While browsing around amazon for inexpensive stuff to shoot my laser at, I came across these thick leather rounds - 25 Pack of 4" Vegetable Tanned Cowhide Leather Round Shapes
They are vegetable tanned and 4 inch diameter. They vary in thickness slightly, but it’s around 1/8 inch, which is pretty thick for leather. They cost about 32 bucks for 25 rounds (with prime shipping). Considering the amount and thickness of leather, that’s not a terrible deal.
Anyway, I thought they might make some decent coasters.
Basically, for engraving I found that the settings for PG thick leather work pretty well, but masking is a good idea. I also tried hitting them at full speed and 3 power with 340 LPI. This marks the surface, but doesn’t cut into it at all. The result is completely smooth. It initially looks pretty dark, but some of the darkness washes away easily. I actually noticed the dark charring washes away pretty easily no matter what settings you use, but the PG settings actually cut into the leather, so I suspect the image will have more long term durability. I predict it might also look better after being dyed.
The big advantage to doing the higher speed and low power was that no masking is needed, and there is no noticeable smoke or smell. Leather has a tendency to get pretty smelly in a laser.
I also tried cutting, The PG thick leather cut settings, modified to 3 passes, just barely made it through, but gave me as good or better results than most of the other settings I tried. It came out pretty clean and I’m happy with the results. It did smoke a lot and made my work area smell like burnt leather for awhile.
I am still experimenting with all this, so if anyone has better settings suggestions, please share.
Here’s some pics. The left coaster was done at 3 power, 1000 speed, 340 lpi, no masking. The middle one was done using PG thick leather engrave settings with a mask of standard light brown painters tape. The right one was cut using PG thick leather cut settings, modified to 3 passes.
The run time for the engraved coasters was about 19 minutes, regardless of the settings used. I started to do one on the PG settings with the “HD graphic” option, instead of SD Graphic. That made the time over an hour. I actually stopped the one pretty early because I could see it was going to be an undesirable result (I didn’t mask it, so that might be why). I haven’t tried it with “Draft”.
I’m not sure if the complexity of the design adds time or not, but the whole area of the coaster needs to be passed over with this design, so I think that adds some time.
The one that was cut took around 5 minutes.
This is on a basic machine.
Thanks! those aren’t bad run times. I had a horrible job trying to cut 1/4" birch ply, went through about 4 tries before I got what I wanted. I really like this idea, I haven’t worked too much with leather.
Complexity doesn’t effect it - solely size, speed, and LPI
A 1" square done at 1000 speed and 100 lpi will be done 10x faster than a 1" square done at 100 speed and 100 lpi, etc.
and it doesn’t matter if it’s a solid block or a pattern because the laser still crosses over all the same spots
The gear is great–I’ve yet to get consistent through cuts with my leathers (even much thinner ones) and have to finish many cuts by hand! (I buy sides of leather, though the precuts are a great option in many cases!). I usually am only doing a few of a given project at a time, so faster for me to finish by hand & move onto the next project than keep changing settings to get through cuts.
But I keep hoping the setting I used that did work once will work again…
A lot of reason I think a setting that worked once but doesn’t on the next piece (from the same hide) is due to the variation in the density of the hide, especially natural veg tan, the leather is often pressed, as well as split, to get the finished thickness, AND the hide itself varies–e.g. the back is thicker & firmer & tougher than the belly.
(And FYI, Glowforge thinks that 1/16" (or 4oz) is thick, but that’s relatively thin in the entire realm of leather… Majority of my work is with 6-7 oz, but I work with hides as thin as 1oz, and have done a few things with 12oz, too).