Not cutting through; is something wrong?


Got my Glowforge (Basic) Thursday morning. Set-up was exceedingly easy, helped by the fact that I had a couple years to ready the space, cart, vent, etc. My :proofgrade: still hasn’t arrived, so I’ve been trying to get my bearings with material I’ve been collecting. I spent the afternoon trying to cut the Founders ruler out of 3/16th hardwood (oak, I think) veneer plywood, but couldn’t get it to cut through. Figured I just needed to dial in settings. I messed around with cardboard and paper a little bit and then called it a night.

Friday, I came back and tried some tests:
0.14" cardboard
Cut at 180/60 (per this thread) (barely cut through first layer)
Cut at 180/100 (cut through)

on a piece of 1/4" (0.212" MDF hardboard)
I’ve done a lot of different test cuts:
100/FULL, 3 passes (cut a bit more than halfway through, seriously charred)
Thick Hardboard PG (maybe 1/2 way through)
100 speed at various powers. None of them cut through.

Am I doing something wrong?

My first Major Lazer projects

Most of the time I would set wood materials at full power and vary the speed until it cuts through. But MDF is a difficult thing to judge. I have 0.189" MDF that cuts like butter at one speed and another bought the same week from the same store that needs almost half the speed to cut. The big box store changed the material on me even though it looks to the naked eye exactly the same. Some of the formulas will char a lot at full power and then multiple passes might help. But bottom line is you probably aren’t doing anything wrong.

BTW: Support will eventually move this topic because it’s asking about material and settings they won’t comment about.

edit: Make sure you put the material height in correctly to get everything focused correctly.


Thanks for the reply. I’m sure support will want to wait until my :proofgrade: arrives, but I’m starting to be concerned… I can’t seem to cut through much…

What about the cardboard test results? Others have been able to cut through regular cardboard at 180/60, but I had to dial the power all the way up.


Cardboard composition varies wildly, too, as will the settings required.


Others may also be using the pro model as well. I would not stress too much until your PG comes in. If it still is not cutting then there will be more to worry about.

Make sure you always measure your material thickness, I find it more often than not that published dimensions are wrong. The wrong material thickness will greatly impact your ability to cut material.


Thanks for the replies. I’ve measured everything with the digital calipers, tried different focus heights, different materials. I can’t hardly get through anything. This is that .212 MDF at 100/FULL, 3 passes and it still didn’t make it through.

I just cleaned the lens/windows to see if that’d make a difference…

No stress. :wink:
Overall I’m pretty impressed with the fit and finish of my :glowforge: and the software isn’t too bad either.


Never use cardboard so cant really comment. I was able to easily cut through a piece with your lower power settings but like I say never use it so it’s a data point of one. As long as you entered the power and speed correctly and the material height correctly there isn’t a lot to screw up.
Looks like the cut edges were clean on the cardboard. The MDF doesn’t surprise me at all.

There should be setting that allows you to get through the thin oak just fine. Really won’t be able to tell much until you get the Proofgrade. It’s not that the PG is special, but it is a fixed piece of information that we can all compare.

The Glowforge has plenty of power to get through most 1/4" organic materials but plywood isn’t always the same, MDF isn’t the same, etc.

BTW: that’s some nasty looking MDF. Might try some thin birch plywood, or other thin hardwood from the hobby section of the big box store if your PG is a few days out.


That MDF might be composed of stuff that make it hard to cut. Some MDF glue works that way and also having close to 1/4", you might not make it through. I have some cork that will not cut through and it’s 1/4". And some 1/4" mahogany? quite a challenge.

I’d get some 1/8" plywood from Lowes or Home Depot, the kind that is in the craft section that has a good veneer on each side. It works fairly well and you can get a sense of what it takes to cut. Non-Proofgrade always takes some tests.

That said, your laser might be underpowered, but that has not seemed to be much of an issue if at all. Dead flat makes a difference. Cardboard composition too.

One way to test is get some construction paper or cereal box cardboard. Try some tests on that. Stick with 1/8" and you will have better success with more materials for a basic. If you have acrylic, that would be a great test. I can do .220" cast acrylic well in one pass with my basic. Acrylic is pretty standard. That might reassure your or indicate that there are problems.


Some cardboard is very tough to cut all the way through - the beam focus is a lot less on the bottom side.

But you’ll get there…just takes a little testing on the unsupported materials. :slightly_smiling_face:


No, it’s quite normal that materials won’t work with settings provided for different materials - and they may not work at all. MDF, in particular, is often nearly laserproof - I couldn’t cut through 1/4" Home Depot MDF on a friend’s 100W laser.

Please do let us know if you have problems with your Proofgrade materials when they arrive, though!