Excitedly awaiting delivery of my Glowforge basic and can’t seem to find the answer to this question. I’m specifically wondering if the saddle faux leather and veg tanned leather need to be masked before engraving and cutting
Depends on the material. Masking just protects from the burn residue being deposited on uncut / unengraved portions. Some things show it more than others, and some things are easier to clean up than others.
For engraving, I always run a score line around the engraved portion and remove the masking from the area before running the job, because the lighter parts of the engrave will be lost to the masking otherwise.
masking is about saving the material from smoke and flash damage. I never mask plywoods that I am using to construct things. For leather, you will probably want to. Easy to find out. Set aside a small amount for testing and try it both ways.
I nearly always do, for aesthetic reasons. I really don’t like smoke marks.
I never mask leather because I’m always going to be cleaning/conditioning it anyway…
i like the scorch marks so I rarely mask wood. Acrylic i typically mask ( or leave masked).
TLDR answer: No. It’s a personal preference whether you mask or not.
I’ll add to G2Ns comment about masking for engraving, but specifically for acrylic.
Vaporized acrylic deposits onto clean surfaces and etches itself into them, ruining the glossy finish. If you mask it, score around your engrave perimeter, then remove the masking without moving the material, you can then engrave and finally cut your part.
Same for me with leather. No mask.
I also have done a decent amount with leather and I at first did mask it then figured out it wasn’t necessary because it cleans off super easy.
Although masking works best, proper cut depth also helps avoid the flash splash burn marks, but there is a puzzle to that as well.
I always tried my best to avoid the burn marks and found out (by accident) that not everyone is adverse to them.
I did a sample cut (no masking needed for a trial), just to judge if the size was acceptable, then once accepted did a final cut on masked wood with all the final design parameters.
They loved it but questioned where the texture was on the final product. They were calling the flash marks ‘texture’. They saw it as a highlight.
I went with the flow, asked which direction they preferred their ‘texture’ and burned the final anew. Texture and all.
Conclusion: Flash will never be acceptable on leather or plastic. With wood, it may depend on if you want the highlights around the cuts or not.