LumberJocks

Update on 2 mini laser engravers after 2 weeks of use

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by Andybb posted 01-18-2019 04:08 AM 1044 views 5 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Andybb's profile

Andybb

1676 posts in 871 days


01-18-2019 04:08 AM

Topic tags/keywords: jig tip turning carving

This is a followup on the review I started a few weeks ago on the use of the mini laser engravers that are now available. My main purpose for buying these is to engrave pens that I have turned so this is a review of using them for that application primarily.

I now own and have used both the enclosed and open bottomed ones that are available. Both work well but I have found that they fill different niches. I spent a grand total of $150 including shipping so I’m ok with owning both. I also spent $6.99 on a web cam that I mounted in the top of the engraver so I’m not tempted to stare at the laser.

Open bottom version – The 2 main advantages of the open bottom ones are that you can place it on any surface that you want to engrave like a table top and they also have a larger slightly less than 3×3” usable burning ability as compared to the slightly less than 1.5×1.5” burning area of the closed bottomed ones. This makes a huge difference when it comes to making pens (or other items) because someone’s full name on one line in a font that will fit into less than 1.5 inches is too small to be easily read so the open bottom ones are more suited for single line pen engraving. You can print 2 lines but need to pause the machine and manually turn the pen due to the distortion that the curvature of the pen barrell causes. Not really a big deal as long as it’s not some type of intricate graphics that is being burned.



Closed bottom version – The main advantage of the closed bottom version is that you can make a jig a la Bill Pace (mainly at zero cost made from stuff we all have laying around) that allows you to engrave words and graphics around the circumference of the pen barrell.

Jig>
View on YouTube

Pen 1>

Pen 2>
View on YouTube

Software – Both software packages have terrible or non existent documentation but both are easy to figure out. I found myself doing a test run on scrap wood to make sure that the entire image is within the print area as it seems that the edges can sometimes get cut off.

My technique (YMMV) – Both of my engravers are 1000mW. More power will give you deeper burns I would imagine, although the open bottom version seems to have a more powerful laser but that may just be the components used in the manufacturing process. If you are not going to use some type of colorant, a fully finished pen with many coats of CA will melt the CA but not burn the underlying wood. If you are not planning on adding colorant to the engraving then only use one or 2 coats of thin CA then apply additional coats after burning.. This will allow the laser to burn the wood and create a readable crisp image as seen above. The colorants I tried were Testors acrylic model paint, metalic powder and Rub-n-Buff. After a few variations in technique the metallic powders seem the most durable during the final sanding but the rub n buff seems to retain the most contrast. Just found an article on how to use metallic powder so I’ll also try and follow that as before all I did was seal it with a little CA.

I have found that there are 2 processes that can work. You are either “burning” the wood through a thin layer of CA (which I think keeps the image crisp) and creating an almost black image or you are melting a thicker coat of CA which gives the colorant a valley to settle into and harden before you carefully sand and or wipe off the excess with solvent. I use Stick fast accelerator to wipe it with. When I tried acetone it softened the CA..

Feel free to ask any questions as I am sure those using this for pen making will have some.

-- Andy - Seattle USA


23 replies so far

View Rich's profile

Rich

4083 posts in 857 days


#1 posted 01-18-2019 04:57 AM

What an informative post, Andy. Thank you.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Mike_D_S's profile

Mike_D_S

580 posts in 2482 days


#2 posted 01-18-2019 05:10 AM

Appreciate you coming back and updating the original post. Nice wrap up.

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

1676 posts in 871 days


#3 posted 01-18-2019 05:29 AM

One thing I forgot to add….If you make the jig…...you may notice that the slots that the rod fits into are about 1/2” deep and must spin freely inside the tube as well as the bottom plate sliding freely. This is important because depending on the size of the bushings and the tension on the rubber band the blank may not spin which causes it to just print one solid line or skip parts. Remember to focus the laser if you change blank diameter.

On another note….At one point I thought the laser had failed as it wasn’t printing but it occurred to me laying in bed that maybe the CA was too thick. When I checked there was an invisible perfect image on the blank but it only burned the CA not the wood. When I filled it with color all was good.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Rich's profile

Rich

4083 posts in 857 days


#4 posted 01-18-2019 05:53 AM


On another note….At one point I thought the laser had failed as it wasn’t printing but it occurred to me laying in bed that maybe the CA was too thick.

