Metal Question

Brand new GF-er here.

So I’ve read as much as I can about metals on the different threads and to be honest they mostly danced around the questions I had. So I’ve gathered that putting Copper in the GF is a bad idea. Cool, no problem. I have also read that anodized aluminum is good for etching, and seems to be the one most people comment on. Also it seems that its good because of the anodized coating. Cool.

So my questions are:

  1. Is a piece of milled aluminum ok for GF use?

  2. If that piece of milled aluminum is copper colored, is that ok with GF? Note, not copper, just copper colored aluminum.

  3. If everything is good up to this point, if I want to paint that piece of aluminum and just etch off the paint, would that do any harm? Im not trying to cut the metal, or engrave deep into it, I simply want to laser off the paint in some areas leaving the copper colored aluminum in contrast to the paint.

I sure appreciate anyone/everyone’s time and opinion on this. I hope Im not asking the exact same question that’s been asked a thousand times before and I just couldn’t find the thread. Take care everyone, hope to chat soon!

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  1. Should be - If it fits, It forges :slight_smile:
  2. Totes - the issue is with the wavelength that copper reflects on (you could be doubly sure and use masking)
  3. Definitely - that’s pretty much what folks are doing with the anodized stuff; lasering off part of the anodized layer and leaving the metal untouched

Go, go, go - and then come back and post pictures :smiley:


Haha, awesome! Thanks for the reply. Thats what I figured but I tried the GF support and he was really nice but kinda just kept referring me back to the manual and what materials are GF approved.

Just curious but you wouldn’t have an idea of a good fix on the settings to start with? Just don’t want to blow up the house or anything on my first attempt.


Yeah, staff cannot assist on non-PG materials even if they want to (the lawyers get antsy!)

I haven’t done anything like that, but my go to is this spreadsheet: GF Settings

Someone’s got options for “Aluminum w/Black Matte paint 0.8mm” Engrave 1000spd 70pwr 2passes (0.8mm 675 Pro Krylon MAXX paint. Scotchbrite 00 after engrave, prior to etching) - that’s a Pro machine, so if you’ve got a basic you’ll ~probably~ end up raising the power - but start there but as it’s not at full power the settings should be just fine! (edited thanks to @jamesdhatch)

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A quick search of the forum for painted aluminum yields several successful examples of engraving aluminum along with settings.

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If it is copper colored aluminum and not copper (CU) plated, the laser will likely etch off the copper color at the same time it is etching off the paint.


I’ve lasered paint off of draft board. I’m still here as is the laser.

As noted above the problem with copper is copper, not the color. You can bounce laser beams off of aluminum. The question is why is your aluminum colored copper. If it is anodized, or some other coating, the laser may take off the anodized layer along with the paint. You can dial in your settings to just vaporize the paint, but oftentimes that works better in theory than in practice. The reason being that the paint may not be exactly the same thickness over the lasered area and it may not be chemically identical across the lasered area. Another thing that could happen is that instead of removing the copper color, it could change the color, make it splotchy, etc… The laser is doing its magic by concentrating heat and the aluminum, like the heat sink it is, is dissipating it. Sometimes this changes the surface properties, aka discoloration.

I’m not saying any of the above will apply in your case. And if you can’t get it dialed in, you can always mask your aluminum and then cut away the masking making for a reverse stencil. I prefer to paint first and laser it away because you get a better finished product, but I have had to reverse stencil some stuff.


Shouldn’t need to. Any power setting 100 and below is the same for Basic, Plus or Pro. It’s just the Full power setting that’s different.


Ah good to know! I think I did know that, but clearly I’d forgotten :slight_smile:


Hey just wanted to say thanks for everyone chiming in. It’s nice to have such an active forum for newbies like me to pick everyone’s brain. I’m thinking if the whole world was this helpful we could have a true bill and ted utopia on our hands.

Be excellent to each other!

P.S. Had to go out yesterday but I’m giving this a whirl today to try and find some good settings. Ill let everyone know what I find.

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I am not sure about “if it fits it forges”
Metal does not cut or etch in Glowforge, but you can laser attach a coating or remove coating.
Some things will damage your Glowforge if cut or etched.
It is well worth checking and there is a lot here on how to check.

That was in answer to the specific question of milled aluminum