I am new to Glowforge and waiting for my unit to arrive, but in the meantime I am doing some research…I see many posts on the forum about engraving cutting boards. Is there any way to know which cutting boards for purchase are laser-safe to engrave?
If they’re solid wood, they’re as laser safe as any other wood.
If they use glue or a coating, they should list the type on the packaging, and there are so many “is X laser safe” that you’re likely to find someone who has the MSDS or equivalent info
If they’re a plastic, it’s the same as with a glue/coating. Find out what type of plastic and then do the search based on that - quick answer is if it’s got chlorine (PVC) in it, don’t laser it (it’ll eat the interior of your laser!)
Yep, agree with @deirdrebeth, any wood is fine. (If it’s a cutting board, it’s food safe.) Bamboo is a popular option because it’s not very expensive. Slate and stone or tile are fine for cheese boards. (I would avoid anything plastic. You’re not going to know what it’s composed of.)
Anything organic/natural is generally safe to engrave, so wood, stone, leathers, grasses, reeds, etc. but you do want to watch how the item is processed. (Veg-tanned leather as opposed to chrome-tanned, because the chemicals and glues used can be an issue, never use pressure treated lumber…they use chemicals in that.)
But cupric-sulfate adds a nice tang to salads!
Thank you @Jules and @deirdrebeth. My plan then is to definitely try to see if they will list both the glue and any potential coating since both of those could be a problem, though perhaps there may be less chance of them using a coating if it is a cutting board.
If anyone has ever done this and has a link to a product they have purchased that they have researched already, that would be handy, but no worries if not as it would be a fun research project anyway.
I found some nice inexpensive Bamboo boards at Ocean State Job Lot (New England-area chain) and IKEA if you’re near either one.
Keep in mind that any laser engraving on the cutting board will be a paradise for bacteria. If you laser etch a board meant for use, I suggest doing so on the back face and letting the recipient know that they should not use the etched face for food. Even sealed, the cracks and crevices of an etching will hide food and bacteria that can’t be easily removed without damaging the etching. Wood cutting boards cannot be bleached as it will destroy them, and the natural oils can only do so much.
Ummm…what about knife cuts in the board after it’s used? How should we stop those from providing the bacteria paradise?
You wash the board with soap and water. The oils in the wood take care of the rest. You can’t scrub an etched board without damaging the etch and the burning removes at least some of the oils from the wood.
A knife cut into a board is also shallow relative to a laser etch, and a good board will self-heal to some degree, further reducing the surface area for bacteria to grow on.
I have seen others do it, but your point is well taken so thank you.
I oil my boards.
But I only cut veggies on wood. Meat is done on plastic boards which can be bleached but I don’t often do that either. Since I live awash in germs I tend not to get sick (nor do the folks around me so I don’t think I’m poisoning people).
I used to work in a restaurant kitchen specializing in chicken. My current life is almost freaking sterile compared to that
I oil my boards also, but I also wash them after use and oil them periodically.
There has be a general notion that plastic cutting boards harbour fewer bacteria than wood cutting boards. Several years ago some chemists put this to the test and found that the wood surfaces inhibit bacteria growth. I saw this reported in Chemistry and Engineering News, but they may have reported their findings in a peer reviewed journal. Some woods are known for being resistant to insect and fungal attack so this is not terribly surprising. Other woods such as banana wood are not resistant to such attack and have to be stabilized with orthoborate. While such wood can be used for furniture it does not perform well in wet environments.
The kitchen stores this Christmas had many kinds of cutting boards made from Richlite. This is a paper composite. I got some samples and it does not cut very well, but others have described in this forum their use of the material for engraving metal stamping dies.
Summary is that for places where you do not have time to dry out the cutting board and can bleach it, use plastic and don’t use the same board for meat as for other foods. For household kitchen use, use wood, wash with hot water and soap and let it dry completely, and don’t use the same board for meat as other foods.
Don’t use glass or ceramic. Your cutting board should always be softer than the edge of the knife you are using. The glass and ceramic can chip under the edge of the knife, contaminating the food with slivers, and WILL destroy your knives. I have a Wustof chef’s knife that was used once on a glass cutting board. I haven’t used it since because I have to completely rebuild the edge for it to be safe. Not just resharpen it, but completely regrind and reshape the edge. I estimate it will take 2-3 hours.
Most tropical woods live their lives with serious attack by critters that if they do not have resistance they would have been extinct years ago. Boat builders experience is useful in this case, that boats that are built up north in northern woods will be resistant to problems of freeze cracking but taken to tropical waters rot easily with the reverse true going the other way. I have heard Purpleheart can be a problem with the chemicals it protects itself with, but most tropical woods would also have some antibiotic properties. I understand that cherry has self protection that have been used medicinally, but not knowing about maple or walnut.
That is the study I was thinking of. How my memory turned 25 years into a few years ago is another matter. …
Watching all those high school students getting out of class and thinking it would be forever before I was that old my memory turned into a few years ago but it was actually 67 years ago and my high school picture I can hardly recognize as me.
Thanks so much everyone for your thoughts on this thread!