- Andybb

I had one today. I was engraving my logo on the bottom of a tray and looked half way through to see nothing getting etched. It took me a minute to remember that I’d focused the laser earlier for the inside of a cover that was about 4 inches deep, so the laser was just a fuzz-ball for the tray.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

1676 posts in 871 days


#5 posted 01-18-2019 06:20 AM

On another note….At one point I thought the laser had failed as it wasn’t printing but it occurred to me laying in bed that maybe the CA was too thick.

- Andybb

I had one today. I was engraving my logo on the bottom of a tray and looked half way through to see nothing getting etched. It took me a minute to remember that I d focused the laser earlier for the inside of a cover that was about 4 inches deep, so the laser was just a fuzz-ball for the tray.

- Rich

Oh. That’s impressive that it has that much range of focus. I wear a set of those $3 3x Harbor F. glasses when I focus to get the pin point as sharp as possible. If I had to do it again I might have gotten the 1500mW model (yes the one I sent back because I thought I wanted the open bottom.) :-) But now that I’ve got the jig working well I’m going to try and make 2 passes and see if the image is as crisp.

Sounds like you’re getting some use out of yours. Glad to hear it. Something tells me I might at some point down the road get a branding iron for the logo I don’t yet have.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Redoak49's profile (online now)

Redoak49

3803 posts in 2256 days


#6 posted 01-18-2019 11:41 AM

Thanks for your posts about these lasers. I am going to order an open bottom one today…2000me.

Could you post some info on the camera you used.

View BFamous's profile

BFamous

259 posts in 388 days


#7 posted 01-18-2019 12:45 PM

Thanks for the review. I’ve been looking at getting one of these for a bit now and wasn’t certain as to the model or quality of these machines.

Now I might have a little more confidence in buying. Do you mind posting the link to where you ordered?

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC :: http://www.FamousArtisan.com

View Tony1212's profile

Tony1212

284 posts in 2002 days


#8 posted 01-18-2019 02:54 PM


Thanks for the review. I ve been looking at getting one of these for a bit now and wasn t certain as to the model or quality of these machines.

Now I might have a little more confidence in buying.

- BFamous

This. Thank you so very much, Andy.

On a side note, Stumpy Nubs came to our local Rockler this past weekend, and while I was there I got to talking with another guy that uses these laser printers for his pens, as well. He didn’t even seem to know about Lumberjocks or these threads.

So, two independent sources recommending them. I’m convinced.

@BFamous – Andy posted this link (AliExpress – China’s Amazon) in the previous thread.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

1676 posts in 871 days


#9 posted 01-18-2019 05:31 PM

Now I might have a little more confidence in buying. Do you mind posting the link to where you ordered?

- BFamous

@BFamous – Andy posted this link (AliExpress – China s Amazon) in the previous thread.

- Tony1212

Be aware that Aliexpress is like Amazon on steroids. They will have 30 suppliers for the same item. I’ve noticed that some have better communication than others i.e. trying to do customer support via Google translate. Better pricing but a 2-3 week delivery time as it comes from China. (they all come from China regardless of who the merchant is). However, if you have issues (my first one was lost in the mail) there is no 1-800 Amazon number to call as you deal with the supplier, not Ali so for a little piece of mind you can spend an extra $30 on Amazon and have it in a day or 2. This one looks identical without the NEJE name on it. I’d feel comfortable getting it as the guts are pretty much the same and it’s somewhere in the US cuz Amazon has sameday delivery to me here in Seattle.

Just to reiterate, I have had no issues with any of the machines that I got, just a question of how long I wanted to wait and how much I was willing to pay. I’d get the 1500mW model if getting the closed bottom one and the 2000mW open bottom one. (the closed bottom one doesn’t seem to come higher than 1500mW) The reason I’d stick with the 2000mW open ended one for making pens is that I read somewhere that the ones that are 3000mW don’t do as good a job with fine details because of the strength of the laser.

