Laser engraved wood products have been growing in popularity over the past few years and for good reason—they are spectacular. Real wood is timeless, carries a high perceived value, is generally easy to work with and performs well for a variety of applications. Wood products are also readily available and affordable.
TIP: Occasionally, I mess up an order, we all do. A name gets spelled wrong or some other problem occurs. When this happens in my shop, I often give an engraved ink pen to the customer as an “I’m sorry” condolence for having to come back a second time to pick up their order. Even one of the really nice wood pens only costs a few dollars and it takes the customer’s mind off the inconvenience.
One last thing: Many local woodworkers start out making pens. They are called “pen turners.” These folks buy “pen kits,” turn the wood on a lathe and can produce some beautiful products. After a while, they make more pens than they know what to do with, so they start giving them away. When this happens, they love the idea of having them laser engraved. This is a quick and easy way to add to your bottom line. Just contact your local woodworker’s group or Maker’s group to get things rolling. Just for fun, try Googling “pen turners” for a lot of great ideas.
Coasters: Wood coasters are another great wood blank you can turn into cash. They make a great gift for a boss, teacher, homemaker, real estate sale, housewarming gift, Christmas gift and much more. Having coasters for a table or desk personalized with a name, logo, etc., is a super nice gift. They don’t have to be expensive to be appreciated, and they can be personalized to the hilt using your laser, sublimation or digital printer.
Key Fobs, Bottle Openers & Bag Tags: Things like key chains, bottle openers with a wood insert or a bag tag are always great gifts. They cost very little and can be sold for six or more times what they cost. Engraving time is very short and they are available in several types of wood.
When shopping for key fobs and bag tags, don’t be afraid to use the ones intended for sublimation. Wood is wood, and the products coated for sublimation engrave just fine. If you do sublimation in your shop, you can even mix the two personalization techniques if you want to. Just sublimate the tag, then laser it. You can even paint fill the lasered portion using metallic gold or silver paint.
Wood Watches: Here is an item that can blow people away—a wristwatch that is made almost entirely of wood! True, many of these time pieces cost hundreds of dollars but some are very affordable—as low as $20. There is a good variety of watches in the $30-$50 range that could easily sell for $100 once personalized. This price range leaves plenty of room to add a profit both for the watch and the engraving. Most watches are engraved on the back, but you can also engrave the wood band if you want to. I have even seen a few that can be disassembled and engraved on the face. Many come with a wood presentation box that can also be engraved.
Sources for affordable watches are limited since we don’t have an industry supplier that offers this product, but Amazon.com and eBay both carry a variety of wood watches. Check out the BOBO BIRD brand for watches starting under $20. The BOBO BIRD website lists their watches at retail and you might find them less expensive on Amazon or eBay. Bewell and CUCOL also offer very affordable watches on the Amazon site.
Clocks: While we are talking about timepieces, let’s talk about wooden clocks. Although most people use a brass plate when personalizing a wood clock, you can also laser it directly. In the case of piano finish clocks, you can then paint fill the engraving with gold “leaf paint” for a stunning result. Just about every supplier in our industry has a nice variety of clocks that range from maple to walnut to piano finishes in mahogany and black.
Desk Accessories: Pen and pencil holders, desk easels, pen sets, paperweights, letter openers and the like make great gifts for all occasions. Pen sets (two pens on a block of wood, sometimes with a clock in the center) are especially nice. These have been available for years but have traditionally been personalized with a brass plate (that is always too small for what the customers wants engraved on it). Most of these can also be laser engraved. You can design and make your own pen set using a block of wood and a couple of pen funnels.
Pen sets are not the only popular wood desk accessory, however. A simple block of wood makes a great paperweight. These are often weighted with lead on the underside of the wood.
Pencil cups also make a nice product. These are typically round or square cups with an area on the side(s) for engraving. Sublimation distributors also have some natural wood pencil cups that are intended to hold a sublimated panel, but laser engrave very nicely.
Desk easels, sometimes called name blocks, consist of a block of wood that can be lasered directly and in the case of piano finished blocks, can be very easily paint filled. These are available in a variety of woods and are a great money maker, especially when they are purchased for an entire office at once.
Cutting Boards: The availability of wood cutting boards that can be personalized has skyrocketed over the past year or two as has their popularity among consumers. They make awesome wedding gifts, housewarming gifts, holiday gifts and more. Nearly every supplier has begun offering a variety of cutting boards in every size and shape imaginable. They are available shaped like pigs, roosters, fish and cows, not to mention all kinds of rectangles, circles and squares. Cutting boards are available in a variety of woods, including bamboo, maple and walnut. Amazon offers some nicely priced cutting boards made of ash.
Wholesale Cutting Boards offers a huge selection of cutting boards, including standard boards, artisan boards, butcher blocks, serving boards and novelty boards in a variety of woods and sizes, in addition to custom designs. (The company also offers a wide variety of other wood products, including promotional products, menu boards, bottle openers and more.)
Bookends: There aren’t many bookend sets available in our industry but there are a couple. Warther Woodworking offers a set and there are several inexpensive maple and walnut sets available from Amazon that offer a nice large engraving area. Johnson Plastics Plus has a bamboo set while Moslow Wood Products offers walnut and maple sets.
Name Badges: I have had difficulty finding premade wood blanks for name badges except for P. Graham Dunn. Since you must be a vendor to buy wholesale from them, you might want to cut out your own. I suggest using 1/16" thick wood for name badges. If you would like to include a badge frame, Rowmark offers gold and silver plastic frames as well as templates for cutting out badge blanks to fit in the frames on their website under “The Identifiers.”
