Do not buy a Glowforge until you have read this
Updated: Feb 17, 2022
Let’s talk about this not so little bundle of magnificence!
There’s so much to cover and that’s just the basics!! For today we will look at what you need to know when it comes to thinking about purchasing a Glowforge.
Let’s start with, this is not a whim purchase. There is a lot that you need to know before hitting that purchase button.
The first being cost. Using our discount link will get you a good discount but we also earn an affiliate from the purchase which is why it’s so important that you understand the gravity of this purchase
Basic is £2870
Plus is £3745
Pro is £5495
All models are a serious considered purchase and not something to just purchase because it’s the hottest product of the moment. There is a lot of research to do and lots to consider. We are going to cover the basics today as a starting point and twice a month we will add other glowforge articles and tutorials.
Let’s talk about size. It’s bigger than it looks and if you’re like me and you can’t read dimensions and immediately know what that looks like let me put it into terms you will understand. The dimensions are 38″ x 20.75″ x 8.25″. I have a large craft room and there is not a surface in my craft room that this will fit on! Except my kitchen island desk from IKEA and that’s with it completly cleared! I’ve had to purchase a dining table to go in my craft room for this bad boy! A 6 person dining table, to be exact.
Not only do you have to figure out what you’re placing your glowforge on and it’s placement, you also need to figure out where to put the box, which in itself is slightly smaller than a 6 person dining table. The box! I hear you cry, that’s going in the recycling. I‘ve got news for you, no it’s not! Well not until we have this confirmed. So in the states you have to keep all packaging for the duration of your warranty.
Because if it needs to be exchanged or sent back under warranty it needs to be sent in the original packaging. That includes all the foam bits etc. If you need to send it back and you don’t have the packaging, you will need to purchase a new box and all the gubbins that goes with it.
That will set you back a whopping $250 plus $9 for all the little plastic bits. As most USA to U.K. companies just swap the dollar for pound sign that could be up to an eye watering £260. I get it. It’s a very heavy, very expensive machine and if they replace under warranty ofcourse they will want the original back so they can do what needs doing to it. They don’t want it returned all smashed and useless.
Now, we know from other companies in their infancy from American to U.K. that they often don’t have the capabilities for return under warranty so they just tell you to dispose of yourself and have the new one. Glowforge, however, do have the capability to receive under warranty machines. We are awaiting confirmation but our strong suspicion is that it will be the same policy for the U.K. as it is in the states. We just need that verifying and the cost of packaging replacement. In the mean time, we strongly suggest you keep the packaging, which as I’ve discovered is not the easiest when you literally have no where for it to go. It’s currently on top of the double bed in the spare room because obviously under the bed is already occupied. Sorry visitors but your sleeping on the sofa. My glowforge box now has its own bedroom.
The next issue is where you‘re Glowforge is going and this is not as easy as you may think. First off it needs to be plugged directly into a mains socket. As with all high powered electrics, an extension cable is a big no. It can short your power and cause mini fireworks in your fuse box, the wiring and the machine. As my husband explained, this involves lots of fire engines and possibly the house falling down. Electrics are serious business and this is not an advisory. Glowforge are very clear, your glowforge must be plugged into an electrician fitted, certified mains plug socket.
That’s hurdle number one and no, you do not have miles of cable to work with, you have about 1.75 meters
Next you need to be by a window or have the ability to create a filter tunnel through the brick work or you have to purchase a standalone filter. All three glowforge models come with a venting hose. Very much like a tumble dryer hose and like a tumble dryer hose it needs to vent outside. You can either put it out of a window or as in my case, get some one far handier than me to create a circle the size of your hose into your brickwork. We will be adding a venting panel on the outside, so it’s not just a random hole in the side of the craft room, but it’s a messy and time consuming job and if you don’t have the knowledge or tools, it’s not something to even contemplate. So that leaves you with the window or a stand-alone filter system.
Now the stand alone filter. For starters it’s £897. I’ve done a lot of research on these and they can get clogged relatively quickly which means the filter needs to be changed regularly. A new filter cartridge will set you back $250 and they are not yet available here. If you're going to purchase a filter system then it’s well worth taking advantage of Glowforges, talk to an expert and asking all the relevant questions about filter cartridge replacements.
