Faux metal badge #2; comparison of carving Draftboard, basswood, poplar

I have experimented with 3d engraves on a few materials now, and compared Proofgrade and manual “vary power” modes. I’ll put my findings below, but first, pics of a finished project. This is a replica of a Judge badge from Dredd (2012).

Judge Badge in Draftboard
Manual 3d engrave, 500 speed, Full power (Pro) (Maximum engrave depth .062")
Surface prep: 1 coat Golden GAC100 size, 1 coat Jack Richeson white gesso, 400 grit sandpaper before size and after gesso
Paint: Craftsmart Classic Gold followed by a black wash (easy as falling off a log, honest)
File: PNG with the deepest parts set to 100% black, mid-depth 60% black, and each sloped surface a gradient from 0% - 60%.

(You can see what the originals look like here. They were cast from metal… I’m not there yet.)

Comparison of Proofgrade and Manual 3d Engraves

Bottom line, Proofgrade’s 3d Engrave mode does not go for depth, and it does appear to lower the contrast. If you want to make your Glowforge stand in for a CNC mill, you need to use the “vary power” Manual setting.

Draftboard, Manual 3d Engrave

Draftboard, Proofgrade 3d Engrave

Comparison of Draftboard, Basswood, and Poplar 3D Engraves

Draftboard produces a somewhat decent 3d carve, but it makes a LOT of char and sticky goop. I could not get it all off with alcohol or sanding. I painted over sticky spots and hoped for the best. It worked out, though.


When painting over the goop with size, I got a lot of brown discoloration as the size soaked up the goop and char and spread it around.


The finished item above was made from Draftboard, so it is serviceable, but basswood and poplar both are much nicer to work with.

Poplar produces much less char and goop than Draftboard. This is a closeup of 1/2" poplar, carved at speed 500 and Full power – 2 passes. There is about 0.19" of depth to this carve, and it came out pretty clean. This piece also has 1 coat of size and a couple coats of gesso on it, and it was sanded with 400 grit for initial prep and in between coats of gesso. (BTW, my Pro cuts 1/2" poplar at speed 145, Full power, 2 passes.)

Basswood is even better to carve than poplar. It carves more easily, produces less char, almost no goop, and produces a slightly less textured surface on those deep, crispy areas. Here’s the basswood version, also with size and gesso appliled. It is hard to tell from the photos, but I think the quality of the carving and residual texture is definitely a bit superior to the poplar.

(I did not try 2 passes on basswood, but I don’t see why you couldn’t do that and get a deeper carve if desired.)

One more picture, of the 3 unfinished pieces. The thick one is poplar (done at 2 passes for more depth), the skunky lower left is Draftboard, and the lower right is basswood.

And, here is a photo of the pieces with the gold base coat applied.

There is no hiding that these are made out of wood, but the laser texture sort of, kind of looks like sandcasting texture, which isn’t terrible for this item. Still, it will take a lot of work and maybe some different sealers to turn carved wood into a smooth, plastic-like surface… If it is even possible. If someone has cracked that code, please post!

tl;dr basswood ftw


What a wonderful comparison, thank you for taking the time to write it up so clearly.

What about XTC-3D for that smooth finish? It’s meant for smoothing the lines from 3D printing.


What a great write up and comparison. Thanks for taking the time to share. Bookmarked for future reference :smile:

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Nice job! Definitely like the basswood, but the poplar isn’t bad either. :smile:

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Nice! Beautifully done!

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Is black wash a product available as is or some thinned down black paint?

Thank you for this in-depth comparison of 3D engraving.

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Really nice work, thanks for sharing the results.

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It’s thinned black paint. It will naturally flow and settle into the deeper spots in an engraving. Then you wipe the high spots just lightly to pull up any of the wash that remains, the result is boosted contrast and an aged look. Kinda like a metal medal/badge, with polished/hand worn surface, and gritty/dirty low spots.


Had not seen that stuff! If it delivers it is just what I am hoping for…

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Exactly, thank you.

I have found that you need to make the wash darker than you think you need at first. If it is too thin you just won’t see it at all, and when it dries you get areas of chalky grey, the opposite of what we are hoping for.

You can also buy “antiquing gel” which does the same sort of thing, but comes as a goop you spread on and wipe off. I have a little bottle and may try it on the basswood badge. Problem with it is that it will be hard to get it down into the deep, narrow spots.

It takes a little bit of practice to make this stuff work, but fortunately, we all can replicate copies of items to play with!


If I’m using water based paint sometimes I start with the paint not thinned at all then brush it onto the piece and slowly add water to it while using the brush to move it around. This way the affect can be adjusted on the fly. However that’s mostly on acrylic items where the moisture is not going to affect the material like it can with wood.

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Thank you. Will give it a try.


I remember this post from May 2017. Maybe there is something in this thread that’s helpful?

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I can’t believe I didn’t see that post before, thanks!

Based on what you wrote, the manual settings you used should produce identical results to the PG 3D engrave setting you chose. “Vary power” is just part of the settings we created to enable the “3D engrave” preset.

If you have a minute and open a support ticket with the time & date of the print, our support team could take a look at the logs and see why they turned out differently.

@dan I will see if I can find when I did that job. If I can’t pin it down, I’ll try for a fresh repro.

OK @dan, my notes are not complete enough to file a good bug with time date and settings, so I did a quick repro–and failed to show the discrepancy this time. So, either I screwed something up, or it was a transient issue.

I edited my original post on that specific topic to remove the reference to the discrepancy. (If you haven’t seen it, the pictures of what I saw are still there.)

If I see a PG/Manual discrepancy again I’ll be sure to take good notes in case it is bug-worthy.