Use vinyl transfer paper as masking for non-proofgrade materials

I picked up some bamboo plywood from inventables using the credit from my glowforge purchase. But, it doesn’t come masked and when I ran a few test engraves and cuts I got smoky discoloration around the edges.

So, I went and found some suggestions to use vinyl transfer paper online. I picked up something reasonably cheap on amazon, and I have to say it worked wonders. It was very easy to apply and remove, and kept my bamboo looking perfect (except where I mis-applied the transfer paper.

Next up: I’ve got a bunch of 1/4" hardwoods and some acrylic to try it on.


Very nice! :grin:


I think you want to avoid putting actual vinyl because it contains chlorine and makes chlorine gas and hydrochloric acid when you laser it which is really hard on your machine and will most certainly void your warranty (really bad to breath to, but presumably you’re avoiding that).

Perhaps the “vinyl” you linked isn’t really vinyl? I couldn’t tell from a cursory read of the ad. If you can get your hands on the safety sheet for the material, you’d know for certain, or you can do the flame test.

Edit: vinyl transfer paper is not made out of vinyl. It’s made for handling vinyl. See replies.


It’s not made from vinyl - it’s used for transferring vinyl onto permanent surfaces. You cut your vinyl designs, use this to pick them up, and it keeps everything in place while you affix it to whatever it’s going to stick to.


Ah good. Sorry about that. Carry on then. :slightly_smiling_face:

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No worries, that is :100: percent important advice to be aware of and take into account. And safety advice is always welcome.


Oof, that stuff comes out to $1.50 per square foot.
That’s pricey for transfer tape!
If you think you will use a lot, consider getting transfer tape from a signage supplier. It should be about $38 for a 100-yard roll of 12". Even with shipping, it only comes out to about $0.16 per square foot.


I’m sorry, but I can’t remain silent any more.

Please don’t assume that the word vinyl in the name of a plastic means that it contains chlorine.
It doesn’t.
Vinyl is an organic chemistry name for a structure -CH=CH2
A little knowledge is still a dangerous thing, and I know it’s commonly done, but please help stamp out the confusion by such usage.

EDIT missed the previous three posts, but my rant still stands.


In lieu of masking, alcohol or acetone make pretty quick work of the smoke residue.
On the 1000 token job I ran, submerging them in alcohol for more than 5 minutes had zero effect on the :proofgrade: maple in terms of raising grain or swelling the core. It did reduce the smoke residue to a wet stain that wiped right off.


@jbv yup, per foot it’s on the expensive side, but I didn’t want to end up with 100+ yards of stuff I couldn’t use :wink:

@johnbrooker when the downside of lasering materials is Very Bad Things (like potentially making chlorine gas), it’s better to be safe than sorry. Not everyone knows about differences in plastics and the chemical compound for vinyl, but everyone who is using a laser on things they don’t know are safe should at least know how to verify it for themselves. I didn’t before making this post - and because @markwal brought it up I learned something and was able to find out how to keep myself/my family safe. I consider that very important and welcome.

I wouldn’t have used this material if it wasn’t what I found people suggesting online, but now that I know, I’m going to go back and make for absolute certain this material is ok for me to use.


There’s also this one with a bit of whimsy from some of the folks who started MakerBot:

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  1. I bought this big roll from here: which I’m sure I learned about from this very forum. I’ve tried it on one thing so far and it worked great.

  2. When people say vinyl, I will continue to assume they mean PVC because that is the default and common usage. Despite all the suspicious glassware in my basement, I’m not running a chemistry lab, so I don’t mind assuming the worst until proven otherwise, if it means not wrecking my laser.


Yes, I do concede the point, and I know I’m not going to change common usage, but I did need to get it out of my system.
I blame the music industry.


Gosh, that really puts me in my place.

Thanks for the explanation.
Has a different take over here :wink:

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I mentioned this in another thread, but it’s worth noting that laser masking is one of the intended uses of TransferRite 582U and 592U. The manufacturer, ABI Tape, describes it as “a protective paper laser masking” that “protects the substrate during the engraving process by eliminating smoke damage from the laser beam and enabling quick clean up.”

The clear TransferRite stuff (1310, 1320, etc.) is polypropylene, so I’d avoid using in the Glowforge. It isn’t dangerous in the “toxic gas that will kill you” sense, but still not a great choice.


We get it. It’s like alcohol, it is a chemistry term but almost everyone means ethanol or methanol.


I guess it’s just a sensitive spot with me. About three lifetimes ago, I started my first work doing research into analytical methods for the plastics industry.
Makes me what I am today.


Pretty soon you’ll be over here. Are you ready for that culture shock? :smile:

This next trip will be my tenth, so it’s slowly dawning on me !