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I've laser engraved text onto a wooden plaque . The engraving has some finely spaced grooves. I want to apply a stain on it , sand it out so that the engraved portion is darker than the rest. I'm planning on using a fine-grit sandpaper to hand-sand it. I'm a little worried that sanding will blend the engraved and non-engraved portions of the wood - the engraving is probably 1mm deep.

Is there an alternative ?

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    If you just apply stain to the whole piece, I'd be worried that stain would absorb into the exposed end-gran on the edges of the engraving. Then I'd be worried that you wouldn't be able to sand off all of the stain and you would be left with a small stain-halo on the edges of the engraving. I would test this process with scrap - maybe it's not a problem at all if the end grain was "cauterized" by the laser. – JPhi1618 Jan 25 '16 at 16:35
  • Isn't the "laser-engraved" (aka high-tech wood-burned) part already darker than the rest? – Ecnerwal Jan 25 '16 at 21:38
  • @Ecnerwal the engraving came out a little light. I am thinking of planing the surface once again and repeating the process. Can multiple passes of engraving be done on the same piece of wood ? – anset Jan 26 '16 at 14:25
  • If the wood can be reliably repositioned (or started from scratch and left in place) and the machine is repeatably accurate you can run the laser over it again and again (though you might need to be a bit careful about doing it so much that you actually ignite it...or run the additional passes at a higher speed to prevent that.) – Ecnerwal Jan 26 '16 at 14:33
  • See also the Woodworking discussion here on SE. – keshlam Mar 5 '16 at 18:27
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Use a sanding block (ie, do not hand sand with your fingers) which will prevent the sandpaper from pressing into the grooves.

1 mm is huge, for anything reasonably described as fine sandpaper and not applied with excess enthusiasm.

But, as is always the case, testing your complete proposed finishing process on a suitable piece of (in this case) laser-engraved scrap would be the best bet.

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What about filling the engraved area with a darker material, either colored wood filler or dark epoxy, scraping level before it hardens, and after it sets, just a very light sanding to remove any residual on the rest of the surface?

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Tried staining and sanding on a sample piece. It didn't come out as expected. There was very little difference between the engraved and the un-engraved portions.

So , I decided to redo this with a plaque made of basswood instead of pine. This worked perfectly. The laser burnt the wood just right to provide a distinct contrast with the un-engraved regions.

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I have had success engraving to .03 to .05 inches, then paint with nail polish. (No need to stay inside the lines) then sand with 120 followed be 220.

Alternatively, coat the wood in a thin polyurethane before engraving. Then stain, then sand off the polyurethane.

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