Laser cut wooden sign made of MDF

Laser cutting and engraving of veneered MDF board

MDF (medium density fibreboard) is a wonderful material. OK, it’s not as eco friendly as birch ply, however it does cut more reliably due to its uniform makeup. Add in a thin slice of veneer on each side and you have something which just looks great. Add in your designs and you now have something which should look stunning!

There are low formaldehyde variants of MDF which we try to use as much as possible, in particular Medite brand “laser MDF”. With the veneered MDFs however, we have to use what’s available and right now it’s stock MDF. We’ve asked for more eco friendly veneered boards to be produced but the answer comes back that it’s not commercially viable. Yet.

Drawbacks aside, it’s cheap, readily available and comes in various thicknesses from 4mm and 6mm upwards. We can cut up to about 12mm before the quality of the cut starts to deteriorate.

Special attention has to be taken with the veneers as the board core tends to redeposit resin on the surrounding surface of the board when laser cut. Generally speaking, applying a low tack masking tape will reduce or eliminate laser burn marks on the veneer surface.

When we say masking tape, we mean huge logs up to 3ft wide, not the tiny rolls you get at the supermarket!

We stock veneered MDF

We keep a stock of 6mm walnut and light oak veneered boards. Also some 4mm boards. You can either have your boards delivered to us, or ask what we’ve got in stock and we’ll add it to your order.

There is generally an A side and a B side with these boards, although it’s sometimes hard to tell which is which. Neither side should have knots in the veneer and it’s more the aesthetic opinion of the person who applied the veneer.

The A side generally looks a little neater in our opinion, whereas the B side can be several shades darker or lighter.

Occasionally you’ll hear talk of an A side with a balancer. This is a little cheaper as the balancer is not a real veneer but a plastic film.  For some reason they never come close to matching the A side.

Boards can vary quite wildly in pattern and depth of colour. If you’re particularly fussy (we can be!) you may wish to visit your local wood merchants who will either try to fob you off with health and safety warnings, or if they're amenable, will leave you to hunt around their stacks of wood looking for the perfect boards.

For reference and so you can talk semi-knowledgeably on the phone before visiting, there are different ways of producing the veneer, mainly as follows:

    1. Crown Cut – cutting a log in half and then slicing parallel to its centre to produce the crown or heart effect
    1. Rotary Cut – log gets rotated around its axis against a knife as if unrolling a carpet (producing a continuous sheet with sometimes very fascinating characteristics)
    1. Quarter Cut – produced by cutting at right angles to the growth rings producing a straight grained effect

Generally crown cut is what you shall receive and it’s good stuff.

Various veneered boards appear to be available according to websites, but they’re quite optimistic compared to what’s actually in stock.  Good luck finding that “Cedar of Lebanon” in 4mm A/B...

Benefits of laser engraved veneered MDF

  • great looking finish, reasonably fast to process, high resolution designs transfer well
  • great price point for a quality looking substrate
  • potential to save money when you have a large batch of small items to cut

Drawbacks of laser engraving veneered MDF

  • slightly more hassle to work with, requires masking, extra machine clean up
  • not so eco friendly as manufacturers won’t yet mass produce eco friendly(ish) veneered MDF panels
  • releases formaldehyde into the environment :-/

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