Engraving 1085 Steel

There’s some information on here about engraving steel on knives, tools, etc, but I haven’t found much that worked for me personally. I’ve been looking at doing knives, firearms part, etc for a number of people and have had very mixed results. Today I engraved a knife that was custom made for me by a close friend, Ryan Turney of Ryan Turney Knives in Amarillo Texas.
In the first attempt, settings were as follows:
-Full Power
-105 Speed
-675 LPI
-1 Pass
As you can see, it isn’t as defined as we would all like to see:

In the second attempt, I slowed the speed to 100, and left the other settings the same as before. As you can see, it’s almost perfect! It’s a dark engrave, about .5mm deep and very clean. All in all, an excellent result:

In conclusion:
This echos what I’ve seen in my other attempts. If you want to do hardened steel projects and get a deep, dark, clean engrave, my minimum recommended settings are as follows:
-Full Power
-100 Speed
-675 LPI
-1 Pass

Be aware that ultra-small designs tend to “meld” together with these settings, even on hard steel. You may also have this effect on larger designs if you slow it down too much, I think it tends to burn the metal on the surface too much (i.e. 50 speed or slower). If I find a way to get cleaner micro-designs on hard steel, I’ll update this thread.
Please share your thoughts and your experience!


Nice job!

Looks great! And the information you are sharing is so helpful! Thank you!l

Is this just the raw knife in the GF? Or did you put some sort of coating on the knife that washes away? I just got my GF and I’m super concerned about reflections from putting uncoated metal in for engraving.

Copper and chrome are mirrors to the wavelength of the glowforge laser. Other metals absorb most of the energy and immediately disperse it: the reason they can’t be cut. And the reason we have a metal crumb tray. That said, one user reported some damage around the laser head the user attributed to a reflection from a safe metal. It’s possible it was a chrome plated metal, or some molten little bits tossed back up, or something else, or actually real. There are plenty of examples of metal marking projects and perfectly fine lasers.


Does one need to spray Cermark or Dry Moly to the surface of copper in order to engrave on it? That being said, one sprays it on with three coats, then lets it dry. Engraves, then wipes it off and it will leave the marking or engraving?

Did you spray this with Cermark or Dry Moly?

Don’t put copper in your Glowforge. Copper will reflect the frequency of your laser and could damage your machine. :grimacing:

Even by applying Laserbond 100 or Cermark to it?

I believe so. Do a search on copper because there has been a lot of discussion on making pc boards, even if just to remove resist from the boards. I haven’t done anything with copper so I am not positive, but please look first.

Search for “engraving a copper gift tag”.

With the steel, I did not use any applicant, I simply engraved directly onto the steel. However, I have had mixed results with this, and have found that softer, low carbon steels engrave better, and any kind of hardened steel doesn’t seem to engrave at all (I’ve tried annealing steel in my forge before engraving it and again I had mixed results, some good and some mediocre).
As for copper and brass, I’ve been warned to avoid these altogether due to their reflective frequency and potential damage to the laser.

I hope this helps.



Just got a new puppy and decided to make my own tag for him. I used plate steel from the blade of an old dull carpenters hand saw, its hardened steel. First I cut it out of the blade using an angle grinder, and then shaped it with a stationary belt sander, then softened the metal by heating it with a blow torch to red hot and allowing it to cool slowly outside(dont quench it, we’re trying to soften the steel and quenching hardens steel). After cutting a hole in the top with a drill (which I tried prior to softening but couldn’t accomplish due to hardness), I went to the glowforge.
I used the following settings:
Speed 100
Full power
270 LPI

Additionally, I put a piece of masking tape on it prior to engraving to reduce slag and sparks (yes, I’ve had slag go flying off of the metal during engraving before; besides potential damage to the laser it can also smudge your engraving), and you can see the results. It’s actually a deep and well-contrasting engrave that is dark and can be felt physically by running your hand over it.

**Before the heating and cooling of the metal to remove hardness and temper, the metal was far too hard and didnt engrave at all; the laser left no markings whatsoever. This process of softening the metal prior to engraving is imperative.
Knowing this, it is and likely will always be difficult to engrave knife blades due to the hardness factor and not being able to soften the metal without ruining the knife.
The original post of the knife engraving went well probably due to the fact that the knife maker hadn’t yet mastered consistent heat treatment for 1085 steel and had unintentionally left the blade at a much lower hardness in the area of my engraving.


Great effort - especially compared to the engrave your own tags at PetsMart.

Thank you. I was going to post the entire tag but I had to drop around it to protect my privacy. I wish you all could see the whole thing, it’s very clear text, it looks perfect from my perspective.
I’ll upload more as I continue to experiment.

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Update: Failures

I have a pile of old dull circular saw blades which I will be making into knives, and I tried to engrave one of these knives. I took away the temper by heating it to bright orange and allowing it to cool slowly; this softened the metal enough to drill the holes in the tang but I could tell it was very high carbon steel and still quite hard. The results are less than ideal and I’m calling it a failure.
Full power
Speed 100
270 LPI
Masking tape over engraving area

Perhaps multiple passes could result in a better engrave, but I am seeing that high carbon steels and stainless steel are very difficult to engrave.
Let me know what you have done, I’ll keep experimenting and post results here.

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I did not use any coating, it is the uncoated steel. The reason for this is because I have seen examples of those coatings wearing off over time and I cant have the engraving fading on these knifes or on firearm parts.
Have you used those coatings successfully?

Wait a minute - are we sure that the Glowforge can ablate steel? If the post is accurate we can cut .5mm steel? I would be thrilled to hear that this is the case. I am also amazed to hear that the hardness of steel would influence the ability to ablate it with a laser. Anyone?

Maybe your annealing process is altering the chemistry of the steel, maybe creating a compound or scale that behaves similarly to Cermark. I am very interested to know what mechanism is at work here. I doubt very much that it has to do with the hardness of the steel.

Nobody in this thread has even hinted at the ability to ablate or cut steel.


Umm actualy the OP says he is engraving .5mm deep. *“It’s a dark engrave, about .5mm deep and very clean.”
Engraving .5 mm deep must be ablating steel - what else would it be?