Quick Tip: Scoring improves surface quality

While Proofgrade is awesome for having masking already present, I do a LOT of work with non-proofgrade. Especially when I break out the cardboard to proof-of-concept prior to doing a final job.

I realized with my latest new material acquisition that there is a MAJOR difference in the surface of the material if you first run all of your cut lines as a score, THEN run them as the full cut.

For a stark example: I used an amazon cardboard box to test some lettering for a large sign and see if I made the bridges large enough on letters which have internal voids (a,e,d,o…). I thought the cardboard was going to cut real easy, so I ran it at 500 speed and 40 power. Did NOT cut through. I knew that if I went full power I would be risking fire, so I ran the 500/40 again, still not through. I finally decided to just blast the full power. Got through with no burning! Yippee!

So, having done each of the modified letters and seen that the bridges were large enough, I then ran the full sign. Since I knew the 500/40 wasn’t good enough, and I had survived the 500/full… I just started with 500/full.

Basically every bridge burned.

Next run, I did the 500/40, then a 500/full.

No bridges burned.

I have since then used this trick on wood as well (light score, then full cut), and found that the charring on the surface is reduced rather considerably. I assume that there is a channel due to the score and it helps to focus the air assist and remove more of the debris. Not sure. But it does make for a pleasant end effect, with just a little more time spent running the job.


Sounds like a neat trick that’s worth trying. (I’m going to shift it to the Tips and Tricks section.) :sunglasses::+1:

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are you scoring-scoring? or just running 2 cuts with different power?

Ultimately the same thing.


Definitely worth a try.

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I’m wondering if it’s not because you are basically getting the initial pierce out of the way by breaking the surface layer.

But how charred are the sides of whatever you cut? Are they clean or ash covered?


This is a great tip. I’ve been doing something similar–multiple light runs, followed by a final hot run–on cardstock and paper items to reduce char.

It’s also a huge help on leather, if you’re using non-proofrade. Very thin leathers (like Tandy’s chrome-free liner leathers) shrink 10-15% with a single hot cut, but if you do three or four cool cuts the shrinkage is minimal.


Hard to say on cardboard how the edge quality was. I will try to pay attention to differences in edge quality when I use a real material in the future.

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