laser cutting houston

Laser Cutting Kerf

When the laser cuts through material it burns away a small amount of that material - this is called the laser cutting kerf. The amount of kerf is dependent on the material type and thickness, along with a couple other variables (including the lens on that particular laser cutter, air pressure, etc). Typically the kerf ranges from about .15mm to .2mm.


To account for the laser cutting kerf, we offset the cut paths by the amount of the cutting kerf. Most of the time, we do this in our laser cutting software, but this can also be done in other CAD based programs (Illustrator, Sketchup, etc.)

It isn’t always necessary to offset cut paths to account for the kerf if something doesn’t need to be an exact fit. For example, if we’re cutting out a wooden 5” x 7” menu card, accounting for the offset isn’t necessary, as the piece will be just barely smaller than 5”x7” - measuring .49940” x .699040”.

One example of a project where accounting for the kerf IS NECESSARY is when we’re doing inlay. If we’re cutting an acrylic piece that a wooden letter will fit into, we need to account for the kerf to ensure that everything is a tight fit. If the kerf isn’t accounted for, the two pieces will not fit together.

Laser Cut Wood and Acrylic Inlay

To Mask or Not To Mask

We love mask in our shop! Masking material provides a protective layer on the surface of material during cutting and engraving that helps prevent burn marks. Masking paper is pretty comparable to masking tape. We use a low tack paper mask that can be easily removed and doesn’t leave a tacky residue.

We use 24” mask that’s on a roll, which allows us to mask large surfaces fairly quickly. When we’re putting on the mask, we attempt to avoid having creases or air bubbles underneath the mask, as this can allow for burn marks. We use a rubber squeegee to press the mask firmly all over the surface. We typically mask wood, leather, mat board, and paper.


When we purchase acrylic, it arrives with a protective mask already on it. Sometimes it’s a paper mask and sometimes it’s a thin plastic mask. We typically try to get acrylic with the paper mask, as it’s much easier to remove.

Laser Cut Acrylic with arch pattern
Laser Cut Acrylic Pattern with Mask Being Removed.

If material is left un-masked during cutting/engraving, there will be small burn marks around these areas. Sometime this is a wanted aesthetic, but most of the time, this halo effect is unwanted.

Sometimes there are small areas where the mask wasn’t fully pressed down against the surface and there are slight burn marks in these areas. To solve this issue with wood, we’re able to gently sand the area down. To solve this issue with mat board, we’re able to clean the surface with a barely damp paper towel. For other materials, like acrylic, leather, or paper, there’s not a good way to reverse the burned effect.

When you’re placing an order, we will confirm with you if we’ll remove the mask or if we will deliver your pieces with the mask on. For most acrylic pieces, we will deliver the pieces with the mask on to help protect the surfaces until you’re ready to install or use the piece. This is especially important with mirrored pieces, as the mirrored acrylic easily picks up finger prints. Also, some materials can be pretty time consuming to de-mask. If your pieces have a complex engraved design, it might take a few minutes to de-mask per piece. For complex pieces, we’ll give you an estimate that includes cost if we remove the mask or if we deliver the pieces with the mask on.

Laser Cut Pieces of Material - MDF, Bamboo Plywood, Birch Plywood and Leather with protective masking

The Basics: Engraving


It’s clear by our name that we can cut things, but we can engrave too! Our machines can actually engrave more materials than they can cut. We can’t cut metal, slate, or glass, but we can engrave them. (We can engrave any materials we can cut - wood, acrylic, leather, mat board + more!)

When the machine is engraving, the laser head is actually scanning back and forth across the entire surface of the piece at a very small (.00394”) interval. If you look closely at an area that has been laser engraved you’ll see faint lines that run along the engraved surface. The laser only powers on for the areas that it’s engraving.

Machine time is typically much higher for engraved pieces verses scored or cut pieces. This is because when the machine is scoring/cutting, the laser head just follows the score/cut paths directly, instead of scanning back and forth across the entire piece. With some pieces, we might recommend having score lines instead of engraving, especially if you’re working on a budget.



Engraving color varies based on the material. Wood engraves a darker brown color, but sometimes will have variations based on the wood grain. Colored acrylic typically engraves to be white or a lighter version of the original color. For example, opaque blue acrylic engraves to be light blue and black acrylic engraves light grey or off-white.

To learn more about what materials we can cut/engrave, visit our materials guide here

CutPieces copy.jpg