, he can set you up.

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Thanks. I’ve come up with a temporary solution…see attached. I cut some of the thin veneer (need to find a font that doesn’t have cutouts) and then cut a piece of clear acrylic to go over it. Beneath the veneer we use some vellum to disperse the light…the photos don’t do it justice…looks really neat in real life…did I mention that I love my GlowForge?


NickIMG_0173 IMG_1983


Very cool!

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I read latest as “least” favorite and couldn’t understand why you would recommend him based on your feelings, but then after reading it a third time it made much more sense!

@nickstock another option could be engraving both sides with a slightly slower speed. I accidentally found this out while making some double sided keychains and experimenting with settings. For example, when doing the high quality score line on both sides, I have seen some light seep through those, which may have been caused by me not pinning my boards down.

Keep in mind, with wood, you’re not going to find any consistent settings that are going to work every single time, so your current workaround may be your best option. On that note, really awesome project! Some people have used really thin connections that they’ve added, which is great if you’re into tedious work, but my suggestion would be finding a Stencil Font to help you out!

That website I linked to is my favorite for fonts. I’ve installed a plethora, and when I think a project needs something different, that’s the first place I look for a new font. A nice tip is entering your text into the “preview” section so you can really see how it will look.


Thanks for the link, very useful…I use google fonts too, but their stencil selection is limited. It would be tedious indeed to stick the pieces back! (although I had thought about it then said…‘nah’…). The next question is how to cut very thin black mylar without pieces blowing away (and I don’t want to engrave that much mylar…)…



(Opinion follows, disagree with me if you like :wink: )

Personally, I think stencil fonts are the worst. I’d work out a solution for alignment and gluing, there are a few ways I can think of off the top of my head.

Stencils always end up looking too contrived/stylized (MILITARY CARGO WHAAAAT) or overly modern (TNG FOREVERR).

A nice sans serif or slab serif font that isn’t too fiddly can’t be beat and sets you apart from the other stencilers. Clear legibility without overt decorative elements look so good backlit.

[to be fair TNG’s font is classic and only half stencil, which makes it only half awful please don’t attack me trek army, TNG is a perfect gem of art.except Tasha Yar, she was the worst]


If I was trying to take off to a very thin layer left, I’d probably do a series of lower power passes, but wood grains burn off a different levels and such. It is near impossible to pull of a perfectly even burn with textures and different woods, like MDF, or even the same wood. Looking at the clock application, I’d actually cut the letters out, then fill with a translucent acrylic, or something like that.

there are a few stencil fonts that aren’t as “stencily” as the stencils we all know and love. i have a couple of less standard ones at home (don’t have access right now). but i don’t disagree with you that they are limited application fonts at best and you need to find one that fits the right “feel” to make it work. often there isn’t one that exists that’s really the right look.

with a piece like this, it might actually be interesting to turn each letter into a tight, tiny dot pattern or tight mesh and just cut out the dots. that way there’s not an actual cut through the entire letter, but enough light coming through so you can make them out.

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Cliche’ isn’t bad.

I’ve got a couple other unusual ones as well…always looking out for a good stencil font.
(But it’s sometimes easier to just make your own using a bridging tool, or cutting your own bridges. I think I submitted that once as a suggestion for the hopper so we might see it one day.)


Thanks guys. These are actually ‘solved problems’ in the fact that we’ve used ‘proper’ fonts before by painting clear acrylic on the rear and engraving the letters off (https://wyolum.com/category/clockthree/) …however, it’s a tedious process, so we’re looking for a quicker one, hence my experiments with the GlowForge. If anyone knows of a supply of clear acrylic where one side already has a thin coloured layer on it, then I’m all ears…:wink:

How about first bonding a wood veneer sheet to a clear acrylic sheet and then etch away the wood and slightly into the acrylic? Then you can use any font you want—even my favorite, Comic Sans! :sunglasses:


Heck, my favorite, Comic Parchment (Comic Papyrus).


Which is actually going on something right now, pictures in ornaments when my batch is done. (I love to hate people.)


That sir, is just the ticket! I will get my hands on some…(GlowForge…are you listening? This would be a great addition to your catalog of materials… :wink:

Shame it doesn’t come in 12 x 20…

Thank you!!


Inventables isn’t the only game in town. Google around for bicolor acrylic, I bet other have it in different sizes and cheaper.

I like estreet for most stuff, but I don’t recall if they carry it. If you find more sources, let us know :slight_smile: