"Do not laser" list?

I’ve seen lots of lists of things that can be lasered – either cut or engraved. But is there a list of things that you should never try to laser because it will damage the device?

So far, I’ve found:

  • PVC plastics: releases poisonous and corrosive gasses. (If it doesn’t kill you or give you cancer, it’ll cut the life of your GF.)

  • Hard drive platters: they reflect the CO2 laser and will damage the device. (There’s actually a couple of different drive platters. The very reflective silver ones cut easily with a drill and saw, but reflect the laser. The really old amber platters found in old/large drives use glass and should be fine to engrave.)

Anything else? And if my list is wrong, please correct me!

Things that I don’t know about:

  • Coins: Can I etch/engrave coins? (Can I give George Washington a mustache on the US quarter?) Can I cut through the copper jacket of a penny to the white zinc inside? Or do coins reflect the laser and cause damage?

  • Aluminum cans (or metal cut from aluminum cans): I think the painted cans (coke, sprite) should etch like anodized aluminum.

  • Big steel plate: I’ve got a big, thin steel plate. I usually use it for soldering (so hot melt doesn’t hit the workbench.) If it doesn’t hurt the laser, then I want to use it as a base-plate when cutting without the crumbtray. (But if it could hurt the laser, then it’s a bad idea.)

  • Alternate base-plate idea: hard drive cases from dismantled hard drives. (I think they are aluminum since they are not magnetic.) Again, if it doesn’t reflect the laser, then it should make a good base plate.

Is there any easy test for determining whether a new material will reflect the laser?



The simplest rule of thumb for metal is that if it has no laserable coating you don’t do it. Painted is okay, anodized is great, or laser specific coatings.

I would flip your thinking to create a “do laser” list.

You can laser engrave non-anodized metals, but you need something like Cermark or moly-lube to coat the surface. The laser then creates a bond between the coating and the metal, instead of engraving the metal directly.

You would need a laser much more powerful than the GF to cut metals; and most metals require a Fiber laser, I believe.

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Hi @jbpa,

I’m not concerned with cutting metal. I understand that issue. I just don’t want to damage the GF if I try engraving on some metals.




Thank you @sailbyc! Perfect!

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Helpful lists. I printed and laminated a copy that I hang by my Forge.


Just doing a little cross linking here for future searchability…