Best & Cheapest prototyping material

Hi All,

When I get my GF, I am going to embark on a dream… an series of art pieces that will be the perfect match for my new laser. This will require a great deal of experimentation. I can see myself blowing through a great deal of material to see if I can get all the components to both function correctly and move in a way that provides the desired effect.

it involves stacking both 1/8", 1/16" stock. Possibly thiner. So here is my question…

What do you think will be the most economical source of prototyping materials? It needs to be strong, so something like chipboard would be great. It could also be like the cardboard on the back of a sketch pad. But I know this can add up quickly. I think cardboard boxes of the proper weight and thickness will be hard to collect. Definitely nothing corrugated.

Any ideas?




Someone recently (last few hours, I think) mentioned the Dollar store as a source of sheets of a suitable ‘card’ for jigsaw puzzles.
Any help ?


EBay. You can buy bulk chipboard very cheaply there. (Tends to be smaller sizes though.)


Check out warehouse stores (costco, sams club, etc). They often use cardboard like that between items that are stacked in boxes. I’ve seen 4ft by 4ft pieces of cardboard (similar to legal pad backing) in the trash. cereal boxes and boxes that large items come in (not shipped in). big screen TV box ? I just got a new monitor and the box it is in is not corrugated and would “flatten” to a large size…


Great suggestions! Thanks!

What do you think of this deal? I’m getting the pro, so I can let the extra length hang out the slot.


If you really think you’ll use that much, it’s a great price.

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i could imagine flying through that, in all honesty


I just found this on eBay and ordered:

8.5"x11" sheets, so will work for the Basic. 200 sheets for about $20 shipped.


Don’t know - depends on the weight. I have some stuff that’s about the weight of cardstock. I prefer the 30-ply from Dick Blick for testing things that need some stiffness.

BTW, chipboard is measured in decimal fractions of an inch. It’s sometimes referred to in points (pt) or ply. They’re all equivalent. A 30pt or ply is about the thickness and stiffness as a credit card. 22pt is like cereal box cardboard.

High volume, low-cost chipboard may be as thin as 1/64". You might want to ask the seller what the weight or thickness of what they’re selling is.


When I think chipboard I think particle board or OSB. What are you guys refering to?

It’s a thick dense cardboard. Like you get on the back of a pad of paper.


You guys are great! Thanks for the help!


It also depends on what you are prototyping.

I have never used a laser cutter before, but I plan on using EVA foam sheets to prototype leather projects. I will be using chipboard to practice wood projects.

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I work at a retail establishment, and they are often updating their displays. The updated displays are often thrown away. Don’t hesitate to ask the employees/manager if they have any displays/ signage/cardboard that you can have. I’ve got easy access to cardboard, chipboard, thick paper. I’ve even scored some yellow and orange acrylic.

Also paper for making really huge paper airplanes!!:grin::grin:


From that link, is says but strong and rigid surface
Some of the foam board I’ve bought has an easily dented surface.
Can anyone using the material give me a heads up comparison with something else regarding just how rigid that surface is.
I’m searching for a lightweight back for a shadow box type picture frame.

30pt chipboard. That’s what it’s sold for (picture frame backs).


Thanks James.
Perhaps I should have added that I aim to hang a fan (weighs about 50gm/ 2oz) from the backing board with a custom made acrylic support, so the surface needs to be able to take a small screw.
Unless of course I glue the support to the back ?
Mmmm…might work by distributing the load a bit.

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I’d go with 1/16 or 1/8th plywood then. Far more robust.

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