Advice for lasering thin wood

I’m starting the initial planning process for a laser project that is gonna be a topographic representation of a little slice of the grand canyon, aiming for each of the contour lines to be a slice of plywood. I’m trying to make the whole thing as small as possible, so was initially thinking of using 1/8" baltic birch, but also thought about using some hard wood and maybe trying 1/16". For some context in the area of each slice, they’ll likely be around 5" x 10”. Does anyone have any recommendation for which of these options might work best? Also, are there any good places in town to source these kinds of materials?

I’m not an expert but felt I could chime in on sourcing the 1/16" hardwood, that is getting into the veneer range and Woodcraft has a selection to choose from. Here is a link to the selection on Woodcraft’s website: - but I’m sure you could find the veneer of your desire from many sources. Hope this helps!

Thanks for the info! I think I’m leaning towards the 1/8" thickness as that scale feels like it’s gonna work pretty well, we will see…

Is the CNC not accurate enough? A combination of tapered end mill and the right speed/angle vs the grain to not have chunks rip out could work and do it in less total sheets. If you’re concerned about accuracy and making something as small as possible you’ll need to take into account the kerf which will change with different thicknesses. A simple chart of common material thickness vs kerf is available at

Ah, you’re absolutely right @JayC, the CNC would definitely do a way better job at this, but I’ve been wanting to work on my laser cutting skills (or actually get some) so figured this was a good opportunity. One day I also want to get me some CNC skills, but that’ll likely be for version 2 of the grand canyon topo map… :grinning:

For this project I’m not super concerned about accuracy compared to the original topo map, but I do want to make sure the accuracy when comparing one layer to the next is good. I would imagine that kerf would have less impact on that type of accuracy, but I don’t know for sure.