Newbie here and completely overwhelmed

I’ve had my glowforge for two months now and JUST made my first couple of projects (gift of good measure and an engraved quote), to be honest, I’m terrified of this machine, lol. I’ve spent all morning watching and reading tutorials, but there’s just so much that this thing is capable of that I’m totally overwhelmed. Will I ever get the hang of this? I’m scared to use anything other than proofgrade wood right now, but I have some gifts in mind for my mom that wouldn’t be proofgrade, such as a cutting board, wooden spoon , etc. but I’m afraid to venture away from the materials that came with the machine. Any words of encouragement or advice (other than stop being such a wimp, lol), would be apprecaited! Thank you!!!


I began learning by cutting shapes out of heavy cardstock. Old cereal boxes would work too. It’s cheap, it doesn’t blow around and the results are fairly robust.

Start with geometric shapes and simple ideas, as you may be learning your design software (e g. Inkscape), your materials, and your workflow all at once.

Testing for settings on a new material is a great skill to develop. Make a row of small circles each a different stroke color and apply gradually stronger settings to each. It may take several cycles to tune-in just the right settings.


Oh, that’s a great idea, thank you!!


I’m a materials miser, so cheap prototyping is the goal for me! Cardboard is great fun, too. (Never leave a cut unattended with any material, but especially watch paper or acrylic products.)


After you have followed the starting setup you should be able to expand from there. Play a lot with Gimp and Inkscape, You can’t burn anything that does not get to the Glowforge, so a dozen files just trying stuff out can teach you a lot before you go to cutting anything, :slightly_smiling_face:

For each new material, I make one of these and keep it as a reference, and from it, the right settings can emerge without using the Proofgrade settings


A fun, safe and cheap material to experiment with is ceramic tile. You can pick up the white ones for less than a quarter, and the glass or colored ones for not much more than that. They won’t catch on fire and they don’t “gunk” up the optics very much. You can get designs from coloring books online that look great engraved and colored, or you can engrave your own sketches. Do a quick search for “ceramic tile” and you will be richly rewarded with lots of beautiful examples.

After you have a couple of projects under your belt you will be ready to try lots of other things. As long as you don’t leave the Glowforge unattended, you have very little to worry about and much to gain from using it. You got this.


Thank you!!!

1 Like

I’ll try that too! Thanks so much!


Ok… yes but… umm. Stop being such a wimp :). The best way to learn is to try stuff and mess up.

It’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake, just avoid the really bad kind, where you damage the machine or worse yourself. It’s one thing to engrave crooked on a wooden spoon, it’s entirely another to end up in the hospital or wreck your machine.

Things like fires, pvc, and copper will damage your machine, so stay away from highly flammable materials like foams and whatnot until you’re confident. PVC and copper are on the “not even once” list,

Things like tricking the machine into operating with the doors open or having a poor vent seal (or fires) can damage you, so don’t do those things. We like your eyes and lungs, so let’s not mess with them. :slight_smile:

If you’re wondering about a specific material always search the forum first, then if you don’t find anything, just ask. We got your back! When in doubt with a new material always ask

Common sense and a damp paper towel for any small fires that might happen (rare but possible) will keep you out of trouble. You’re not a wimp for being cautious but with a little practice you’ll quickly get a hang of what things are worth worrying about and which are less so.


Thank you for the advice!! I truly appreciate how supportive everyone here seems to be, I think I’m going to like it here! :smile:


It’s my favorite place on the Internet. A fun group and a fun tool!


There is a lot to learn and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. The good news, these people that have been chiming in on this thread along with so many others, are truly wonderful resources and geniuses at this stuff. There’s absolutely no way I would have been able to get past my first few months without them, and still learn from them every day.


Let the laser teach you: it’s all about focus.

  1. Decide on an object. Pick a free laser design one.
  2. Open design in whatever design software you use to familiarize yourself with what cuts/scores/engraves are needed.
  3. Personalize the design in some way if needed, but keep it simple. If it is text, you need to understand how fonts work.
  4. Decide on material.
  5. Research settings on said material.
  6. Put material in Glowforge
  7. Load design.
  8. Click the set focus command (under the gear) and place the target in the center of the material where you want the design but about an inch to the left and slightly higher. Watch where the red dot hits to ensure that it is an appropriate spot to measure.
  9. Position design on material.
  10. Get the settings entered in.
  11. Double check design position and settings.
  12. Insure venting is set.
  13. Click print.
  14. Press print button.

Post processing:

Before moving the material or the design in the GFUI, after the print ensure that pieces needing to be cut are totally free. If not, repeat cut lines as needed with slightly less speed.

Rinse and repeat.
Perhaps I forgot a thing or two.

The key is focus on one object or a design, then choose the material. The design will tell you what to learn and the material will tell you settings. Repeat that design or object several times. Use different materials. Try variations. It will allow you to get familiar with the process while limiting the variables.

On going over this list, notice what things are not clear. Do you have this process understood enough that you could tell somehow how to use a Glowforge without notes? What step did you notice seems the most challenging. Note that and come back here and ask questions about it.

Why are airplanes safe? Because everyone involved knows exactly what to do and can do it over and over again without missing a step. check lists and procedures are effective.

Don’t worry about the creative stuff. Planes just need to get from point A to point B. They follow the flight plan. The fun comes when you arrive at your destination.

Remember that it’s ok to make one object and ensure that everyone in your family and your friends have a copy. Perhaps the minimum is to personalize it with their name. Doesn’t have to be dramatic. One 4" tile coaster with a one color marker and a synthetic felt backing will be enough for people. You can get by for a long time with this.

With this design you can totally ignore the wood part and use the outer square box vector to align the design on the tile by cutting it out in a sheet of cardboard. But if you use set focus and have the tile fairly square in the bed, it should be accurate enough for placement. Then the outer square can cut out some polyester felt for a backing (Joann’s)

Download this font: Goudy Initialen Font |
It will give you a perfect square design to go over a square tile. People love these.

Here is another version that allows you to use the name of the person. The text is the entire design.

Or you could download one of these free monogram fonts. I’ll help you learn to split it to put the full name in the middle.

Or you can totally ignore the idea of a backing and a targeting jig with cardboard and just use the tile. It’s not going to explode or start a fire, so you’ll feel a bit safer. Doesn’t need masking at all.

Well, at least that is how I operate. On my CNC machine, I have been making the same slip fit box over and over again. Each time I am able to tweak settings because the wood is different for each. I then stick it in the Glowforge and put the initials on. I could make these for everyone and everyone will think they have a custom gift because you customized it with their name and maybe just a little flair with the font choice.


Here are some tips to live by:

Above all, dare to have fun with it and be creative!


Made a tutorial just for you!


Oh wow, thank you so much for all of this information!! This is amazing! :smile:


This topic was automatically closed 30 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.