A laser leather engraving – all you need to know.
Аny crafter would like to make high-quality patterns for their products, easily cut out intricate patterns and small leather details without spoiling the material, so Endurance semiconductor (diode) lasers will help you in your work. Endurance recommends semiconductor (diode) lasers with an output power of 3.5 watt laser power output and higher. The use of lasers with higher power will significantly reduce the time of cutting or engraving and will allow cutting thicker samples.
All About Leather Lasering (laser engraving)
About leather manual engraving, in short
Every leathercrafter, a professional or a hobbyist, knows what a painstaking process is leather engraving. Those who had or just touched an engraved leather item could not but admire the beauty of the work done. But very few know how manual engraving is done in practice.
The first step is leather moisturizing either with special compositions or with impromptu mixtures, such as shaving foam, for example, if you have nothing else at hand. The next step is pattering the leather surface. For this, you will need tracing paper with the image you need to transfer to the leather and a tool to do it such as an empty ballpoint pen or a special saw-tooth roller marker with which you will trace the lines of the drawing on the tracing paper put onto the face side of your leather workpiece. In this manner, you will have an imprint of your drawing on the leather surface. After this, you can set to engraving. The processed piece of leather should stay moist at that. Various tools are used for leather engraving: a swivel knife for leather cutting, a set of stamps for grounding, bodkins to make holes.
Leather engraving is a rather complicated and time-consuming process. Any mistake can spoil the look of the item. For high-quality work, you need special tools for different purposes. But there is one tool to combine and substitute them all. This is the laser.
Laser engraving. A vast advantages and no drawbacks.
Today leather engraving with a laser engraver is rather popular and in high demand. No wonder! Laser machines suitable for leather engraving and cutting are easy to find, use, and maintain. They don’t need much room and even low-powerful machines can perform a great many operations and tasks.
The laser engraver is able to make an embossed pattern on a leather surface independent of its thickness. As for leather cutting, more powerful machines do it faster, but even low-powerful ones can do it too. Solid-state (diode) lasers with a 3,5 watt (3500 mw) output power and speed of 100mm/min. can make a relief of 0,3mm deep with just one pass independent of the leather type: elk side, chevro, suede. More powerful devices such as 10W DPSS easily cut leather up to 2mm thick at 500 mm/min speed. To cut a thicker material you need just to decrease the speed.
But the key advantage of the laser is its high accuracy. No artist can draw an image on a leather surface so perfectly as a laser beam. Any soft copy pattern can be engraved on leather micro-accurately. A 10W DPSS is able to engrave a readable inscription of 5 letters, 1.5 mm by 4 mm in size.
What is the best leather for laser engraving?
Smooth leather is rightfully considered the most popular type of natural material, it is made from the highest quality raw materials, from the surface of which wool is removed.
Here are some types of leather:
1. Smooth leather
Smooth leather is rightfully considered the most popular type of natural material, made from the highest quality raw materials, from the surface of which wool is removed. This type of leather has pores, due to which it is able to “breathe” and has a long service life. Products made of smooth leather are distinguished by increased wear resistance; the most expensive and luxurious models of shoes, outerwear, and furniture are made from it.
Nubuck is a beautiful, but rather delicate material that is made from the leather of pigs or cattle by chrome tanning. The velvety effect is achieved by sanding with fine-grained materials. Nubuck is used for the production of leather goods, upper part of shoes, as well as for upholstering furniture.
The material is less protected from moisture and dirt, and is more prone to salting than suede. Nubuck requires special care, especially during the first months after purchase. It is noteworthy that dark nubuck clothes brighten over time, and light ones darken.
Velor is similar in structure to nubuck, only in the first case the leather is sanded from the inside, and in the second – from the outside. Depending on the processing technology, velor can be both soft and thin, or hard and thick. It is made from chrome tanned pork or sheep leather. The material is used for the manufacture of clothing, upper part of shoes, as well as leather goods.
Suede is considered one of the most popular types of genuine leather. It is made from the leather of goats, pigs, sheep, deer, elk. By its nature, it is a soft, porous and highly durable material with a fleecy surface, the appearance of which is to the taste of many. Suede is comfortable to use, has the ability to “breathe”, and is also able to maintain its softness even after cleaning in soapy water.
This type of natural leather is obtained by the fat-tanning method. The suede is velvety thanks to subsequent sanding. Exclusive models of outerwear, bags, shoes and accessories are made from suede.
