I can’t seem to post to tips and tricks (too new I guess). So I will post here.
I am preparing to use the GF in class this year. I am gonna need lots of material. I like the proofgrade, but not sure that’s the most price effective route.
Any other suggestions? I know lowes and HD carry material that will work, (although what I found seems too thick), but I also don’t want to spend a lot of time ripping and cutting material down to size. Especially since I don’t have a full wood shop.
The other issue is GF will not accept a PO unless I spend $2000 or more, which is not gonna happen for wood supply only.
Plan on using cardboard for some things, but will need wood at some point.
The chipboard from Dick Blick is great for some things. And it’s pretty cheap. It’s a pretty consistent material throughout - meaning the same settings work every time and you won’t run into voids and glue pockets.
Baltic birch is the go to for a lot of people. It’s supposed to be void free - but I usually find a small void or two… all in all, it’s pretty consistent.
Really though for bulk purposes, the most economical route is going to be buying sheets and ripping it. Since you’re an educator, you might be able to talk to a local lumberyard/supplier who carries Baltic birch and see if you can make a deal where they will rip it for you into 12x20 sheets. And maybe give you better pricing.
Since you’re going to be using a lot of material… it might be worth running an analysis on miscuts from inconsistent materials, the cost of transfer tape, etc to see how Proofgrade compares. It’s a pretty decent value for a finished wood that should always work (as long as the machine is clean and the wood is flat).
I have HD size it to slightly under 20".
It is easy to transport and you only need to size to 12" which is very manageable.
NOTE: Don’t go on a weekend to do this. They are busy and it is harder to corral one of the workers.
If done during the week when business is slow, they will fight to size your 4x8.
I have even seen Lowes hang an Out Of Order sign on the saw during busy times. (shrug).
Oh yeah and GF will not take a school PO unless I spend $2000 or more.
Baltic birch all the way. I buy mine on Amazon, but I definitely think you could get a lumberyard to rip boards for a school, especially if it meant nabbing all your sales. MDF is also reasonably priced. Also ask around for scraps/miscuts for wood and acrylic.
I haven’t cut cardboard, but have heard some horror stories about flammability. I’d be leery of using it in a school setting.
Check Johnson Plastics, they have a large selection of high quality laser engravables. I purchased quite a bit from them before the glowforge shop was around.
Agree with the above, though you may also want to look for a local lumber store as opposed to an HD or other big hardware department store; they’re more used to accomodating cuts like that. I buy from one in the DC area (Colonial Hardwoods, just in case you’re also nearby) and one sheet of the 5’ by 5’ baltic birch gets me a BUNCH of 12 by 20s, and thus costs very little per 'forge sheet. They actually even ship it to me via UPS (I’m public transportation-bound). One piece of advice – all 1/8" Birch is DEFINITELY not created equal. I bought their other, cheaper ply once and it was total crap. Knot-filled so it didn’t cut evenly, crumbled to the touch – it was clearly meant to be a non-load-bearing backing to cheap furniture, not a laser piece. So definitely test a small order before you place a bulk one.
Alternatively, if you have a table saw, it might not be as much time ripping and cutting as you think, since it’s thin enough to do sheets stacked on top of each other. I had some Baltic Birch left over from when I used to use a machine that took 18 by 24 sheets, and I was able to cut them down just using a circular saw and cutting 5 sheets at once (1/8" thick).
As for cardboard, you can find it cheaply at ULine, they even discount for bulk orders, but I would definitely echo the concerns about flammability. I’ve used it for a few projects or drafts, but you definitely have to watch it like a hawk, and small enough pieces just vaporize – if it’s about the size of a pencil eraser, the laser cuts their outline and the inside just burns away. Uline also offers chipboard, and it’s cheap, but I have no idea how it would cut.
If you go to a local store, you might even be able to enlist them as a sponsor in return for some lasered signage. Lumber yard for the BB (and some exotic-wood offcuts), sign place for acrylic. Hardware stores often have offcuts of glass and transparent acrylic, but the acrylic they have is extruded, which is stinky and doesn’t engrave as well.
I don’t know how bulk or which materials you’re looking for, but I get my MDF from Wooditis and both MDF and birch plywood from American Laser Supply, both on Etsy. They come out to about 1.1 cent per square inch. ALS even cuts 12x20 now I think. The proofgrade isn’t a terrible price for acrylic, especially factoring in shipping.