Birch bark

Hello, everyone!
Boy do I loathe “introducing myself”, but here I am. I’ve literally been standing in my kitchen all day, pouring over posts and photos and designs, and my head is spinning!

MY brand new GF is currently a giant paperweight on my living room floor, bcz I’m waiting for a the desk I ordered for it to arrive; so I’m trying to get my bearings while I wait ever-so-impatiently.

I’ve been eyeballing GF for months, and a surreptitious event was the catalyst to my investment:
my landlords cut down a few paper birches, outside my back door (which broke my heart TBH)- and the arborists gave me permission to “peel the trees”!

This was the first…but not the last in the pile I raided

and what I’ve ended up with is simply…extraordinary:

I harvested 3 sheets from every cut piece: the papery white outer bark; the parchment-like middle layer; and the thicker veneer from the innermost layer.
I’ve been using birch bark for a variety or artworks, crafts, creative endeavors for decades… but the thought of engraving on it has me salivating.

I’d like to engrave on both the natural bark “veneer”, and on the bark I use to veneer onto [wood] boxes-

and while I am all for “trial by fire” and learning by doing,
(I’m generally disallowed earth-moving equipment and incendiary devices, but managed to slip a laser past the sentries :yum:)
AND I’d rather not actually need to call the fire department,

so I’m wondering if any of you AMAZING artists and creators and Masters of the Forge might have any tips on settings to use on natural <1mm thick birch bark. Because I’ve got roughly 7-8 pounds of it, and don’t want to waste an inch :grimacing:

I’d be eternally grateful.

Also…not butt-kissing, but really…you folks have created some extraordinary things; I am in awe. And I LOVE that you all so freely & happily talk and share, tips & tricks, and info, and ideas, ane experience and knowledge…WOW .

It’s truly inspiring Thank you so much, already!


I see that you have read 2 hours worth of forum posts, so you are off to a good start. I’m sure you read that testing is the only sure way to dial in settings for non Proofgrade material. I doubt that any of us in the forum have been able to harvest the quantity of birch bark that you have. Users have, however, engraved on leaves, veneer, tissue paper, and cardstock. Your material will not be a significant challenge, but it will absolutely be different and you will have to experiment.

You will not start a fire because you won’t leave your Glowforge unattended.

You will be wise, in my opinion, to go through the Glowforge tutorials and get a basic understanding of speed, power, lpi before jumping into a new material. You will also be wise to read through the tips and tricks section of the forum and this compilation of information put together by @evans Common problems/questions


Welcome to the forum and your new machine! You have lots of patience, I set my glowforge on a 10 year old 25 dollar ikea table and started it up right away.

It took me over 2 years to convince myself I needed a better table, and I only upgraded when the garage shelving I wanted was a great price.

Testing is the most sure way to dial in settings, and you’re going to find that each piece you have may take different settings.

I don’t know much about birch bark. I really didn’t know there was more than one layer to the peeling. Is it “wet” like I imagine or is it dried out? That will make a difference in how it behaves under the laser.

My go-to is testing a tiny portion with the nearest proofgrade settings. So for something that thin, I would try the thin maple veneer settings and adjust from there. Pick a tiny corner, put an image that has a score and engrave in it and try it out. I’m imagining a tiny wooden flip book of tests :rofl::rofl:


Welcome! I agree with everything above. I would ‘start’ with the veneer settings too and adjust from there!


Keep in mind that the focus height for the laser is critical. Using material that is wavy or warped will have a major effect.


We all agree. It’s the members who make this place what it is, and I can tell from the content and humor of your first post you will be a good fit. :sunglasses:
Welcome to the community!

As rpegg said, flat is going to be required because the focus is set at a specific height above the bed of the laser. If you could manage to dry the bark flat, that would be good. If it’s already dry you could moisten it again. That pile of natural material is a serious score!


