Sepele and other Exotic Hardwoods

So I got put in charge of our 50W laser at work last week (which makes me even more excited for when I get my GF) and I was helping a customer make some hardwood puzzles out of a bunch of different woods. One of which was sepele ( and for whatever reason we couldn’t through our 1/4" sheet of it. We tried different speeds, frequencies multiple passes and could only get about 1/8 of an inch through the board.

Thought I would ask around here and get some expert laser advice :smile: Anyone think of something that would explain why we couldn’t cut through? Are there other woods that are more laser resistant? I use a lot of purple heart, blood heart, and the like for some segmented turning projects and I was hoping to use my GF to make interlocking pieces to make glue ups easier and my patterns more intricate.


Congrats on your “promotion”.

I look forward to hearing about your experience with it and how it compares to your GF :glowforge:.

As to your wood cutting, I would say that the African species is probably like teak that has a sappy/oily density that prevents deep cuts.

Multiple passes would cause too wide of a kerf for tight fits.


You should ask @rpegg, he’s our local expert for the thick stuff… :relaxed:


Nah, I work with wood but probably a novice on wood types compared to maybe a couple hundred folks here. On the laser have only tried to cut through thick Birch, Pine, Maple, Cherry, White Oak and Walnut. A dozen different types of veneers but they don’t count). They all cut quite differently. Never touched your wood species so not afraid to admit what I don’t know. Other than to say it seems to be spelled Sapele.


Does the cut fill with ash? If so a powerful air assist jet might help.

Have you tried focusing lower for the second pass?


No practical experience, but from reading woodworking boards with a laser bent many of the tropical hardwoods appear to present difficulties. I’ve never seen a clear cut, these species don’t work kind of guide, just a oily hardwoods don’t work as well as most temperate species. I suspect most of the people with lasers only dabble in exotic species and not a lot of time has been spent quantifying the whats and hows.


Not an expert here either, but many of the exotic woods contain silica, they dull tools very quickly, do not know if sepele has silica in it, but that may be the what is effecting the cut.


Well, get me a GF and lots of wood samples, and I’d be happy to experiment.


Thats what I keep thinking!


I’m a Pro customer, just been waiting. I’ve just recently been getting a little impatient, especially as I am expecting to be doing a LOT of non-proofgrade material. I’m expecting craft stores more than web orders.

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Hey that’s really something! Very nice!

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I like this mystery. Is it ash? Sap? Silica?
Kid of want to see you stick it in a kiln and see what boils out. Keep us posted!

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I’m working on some articles of things I’ve learned. I work in a metal fab shop so I do a lot of powder coat etching, cermark, anodized aluminum and things along those lines with the occasional wood project. I have seen the occasional project on metal but nothing super conclusive on the subject. There are some things I never would have guessed that some other people might enjoy learning.

Thanks, spelling has never been my strongest point… :slight_smile:

Yes, our best results were to focus half way through the wood for the first pass and then focus to the bottom for the second pass. but we just couldn’t pierce all the way through.

This is kind of what I suspect. I think its just a particularly oily wood and that oil doesn’t let the wood cut well.

I’m a Pro customer too and I am planning on doing a lot of large inlays with the more exotic woods so I’m in the same boat, I don’t suspect I’ll be doing a lot of proof grade so I’m curious how the GF handles everything else. What I’m really curious about is that I could get half way through the board of Sapele, If I could flip the board over and with some magic through the Pro software cut the rest of the way through the underside. I guess I just have to wait until my GF finally comes :slight_smile:

Thats an awesome idea to stick it in a Kiln and see what comes out…now if I only had a kiln…I’ve done it in a microwave but the wife doesn’t care for when I get the microwave all sappy and smelly.


Pick up a cheap one of Craigslist , local fleamarket or walmart…probably best to have one separate for non food use…


I am not sure focusing in the middle and the bottom is optimum for a two pass cut. I think you might be better with the focus at the centre of the depth your are attempting to achieve on each pass. I would try the first pass with the focus 1/4 of the way through and the second at 3/4.

If that doesn’t work then if you do two cuts side by side to widen the trench then perhaps a third pass in the middle will get deeper because the top side of the cut will mask less of the beam.

I must point I have never used a laser so take everything I say with pinch of salt.


This is exactly what I was thinking too, seem to remember this was recommended during the thick engrave/cut glowforge badge discussion.


If you had like a turkey fryer, might be able to do some kind of giant outdoor double boiler or something. Kind of elaborate, but it keeps the house happy.

If the problem is that the wood is too oil rich… maybe cut, then give time to dry, and cut again? Honestly not sure how oils in wood work, but if you can cut the outside to some depth, you should be able to cut the inside to the same depth, by making it just like the outside… somehow…

PITA to tie up your machine for prolonged periods of time just to let a piece dry, so you would want a jig to enable removing the wood to dry, and then restoring to precisely the same position.

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