5. Aniline leather
Experts consider aniline leather to be of the highest quality. It is colored with organic dyes and processed to a minimum. Natural marks can be found on aniline leather, including scratches or scars. Aniline leather is quite sensitive to influences, and in the process of use it can acquire an antique look.
Despite the fact that the name may not be familiar to you, this type of natural leather is actively used to create accessories and other products. Nappa is made from the leather of young and adult animals, and thanks to the double tanning, this material becomes incredibly soft. Depending on the finish, nappa can be matte or glossy, smooth or perforated.
The main advantages of the nappa:
softness and smoothness;
resistance to dirt and moisture;
ease of care and cleaning.
7. Patent leather
Patent leather is obtained by dyeing the hide and applying varnish at high temperatures. This material has an attractive appearance, but is less durable than genuine leather, and at temperatures below -10 and above +25 degrees Celsius it becomes cracked. High-quality patent leather withstands multiple bends, has a uniform color and, with proper care, lasts for more than one year.
Nappalan, also known as silka, is a type of suede that is treated with a solution with the addition of a rubber mass. Thanks to such a coating, nappalan is able to protect against rain and snow, but after a while it can begin to crack, and if you scratch such a product, you will not be able to restore it.
Laika is a soft and elastic natural leather, for the creation of which the leather of lambs and kids are used, processed with chrome-fat or chrome tanning. This material is almost always used to make gloves.
10. Brushed and embossed leather
Animal leather often have many natural defects: plant scratches, insect bites, and others. As a result, the hole formed does not heal, which significantly reduces the value of the material. Such defects during production are eliminated by grinding, and a coating is applied to make the surface of the product even. Such genuine leather must be dyed without fail.
If, after grinding, defects remain on the surface of the material, then embossing is applied. The leather is heated and then pressed using large plates.
Types of natural leather tanning:
Chrome. In this case, the leather is treated with basic chromium salts. This allows leather products to become soft, elastic and heat-resistant. Such products are resilient, get wet and quickly, and easily let water through.
Vegetable. Based on the use of tannins – special tanning agents contained in the bark and leaves of trees. The final product has great thickness, high density, water resistance, but low heat resistance. This method is used in combination with others.
Zirconic. A zirconium compound is used here. This method is designed to produce white leathers that are more resistant and durable, and are not afraid of exposure to water and sweat.
Synthetic. Syntans give natural leather elasticity and attractive appearance. This method is used in conjunction with others.
Fatty. This method of tanning natural leather is carried out using fish oil, as well as oil from marine animals.
Aluminum. Tanning is based on the action of aluminum salts. Using this method, a husky is obtained, which is soft and elastic, but is afraid of exposure to water.
You may engrave on any type of leather but you need to find out proper laser cutting/engraving parameters.
What happens with leather during lasing
Many people wonder how laser cutting/engraving goes and what happens with the processed material.
It’s all simple enough. The focused laser beam hitting the leather surface vaporizes its upper layer leaving a kind of micro crater (hole) at the place of the impact. As the laser beam moves on this crater is lengthening, turning into a line, the depth of which depends on the laser power (which consists of the pulse frequency) and speed (the slower is the speed the longer the laser processes a given area). Both parameters affect the engraving depth. Thus, for example, at 1000 mm/min and 5% power, a 10W DPSS singes the surface of black leather, changing its black color for gray. At 500 mm/min and 100% power it burns through butt leather 4 mm thick in three passes.
But it should be taken into account that cutting and engraving parameters of different lasers will vary. A 30 W CO2 like BEAMO FLUX laser cuts 3mm leather at 180 mm/min and 60% power and does a light engraving on its surface at 9000 mm/min and 30% power.
Laser cutting is actually deep engraving. The only difference is in the modes of processing.
Specific features of leather engraving
Any leather type independent of its thickness or currying fits for laser cutting and engraving. But it is important to know a number of ends and outs when leather lasing.
To start with, dark-colored leather is easier to cut and engrave than light-colored. This fact should be taken into account when choosing a processing mode. The engraving embossment will be deeper on a dark material than on a light one with the same parameters.
Secondly, during laser processing leather might shift and deform due to heating of the cutting edge at high laser power. To avoid this problem it is recommended to fix a leather workpiece, for example, with adhesive tape before processing. Additionally, it is good to moisturize the leather workpiece when needed.
