Non-Proofgrade Cutting Help!

I did a test run today, and I have so many questions.

This is a cheap piece of MDF from Target. I am fairly happy with the engraving job it did, though I see some areas in which I need to improve the file. The cutting job, on the other hand, is frustrating. This material is 0.191" thick, and I have that setting entered into the materials setting. For the cutting, I have it set to 125 speed, 100 power, and three passes. It chars the living hell out of the edges, but if I speed it up or lower the power or number of passes, it won’t cut through the material.

Is there some guide to cutting? I’m so frustrated.


Every material is different. Even “the same material” from the same source can be slightly different. :proofgrade: materials are supposed to eliminate the differences as best as possible to give you consistent cuts. But there’s nothing wrong with using whatever (safe) material you’d like. It’s just going to take some experimentation. You’ll have to burn through a piece and see how it goes with different settings. Once you find a setting you like, write everything down. In this case, it might just be that “cheap Target MDF” isn’t the material you’re looking for for this project.

Hope that helps!


I bumped this over to #beyond-the-manual for you… Support won’t offer assistance/settings for non-Proofgrade materials.

Here’s the thing… with non-Proofgrade materials, where the settings aren’t provided, you just have to test, test, test to get optimum results. It’s frustrating, but that’s part of the laser experience - and what Glowforge is trying to avoid the customer having to do by providing Proofgrade materials.

As @tom_a said, materials can vary greatly, even if they look the same. The glues/binders used, material composition, etc.

Basically, working with a material for the first time, you need to make sure you have enough material to test on before you run your project. And then you need to either find a test cut file here on the forums (several are available), or design your own.

If you need help finding starting points, you can take a look at a similar proofgrade material. Select that material from the list and then change the setting to manual. It will show you the settings. For this, I might look at thick draftboard to get an idea of what those settings. Thick draftboard is thicker than your material, so keep that in mind.


Try starting by selecting a similar proofgrade setting and then switching to manual and tweaking their settings. I cut Home Depot MDF using proofgrade settings without issue.

I try to avoid multiple passes, which can add to char. If you can find a good single pass setting I think you’ll get better results.


MDF is notorious for giving quite varied results based on the variation in binder material. Some are difficult to cut by CO2 lasers and some use dangerous to burn glues. There are several posts of people doing battle with some MDF or another. Dan posted one as well:

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Thanks for the replies. I think that, until I find a source of MDF I like, I’m going to need to buy at least two of everything.

Mdf tends to char a lot. I use it quite a bit, all my settings can be found on my notes tab on my site: hope they help if you check it out.


Yeah, been there done that - MDF and other composite materials are not ideal for engraving and in some cases even cutting reliably.

I’ve been struggling to get consistent results with some fine detail “paper cut” style artwork, and after a lot of testing, including creating a really detailed test print that uses a bunch of different zoom and pew settings.

I’m using various styles of “chipboard” from various vendors. It’s basically thick cardboard. What I’ve come to realize is that the material itself is so inconsistent, even in the same sheet. It’s absolutely fine for many things, but not the type of fine detail I’m trying to create. After a lot of testing, I finally tried a small section of my artwork on a completely different material, and it came out perfect!

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What setting do you use? My PRO machine wouldn’t cut the MDF I got at my local Home Depot.


You may have just lost at the “Random Glue” lotto and gotten an Indestructible glue.


I use PG settings for thick draft board on the 1/4" mdf…


I can’t find the 1/4 mdf settings on your facebook.

130 speed full power

what about focus?

Auto focus

I’d LOVE to use more proofgrade materials, but seems they are constantly sold out. Having some issues with Home Depot MDF not cutting all the way through. If glowforge had their thicker draftboard available I’d buy it!

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Link update:

Thanks, updated it. Facebook decided to take notes tabs away.

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I see a “files” tab but it is empty. No “notes” tab. is the new section, facebook deleted all notes tabs unfortunately

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