Each tool for engraving letters onto wood give a distinctly different look to the piece you will make. They each require different skill sets.
Chip carving – A sharp chisel with two angled lines cut to a point in the middle is used to carve divots into the wood. You have a lot of control over how deep the letters will go, and no two designs will be the same. Gouges will help to shape the hand-carved letters and smooth them out or add detailed points or other sharp edges.
Dremel – These whirring tools can make deep, delicate grooves in nearly any type of wood with ease.
Lasers – These machines have made etching a precise art form for home décor and for sculpture. They can also be used to create small plaques that depict a family crest, personal achievement or just a last name on a cutting board.
Wood burner –
A pen-shaped wood burner gives a distinct shape and color to the engraved letters on planks of wood and is easy to use for first-time engravers. The woodburning pen is built to make your job easy. Let the pen do the work by applying just enough pressure so it doesn't skip over the surface or gouge the soft wood.
If you want to create a plaque with dates and other fine details, you may want to hire a professional laser company to design and craft your masterpiece. Today's machines can create deep, delicate marks that can create impressive pieces that you or the gift receiver will want to display for generations.
Soft woods are the easiest with which to work because hardwoods are generally harder to burn. However, the base color that will show through your etching will follow the color of the wood base you use. Dark woods can hide the delicate etching work, while lighter wood types will offer up a dark and deep burn that won't easily split and shows a distinct contrast for design.