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We Built a Laser Engraved Phone Case from Scratch

It’s almost as easy as it looks.

Wanted to give everyone a quick view into life in the woodshop by outlining our build of a new wooden phone case; the “Tree of Life” Inlay for our example. Take a look and let us know what you think in the comments.

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch

As is customary, the final product first. Tree of Life case for iPhone 7/8 and iPhone 7/8 Plus.

Step One – Select a Design

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch

Lots of beautiful tree options to choose from. Of course we’re looking for an image that can be used royalty free.  Happy to give credit or pay for designs when necessary. This image had a really great symmetry side to side, and top to bottom with the branches and roots. And the circular outline would make it work well for an inlay case with two different wood styles.

Step Two – Select a Beautiful Wood Veneer

Because our design calls for an “Inlay”, one wood cut and laid inside the other, we will need to choose two species of wood.

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch

We have a few choices here: Mahogany, Black Walnut, Carmalized Bamboo & Aromatic Cedar. Shown above is Bamboo and Black Walnut. For the Tree of Life case we chose Bamboo and Mahogany.

Each differ in thickness, hardness and color. Even within one species, each sheet is different based on the source and the grain of the wood. Even with a relatively consistent species like Mahogany, each and every case will be unique. 

Then, before any cutting or engraving, we treat it with conditioner and a layer of polyurethane.

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch

The wood conditioner goes on before the poly. Helps the veneer lay flat and smooth. Because there is only about a ¼ of an inch between the laser head and the surface of the veneer, bumps and warped veneer make laser engraving very difficult.

Step Three – Prepare the Project and Lay Everything Out

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch

Quick and dirty project planner with project details, phone models and a rough timeline.

Step Four – Vectorize the Artwork

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch

Inkspace is the tool of choice for this step. Obviously we have a thing for trees; is that weird?

Black and white images work best, but we have experimented with greyscales and even photos. It’s possible to layer multiple engraving passes over each other but it doesn’t always come out clean.

Step Five – Load the Laser Engraving Machine Software

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch 

Image prepped and loaded into the laser engraving software for an iPhone 7/8 slim case. The red lines cut, and the black lines engrave the veneer. We use LaserCut 5.3. A bit dated but it gets the job done.

via GIPHY

 

Print Preview in the laser software. Full red sections showing where the laser will engrave into the wood veneer.

This design needed cut lines around the open space below the branches – a little manual work was required.

Step Six – Cut a Few Samples in Different Wood Veneer Species

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch

Here’s “Laser A” (we call her “The Beast”) or more technically “Sealed 10.6um CO2 glass laser w/ water-cooling”. You can get one of these bad boys from Rabbit Laser. Tell Ray I said Hi.

Here’s the beginning of the engraving process

And here’s the end of the process cutting the tree insert and case outline.

Step Seven – Ready to Assemble

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch

We cut one full tree from bamboo and a full tree from mahogany then swap the middle portions for two complete cases. Easy right?

The adhesive on the veneer is super strong and sets up in about a second. Assembling these multi-part inlay cases means getting it right the first time. 

Step Eight – Clean and Assemble a Final Sample

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch

Bamboo outline applied to the slim case.

The laser is pretty precise. The cutouts fit well in the slim case blanks. The WUDN logo, near Tyson’s thumb, is subtle. We would love some brand awareness of course, but mostly we want you to love the beautiful wood case. (IMHO, a perfect blend of new technology and old-school style).  

Building a laser-engraved wooden phone case from scratch

And mahogany inlay goes in. Notice the dust and smoke debris on the engraved portion.

And mahogany inlay goes in. Notice the dust and smoke debris on the engraved portion.

Some rubbing alcohol cleans it up beautifully. This version fits an iPhone 7 or 8. 

Step Nine – Layout a Full Sheet for Production

In this case, a sheet is 16” x 24” – big enough to cut 10 different phone models. We will take a couple of days to build samples for each of our best-selling phones:

  • iPhone 6 / 6s
  • iPhone 6 / 6s Plus
  • iPhone 7 / 8
  • iPhone 7 / 8 Plus
  • iPhone X
  • Samsung S7
  • Samsung S7 Edge
  • Samsung S8
  • Samsung S8 Plus
  • Samsung Note 8

That’s it. We load it up on the website and figure out how to get some customers. Here’s a link to the final product. Slim Wooden Phone Case | Tree of Life

Blue helped in the woodshop

Blue helped by keeping the floor clean after lunch.

Huge thanks to Tyson for being an amazing Production Manager. He kills it in the woodshop. 

That's it. Thanks for taking a look. Thoughts or questions? Shoot us a comment below. 

HEY THERE!, I am Cameron Christian, the owner of WUDN (pronounced “wooden” if you didn’t figure it out already). After 25 Years in the corporate world, I am creating my own destiny. I bought this business, to continue delighting our customers with real wood products that are beautiful and functional. Follow us on Instagram or email me at Cameron.christian@shopwudn.com.  

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