Is there a method or is it all time, materials and trial and error?

I have spent lots of time, read lots of postings, tested lots of materials (PG and not), changed lots of settings, but in the end the results are inconsistent. I can (after plenty of trial and error) get an image to print so it looks good. I can print that same image on the same material and it again looks good. Change the image, or the material and I’m back to square 1. Either you are all a lot smarter than I or you have far more time and materials to waste to get quality outputs. How do I get to a quality output on the first or second try without burning through a ton of test setups? Open to any and all suggestions as after dozens (probably hundreds) of attempts I am ready to list it on Craigslist and say the hell with this.

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I have moved this out of Problems and Support as this is not a question for Glowforge Support.

What are you trying to engrave that is resulting in inconsistent results?

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I mean “quality” is subjective, of course. If you have a very specific way it needs to look then that’s harder to match in a final output. The general thing I do when final appearance must be a certain way is to crop a square inch of my image and run tests using that much smaller image before doing the full engrave. Saves materials and most importantly time.

As for materials, each material has its own quirks as to how it’ll interact with laser. That’s not a Glowforge thing, that’s a physics thing.

As for image prep check out #9:


The short answer is that testing will always be part of the process with any new design and/or material.


Here’s one… ok… two things I can say.

First, testing will be required for at least each material you decide to use since they interact different with the laser, like @evansd2 mentioned above. That’s a physics thing.

Second, you’ll eventually probably start to have a really good idea of what will work and what won’t the first or second time around.

To the second point, you’re learning an entirely new skill and it can take a while to build your expertise with it. Glowforge does a really good job in their marketing and making it look super super easy - some of it is, some of it isn’t. Some aspects of it you can be proficient in almost immediately, and other things take much longer.

My guess would be that if you stick with it, in 2-3-4 years, you’ll still be learning new things, or how to improve upon things - whether it’s quality, efficiency, or something else.


The 1" square suggestion is one I will try. I have owned several rotary engravers, CNCs and 3D printers, and have no issues with trial and error, however, consistent results and methods that can be transferred to other items are critical to long-term success. Do I expect balsa wood to cut like oak? No. But if an image cuts well on one proofgrade material it will cut well on all. So far not the case.

Cut, or engrave? Cuts should be cuts on all proofgrade materials, that’s their whole shtick.

Engraving… well, not so much. Maple ply vs walnut ply, of course they’re going to look different, they’re different species of wood entirely.


Prints, bait and switch.

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