Common problems/questions

Hello! You’ve been referred to this post because you have a common problem or question. Check out the list below to see what this post can do for you. Just click on a topic that interests you.

1: I'm new to Glowforge and really have no idea where to start

Hey, welcome to the forum!

Glowforge has a getting started page, it’s definitely worth your time:

Learn By Doing: Your First Prints and More – Glowforge

When you’re ready for even more info, you’ll find everything in here interesting and useful, read through it and everything it links to.

New owner (well, almost) - #11 by evansd2

If you like to learn via video, check out this thread by @polarbrainfreeze, he’s one of the most expert users on the forum:

New Introduction to Laser-Cutting Course on Udemy

 
1a: What other tools/materials should I buy to go with my Glowforge?

Owning a Glowforge is the beginning, there are many tools and accessories that can be really useful. Here’s a roundup of good threads about this.

What are some things to buy while waiting on your Glowforge? - #26 by evansd2

As for materials, there are so many to choose from that there’s no single answer for “where can I get materials?” The good news is that there are many threads to choose from, just search for things like “hardwood source” or “material suppliers”, and you’ll find lots of information.

Here are some common searches:

Hardwood:
Search results for 'hardwood source' - Glowforge Owners Forum

Acrylic:
Search results for 'acrylic source' - Glowforge Owners Forum

Plywood:
Search results for 'plywood source' - Glowforge Owners Forum

Leather:
Search results for 'leather source' - Glowforge Owners Forum

General materials:
Search results for 'material source' - Glowforge Owners Forum

 
2: I want to find masking/tape to cover my materials

Cash is king here. Click through for a recommendation for inexpensive masking material.

Cheapest 12" wide masking tape - #6 by evansd2

 
3: I want to design/make a box

There are lots of sites that help you create boxes,here’s a listing.
Is there a free box building website - #3 by evansd2

 
4: What materials are dangerous to laser?

The main ways to damage your machine with a material are through fire, melting, or chemical reaction.

Fire:
Layered materials like cardboard and stacked papers can be fire hazards. Some foams are prone to fire. Acrylic is prone to fire. There are good reasons why Glowforge insists that you monitor the machine when it’s cutting, fire is at the top of the list. Search the forum any time you’re trying a new material, chances are someone’s tried it or will have advice.

Melting:
Lots of plastics aren’t great candidates for lasering, they melt rather than cut. HDPE (think milk jugs or soda bottles) is a prime example. It’s possible to laser it, but it’s quite melty and you could end up with a mess.

Chemical:
Cutting PVC–aka vinyl or polyvinyl chloride–forms acids inside your Glowforge and will kill your machine, possibly the very first time you cut it. The bottom line is that you should never use it. There is a lot of discussion on the forum:
Search results for 'PVC damage' - Glowforge Owners Forum

Other:
Some (not many) materials reflect laser light, copper is a well known example. Cutting or engraving reflective materials could theoretically cause your laser to bounce back at your Glowforge and damage it. I’ve never seen this actually happen to anyone, but it’s a good idea to just avoid copper altogether. If you’re not sure if a material might reflect CO2 laser light, search the forum and the internet at large.

A nice roundup of things to look out for.

"Do not laser" list?

 
5: Why won't my laser cut through my material?

Not sure about why, but this is how you troubleshoot it.

HELP! Not cutting all the way through gifts! - #7

An excellent guide from GF support:

Not cutting through material again - #4

Check your lens orientation.

Help! My GF has stopped working - #16 by jbmanning5

Plywood is sometimes inconsistent, especially if you buy it from a big box retail store. Here’s a trick that might help you figure out if your plywood has problems.

Trick for inspecting plywood

 
6: I don't know what settings to use to cut my material

It’s fast and easy to test. Click the link for more info.

New material cut test method

If you want to look at a list of materials, feel free, but beware these settings are just estimates. Testing is much better in the long run. Anyway, here you go:

Spreadsheet for Non-Proofgrade Materials - #3 by jeffarazzi

 
7: Are there any tricks to removing masking from lots of parts?

Yes, there are!

How to remove masking from 423 parts at once

 
8: How do I design finger joints?

The easiest way is with a box generator, see above in #3. If you want to do something more custom, read this thread:

Variations of finger joints

And especially this bit about designing your own finger joints:
Variations of finger joints - #48 by evansd2

 
9: My photo engrave isn’t turning out well. How do I prepare a photo for engraving?

There’s no simple one-size-fits-all answer to this, but there are some best practices to follow. There have been several good posts about the subject, collected here:

Photo engrave disaster - #4 by kittski

 
10: I really like a design I see here, should I ask for the files?

No, you shouldn’t. It’s against forum rules to ask for a design file. For more information:

Egg Cups for Easter - #3 by evansd2

37 Likes
Cheat sheet
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Having problem with it cutting all the way through
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LaserLeather?
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Cedar

Very helpful!

2 Likes

That’s lovely - under 6 I’d link the the First Prints on the support page as well.

2 Likes

Replying in lieu of “liking” twice.

3 Likes

Yes! Nice one evansd2!

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