Acceptable Tarkin Materials: Glues and Gloss

The Tarkin wiki of course lists some acceptable and forbidden materials for use in Tarkin, but do we know what types of glues will work, both in terms of cut quality and safety? I’ll be wanting to cut some chipboard (single layer cardboard) with paper glued to both sides, and I need to pick a glue.

Also, though paper is an acceptable material, are there any issues with glossy or semi-gloss photo paper? I thought perhaps there could be issues with unwanted reflections from them.

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Hello Ethan,

I’ve not seen any tests showing one glue lasers better than another. Dried Elmer’s white glue and wood glue laser just fine. So does spray adhesive. Never had a notable difficulty with any glue with cutting speed or safety. if I was to bet, maybe thick epoxy could be a prob but never seen it.

BTW, Elmer’s glue is “polyvinyl alcohol”, it is the ONE exception to “no vinyl”- this “vinyl” is a different structure with no chlorine. It is the only material with “vinyl” in the name that is safe to cut. I don’t normally bring it up because few people know it as “PVA glue” to even wonder.

Paper gloss is not going to reflect any of that 10.6um beam. The only things that reflect are metals- steel, aluminum, copper, brass.


The PVA in white glue is polyvinyl acetate, although polyvinyl alcohol can be used to make a very weak adhesive. I think book restorers sometimes use polyvinyl alcohol based glues. Either way, your point stands, neither contain chlorine. Wood glues are almost all PVA formulations as well, so should be fine. As an irrelevant but kind of interesting chemistry tidbit, vinyl really just means double bond. Since a good portion of all polymers are made with vinyl monomers, it’s just a cultural thing that we call PVC type products “vinyl,” mostly because they’re everywhere.

I’d probably stay away from gorilla glue or superglue. They’re either polyurethane based or cyanoacrylate based, respectively. Both will release some hydrogen cyanide when burned. Probably not really an issue with exhaust, but might as well use another glue.

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Ok right, white glue is polyvinyl acetate. There is also purple PVA mold release compound, that one is polyvinyl alcohol, the only other case I know of for where it has “vinyl” in the name but not actually the usual prohibited chlorine-based vinyl

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I’d like to confirm that resin-based glues should be avoided.

This I learned the hard way by experimenting with epoxy marquetry on a laser. After learning that resin compounds off-gas a wide variety of toxins (cyanide gas, methylpropanol, butane, benzene, etc.) I started to look for a formulation that didn’t by calling epoxy suppliers. None, not one, had anything good to say about burning epoxy … “Just dust don’t do it”.

Suffice to say, I stopped.

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