Testing cuts - What material do you use?

Searched a lot but haven’t found much on it…

What do you use to test your cuts before you burn through (literally) your precious wood/acrylic/fancy paper?

I’ve been using some old matte board I had left over from framing years ago, but I’m running low. I tried some box cardboard and couldn’t cut through both sides without setting fires.

So what do you use? Cheaper wood like basswood? The backs of old writing pads? Poster board from the local art store?

One of the things I’m currently working on…


Define cheap?

Define test? I mean I always do a test cut on my real materials to be sure I know what settings to use… are you testing like wanting to do a fullsize cut to see if you like it?

If so, I’d say baltic birch ply is a good test material, tends to be really inexpensive (like $1 per full GF sheet, when purchased locally).

Matboard from art stores would be good, especially if you buy the gross colors nobody wants when they’re on sale.

12x12 cardstock is easily gotten from amazon, or even better 11x17 cover stock. Also inexpensive.

All comes down to exactly what of the design you’re testing. Sometimes you just want to test a tiny portion, so I’ll crop it down and just try out that detail, like when testing an inlay:

Does that answer your question?


More or less!

And yeah, I’m talking about testing your file, basically. You know, making sure you cut out the pieces you wanted to, that you don’t have anything connected so the whole middle drops out, making sure you don’t have details that are so small they can’t really be seen, etc. Things in your head don’t always look the way they do assembled.

Thank you!


For the design you show up there?..cereal boxes. It’s a quick way to check to see if everything is connected, and doesn’t cost a thing. Writing pad cardboard or poster board would also work if you haven’t eaten up your Wheaties. :wink:


As usual, Jules gave my answer before I got here!
Chipboard works great.


I mostly use cardboard - though for something like your example piece that probably wouldn’t work so then I go into the plywood pile


The above is actually a mock-up in mattboard (like from around your art). It’s pretty impressive what you can do with it. I couldn’t do cut out lettering in it (ended up with a charred hole) but even 1mm wide rings wasn’t a problem.


Normal .15" single corrugation cardboard cuts very well with minimum burnout, except if you are doing lots of close cut/score lines. Then it can get fire. I’m curious if your fires are design based, or that you haven’t quite gotten the right settings. I typically do 800 speed and 40% power for cardboard and that does ok with one cut.

Chipboard like cereal boxes for sure. And get some cheap luan from the hardware store. It works fine for testing, although voids and glue can make it less desirable. Cardboard is what I use.

The backs of old writing pads are great for it.


I think this was double, it had more space than I’m used to on the inside. And after going straight from “barely through top layer” to “burnout” on a straight line, I gave up.

Good to know it works on other stuff, though. I’ll try it again later to confirm that works. I have a lot of amazon boxes around (this wasn’t from one of those).

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You can get"Revolution" Plywood from Lowes for $15 per 4x8 foot sheets so if you cut the lengthx 5 you get 19-inch pieces and 9-inch the other way you have 25 - 9" x 19" pieces that you can try almost anything for well under one dollar per each, and one face will actually clean up and look great.


How thick is that revolution stuff?

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It is pretty consistent 0.175- 0.178. It is softer and weaker than Oak or BB but a lot less likely to burn down the house than cardboard, and very much stronger than that. The top veneer is also super thin so engraves are not pretty. The piece above is scored instead of engraved for that reason.; but the voids and plycarp are almost nonexistent except where 2 inner sheets have a 2-3 mm gap and fill barely more laser resistant than the wood and usually a razor will cut that.


Thanks again! I’m working on a larger display stand project and didn’t have enough mattboard, so I went back to some different box cardboard and, like you said, it works fine. It’s definitely denser than the stuff I had last time. Yay!

I use cardboard, unless there are really close cuts/scores (for living hinges). If you’re starting fires with it, you might just need to dial in your settings better. You can probably find suggestions over in Beyond the Manual. :slight_smile:

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Actually, due to the direction this discussion is taking I’ve moved it to Beyond the Manual, since it’s the only place where discussion of non-PG settings is allowed. :slight_smile:


Check out: GF Settings Google Sheet
I’ve not yet had a cardboard fire using the settings there :slight_smile:

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Almost always cardboard for checking out cuts.

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