Step right this way…


As I spent a while making flat wood round I can say that if the bark is fresh I would stack it between fuzzy towels and put an anvil on top (well something heavy and flat like a weight on 3/4" plywood so that the wood was held very flat and leave it that way for as long as you can stand it. 3 months would not be too long but sneaking out a sheet would be understandable.

If the bark is already dry and warped a spray down with water or alcohol allows the wood to bend flat again until it dries. The alcohol evaporates faster, but it needs to be totally gone before going into the Glowforge.


Welcome! I can’t wait to see what you make with all that birch bark! As others have suggested, veneer settings on a scrap would be a good start. I’ve made bookmarks out of oak veneer. I had better success using repositionable spray adhesive to hold the veneer to a piece of draftboard.


Welcome, wow this is exciting, I am excited to see some of your future creations made with your birch bark. I echo everyone else’s comments about testing.


Wow! Didn’t know there were three layers. I didnt know you could peel a birch tree like that. I can tell you will have a lot to teach us and I look forward to the inspirational lessons!


Congratulations on your GF! I learned a lot form your post, specifically that there are three layers of bark. Looking forward to what you do with all that bark you harvested. You might want to consider making a press somewhat along the lines of a bookbinding press to help flatten the sheets of bark. You could even use 3/4 plywood and woodworking clamps. I would add several layers of paper towels to absorb water ad the bark dries. Another thought is do do your veneering work first then engrave with the GF. That would help present the GF with the flattest surface as well as orientate your design on your work. Well, I guess you got my head spinning as well!


Glad to have your face in this place!


Hmmm for the rest of us who get inspired…
30 White Birch Bark Sheets. Birch Bark Decor.birch Sheets | Etsy?


Wow, it looks like you have some great material there. Flat is very important, but even if you can make it all perfectly flat, the birch bark is going to vary in thickness. Additionally, the bark varies, which is why it looks so awesome. But those variations may require different amounts of power to cut. So I really agree with CMadok here:

I would be surprised if you find a setting that works for each of the three layers - perfect every time. You may have to over-power some areas to cut others. And that could mean crispier edges in places. Please don’t let me discourage you, but don’t be surprised if the frustration meter goes outside the green zone sometimes. I mean, at least you have a bunch of beautiful birch bark.


i have attached my cut test file. I have started using this on almost everything and i have found that i can dial in exactly what i need. start with the test the way it is and then make a copy (so you don’t loose the file) and make it reflect your best results and then change each block by 2. i.e., if t50 looked good try setting them at 52, 54, 56 and so on. I know this is always using the fastest speed and modifying the power but for me time is money so fast is best.

Do NOT Use make a copy


Beautiful material! For engraving veneer, I’ve enjoyed the results more when I’ve laminated it to another piece of wood first. That reduces the extremes of light/ burned through spots.

What I really from a Glowforge with veneer is doing inlay. Cut out your desired shape from your thin material, do a deep engrave of the same shape (slightly smaller) in a solid wood, then glue together. It’s a good way to use up little bits as well.


Boo for cutting down the trees, but yay for the cool goodies you got out of it. Can’t wait to see what you make.



What beautiful bark you’ve harvested! I can’t wait to see what you do with it - hopefully all the tips and tricks listed above will help you be successful with the GF from the start.


Hi! Thank you so much!
:joy: If I’d had something big enough I may have done; but then I was having nightmares of the thing crashing to the floor LOL BUT my desk came a day early!! Yay!

So, the bark was wet when I peeled it a few weeks ago (had a weird rubbery/papery feel to it, it was awesome), but it’s plenty dry, now.
And of course, some of it is warped, and some is nice & flat.

I decided to apply it to several small wood boxes, to test on, and used 20lb printer paper setting (because I was terrified I’d light the darn thing on fire- I made my son hit the start button :rofl:), but also because this is more like thick paper than wood, and while maple & birch are hardwoods, this bark is definitely NOT.
(also…that was the only paper setting I could find? aside from cardboard. hm.)

And thank you, I am also now imagining a tiny wooden flip book of tests :joy: :joy: :joy:!

I think I have an alignment issue, tho…