Super fine text

Good Evening Everyone, I am away to carry out my smallest fine detail piece to date. I intend on using a 30V bit and a super small endmill for some fine text and detail. I will be cutting the tape out of British Oak as I have a lot of it and its grain works well for this kind of piece.
My question relates to the small text on the song sheet. again this is a 30V and max depth of 3mm. I’m not 100% sure what wood/material would be best for this. The customer would prefer oak but I think the grain will break off with it being so fine.

Any assistance? :slight_smile:

There are several tried and true remedies. One is is to use dewaxed shellac over the surface to help harden it up. Another and slower is to use several coats of polyurethane wipe on finish to harden the surface. You could use oramask 813 to help. I also use Easy Liner Adhesive Shelf paper but I dont know if that is available world wide.

The shellac and/or polyurethane helps and then the masking. I use a J roller to adhere the oramask and/or Easy Liner Shelf paper to make sure it sticks well and get out any air bubbles.

Julien and others have used the 25 degree v bit successfully for small text. The 30 degree you have is not much different.


Hi Daniel… I would have reservations about Oak because of its grain structure. I am not sure how you could avoid the open parts of the grain structure, which may affect what you want to cut. I would suggest that harder woods with denser grain structures than oak would be a better starting point.

Could you convince your customer that Maple, Ash or Beech would be better? The denser structure would not fragment in the same way that oak can do. @gdon_2003 has made some great suggestions that you could follow and check whether they suit your purposes.

Here is a hardness chart for various woods. It may help you to decide.

Wood Hardness.pdf (32.6 KB)


Hey guys, thanks for that.
I have Oramask 813 however shellac based products are a pain to find in the UK that are dewaxed. I was thinking of trying a couple coats of thick exterior use varnish on it before the mask as it gets in deep but I’m thinking a different wood is going to be the better option.
I’ve done quite a bit of smaller image engravings on oak with some, but not much, success but I think text as you say is going to be impossible to get right.
I’ll look into some denser hardwoods for it :slight_smile:

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Different products are available in different places. See if you can get this,


Here in the US it is about $15.00 a quart (about about 11 Pounds) . It lasts a long time and is ready to use and can be used with oil or water based finishes. For our purposes most if not all will be sanded off anyway.

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Tried to get a hold of some earlier in the year. A quart bottle in the UK was roughly $70!! I’ve tried several shellac based products and all of them yellowed after the 2nd coat. There is no spray on options here due to aerosol laws either. :frowning:

What’s a “mixtape”? :smiley: This is a really curious project! :smiley:

The oak I can find won’t hold small text. Why aren’t you engraving this on metal?

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Mixtape as in a song list from their wedding :slight_smile:
I’m not using metal as I’ve ran my entire business on wood so far and haven’t ventured into metals yet. But also I do a lot of rustic/traditional looking pieces and my customers have come to like that :slight_smile:

Decided to order myself some maple PAR offcuts that I’ll glue up and give them a go! Was super cheap and from a cabinet makers so I’m sure it’ll be exactly what I need. My plan is to hit it with a couple coats of lacquer prior to 813 then lacquer again after carving before I hand paint with black acrylic. Or maybe spray but I think paint on will come out better

Since I am very predictable, I would recommend you consider v-carving bamboo and pour black epoxy.


(Decent quality) Bamboo holds detail incredibly well, and a 25-30° V does wonders.

From my experience, oak cannot hold detail as well due to its grain. Also, the look of “plain” v-carved text in any wood is a bit meh (my personal opinion only), so painting/pouring into the grooves helps bringing some contrast, which is all the more important for (small) text.


I love this piece Julien, I’ve seen a few of your pieces and cant get enough of the epoxy inlay! Unfortunately the customer had a budget and epoxy isn’t cheap anywhere in the world especially here in the UK :-(. The 2 pieces are going to be mounted to the back of a 1.5" thick box frame so you wouldnt see the epoxy effect anyway. I do plan on branching out to epoxy at some point but due to space constraints I dont have it available to leave it sitting for so long :-/ on that note though, a friend has some beautiful Elm boards 1/2" thick that I might take from him. I’ve machined live edge elm in the past that has come out beautifully with small details so I think this might be another option if the maple doesnt work out for me.


The above explanation of a mix tape was not enough. A mixtape was a cultural expression about how you felt about a special girl. You worked for hours making the tape, recording from the radio or if you were lucky enough to have some records/cds you lovingly and carefully made a tape that had all your love and aspirations on it. Then you would lovingly decorate the liner and give the tape to that someone special so they would just throw it over their shoulder in the trash can when you walked away. Even worse she might play it with her boyfriend while making out. Oh to be young and dumb and naive again. Today’s equivalent is playlists.

That is a mix tape in a nutshell. Sound pathetic and creepy but at one time it was a thing.


Unfortunately being born in 1994 love like that is lost on my generation! :frowning:

Finished size 180mm square(roughly) most letters are 5mm to 10mm tall. 2mm max depth.

Thanks for the info guys! I used the 30v and slowed my feed to 40ipm which made a big difference to my 80ipm test on mdf!

Now to find out if the customer still wants the text painted or not! I hope not! :rofl:

Edit: happy to leave it like this after I said I think painting the V carve would make it look flat and uninteresting! :wink:


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