Here’s how I look at it. If you can use the filter hose then that’s your best option. It’s cheaper and actually does the job really well. If you can’t use the hose due to lack of window or inability to create a pathway through your brickwork for the hose to pump outside, then, you have no option but to purchase the filter system. This isn’t too bad if you are a business and that’s the main focus of your Glowforge as you can factor that into your costings, but for a hobbyist like myself, it’s an unnecessary cost when I have another option. Let me be clear you must use one of these two methods. Laser cutting produces a lot of fumes and a lot of dust, neither of which are good for your health or your glowforge. You must filter one way or the other.
You want your glowforge in a room away from the family. Even with the filter the smell is strong. The filter reduces the smell and dust dramatically but not completely and so you do want to be able to close a door after use and leave a window open for at least 10 minutes. This is just a personal opinion but it’s something I wholeheartedly believe in.
If you are thinking you can use the Glowforge and leave it to cut a sheet of wood whilst you go and do something else on your Cricut, for example, I’m afraid that’s not the case. You must be in the same room as your Glowforge and you must keep checking on it. You have to remember that you are burning materials. Burning of any form comes with high risks. The more we can reduce those risks the better. Materials will play a big part in this but we will discuss that shortly. Any form of laser cutting can create small embers. What starts as small, can quickly escalate. There have been incidents where people have left their Glowforge and come back to discover a full on fire raging inside it. Small embers are easy to put out with a fire blanket and can be easily extinguished in their infancy. However, once that ember starts growing the fire blanket may not cut it which means using an extinguisher. Chances are if it’s got to that point, your machine is already damaged but add in a extinguisher and you have a right old mess on your hands. Please do not leave your glowforge unattended whilst in use.
A big part of safety is materials.
First and foremost any materials you use must be laser grade. You can’t use any old wood or acrylic in your glowforge. We have ordered some third party laser grade materials and we will be testing these. Glowforge also have their own range of materials. Proofgrade materials, as they are called. What’s great about these is that the settings you need are already programmed into the glowforge. Be it cut, score or engrave, it removes the need for any guess work. I also love that they have masking tape on them already as this is a super important step and saves having to do it yourself. Adding masking tape prevents scorching, so having it pre applied does reduce faffing about. The majority of Glowforge materials are available here already but the rest, we have been told are due to be added soon.
I have a nice selection of their hardwoods, plywood, acrylic, leather and draft board. They are beautiful and so easy to work with but they are pricey in comparison with other laser grade materials available elsewhere. However as a beginner they are worthwhile investing in. Firstly, so you can see the quality of materials you should be working with. Secondly, because all the guess work is removed, you can also see the quality of cut, score or engraving that you should be achieving. We always advise when you first get a Cricut that you stick to Cricut materials to start with as it will make your journey easier and Glowforge is no different.
Using the wrong materials is a huge safety risk. Not only can fires start very quickly but toxic fumes can be released. Also using inappropriate settings can cause these issues. What I love about Glowforge Proof Grade materials is if you input your own desired settings and they are not compatible with that material then you get a very nice warning pop up. I personally appreciate that in the early stages of my journey. As with all machinery if you are found to be using it with materials that should not be used or are not suitable or you go ahead with settings that are not suitable you will invalidate your warranty.
Some materials are an absolute no go. One of the biggest being vinyl. Not just adhesive vinyl but any kind of vinyl. When the Glowforge came out I thought I could use it on all my pretty faux leathers for bow making. Nope. It will create highly lethal fumes. A lot of faux leather is PU Leather and that’s a complete no go. Again you want to be working with only laser suitable materials.
Equally there are materials you can use in your glowforge which I wouldn’t, because I have my Cricut. I hate the smell of burning paper and card. I find it absolutely unbearable and whilst I can use them in my Glowforge, my Cricut will still be my go to for many items. Where the Glowforge comes into it’s own for me is the cutting of woods and acrylic up to a thickness of 1.2 cm and the engraving of these items up to a thickness of 5cm / 2”. Not just engraving text but you can full on create photos with the engraver and you can infill as well, which is great.
The official list of glowforge compatible materials includes :
Cut & Engraving suitable materials -
Engraving only suitable Materials -
My Cricut will always be a main part of my craft room and still to this day I see all my models as remarkable machines. The Glowforge is not a replacement. It can’t be because it can’t cut vinyl, iron on or Infusible ink. It can’t foil for example. But they can work in unison together and I’m excited to explore this.
There are three models of glowforge
The Basic, The Plus and The Pro.
I have the Pro and I love it.
The Basic and Plus have a cut / engrave size of 19.5” by 11”
The Pro has a size of 19.5” width by unlimited length, thanks to the pass through slot.
The Basic and Plus have a catergory 1 laser
The Pro has a catergory 4 laser.
