Our Fans Asked, and we Answered

Epilog Laser Fans - ELFs for short - are some of the most creative engravers around. The ELF group on Facebook has so many engraving projects and examples of the versatility of Epilog machines. In addition, most ELFs are happy to offer expertise and advice to newcomers.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most frequently asked questions our fans ask, along with answers from our experts!

1. What are some recommendations for hardwood engraving?

  • Mask the wood. Masking helps reduce residue from seeping into engraved areas and makes for easy clean up.
  • Use “bottom up” engraving. This is a feature in Epilog’s print driver that allows users to engrave from the bottom of the design up, instead of engraving from the top down. It also helps reduce smoke and debris being pulled into the engraving area as the laser head moves.
  • Clean with Pledge, Simple Green or any citrus-cleaner.

2. I'm a little nervous about etching glass! Any suggestions?

First, remember that not all glass is created equal. While you may think you need more expensive glass to get a great engraving, that’s not always the case. Many of our customers use glassware from restaurant suppliers or dollar-discount stores, both of which engrave beautifully.

We’ve also developed the following tips that help ensure a nice, frosty engraved finish:

  • Using a lower resolution, around 300 DPI, produces a better result on glass as you separate the dots you are engraving.
  • Change the black in your graphic to 80% black to improve the engraving quality.
  • Running with a Jarvis dithering pattern in the driver (you’ll find this under the raster speed and power settings) will also help provide a smoother finish.
  • Some people find that applying a thin, wet sheet of newspaper or paper towel a little larger than the engraving area also helps with heat dissipation and improves the engraving. Just be sure that there are no wrinkles in the paper after it is applied.
  • Using your finger or a paper towel, apply a thin coat of liquid dish soap—any kind will do—over the area to be engraved. That will dissipate the heat when engraving.
  • Polish the area with a ScotchBrite pad or something similar to eliminate shards of glass.

3. What are some tips for engraving on plywood or balsa?

Generally speaking, this material is cut with a laser more than it’s engraved. For engraving, we’d suggest starting with the recommended wood engraving settings in our manual. Plywood can be tricky and inconsistent in terms of cutting, due to the various layers of glue found within it. Balsa seems to cut very nicely and many of our customers use this medium to build various types of models.

4. I'm thinking of expanding my business to engrave leather. Will that be difficult?

Not at all—leather engraves and cuts beautifully with a laser! Some of our users custom etch leather journals, coasters and much more.

5. What are the best settings for engraving on leatherette?

This is going to depend on your machine and wattage, but we’d start with the recommended settings for “leather” in Epilog’s user manual. When in doubt, start with a relatively high speed and low power. If you don’t move the item being engraved, it is easy to add a little more power or reduce the speed and run the job again until you get the look you want.

6. I hate to waste materials. What cool projects can you create with scrap pieces from other projects?

Scrap materials are great not only for creating new projects, but also for use as practice pieces for more challenging engravings, such as photographs. We’ve seen customers make all kinds of things from scrap, such as small acrylic edge-lit signage, ornaments, name tags, and lots more!

7. I have a Mac. Can I use it with my Epilog Laser?

Epilog systems run off any Windows-based graphic design software, so most of our customers elect for a PC and CorelDRAW. Die-hard MAC users typically use Parallels or Bootcamp to power the lasers from their systems, or simply purchase an adequate PC and dedicate that machine only to the laser.

8. Any tips for proper maintenance? How and when should I clean my machine?

The biggest piece of maintenance advice is to keep your system clean, especially the optics. Clean optics help ensure that your laser produces the most precise engraving and cutting results. Other maintenance activities will depend on the model of your machine and are included in your owner's manual. You can also find maintenance videos in our online training site and knowledge base.

9. Can I maximize my laser investment with apparel applications?

Absolutely. Epilog systems can both cut and directly etch all kinds of fabrics. We’ve seen users engraving fleece pullovers, leather jackets, aprons, napkins, and more.

10. Can you recommend inexpensive substrates I can play around with?

This is where scrap materials come in very handy for testing speed and power settings, experimenting with different resolutions, etc. Many of our users go to the big home improvement stores for inexpensive wood and tile (ceramic, marble, etc.) to test and play around with. Thrift stores are also great places to find lots of different low-cost substrates to experiment with. Additionally, “dollar store” retailers often have glassware (pint glasses, wine glasses, beer mugs, etc.) that engrave beautifully.

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