Once plausible only in the realm of pulpy science fiction, lasers are becoming a part of our everyday life. Already commonplace in the medical and dental fields, laser tools are quickly moving into other fields as well. Woodworkers and woodcarvers have found that lasers provide a much easier way to perform some tasks, delivering comparable if not superior results.
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The laser engraving machine is a common laser woodcutting tool. These machines are completely computer controlled; the only work that the woodcarver actually does is program the computer to complete the job properly. An image or design is loaded into the computer, and a piece of wood is placed inside the machine on the engraving deck. A design is copied onto the wood by the computer; the computer controls a laser that carves away one layer after another, until the image on the screen has been cut into the wood.
One of the most common woodcutting tasks is sawing boards. Traditional hand saws, circular saws and chain saws cannot match a laser for speed and precision. When one uses a laser board cutter, a board is secured, and its intended cut dimensions are programmed. The machine then cuts the board with a high-powered laser exactly where specified. These machines may cut across the grain of a board, but they can also cut along the grain, like a lathe---making them essentially two tools in one.
Laser woodcutting tools truly shine in the area of woodcarving. Traditional woodcarving tools, such as chisels and knives, require the carver to put a lot of muscle into the actual carving---effort that can actually cause them to push too hard and make errors that will have to be sanded out later. Laser tools use nothing but light to cut, so the carving is left up to the woodcarver's own dexterity and imagination. Additionally, laser tools leave behind a smooth finish, so nothing rough remains to be sanded down afterwards.
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