So... How closely do you pay attention during cuts?

I’m putting this here because it seems the sort of thing that should go with a disclaimer about fire and death and taxes. I’m curious how closely people babysit their glowforge while it’s working. I have been paying pretty close attention (all my cuts were less than 2 min, and pretty fun to watch) until today when I made something in two parts, and each part took just under an hour.

I don’t have the attention span for that, even while listening to tv. I wandered back over to my desk to work on other stuff. Is it the sort of thing I shouldn’t be turning my back on? Is it fine as long as you’re in the same room? Do you sit next to it until it finishes? Do you watch it the entire time?


In the general area keeping a weather eye (ear?) on the process…

Less issues with 3D printing, but that was the general approach there as well.


Depends on your risk appetite. I always hang around for cardboard & paper (& chipboard).

I’ve never had a fire or flare-up in any laser. So I don’t necessarily hang around unless I am working on another design. If not, I might be found upstairs with the wife.

I’m risk tolerant. There is a measurable risk but one I’m willing to accept. Others not so much.


I generally watch it get started, sit in the room with it while it’s running, but generally don’t watch it every second. I’ll get up to check on it when it switches operations, (you get to where you can hear any changes…it sings to you while it works), and if I leave the room for any length of time, I’ll point the baby monitor at it and take along the little viewer.

And like Jim said, i watch it for things like paper, cardboard and foam. Those can catch or blow around and get in the way of the beam, causing more of a fire than you want to see.

So far, I’ve only had a couple of things get a little too flamey. (new word.) But I was there to open the lid and stop the print.


I’m generally in the same room while it’s running. I don’t watch it continuously (anymore) but I’m at the computer within 5 feet, doing other work/design or goofing off online.

I do plan the laser time for when I’ll be less occupied with other projects though. If it’s my day off work for example, I won’t start the laser knowing that I have projects in the garage taking my focus, or errands to run, etc. I will wait until evening when I know I will be around.

But I am the same way when it comes to using an oven or an outdoor smoker or even the washing machine or dryer - I won’t do it unless I or someone else is going to be home.


Cardboard or other highly inflammable items, like a Hawk, other cuts, same room, long engraving, check on from time to time.
But as others have said, everyone has their own risk tolerance.


I have been doing a lot of acrylic and once I see it started I don’t pay a bunch of attention. It consistently doesn’t make a flame. Wood and paper gets a lot more attention.


It depends on my experience. Proofgrade materials and acrylic don’t get babysat much, though I stay in the same room most of the time and check every 5-10 minutes. Anything I haven’t used before gets watched like a hawk. After I have used a material 4-5 times I relax a little, but the amount is proportional to my perceived fire risk. If I suspect a material has a higher fire risk, I will stay with it. If the risk is low, I will not pay as close attention.


One area of risk on materials other than cardboard or paper, is if your masking is loose. I have had it on Baltic Birch (not any Proofgrade material, that masking sticks good) where it wasn’t burnished down tight, and the masking loosened up and flopped up near the head. It didn’t catch fire but was definitely a risk.


I keep pretty near - especially for paper. I had my first fire yesterday (cardstock) and if I had been across the room when it started, my machine could have suffered.


I sometimes leave the room to change laundry but bring the laundry into the room to fold. I do not leave for more than a couple of minutes. I have not done anything but PG material and no paper or cardboard yet.

A combination of material, design and task time.

Paper and cardboard I’m not going to leave. My masking is lower tack than the proofgrade masking and even though I use a squeegee to apply it, on rare occasion I’ve seen it try to come up from the air assist. I’m not worried about starting a fire using wood or plywood, but once the cross-arm jumped the rails and the laser head was stuck lasering in the same place. That could start a fire maybe. That said, it’s possible I didn’t completely watch a certain three hour task.


Oddly, the only thing I’ve had catch on fire was clear acrylic during a cut. I’m always present during cut operations now.

1 Like

That is a great idea, I don’t have or need the baby monitor but I do have some cameras with wifi. better yet ( @dan might you include such monitoring with emergency cutoff as a part of the GFUI so others could pay it attention as well? Or can you already do that?)

On edit: I have now spent the afternoon trying to get the cameras to feed to any tablet or phone, or even the main computer without success. Any good ideas are welcome

1 Like

Yeah, the only real flames I’ve seen were on 1/4" acrylic, and the air assist kept them horizontal. I was ready with a wet rag just in case.

I’ve mostly been doing engraving on material and marble. Marble won’t burn, so I’ve never watched that like a hawk. Although I still get a thrill out of seeing the pattern emerge from the masking. I watched the first couple of material engraving tests. But after that, I’m fairly confident there won’t be a problem. Cutting is a different story. I’ve only cut acrylic, cardstock, and the founders ruler. Those got a constant eye.

1 Like

I keep a web camera on it so I can check without having to get up and look. Watch cardboard carefully. You have to take care. Sometimes your settings might be incorrectly entered and you might burn what you don’t intend to. You’ll get familiar with how certain designs, materials and settings go together and what provokes a burn. Be careful of odd bits and pieces that might fly out and get in the beam path and catch fire.


I made a thread and got a lot of heat for not watching my machine the entire time. It sits 15 ft away from me and I check on it periodically when I’m cutting Proofgrade wood. When its engraving I might check on it less.

1 Like

I think the fear there was more that (not necessarily yourself) but anyone coming along reading it someday might try to start it remotely without being there to supervise it. (Not a good idea for anyone…it’s a power tool.) :wink:

Okay… I’ll play. And what the heck… I’ll be completely honest.

With a material/settings combination I’ve used before*, I push the button, go to the other room, and say “Alexa, set a laser timer for {hh:mm}.”
* Excluding cardboard, paper, or other materials I deem a higher flame probability.

If I’m working with some unknown material/settings combination, like a hawk.