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So you got your laser cutter, now what? You’ve got some ideas, the project that initially inspired you to make this big purchase, right? Like for me, I was all about earrings… after trying to make them out of vinyl with my poor old Silhouette, I jumped right in to designing earrings for myself. (Find them right now on Etsy!) But as I spend time in the Glowforge communities and general laser communities, I’m overwhelmed with ideas and projects and experiments, and more often than not, those ideas and experiments require some additional products.
I’ve broken this post out into sections; I’ll talk about the basics that you NEED, some materials that are cool to work with, and then some specific products for specific executions.
If you’re buying your own laser cutter, you’ll want to have these things on hand:
Masking material: You’ll want this to protect surfaces when you’re cutting; the smoke can stain materials, so masking will allow you to peel it off and keep the etched/cut piece clean. Make sure you get PAPER masking, not vinyl!
Lens wipes: Glowforge recommends Zeiss brand, and I’m just not willing to cut corners on anything when it comes to the optics in my machine! They’re affordable enough that I can justify buying the specific brand.
Duct tape: The absolute BEST tool for weeding tiny bits of masking. (Weeding, if you don’t know, is the peeling of all the little pieces left behind when you cut or etch materials) Many people really love Gorilla tape and claim it’s superior to regular duct tape. I’ll have to test it and see! I also really like my plastic razor blade and they’re less wasteful than using lots of tape.
Digital calipers: An absolute MUST for quality cutting! Even if material claims to be 1/8″ or 1/4″ it’s rarely exactly that height, so it’s important that you adjust accordingly to get the best possible cuts.
Compressed air: This is great for a number of things; helping to keep the inside of your machine as dust-free as possible, and for removing sawdust from engraves.
Fire extinguisher: While there are safety measures in place, and as long as you pay attention, there’s very little risk, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and keep an extinguisher close by.
Baltic Birch Plywood: I buy this in bulk from this Amazon seller, 25-30 sheets at a time, already cut to the perfect size for my ‘Forge. It’s inexpensive enough that I don’t stress about wasting money on good materials when I just want to try something, or if it’s for a small project where the material isn’t super important.
Ceramic tiles: These are super cheap and so fun to engrave! The laser basically just removes the glaze from the tile, so then you’ll need to add color. Oil-based Sharpies are perfect for this, and you can use rubbing alcohol to remove the excess. Just be sure to seal the colored area when you’re done.
Edge light LED base: Engraved acrylic has this cool property where it diffuses the light that’s put at one end; you’ve seen it a million times in the world, for menu boards and signage. But now you can make your own with this inexpensive little LED base.
Maple tap handle: I made a couple of these for friends for Christmas, and one for Jamie’s kegerator. The solid maple is a great material to engrave, just create a design and have a custom handle for your kegerator!
Clipboard clips: These clips will turn any 9×11 piece of work into a custom clipboard with just the addition of a couple of rivets. We made custom boards for Max’s teachers this year, and they loved them.
Veg Tanned Leather: Cutting leather in the Glowforge is cool, but you need to be sure to source the right materials. You don’t want to use chrome-tanned leather in the laser, only veg-tanned. There are tests to see if it’s chrome-tanned, but a safe bet is that if they don’t mention the tanning process, it’s probably chrome-tanned and not good for the laser. Better safe than sorry, for the health of your machine and your lungs!
Dry Moly Lube: The Glowforge cannot engrave metal, but it CAN mark it. With the addition of a simple spray, you can create designs on stainless steel materials. Dry Moly Lube is an affordable option, at about $10 for a can. If you want to take it to the next level though, check out Cermark. It’s more expensive, but many people report much higher quality results with it. This is what it’s actually made for, as opposed to with the Dry Moly, where this is just something cool that it’s able to do.
Resin: I have to admit, this is on my “to try” list, but many people are doing such amazing things with it, I can’t wait to play myself.
Plastic razor blade: I didn’t even know this was a thing until someone mentioned in in the Glowforge user group! It’s great for scraping masking off a variety of materials, and is reuseable, so it doesn’t create as much waste as using tape. I still keep a roll of tape on hand though, especially for fragile stuff.
Get your own Glowforge
You can save up to $500 off the price of your own machine, with my referral link. Just go to glowforge.com/morethanthursdays and you’ll see a discount reflected when you add a machine to your cart. You can get $100 off a Basic, $250 off Plus (what I have) or $500 off a Pro!