Burning more leather than cutting

I am new to GF . I bought this with the intent to cut leather and engrave photos. Engraving and etching I have down, but I’m struggling with cutting. I have read a lot of posts on here regarding leather projects and have tried numerous different settings for cutting, but I am either burning or scoring. Right now I am using various thicknesses of leather, no thicker than .075 in. Any tips, tricks, or suggestions would be great.

Just one: learn a solid material test method. Here is mine.


For cutting, use a mask on the leather, front and back. Some of the heavier leathers are very difficult to burn through, and there is a lot of charring.

And 0.175" is REALLY thick leather…are you making saddles? If you can get through that without choking yourself from the fumes, try multiple passes. Only way I can think of to get through something that thick.

My thickness was wrong. .075 inch. I have tried different speeds with different power and numerous passes. Right now I’m using scrap material for test runs.

Okay, good! :smile:

Same rules apply…use masking to protect the leather when cutting, try a second pass if it doesn’t cut through the first time. (With veg tanned, and the fuzzy background, I frequently will finish up a cut with scissors…or…slick it before cutting it. You can use Tokonole and a burnishing tool to tamp that fuzz down. It will cut better.)

I am having trouble downloading your graphic to my Mac.

Someone will be along to tell you how to do it on a Mac.

What kind of leather is it? How was it tanned? I’ve been cutting a fair bit of undyed 4-6 oz veg tan (2-2.5mm, or about .08 to .095 in). It’s cut like butter with very little charring using the “Thick Natural Leather” setting in the interface. I don’t bother to mask because I’m washing up with saddle soap and water after.

I have had trouble cutting some thinner dyed stuff that was of questionable origin. It would not cut through, or would curl badly at the edges when it did cut. I did not test it, but it’s likely chrome tan or the dye was causing the laser not to do its work effectively. Substantially fuzzy backs will disperse laser energy too.

I had a thicker piece I knew to be veg tanned that normal settings could not get through. Slowing down the speed got through, but caused crispy edges. I got through that back soaking the leather in water for 30 seconds just before cutting. It helped everything lay flatter and the water cooled the edges enough that the cuts were clean.


I’m on a mac, using Chrome. What browser are you using? You should be able to hover over the link @evansd2 gave, right click and select something like “Save Link As…”.

I am using veg tan leather. Using the “Thick Natural Leather” setting does cut it but it also leaves some charring. I have tried masking but that seams to hinder it. I like your idea of water. I’m gonna give that a try.

“Cutting” with a laser is a destructive act; two pieces are separated from each other by obliterating (melting, burning, vaporizing) a small amount of material between them. You’re blasting animal flesh with concentrated energy - there will always be charring. Minimizing it is a goal (and eliminating any distortion of the edges), but assume some cleanup will be necessary.


I"m using Safari.

In that case, hover over the link and, right click and choose “Download Linked File As…”.

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I got it. Thank you

Be sure you’re not using chrome tanned leather–that’s really bad for both you & the machine.

But do you mean you’re actually getting flames when cutting, or just a lot of soot/char?

The soot/char is what the laser does–the laser really does burn organic material, and cut edges & etched areas will be sooty. If indeed it’s really heavy soot/curled edges, reduce power or increase speed, and try multiple passes.

But get used to cleaning the soot off any surface “touched” by the laser… Like @GaryZ, I don’t mask my leather when I etch or cut. I use a big variety of leather thicknesses (1oz to 8oz), species & veg or oil tanned).

I use bit of hand soap on a soft toothbrush and warm water to get the soot off, and pat dry with a towel. Some leathers, such as veg tan, do tend to just soak up the water and need a few hours, or overnight, to dry… but better than anyone (esp. customers) handling the items to get soot on their hands!

I’m starting a notebook for keeping track of these settings.

Your information is greatly appreciated.

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I only use veg tanned. I have not had any fires, but I have burned some bad enough to make the leather shrivel. I have started using the suggestion of wetting the leather first and everything is working out.

Had some pieces lost due to that too… Haven’t tried wetting first–may indeed try that next time I do work with my 8oz veg tan–glad to hear that’s working for you & others!

But how will the masking tape stay on if you wet the leather?

I’m not masking it after I wet it. When wet, it I don’t think it needs to be masked. It lays flat and doesn’t move because the water adds weight.