Using metal - what works?

I’m very new, and still finding my way around both my Glowforge (Pro series), and this user’s forum. I have a question about metals, and which can be successfully used in my Glowforge. I want to do some cut-outs (possible signage, but most probably more like a type of wall art).

My question is this: are there metals that are not advised to be used? For instance, thicker, harder metals such as iron (cast iron, wrought iron, etc). Can heavy duty metals like this be used? Or are we limited to the use of thinner, less “substantial” metals despite their lesser durability?

My idea requires the piece that’s cut out to stand alone, not flat against a wall for stability, but more accurately protruding from a wall (or other sort of “base”) as a stand alone feature. So it must be strong and sturdy enough not to break off, or give way by warping or bending, if something or someone comes into contact with it.

Ideally, iron would work best for the overall project, but I’m fairly certain that the laser isn’t the proper laser to cut through anything as thick, or substantial, as iron while maintaining any sort of real precision.

So…does anybody know the pros snd cons of using different metal types (possibly copper, or something similar?), or any opinions on which they think might work best? Or, though I’m afraid might be the answer, is there no metal that would work for what I’m trying to do?

Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.


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The Glowforge, while a magnificent tool, doesn’t possess the power to cut or mark metals. You can mark them with various pre-treatments such as Cermark and dry moly lube spray. I have used the dry moly on several occasions with good results.


Oh gosh! So no metals at all? Not even softer ones? That’s disappointing. Thanks for the info though. I very much appreciate you taking yhe time to reply.


That is what this forum is all about.

The things you can do aside from metals is still astounding. Take a few minutes and explore the “Made on a Glowforge” section and you will be amazed at the things people have made. Like you I am still new, but feel free to reach out if you have questions or problems.


Different machines are good for different things. Plasma cutting CNCs are useless on wood as well, but will do amazing things on even heavy steel plate, Wood , Acrylic, Leather are excellent choices to use on your Glowforge however, useless they are with a plasma cutter,


Thank you so much! I’ll do that :smile:

Also, spend time in the forum. Read the posts, search the posts and create posts. This will help you to get to know others. There is more combined knowledge, wisdom and information in these forum members than you could ever use up. Find someone in your area that also has a GF. I have discovered a couple just in my church. We exchange ideas, share files and give encouragement to one another.

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That’s a great idea! Thank you!

Regarding metals, as mentioned you can mark metals with a surface treatment that will leave a dark oxide layer which is really tough, or you could paint the surface and use the laser to selectively remove the paint. One metal to avoid is copper, which is an almost perfect mirror to the laser’s wavelength. You could damage the focal lens.


Please also read the forum FAQ.

There’s a few tidbits in there that need to be highlighted to people only because some don’t read them.

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If you saw the post I did the other day of labeling a surgical instrument (316L Stainless) using Ceramark of the Glowforge. I mean it can’t cut it of course (that’s why I have a Tormach) but that’s not something I would do frequently anyway. On anodized aluminum it does a gorgeous job and I do that all the time.


Engraving anodized aluminium works great on the Glowforge.
Anodization is a chemical oxide layer color treatment infused over plain silver aluminium objects.
What the Glowforge does is burn off the color treatment and reveal the original aluminium color.

Check the following post:
Adventures in anodized aluminium


Sorry for the delay in response to the help offered. I’ve been sick.

Thanks for all the feedback. I honestly don’t understand most of the advice that’s been given, except that metals don’t work without risk. That’s sufficient enough to scare me away from trying them. All the other ideas are way over my head, let alone skill level. I am still just beginning to understand this thing, and the more I learn the more scared I get. I think for now I’m just going to stick with wood and acrylic. But thank you to those tried to help. I truly appreciate the effort. Hopefully, with time, I’ll get more proficient and literate to what everyone is saying.

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I mean the risk is pretty small to actually harm anything (sure avoid copper but otherwise). It’s actually likely safer than most of the materials we cut in the Glowforge. I mean you rarely hear about someone’s metal object burning (yes magnesium, iron and aluminum can all burn spectacularly but not by anything the Glowforge is going to do). It’s the only material I will walk away from the laser on (caveat don’t walk away from your laser). I mean if you are anodizing aluminum with engrave no way it’s gonna burn (doesn’t even produce toxic smoke like wood or acrylic would). No need to be scared; the biggest risk for Cermark is that your spouse/SO asks “you spent how much on a tiny spray can that the majority of which you wash down the drain???” (although since you own a Glowforge you’ve already had that similar discussion!)


Thank you :slight_smile:

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