Probably a dumb question about safe materials

Hi guys. I feel like I have been searching for answers but the questions are so basic no one else needs to ask them. I have been dying to try non PG material but I don’t know what to look for in terms of safety. I see people on fb posting that they just use plywood from HD or Lowes, but how can they know that there isn’t any weird chemicals that could become toxic when lasered? I only ask because my GF girl is in my bedroom, and I have a toddler in the house also. I am totally fine with using mostly PG material for safety but also would love to try using things not available in PG.

tldr: is there some resource that can tell me what to look out for in materials that wouldn’t be safe? or I guess how do you know what you are experimenting on won’t put out any noxious fumes?

Again sorry if this is a dumb question, I feel pretty sheepish asking it, but the support I’ve seen from everyone so far is so amazing I felt like I could ask.

Thank you!!


One of the most common “first non-PG” woods that most people get their feet wet on is Baltic Birch plywood. It’s inexpensive, you can use the default settings for it as starter settings, and you can get it on Amazon in small sheets if your local hardware store doesn’t carry birch plywood.

This woods toxicity table might help with questions about other woods:

As long as your exhaust setup is working well, you should be okay. All woods have the potential to cause irritation.


Thank you! This actually answers another question I had. There’s a local wood place here that sells local types of wood like monkey pod and mango, I wanted to try it but wasn’t sure about if it was safe. I guess I could just go down and talk to them too :thinking:. This gives me a great starting point! I’ll stop by my local hardware store soon to see if they have Baltic birch.

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There’s a good chance they won’t know. There’s a difference between inhaling the dust and inhaling the smoke.

Honestly, I think most folks who are heavy GF users, if they are being truthful, watch for the worst of the chemicals (for example, anything with chlorine, including most craft vinyls, is bad for you and bad for the machine) and hope for the best with the rest. Ventilation is key, though.


As a general rule, you should consider everything you put in the laser cutter to be bad to breath. Even stone. That’s why you vent the GF through a filter or to the outside.

If something you cut often produces a lot of smoke or dust, that’s gonna gum up your GF more quickly, requiring you to clean the optics and the fan. But what you really care about is whether anything that “cooks off” when lasered will produce gasses that are extremely hazardous or that damage your laser cutter.

The most common no-no is PVC, which produces Chlorine gas when burned, which combines with moisture (humidity, or in the case of wood moisture right from the wood itself, or the nice wet linings of your lungs) and turns in to Hydrochloric Acid = bad for whatever it touches.

An internet search for “is {insert material here} safe for my laser cutter” will likely tell you all you need to know. What is or is not OK to cut is fairly laser-cutter agnostic. What’s bad for one is bad for all… you don’t need GF specific answers.


Thank you! I knew this question was silly in a way, but wasn’t sure if there was just a better way than googling specific material.

I think I also need to re-look at how I’m venting right now, maybe find a small fan that can help keep the smell out of my little bedroom better.

Ah ok. I’ll ask them anyway but good to remember that dust and smoke are 2 different things when it comes to inhalation. I also need to rethink my current ventilation, because my room really smells (or I’m really sensitive) for the whole day and night after I laser something.

Wow! I have not seen that, and would love to find it in usable thickness! Probably not important as would be strange to even find the wood but some folk are so allergic to mango that they break out in hives just walking under a tree.

I have found that what I call my Blue Whale (very large filter feeder) that I originally planned to connect directly to the Glowforge, manages all the escaping smoke and smells even when I was having trouble with the exhaust. But have discovered that while I was having my lungs seize up every time my roomie made popcorn, it solved that as well.

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Wow that is a mighty little filter. Is it quite noisy? I need a better solution for my space, my current filter is under powered.

It is about as noisy as the Glowforge when just sitting about but most of that noise is at the entrance and exit. By building a washable pre-filter in front, the sound is cut considerably. Add any sort of sound insulation and you could get it to barely hear it. It all depends on how much effort you want to put in it,

I worked in a shop that had a huge shop type vacuum in a small room that you could barely tell was on.


The business is called Waimanalo Wood! They have some beautiful hardwood, I was planning on using it as the backing for my wood signs but also to engrave in. I think the thinnest they go is 1/2”.

That little blue filter looks great! Added it to my amazon list, it’ll probably be one of the next purchases. I makeThank you!


Keep in mind that it is bigger than it appears out of context; I had quite a surprise when it arrived.

but perhaps others have a better sense of scale than I did when I imagined it a bit over half as big as it is.


that picture gives me a better sense of the scale. Do you think I could keep it under the table the GF is on? If you don’t mind could I see how you have yours set up?

note its height compared to the standard chair. It is a bit taller than the table my Glowforge sits on, but your table experience may be different. In order to be able to use the rear pass through mine sits out from the wall a bit, and the filter behind that. Also the intake faces forward, the exhaust to the right and the controls on the other side of the handle from the intake, If I had a magic mirror I would make it a mirror of itself, but Amazon seems out of those at the moment,

This is the setup for now:

though that big green filter thing was moved from in front to take the picture.

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Looks like great stuff! If someone there could cut some of those to from 3/8 to half-inch (most of the half inch is less interesting grain.) you could make some fabulous pieces using deep engrave. But it is pretty pricey and shipping to Florida a killer too.

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