This is who I ordered from on Ali. Great communication and USPS tracking # right away.


Thanks for your posts about these lasers. I am going to order an open bottom one today…2000me.

Could you post some info on the camera you used.

- Redoak49

I got this camera. Forgot I paid $9.99 through Amazon instead of $6.99 on Ali cuz it was next day delivery.

All that being said, it’s not much of a leap to get something like this. I just don’t have the room for it.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View BFamous's profile

BFamous

259 posts in 388 days


#10 posted 01-18-2019 06:15 PM

Thanks for providing all of that insight. It really is appreciated.

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC :: http://www.FamousArtisan.com

View SenecaWoodArt's profile

SenecaWoodArt

444 posts in 1887 days


#11 posted 01-18-2019 09:24 PM

I would like to share a piece of software that I have found that can take your laser control to the next level. It took me a little over a year to discover it and I sure wish that I had known about it sooner as it gives you a lot more control over the power that you can burn at. It’s called T2Laser and sells for $39.95 but you can use the trial version in 20 minute burns or 10,000 lines of code to try it out before you buy. I learned to use it in about 30 minutes from this Youtube video.

-- Bob

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

1676 posts in 871 days


#12 posted 01-18-2019 09:43 PM


I would like to share a piece of software that I have found that can take your laser control to the next level. It took me a little over a year to discover it and I sure wish that I had known about it sooner as it gives you a lot more control over the power that you can burn at. It s called T2Laser and sells for $39.95 but you can use the trial version in 20 minute burns or 10,000 lines of code to try it out before you buy. I learned to use it in about 30 minutes from this Youtube video.

- SenecaWoodArt

Cool. What laser are you using? Does this work with these 2 wire mini lasers? It says it is Grbl based and the boards in these are not quite at that level without changing out the board and laser or upgrading to something like an A3 as far as I could tell. I remember looking at Grbl based stuff a few weeks ago and concluding it wasn’t an option. If it is, that would be great. This video is on youtube about how to upgrade a mini laser’s hardware but it was a pretty tedious job as these controller boards don’t speak arduino/grbl.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View SenecaWoodArt's profile

SenecaWoodArt

444 posts in 1887 days


#13 posted 01-18-2019 09:51 PM


Cool. What laser are you using? Does this work with these mini lasers? It says it is Grbl based and the boards in these are not quite at that level without changing out the board and laser as far as I can tell. I remember looking at Grbl based stuff a few weeks ago and concluding it wasn t an option. If it is, that would be great. This video is on youtube= about how to upgrade a mini laser s hardware but it was a pretty tedious job as the controller boards in these aren t arduino/grbl based. (whatever that means).

- Andybb

I have to admit that I don’t have any experience with the mini lasers and you obviously have done some research into it. I am using a 2500MW A3 laser. The software that I replaced was Benbox and that one was complete junk. But what do you expect for free. T2Laser opened up a whole new world for me and $40 is dirt cheap for laser software.

-- Bob

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

1676 posts in 871 days


#14 posted 01-18-2019 10:00 PM

That makes sense and actually as I might have mentioned earlier, the A3 doesn’t seem like that much of a leap for the functionality that the extra $100 would get you. I’m just out of space and my wife would definitely notice that puppy vs the 2 mini lasers hiding in the corner. :-)

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View SenecaWoodArt's profile

SenecaWoodArt

444 posts in 1887 days


#15 posted 01-18-2019 10:09 PM



That makes sense and actually as I might have mentioned earlier, the A3 doesn t seem like that much of a leap for the functionality that the extra $100 would get you. I m just out of space and my wife would definitely notice that puppy vs the mini laser hiding in the corner. :-)

- Andybb

I know what you mean. Fortunately, my wife works in the shop with me and she comes up with as many uses for it as I do. I am on my second one as I burnt the first laser module up and it was hard wired into the controller wiring. The new one has plug in connectors and will be easier to replace. I discovered T2Laser because i could not get Benbox to correctly flash the new controller and a forum led me T2Laser. It was a simple plug and play solution after I watched the Youtube video and downloaded the software. I was really surprised at the amount of control that I gained over Benbox.

-- Bob

showing 1 through 15 of 23 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com