10 Tips for Glowforge Beginners

Here are 10 tips for Glowforge beginners that I wish I had known when I first got my machine. From how to clean it to what to do to protect your materials, all with links to help you out! If you have any other questions about something I didn’t cover, just let me know!

No comments

I’ve had my Glowforge Pro for about 2.5 years now. Previously, I used a Universal Laser Systems machine which was much more powerful so I was a little skeptical that this compact machine would be able to do what I wanted. I was happily proven wrong. It does everything I need and so much more. If you’re thinking about purchasing a Glowforge for your business or hobby, you will find that it is a reliable machine and the Glowforge community is always there to help. I purchased mine using a referral code and got $500 off. Now that I’m a proud Glowforge owner, I also have a code that you can use! Just click HERE to save $250 on a Basic or $500 on a Pro.

My first machine was replaced with a refurbished machine when it experienced a power issue that support could not fix virtually. My second machine has been amazing, even with its quirks like restarting immediately after I power it on. The only issue I have ever faced is the very rare outage of the online platform. Usually this is resolved quickly and it’s never impacted me for more than a couple of hours when it does happen. I can only remember this happening twice so Glowforge is really on top of making sure users always have access.

Setting up files for the Glowforge is so simple. I do all of my work in Adobe Illustrator and save them as SVG files. The files are uploaded to the Dashboard and you can easily scroll through them to find previous files if you need to. I really like this feature when I need to remake the same design.

Here are 10 tips for Glowforge beginners that I wish I had known when I first got my machine. From how to clean it to what to do to protect your materials, all with links to help you out! If you have any other questions about something I didn’t cover, just let me know!

10 Tips for Glowforge Beginners

Monthly Maintenance
About once a month, I take an hour to do a deep clean. I use my Glowforge about 15 hours a week and this is sufficient for my machine. If you use it more, you may have to do weekly deep cleans. This includes cleaning the lenses, vacuuming out the crumb tray, removing the air assist fan, and tidying up the lid. I always use these lens wipes.

Once the inside is clean, I turn around the machine and unhook it from the exhaust hose. This typically gets pretty gummed up, so I find that I have to pick at it to break up the gunk and vacuum it. I use my vinyl pick to help pull it out. When it’s loose, I take the vacuum with the brush attachment and clean it out.

Soon, I’ll be doing an exhaust fan cleaning too. It has recently gotten very loud when it starts up, and Glowforge recommends cleaning it outside with 3M Novec Electronic Degreaser. Hopefully it warms up and stops raining long enough for me to get it outside!

If you use your Glowforge a lot, you’ll begin to notice a buildup of gunk and a film on the cover that doesn’t just wipe away. Don’t worry – I’ve found something that works! My family uses natural cleaning supplies, so I use my All-Purpose Cleaning Spray for cleaning the Glowforge too. This is the same cleaning spray that I use to disinfect and clean my granite countertops and it’s amazing at cutting through the gunk. I make sure to spray it onto a paper towel first and wipe down the plastic parts that get gummed up. This also works really well on q-tips for cleaning the little air assist fan near the laser head. However, the lenses are only cleaned with Zeiss wipes as directed.

Mix all ingredients together, top off with water, and shake before each use!

Glowforge recommends using their Proofgrade materials, but I enjoy ordering material from other stores to get more choices. I find that most 1/8″ materials and under work great with my Glowforge Pro. I typically use cast acrylic, plywood, and fiberboard. I recently set up a wholesale account with a local cabinet supply company so I can order in bulk and cut the material down to size myself. This saves a lot of money and the quality seems to be better than what I find online or in big box stores. Definitely do some research within your community to see what supplies are available to you!

This is possibly the most important lesson that everyone has learned the hard way at some point. When you’re using a new material, always do a test print to make sure the settings work! I have a small square saved as “test square” that I cut every time I use a new material so I can hone in on the correct settings. I’ve made the mistake before and cut a sheet of material with the wrong settings and it was a total loss. So spend the extra five minutes figuring out the settings before you have to throw away money!

I have a little stack of refrigerator magnets that I use to hold down thin material. Whenever I’m cutting cardstock, I make sure to pin the edges down to keep it from moving when the fan comes on. These magnets are thin and work perfectly. You can see in the video below that the paper doesn’t move at all.

Magnets holding down cardstock while cutting

Masking Tape
If I’m not painting the material, I find that it is very necessary to mask it before cutting. This prevents scorching and smoke stains which can be impossible to get rid of. I use this paper transfer tape and it keeps everything looking sharp.

When it comes to engraving something, it can take forever. I always try to lay out my designs and materials so that the longest area to be engraved is horizontal. Since the laser moves left to right, this will cut down on engraving time. If your design is vertical, it will add more time. Also, if you’re engraving multiple areas, it might be best to do one section at a time so the laser head does not have to travel the entire width of the material. If you have a spot on the left to engrave and a spot on the right to engrave, try printing each separately if your design allows it.

Although it’s a lot of fun seeing all of the little bits left over once you’ve cut out your design, I’ve found my vacuum cleaner to be my favorite tool because I hate picking them all out! My cordless Dyson stays right by my Glowforge to help me clean up between cuts and clean up my machine. It’s powerful enough to suck out the stuck pieces from the honeycombs and has a variety of attachments to get to even the tightest spots inside. When Dyson had a huge sale last year I snagged one for my studio and it’s easily one of my best purchases.

Venting the Exhaust
In our 1920s home, the windows have individual 8″x10″ glass panes rather than one large pane of glass. So I had an idea and after running it by my husband, we went for it. I removed the lower corner pane of glass, cut a piece of clear acrylic the same size but added a 4″ hole in the center. My husband glazed it just like a regular pane of glass to hold it in place. Since we were replacing this old window with a new one, we were not worried about having to later replace the glass.

Here you can see the original set up with the exhaust directly connected to the acrylic pane

However, I needed something to block the rain and bugs from coming in when the exhaust wasn’t attached. So, I found this dryer vent draft blocker. It worked perfectly. When the Glowforge was cutting, it would open, and when it stopped, it would close. I could attach my hose when I was using my Glowforge and when I had finished, detach and close the draft blocker.

It worked well, but we knew there was a better answer than venting through the window and dealing with the smell of smoke from disconnecting the hose. So he did some research and found this exhaust fan that my hose attaches to now. It helps pull more smoke out as I cut, and now it has a dedicated vent in the roof.

Sometimes settings can get off and your material can burn so it’s a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case something gets out of control. I also have a smoke detector above so I can be alerted in case my machine is not venting properly. Occasionally, I’ll notice smoke leaking through the lid and it’s because a tiny piece of material fell in the groove when I removed something before. It’s good to always keep an eye on your machine to make sure this doesn’t happen or you’ll walk into a room that smells like a campfire!

I hope these tips help! If you have any questions about how I use my Glowforge or what it can do, leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer! If you already are a proud Glowforge owner, you know what fun it can be! Share your favorite creation with me!

Leave a Reply