Turners have come up with all sorts of ways to add patterns or textures to their turnings - rotary tools with burs and bits, pyrography pens, wood vaporizers / branders, sand blasting, etc.. Now there's a new "carving" tool available to woodworkers n- LASERS.
Laser engravers are becoming accessible and they've got a lot of possibilities. One of those possibilities is low relief "carving", I've been playing with with an Epilog Laser Engraver, What I hope to do here is give you some idea of a few of the possibilities and maybe someone else will take laser engraving farther.
Now that you've got an idea of laser low relief "carving" you're probably wondering about how to use it - on a curved surface - like say a bowl or hollow form.. Making something to mount the piece - in a chuck is pretty simple - and cheap. You can pick up a 3 foot length of 1", 8 TPI AllThread at hardware stores along with three or four nuts for it. You'll have a couple of feet left over you can cut up and sell to a few turners you know so your cost will be about $10. You'll also need some 3/4" ply to make something to hold the AllThread and your chuck, but you probably have scraps that'll do. If you want to add Indexing, you can get indexing wheels with 1" holes for $25.
Scott Landon, a fellow member of Silicon Valley Woodturners made up plex "kits" and I added a pair of hinges and tilt support hadrware - another $6.
Here are the parts
And here's the set up I made.
The fun part comes in with the creation of the Gray Scale images for the laser to use for low relief "carving. I've been playing with PhotoShop 5.5 on my old Mac G3 and Elements 6 on my newer Mac Mini. Create an oval selection, fill it with a gray scale blend then start trying FILTERS and tweeking SHARPNESS and BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST. When you come up with something that looks interesting save it to the hard drive as a JPEG file and start another one. PhotoShop has an"Artistic" filter that has a POSTERIZE function which converts a gray scale blend into bands of individual "steps" of gray. Use DISTORT with it's POLAR COORDINATES and you produce a wrap around effect that's interesting. Here's an example of one path to an image.
And here are some other examples of other GrayScale patterns created with PhotoShop
At the top of this page you saw a real world, laser engraved piece of wood, with the gray scale images that were used to laser "carve" them. As you can see, redwood was probably not the best wood to use for the test, the the harder grain pattern is interesting - though a little distracting. The image of the wood samples are right out of the laser, without any clean up.
This low relief laser "carving" is interesting - and has LOTS of possibilities.
Laser engravers can also CUT stuff - like wood. Think of the piercing possibilities! Want to see some examples? Then CLICK HERE.