Sunday, 29 May 2011

Laser wood engraving experiment

For the lats few weeks I’ve been taking slices of wood, sourced from Westonbirt Arboretum, into the lasercutting department at UWE where we’ve been trying to get a drawing engraved. There have been a couple of technical issues but we have now succeeded in creating a wood engraving.
 
the sycamore slice before engraving

First I created a drawing, below, then I scanned it and stitched it together on Photoshop using photomerge. The important thing here for me is the ability to turn a drawing into a multiple. There is no point for me in engraving an etching image because it already exists as a multiple, but the ability to reproduce drawings in a new medium is exciting.



I took this file to some very knowledgeable tutors who were able to set the lasercutter. It was important to experiment with both the speed and the power of the laser – too slow and too powerful and it will burn very darkly, too slow and less power may burn just as darkly depending on the wood as the laser is focused on one small part of the wood for too long.


cropped detail showing wood grain within image


These details show how the grain of the wood can be enhanced with areas of the image and how even subtle shapes like splashes of watercolour can be engraved to create interesting effects.

'Looking back', on sycamore

The final engraving has a reasonably good range of tones and makes an unusual art object, but there is room for a good deal of improvement. I like the effect of the natural shape of the wood as a support for the drawing. Having seen what is now possible I’ll make a new drawing which will use the marks and tones the laser engraving seem to like. I also have a nicer shaped piece of wood, Ash this time, a paler coloured wood which will give a different effect, could be interesting...

3 comments:

Jennifer Tetlow said...

What an exciting project. I like the connection that it is on wood, and the image is of trees. Look forward to seeing the Ash version.

Printed Material said...

Wendy,
This is vey intriguing. Nothing interests me more than exploring new techniques.Finding new techniques that will push your work is so exciting. Good luck. Please share what happens next! Lesley

APHarvey said...

Wendy,
I'm a Brit reaching out to you from San Francisco - I'm trying to help my wife make laser etchings on wood for printing but we're getting laser dithering that makes the background into "blocks" instead of smooth. Any chance you might be able to advise?
I can email you a photo of the first few prints.
Many thanks,
Alan.
apharvey@gmail.com