Working aside from Proofgrade materials

I have seen in the GF video on their landing page that has products made in the GF that aren’t even presets in the such as a jean jacket, cardboard world, and others.

Why can’t GF put some presets down for types of materials as a starting point? It’s very frustrating to have to step into unknown territory from Proofgrade to other materials without having much direction. I understand this forum is for that direction, but GF charges $7 per 12x20" sheet of Proofgrade material? I can get baltic birch 5’x5’ for $16 and cut it down on a table saw.

I was under the impression when I purchased the machine that I could do more with various types of surfaces that weren’t Proofgrade materials. I didn’t even understand what Proofgrade was, let alone a picture of the material.

Sorry for the rant, its just really uncertain what is going to happen without a starting point for some materials other than Proofgrade.

How have you guys overcome this hurdle?

By searching the forum. You spent a lot of time writing this up, but it’s pretty clear that you’re not sure how to find these things.

Try “material settings”. Or “Baltic settings” and you’ll find plenty of advice.

Literally seconds of work and you’ll be off to the races.


… because if they do and it starts a fire, you’d sue them for providing settings that didn’t work.

It takes (as stated above) a very short time to test your material and come up with settings that are acceptable for you. Even “identical” materials can vary by huge amounts, such as between different areas of a single sheet of hardwood. The point of Proofgrade materials is that they are supposed to provide uniform, repeatable results across every sheet. Once you start branching out to your own materials, you’ll find that’s very often difficult to achieve.

There are many discussions here of materials other than proofgrade, but all of them should be treated as starting points to dial in for the material you have.


That’s the beauty of the laser. Experiment and find the settings that work best for each new material you try. Just be sure to do your research on which materials you must avoid.


I have been searching this forum for a couple days now.

I do a lot more with non :proofgrade: nowadays than I do with. Most of the common things are listed somewhere here but you will want to do the final dialing in yourself and you can do that with just a couple of square inches of material. Used to be you couldn’t even save as a material and you had to manually enter the numbers each time you used that material!
Anyway, you specifically mentioned Baltic Birch, I use 200/Full for the 1/8" I get from woodpeckers.

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If you search for “Baltic settings” you will be overwhelmed. The forum’s search is not always great but that one will work.

Up to and including this post that I myself wrote, the third result.

We write these posts so you don’t have to ask :slight_smile:

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The problem was trying to find the content and knowing search keywords to search for, lol.

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I find this to be the biggest thing anytime I get into something totally new to me. The info is out there but I don’t know what insiders call things. Google is great but even with all of its AI it has its limits. Anyway, that is what we are all here for. I’m considered an old hat around here and still have to ask about things once in a while.


Here is a document with many helpful things in one place:


Discourse search is also notoriously bad in comparison to other platforms that most people are familiar with: Google.

This doesn’t contain settings but it contains good info for those who wonder what they can or cannot put into their laser:


I search here, but when I can’t find anything, I try to make an educated guess about what the material will behave like and use those settings as a starting point. I view a laser as a maker tool, more than a crafting tool. Part of the fun of being a maker is stepping out into the unknown. :slight_smile: Is it nervewracking? Sometimes!

Yes, PG materials are pricey. They are also pre-finished, safe, cut to the right size, and reasonably consistent. You pay for the easy factor. I typically use non-PG materials, in part due to cost, in part because I don’t always want a slick, glossy finish.


The link to tell how to identify unknown plastics is broken.

Make magazine has had a bit of trouble, went broke. This was a flame test that can be found elsewhere but I’m paranoid enough to say don’t cut plastics that you don’t know for sure what it is. You can ruin a :glowforge: with just one cutting of a chlorinated plastic!

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Sorry, I didn’t go through the site myself. I just thought it may be helpful to new gloforge owners.

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You certainly have identified an issue that is very important. I feel your frustration. It is hard to sift through all this information and figure out what to focus on.

Marketing from Glowforge makes it look easy. It is easy. They have an ecosystem of design and materials and workflow that just works (of course aside from malfunctioning machines). It is an excellent business model and I hope it is successful. It seems to be doing ok, but it’s hard to tell overall.

But there is the rest of the story that marketing won’t give you. Welcome to reality. Lasers are noisy, smelly, smokey, finicky, delicate, and complicated systems. Step outside the Glowforge workflow and you will have some work to do.

Venting is a big issue. They are finally getting to a point that they are making good on initial promises of a filter. But it is totally different from what was first imagined and it will always remain one of the downsides of having a laser. People just have to deal with a venting setup or pay for filters. Some people cancelled their orders because they couldn’t solve the venting issue.

The trace function makes it seem like anyone can just throw something in the bed and they can engrave and cut perfectly. It is a great marketing asset. It works well for its limitations but it will never substitute for digital literacy. To get your money’s worth out of the Glowforge, you will have to learn a vector design program and at least rudimentary bitmap editing skills. That’s the reality unless you are willing to pay for designs. And paying for designs will never get you the product you really want to make in the material you really want to use.

The Glowforge was designed so that it wouldn’t require a separate chiller. That is a game changer. Seems great, until you realize that this requires an operating environment that is going to challenge some people, too hot or too cold. Some people cancelled because they wouldn’t have a shop to fit into the temp profile.

Proofgrade is amazing. I love it. When I need to make something fast, I use it. I can’t for the life of me get a finish for wood objects that they have. But there are so many things that I want to make that Proofgrade would never be able to fulfill. Meaning, lots of thick acrylic, edge lit signs. I have a cheap source of it and I can use it like cardboard. Never would be able to do that with Proofgrade. Being tied to Proofgrade can be a big problem though. Supply doesn’t always keep up with demand. Some folks are stuck because of this.

In the end, all of us has to do a lot of homework to get the most out of our machines. Some of us had the benefit of getting in during the long winter before production machines came out. But there are many veteran forum members who started out with little or no knowledge and this was before the forum had thousands of posts detailing everything one could think of. I spent a lot of time combing through laser sites and YouTube videos to learn enough to ask questions on this forum. We were lucky that from the outset there were some folks who had experience. For example, I read through every one of @m_raynsford’s blog posts. I watched every one of SabarMultimedia’s videos. And I spent hours and hours fiddling with a pre-release and having hardly anything to show for it because everything I wanted to do required testing and redesigning and muddling my way through it.

It is hard to figure out where to start. The best way is to make a circle and a square vector. Copy them. Fill the copies. Make each one a different color. Now you have four things you can test. For cutting Start with fast speed and low power. See what happens. For engraving start with lower LPI and a fast speed (1000) and lower power (10). See what happens. Rinse and repeat. I do that still with materials I am trying out. I don’t make charts or complicated test patterns. Just this.

test circles


I’m sure other’s have already said it, but we’ve started off with the same worries you’re having. I promise with some practice you won’t feel so lost. Even after a few years at this I still need to run a few tests when using a new material and burning some scrap is just expected. I usually start with the PG wood I think is the closest and go from there. I base it off of hardness and have found this scale helpful. Of course, searching here or asking also will get you good results. :slight_smile:


“ material name’ settings” usually works for me. For example “slate settings”.