Clipboards: Although usually limited to engraving the back or the lower portion, wood clipboards have become a cherished gift item. Available in bamboo, maple and walnut, they are easy to engrave.
Bells: Here is a great product available from only one source that I know of: Warther Woodworking. These bells are made for laser engraving. In most cases, you will need a cylindrical engraving device for your laser. Each bell has a music box built in to it. They are made of walnut, cherry or oak. You need to register your company to buy wholesale from Warther Woodworking.
Menu Boards, Check Boards & Flight Boards: Although my expanding waistband says differently, I have never been to an eatery where any of these were used but it sounds like a great idea and, from what I hear, these custom boards are growing in popularity. Most consist of a wooden clipboard-like panel that holds a menu or a smaller one that holds the check with the restaurant name lasered at the bottom. If you don’t know what a flight board is, then you probably don’t drink. It is a way to serve a selection of multple small drinks like beer, wine or bourbon to a table, often for tasting events.
Toys & Games: There are a surprising number of wood games and toys available for laser engraving that make excellent gifts. Some of the games include chess, backgammon and card games. Wood toys include trains, train whistles, trucks and tops.
Wooden Boxes & Urns: Wooden boxes make great gifts and there are a lot of them available. Personalized boxes can be used for keepsakes, wedding gifts, jewelry, photographs—essentially anything the recipient wants to put in it. A really large market is the combination of wooden boxes (cases) used for presentation, such as for cutting sets or wine bottles. That’s class. There are also a variety of wood urns available which are usually used for pets, but the larger ones can also be used for people. Boxes in all kinds of woods, shapes and sizes are available from a host of suppliers, including sublimation suppliers.
Wood Sign Blanks: P. Graham Dunn offers a laser engravable wood sign blank that can be used in a protected outdoor location. If you do a Google search, you will find several suppliers of wood sign blanks that are designed for personalization methods using laser engraving or sandblasting. Allwood Signblanks Ltd. and Perfect Plank Co. are two sources. Unisub offers several sign blanks for sublimation that can be laser engraved and color filled or lasered in combination with sublimation. Some cutting boards also make good sign blanks.
Three-Ring Binders: These wood binders can be used for menus, corporate meetings or photo albums. Colorado Heirloom is one source for walnut, maple or cherry three-ring binders.
Photo Frames: Almost all of the suppliers of wood products in our industry offer a variety of wood photo frames. These range in size from tiny to huge and can be made using a variety of woods with the most common being alder, walnut and cherry.
Old West Log: This unique product looks like the end of a log has been cut off using a chain saw and then sanded smooth. They come in several sizes and are made from elm or cottonwood trees. They are used as plaques, awards, wall décor, promotional products and refrigerator magnets. JDS Industries is one source for these.
Photo Albums: Wood photo albums make an elegant way to store and display treasured photographs, especially when personal information can be added, such as “Heather & Scott’s Wedding,” “Sydney’s Graduation” or “Macie’s First Photo Album.” There aren’t a lot of options available from industry suppliers, but Johnson Plastics Plus offers two versions. In addition, there is one album I have sold for years from Time Products International which is made of mahogany. There are also a couple from Warther Woodworking made from maple and walnut.
Kitchen Utensils: This is a rather new product line to the laser world and includes serving spoons, forks and a variety of spatulas. Typically, these are engraved on their wood handles and make great gifts for the discerning table or stunning gifts for the family barbecuer. Consider contacting local woodworking groups in your area and offering personalization.
Salt & Pepper Mills: These wood mills make an elegant addition to any dining table be it at home or a restaurant. The Gavel Company offers salt and pepper mills in several finishes and styles.
Rolling Pins: Wood rolling pins make wonderful personalized gifts. Available from The Gavel Company in two sizes, they can also be purchased from Amazon (just be sure what you order can be disassembled so it will fit in your cylindrical engraving attachment). Maple is generally used for these and they engrave very nicely. Check out the Sample Club on Epilog Laser’s website for instructions and a generic pattern you can download for free.
Business Card Holders: A wood business card holder makes a really classy gift and they are available in a variety of woods, styles and price ranges. These include walnut, maple, bamboo and combinations of wood species. Some are designed to sit on a desk while others are for a purse or pocket.
Wine & Beverage Boxes: A lot of suppliers carry wooden wine bottle boxes. These laser and rotary engravable presentation boxes hold one or two bottles of wine and are a great way to present them either in a home or as a gift. One style is a simple sheet of very thin wood that wraps around the bottle, but most are actually wood boxes with a sliding panel to reveal the bottle. Some of the more expensive ones are lined in velvet and include accessories, such as a corkscrew, bottle opener, foil cutter and bottle stopper.
Gift Sets in Wood Boxes: Last but not least are the gift items, games and related items that come in a laser engravable wood box. JDS is probably the winner with the number of choices being offered but other suppliers also offer a variety of these gift sets. There are chess games, BBQ grill tool sets, card games, dice games, flasks, humidors, poker sets and even an actual golf putter and automatic ball return set in a wood box. Essentially, there’s something for everyone.
To be sure, this listing isn’t complete, but it does cover the most common and popular items. Be sure to check out the sidebar accompanying this article for sources for the products discussed. Going through the catalogs for the companies referenced here will reveal even more great products that can be lasered. Add to that the things you can cut out and make yourself and there is almost no end to the possibilities.
Just remember what I said in the beginning. There is something really nice about an item that you can order from your suppliers, place on your shelf, personalize in your shop and finally hand it to your customer. The timeless beauty of wood places these wooden blanks at the head of the line!