Thirdly, under laser treatment leather might emit much smoke. To make the working conditions more comfortable it is necessary to use additional devices: a fan or compressor airflow (air assist), fume extractor, and exhaust system. When working with a DPSS Laser Nd:YAG an air assist is a must add as smoke might grime the focusing lens. In this case, you will have to clean it or substitute for another one.
Fourthly, it is preferable to use vector patterns and images as templates. It takes the laser much more time to process any material when raster images are used. If you have only raster images it is not a problem to convert them into vector files using free software for work with vector graphics.
Practical application of a laser engraver in leathercraft
What can you do out of leather using a laser? Almost anything.
Create a template of an image you need in any program for vector graphics work, then open it in a program for work with the laser (e.g., LightBurn). The laser will cut or engrave the parts of the item according to the template. When all the parts are cut out it remains only to join them together. Besides engraving, the laser engraver can do a great many of other operations such as: making perforation for stitching, holes for studs, snaps or eylets, sketching, line marking for applied ornaments, and much more. The laser capabilities are really invaluable.
Here are some examples of the items made with the help of the laser engraver.
A wallet of combined leather with applied ornaments.
A sew-on patch devoted to Independence Day.
If you need a long leather string but don’t have a leather piece long enough, here is a solution:
The laser will cut it out spirally using a template. For a leather string 2 m long you will need a leather workpiece 11 by 11 cm.
What laser to choose to process leather?
Before buying a laser determine what tasks it will perform.
For smaller items, such as a wallet, watch strap, document organizer or phone case, a DPSS Laser Nd:YAG 10 W with a 20 by 30 cm working area will do. This laser is able to do both engraving and cutting at a rather high speed.
To engrave ready-made products a 3.5 watt (3500 mw) solid-state (diode) laser will be suitable. But for a good speed choose a double version of this model.
For bigger items, you need a laser with a big enough working area. To cut leather for clothing making you need a working area of, at least, 50 by 50 cm. A suitable solution, in this case, is a laser machine with a CO2 tube.
But take into account the fact that the engraving accuracy of this machine is worse than that of the DPSS laser Nd:YAG. For surgical precision, the DPSS laser is the best choice. To work with large items you will have to equip it with a big working table.
How to make a passport jacket with additional sections for documents
Creation of a pattern template in a graphic editor.
Creation of a template for engraving.
Opening of templates by turn in LightBurn and starting of the laser.
Joining of the elements together by stitching.
The result of the work.
We have good news for leathercrafters and dressers.
An impressive leather laser photoengraving.
An impressive laser photo engraving on leather.
Using Endurance semiconductor (diode) lasers, you can easily engrave or cut leather items.
No doubt, any crafter would like to make high-quality patterns for their products, easily cut out intricate patterns and small leather details without spoiling the material. Endurance semiconductor (diode) lasers will help you in your work.
For practical and high-quality leather cutting, Endurance recommends semiconductor (diode) lasers with an output power of 3.5 W and higher, something like 5-5.6 watt laser power output. The use of lasers with higher power will significantly reduce the time of cutting or engraving and will allow cutting thicker samples.
A laser cutter/engraver is easy and convenient to work with. Using a laser engraver you can engrave a finished product or a workpiece. To do this you do not need additional technical knowledge or special skills. All you need is to create a file with a template or a sketch in a graphics editor and load it into the working program of your laser engraver.
See a detailed video instruction on the preparatory work and the engraving process on our YouTube channel
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You will remain satisfied with the accuracy of laser cutting. The accuracy of the laser beam focusing is 0.1 mm, which allows you to cut out or engrave patterns of almost any complexity.
We would like to remind you that a direct or reflected laser beam can damage your vision. We strongly recommend the use of safety goggles with OD4+ / OD5.
Create and enjoy!
Multi-level testing system.
The guaranteed duration of the continuous operation ~48-72 hours.
True continuous power output
Our products have the rated power output as advertised – unlike Chinese analogues.
Can be turned on and off with 3.5-24V.
Variable power output.
Plug and play
Universal and compatible mount.
Compatible with most 3D printers and CNC machines.
Friendly return policy
Do not like the laser?
Simply return within 30 days and get a full refund.
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We help to install and tune the laser. We offer qualified after-sales support.
Everything you need
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All our lasers are tested and could work up to 10000 hours.
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