Catergories are based on strength and so a 4 is faster and stronger than a 1 but a 1 is more than adequate for any small business or hobbyist. The Pro is a greater power laser and machine overall and up to twice as fast as the Basic and Plus.
In terms of thickness, to cut the Glowforge can cut the many materials listed above at 1/4” (0.6cm) in a single pass and with no struggle. It can cut material up to 1/2” (1.2cm) but it may take multiple passes or you may need to flip the material.
For engraving it can engrave up to 2” thick material with the tray removed.
If you are mainly going to be using your Glowforge for personalised keepsakes such as tree ornaments then the Basic or Plus models are more than enough for you. If you are going to be doing in depth engraving such as lots of photo engravings or large sign cuts then the Pro is worth investing in. As with all things the intent of use will matter in terms of the model which suits you best. Glowforge actually have a great quiz which is well worth taking to discover which model is right for you.
All Glowforge models are fitted with two cameras.
A Wide Angle Camera, mounted on the lid, which provides a view of the entire printable area, accurate within 0.25" (6mm)
A Macro Camera, mounted on the head, which provides extreme up-close information for autofocus, accurate within 0.004" (0.1mm)
This is very useful for seeing the material in your glowforge and placing your cuts and engravings, especially if you have previously used that material. It’s also fantastic with Proofgrade materials as it reads the QR code so that the settings are input for you, removing any effort and guesswork.
Lastly let’s talk about the designing and Glowforge programme because this in an important one. The Glowforge “app” is a web based programme. Now, in its simplist form you can upload your design, place it, select your material settings for cut, engrave or score and off you go. Completely free.
But and here is the but, in the free version you can not really make any significant changes to your designs which means you have to be proficient in a third party editing programme. SCAL, Adobe Illustrator, Procreate are all great programmes but they do come at varying costs and each does have a steep learning curve. There are other programmes you can use but these are my personal top 3.
The paid Premium version of the Glowforge app is an eye watering £50 a month or you can purchase 18 months up front which should be £900 but is currently on offer for £349. It’s a lot though.
The paid version of the app known as Premium does have it’s perks but It’s not what I would call a design programme. It doesn’t have the capabilities of Design Space but if you want to change some basic parts of a design or add in some text without going through the rigmarole of using a third party programme then it's convenient but and I have to be honest, as always, it's not worth it for me. Yes, there are perks such as premium designs that get updated every month but you have to actually want to use those designs to make it worthwhile. The good news is that you do actually get two weeks free of Premium membership.
The other thing to take into account is SVG Files. There are a lot more laser and Glowforge files on the market which is fabulous. However not all of them are formatted correctly for Glowforge, especially if you want one area cut and another engraved which means you may need to use a third party programme. The other thing to take into consideration is if you want to personalise or change the file. These changes can be done at a basic level in the Premium but not the Basic version of the Glowforge app, in most cases however, you will again need to use a third party programme.
The point is this. If you struggle with Design Space then full on Design Programmes like the ones listed above are not something you will get the hang of overnight. I still use my little notebook for Adobe Illustrator and if I don't use SCAL for a few months it can take me a good few hours to refresh myself.
I love my Glowforge, I honestly do and I wish I could say it was for every craft room and everybody but the reality is, it is not. You need to ensure that you can use the Glowforge proficiently to make it economic to purchase. My advice before buying is that you at the very least do some free trials of third party design programmes because you are going to need to use them at some point in your Glowforge journey. Unfortunately you can not get access to the Glowforge app until you have purchased your machine and whilst the two weeks trial of Premium is great, even if you purchase Premium, you will still need to be able to use a third party design programme, even if it is for something such as adding or changing a name, which is not always as simple as it may seem.
I would not be without my Glowforge but please do not jump Into it. Please do your research and due diligence.
Oh and you need to clean your Glowforge. Now, I have not done this yet but I have read a lot of posts on this and it’s not the quickest or easiest of processes but it is something that does need doing. I will update on this when my time comes and I can be accurate and honest but it is another thing to take into consideration.
I do not want to put anyone off purchasing a Glowforge. They are amazing machines and perfect for the at home craft room as whilst big they are considerably smaller than the more industrial Laser machines. I have a duty of care to ensure that I am honest and thorough with my opinions and information. These are amazing machines but they are not for everybody.
I am always happy to answer any questions and I will always help where I can. Come and join us in our Facebook group U.K. Cricut Creators and hopefully we can help you decide if the Glowforge is right for you.