Glowforge Proofgrade Leather

Hi everyone! So I received my glowforge only a short while ago and am still very much a newbie. While my primary intent for the machine is making wood signs and barn quilts, I decided to test out the piece of proof grade leather that came with the machine. I love leather earrings, so I bought some SVGs for templates and cut some earrings with the piece of veg tanned leather that was included. The settings were predetermined as the material was from glowforge, and I am here to tell you the smell was absolutely horrendous. All I can describe it as is burning flesh, which technically is what it would be with leather, but it smelled so disgusting there is no way in this world I could wear those on my head. For all you leather cutters out there, is there a secret? How do you cut leather without the horrid stench? I’m very disappointed, I was totally looking forward to wearing these beauties, but it just makes me want to vomit to smell them. :frowning:

You don’t. As you noted you’re burning flesh. You’re operating a miniature crematorium on your desk. If you are properly vented to the outside you should get almost no fumes inside. You should wait until the fans power down after the cut is done before opening the lid so as much smell as possible will be exhausted. You can also try one of the inline fans folks use here to evacuate the air and those you can let run even longer than the GF’s internal fans will run so you can get as much stink as possible out.

Once you remove it, put any scraps in a ziploc and trash them. The smell lingers on scraps and much of the smell in your workspace will be residual odor from the scraps. You can leave the piece in your garage to air out if it’s still an issue.


I didn’t have any issues with overall smell from the machine, it was just the smell of the actual earrings. I left them to air out overnight hoping maybe they would be ok but no such luck. I’m just glad I tested out the piece that I already had before I purchased some leather. Lesson learned! I think I will stick to wood. :slight_smile:

Hmmm… lots of leather folks here and no one has mentioned it being that bad. Wonder if they have a new leather supplier. You might want to get a bit of leather from Tandy and see if you have the same issue. It’s not premasked like GF’s is but there’s lots of options and weights as well.

That’s a good idea…I’m a bag maker and have leather on hand. I’ll have to see if I have some veg tanned and maybe try it again.

Chrome tanned will also work. (Caveat - there are folks who will tell you that you can’t cut chrome tanned leather because it has trace amounts of chromium in it but they’re wrong.) Chrome tanned doesn’t take laser engraving as well as veg tanned and there are other reasons to use one vs another depending on your project but you may find it smells better or worse - it’s subjective. Same with cutting acrylic - some folks are nauseated by the smell of cutting acrylic.

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I certainly does stink to high heaven. I’ve notice it settles down after a few days though. I am not a fan of the “charred” edges either. The black soot gets every where. I’ve never tried washing the leather with anything but it seems necessary if it is to be worn in any way.

I put my leather pieces into a storage container filled with salt and shake it about for ~2-3 minutes. I find it both removes some of the char and speeds up the “out-gassing” of the leather…but yeah, you burn flesh you end up with a burnt flesh smell. There’s no getting around that.


Good to know, I was terrified of the “toxic gas” that may arise from chrome tanned!

Agreed. The sell was awful and I did not like the burnt edges either.

Thanks for that tip!! :slight_smile:

Be sure to have your venting top notch (and don’t vent into a playground or anything) because those vapours are not for breathing. I didn’t find the smell to be any different, but YMMV.

I use the Glowforge air filter as I don’t have access to a window. It seems to work well, very little smell from the machine itself.

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I feel like the smell goes away after a couple of days, but you could try using a leather conditioner after cutting it. I use Lexol’s on my car interior. Smells much better than cut leather for sure.

But my leather projects are limited. I made a passport wallet over a year ago, and the smell gave me such a headache that I washed the entire thing after I put it together. That leather ended up getting really soft and working well for my needs, but leather I washed from my kids’ shinai became still as a board. The leather I cut for the wallet my brother had given to me when he worked in a custom car shop, some pricey imported hide from Italy.

I actually still have all the leather that came with the Glowforge. I’ve got no idea what to do with it since I don’t feel like buying dyes and whatnot for it.


on google search I typed “leather sealant spray” I haven’t used this stuff but it has good reviews. I have found that most of my leather stuff that I got from both GF and Tandy after airing out a day or so in the shed it doesn’t have a smell.

Lexol is available at all equestrian supply stores - of which I am sure there are plenty in LV?

Of course, on Amazon as well.

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Two things I do that I generally find take care of the smell on things that I wear -

  1. Remove the charred edges. On thinner leather (3-4 oz or :proofgrade: medium ) that’s easier said than done, but generally I do most of my work on 5-6 oz (:proofgrade: thick ) or thicker. A little sandpaper does wonders for taking off the most burned bits of the edge.

  2. I generally find that by the time I’m done with all the wet stuff that goes into a piece of leather I don’t smell the laser burn anymore. In general, most of my pieces are looking at a minimum of neatsfoot oil, dye, leather balm w/ atom wax, and maybe a rub down with saddle soap at the end. Also gum tragacanth and beeswax when burnishing edges.

I will say that, no matter where you get your leather, l would never describe the smell of leather being laser cut as ‘pleasant’ … I think it’s a thing you get used to when you work with lots of leather, but on the occasions where I’ve forgotten to turn on a filter - oof, not my favorite smell. (That said, I still think acrylic smells worse, but I’ll admit that I’ve had 3+ years to get used to the smell of leather in a Glowforge and I rarely touch acrylic!)


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