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Tools to Complement Your Laser Engraving Machine

See if these six tools make sense for your engraving capabilities and skills.

If your laser engraving machine is your primary tool, you will add to the types of projects you take on and the products you produce over time. As you add capabilities, you will add tools to complement the lasering (rastering) and cutting (vectoring) your laser offers. How you expand your capabilities and skills will determine the usefulness of these additional tools.

Cordless drill/screwdriver. I found a cordless 12-volt drill had the flexibility and speed I needed for all sorts of jobs. I recommend purchasing an extra battery for large projects.

If you use an electric drill/screwdriver often, you may find changing bits between drills and screwdrivers slow and cumbersome. Consider hex drivers and drills with a magnetic holder. They can be purchased in kits and allow for quick changeovers. Ensure you get a quality set that offers a tight fit of the hex base and the holder. A sloppy fit causes drilling and screwing problems and unwanted releases of the bit.

Drill and screwdriver bits. A 3/32 drill bit is a perfect size to start holes for the tiny plaque screws. High-quality brands include DeWalt and Milwaukee. Hardened steel lasts longer as thin ones easily break.

It is best not to drill too deep but still allow the screws to screw into as much solid wood as possible. About a 1/16″ depth is perfect. You can use a small rubber band on the drill to create a stop to speed up the process.

Many custom plaques require 48 or more plates (96 screw holes). I once produced a plaque with 500 plates. I had to sit on the floor and drill 1,000 holes and screw all the plates on. It took the better part of a day and three days to recover. After drilling the holes, screwing on all the plates is another challenge.

Handheld screwdrivers. If you can use screws made of steel, magnetic screwdrivers are useful to hold the screws. A few strong magnets to store with the screwdriver assure they stay magnetized and can increase the magnification.

If the screws require a physical holder, finding a small slot and Phillips screwdrivers with holders is also challenging. I found a few brands that offer useful quality products, including Greenlee, Klein, and Vaco.

Tools for inset coins. Many government organizations, including the military and some travel sports teams, treasure challenge coins designed specifically for their organization. They range in size from 1 1/4″ to 2 1/4″ although they can be as small as 1″ to as large as 3″.

Holders that hold one or even a large collection of coins upright are available and fairly easy for a woodworker to make. I had orders from the military, police, fire, and other government agencies to inlay coins in plaques and wood bases. Lasering out an area deep enough to flat mount the coin is not economical. A router or rotary engraver can do the job.

However, the fastest tool to use is a drill bit called the Forstner bit. They can be purchased in sets or individually for the larger ones. A set up to 2 1/4″ or 2 1/2″ will meet almost all needs. Bits larger than 2 1/2″ get expensive.

Forstner bits can be used on a hand drill; however, drilling just the right depth and getting it perfectly flat takes lots of skill. A drill press makes the job much easier. Either a floor-standing or tabletop drill press will do the job. Make sure the drill press can accommodate fitting the largest plaque you are likely to encounter. Floor-standing models are deeper than tabletop models. Drill presses are good for any job requiring precision drilling depth, especially for large-quantity projects. These two tools together assure precision and clean-cut edges.

Rotary tool. A rotary tool, like a Dremel, assists with working with a lot of smaller parts. The list of attachments is long. From small drills, screwdrivers, grinders, sharpeners, saws, and sanders, there are many projects and maintenance chores that this tool is perfect for.

A rotary tool comes with many attachments, and there are a wide variety of attachment kits. I added several attachments for cutting wood and a few for cutting metal. I always kept my rotary tool next to one of my workbenches for easy access. Harbor Freight is a good economical source for tools that I used occasionally. The quality is reasonable, and the price is right.

Dental-type tools. Dental tools come in handy when working with many materials. They can help you remove carrier sheets or plastic covers from sheet acrylic and push small objects from cutouts of text or graphics in wood. You can purchase sets online or at some hardware retailers. Picks, scrapers, and tools with small blunt points are useful. I used them every day at my shop.

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Bob Hagel

Bob Hagel and his wife Dana offered a full line of personalized products using laser engraving, sandcarving, and full-color UV direct print on products for nearly 20 years. The pair sold their 17-year-business Eagle’s Mark Awards & Signs in September 2020. Bob remains an expert in the awards, recognition, and signage industries while he enjoys retirement.

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