Can I engrave forged steel?

I am wondering if I would be able to engrave forged steel. Your current specs mention stainless steel only.

Yes but you’ll want to coat with Cermark before engraving…

That’s technically marking not engraving. Leaves a permanent black mark where the laser hits. 40W + Cermark/Thermark is great for steel but aluminum can be tricky.

Yes I should have said may want to use Cermark. If you’re trying to engrave things like tools that are just forged steel then it should engrave no problem. If you’re trying to engrave things like knives that are forged and then hardened the engraving may not be very deep and/or clear so Cermark will show up better.

Don’t think a 40W CO2 laser will engrave steel. The laser they’re using in the video you linked appears to be a $35K+ FIBER laser, very different beast. With CO2 you’re probably limited to removing coatings from metal such as anodized aluminum or painted steel. Could someone from Glowforge clarify?

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Having owned a 25 Watt Epilog laser in the past, I can tell you that you will be able to bleach out the color on anodized aluminum (the anodizing remains to protect the aluminium, it’s just whitish in color) and you should have good luck marking steel if you use Cermark material correctly, but a 40W CO2 laser will not make a mark in bare steel, brass or aluminium.


We definitely need clarification on the steel question.

There’s no clarification. You can’t.

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Yep…after further investigation I’ll agree you can’t… I still plan on trying some mild steel once I have the Glowforge in hand as I have a few ideas on how it might work.

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steve< 1m
I don’t understand how it can engrave titanium but not steel.

Steel and Titanium are very different, but I don’t think you can actually engrave either one with a 45W laser.
Steel is a fairly good conductor of heat, and you need to get it very hot before it changes color at all. This means that a relatively small input like the laser spot is going to have a hard time making a localized change in appearance.

Ti is a lousy heat conductor and it oxidizes very rapidly at elevated temperatures to produce an layer of TiO2. When this layer is thin it shows brilliant interference colors, and generally looks awesome. I am not sure, but I think the Glowforge folks are saying that you can “mark” Ti with the laser, basically drawing on it with a line of colored oxide. The colors are very heat sensitive, and I bet you can adjust them by varying the laser time and focus. Having made a lot of lot of Titanium jewelry back in the late '80s when it was cool, I look forward to experimenting with this!


@dan, can you speak to this please?

@steve deleted his comment, but, you guys, this isn’t hard to find out. Literally, google what a 40W CO2 laser can do, and you’ll know what Glowforge can do. Yes, their custom module might be slightly nicer, but we’re talking a few percent; most of their innovation is in software.

Marking with cermark will be a piece of case with this. You’ll be able to discolor anodized aluminum. And you can ablate the paint / epoxy off of coated metals. But you’re not going to be etch metals with this thing.

What you could do, tho, is make a bomb-ass stencil and use that to etch / mark other items chemically.


Jrnelson, I made it a separate topic for clarity. The issue at hand here is that the Glowforge marketing says it can engrave metals. Yet now we are hearing it can’t or it can but only certain ones and using Cermark. I’m not accusing Glowforge of deceptive practices but before my refund offer expires I want to know that my $2500 isn’t going to be used to buy an expensive pair of scissors. I mean seriously, $2500 to cu paper, plastic and leather? That doesn’t seem a bit excessive?

I agree that this especially:

looks like it’s overstating things. Having said that, I’d happily pay $2500 if it only worked on paper and wood and that’s it. But yeah, marketing needs cleaned up for sure.

The “and more” is a problem. Plus community members including @dan seem to have differing opinions on what can be engraved and by what methods.

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The problem I see here is optimistic marketing language compounded by the incorrect use of the word “engraving”. The laser sign industry uses engraving to mean almost any kind of “marking” including with a coating like Cermark. People with a craft/metals background reserve engraving to mean actually cutting into the surface and removing material. There is your confusion right there.

I personally don’t think that $2,000 (I bought a basic) is excessive for a machine that can do what the Glowforge folks are aiming to achieve. I was just about ready to invest that much in time and money to build a lasersaur ( I can imagine all sorts of interesting ways to use this in my craft practice without expecting it to cut metal.


OK, I am having some serious pre-order second thoughts now, having plonked down my $4K plus for the Pro model in large part BASED ON Glowforge’s clear and unambiguous claims that this maching will ‘Engrave Stainless Steel and Brass’. NOT just make a barely perceptible mark on it, or telling you that you have to coat any metal, etc. I now notice that they have since removed the Stainless Steel from their materials list, really? What’s up here Glowforge? What can and can’t your expensive, ‘prepaid wont deliver until next year’ machine really DO on metal? We need details, pictures, etc., or my prepay is going to cancel pronto. William Tifft, Cato NY

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Again, NO 40W laser can remove metal. Plain and simple. It can remove the anodized coating on aluminum, leaving raw aluminum which nicely contrasts against the anodized finish (assuming it is anodized). It will leave behind scorch marks on misc. metals but will NOT burn away any of the actual material. (A google search will reveal many such examples, pictures, etc.) ( here is a link that has examples
think @jkopel nailed it - The term ‘engraving’ has a well understood meaning within the ‘laser cutting’ industry. I can see how that term seems misleading to people who are not familiar with the technology. I had to clarify it for my wife since she was not clear on it either. Perhaps a description that more clearly conveys this to people who are less familiar with the technology can save some heartache for the GF marketing team. There is no malicious intent to deceive.
For sure if you are looking for a machine that is going to carve out material from metals, then you are going to have to look in to something other than a laser.


When “etching” anodized aluminum you are removing the pigments or color, not the anodizing itself.

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