Author Archives: John Hagensieker

So You Want To Have A Laser Business?

I’ve written this article before, but it bears repeating, I think.  I just got a new laser, which means  I joined a new Facebook group and I’ve seen this happen so many times from every manufacturers Facebook or Webpage Forum.   A group member will write:

“HELP!  My machine stopped working and I have orders that I have to fulfill.  I am frantic, HELP!”

Please know that I’m not knocking anyone here and I don’t think I’m smarter than anyone else by a long shot.  I just want to point out some observations I have made over the last few years of operating a laser.

If you have bought a laser to run a small business and:

  • Don’t know how to troubleshoot your machine.
  • Don’t have lots of experience with the machine.
  • Don’t have spare parts.
  • Don’t have a backup machine
  • Don’t have a fellow hobbyist who can help with your orders during your downtime.

Then all I can say, is that you didn’t plan out your business very well.   Lasers are electronic, mechanical, and optical devices.  There is a lot going on there.  They break.  Sometimes WE break them.  If you have a laser and you are just a hobbyist making stuff for yourself and your family then you can afford the luxury of waiting a week or two on parts.

If you are in business you can ruin your reputation in a hot minute by not delivering what you’ve promised.
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xTool RA2 Rotary Pro

xTool RA2 Rotary Pro Review

FULL DISCLOSURE – I was provided an xTool D1 Pro with an RA2 Rotary Pro at no cost to review.  xTool has in no way attempted to influence my review. 

I’ve been given the great opportunity to review the xTool D1 Pro and included in the kit was an RA2 Rotary Pro.

There are a lot of videos online that show the RA2 but most of the ones I have seen are familiarization, and unboxing videos.

I appreciate all these reviews and learned a lot from all of them but when I get my mitts on a piece of gear I want to fill in the gaps that others may not touch on and I will discuss Lightburn settings quite a bit in this blog.

Regarding unboxing though……….my kit was missing the small bubble level.  Obviously that doesn’t affect assembly or use of the machine so it won’t affect anything discussed here.  Actually I have a couple of those mini bubble levels around here somewhere so no harm, no foul.
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xTool D1 Pro Review

xTool D1 Pro Review

Full Disclosure – xTool provided me an xTool D1 Pro at no cost to review.  They in no way whatsoever influenced this review.  

NOTE:  Almost all my testing is done with Lightburn using the configuration file xTool provides here.

It doesn’t take me long to tell whether something is great, good, or problematic.  In the case of the xTool D1 Pro my conclusion is landing somewhere in GreatLand™.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning that I have considerable desktop and CO2 laser usage and I know just what to do to reveal problems right away.

While waiting for my D1 Pro to show up I began asking people questions and joining forums and groups.  The first thing that hopped off the page for me were people asking “How do you keep things straight?”

STRAIGHTNESS

I’m going to refer to this as an “issue”, and not a problem because almost every laser made, maybe with the exception of industrial lasers, don’t have any immediate method of straightening.   Someone I know owns a D1 Pro and has the honeycomb kit . I asked him to provide me any input before I received my machine and wrote my review.  One of his bullet items was:

The honeycomb panel set isn’t currently able to be fixed to the machine itself in anyway, which makes it very difficult to maintain square between the panel and the machine itself. “

There are a couple methods for overcoming this issue of keeping things straight.
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XTool D1 Pro Build And First Impressions

xTool D1 Pro

FULL DISCLOSURE – I was contacted by xTool and provided this xTool D1 Pro Kit to review.   This is just an initial impression following my build out,  with a further, more in-depth review to follow soon.

XTool D1 Pro

My laser is the 20 watt version with the RA2 Rotary.  It has an impressive working area size of 430 x 390 mm (16.93 x 15.35 inches).  The published Z height is 50 mm (2 inches).  I suppose they had to put some number there but the reality is you can laser an item of just about any height if you raise the laser with the included riser legs or 3D print legs or stack soup cans under the legs. The Z height can be just about anything.

As usual I won’t spend time with videos showing the unboxing or reposting things you can find on their product information page.  If you are looking at this blog and have an interest in getting an xTool D1 Pro you’ve already looked at their page and me re-hashing a picture of the box and listing the specifications (other than the ones I listed just above)  is simply redundant and a waste of your time.   Here on my blog I get something, use it, sometimes in ways it wasn’t meant to be used, and then tell you what I think.

The first thing I want to say about ANY LASER is that you probably think you’ll buy one and start whipping out crafty things and soon become a millionaire, or at least be the talk of the town.  Some of you might.  But most people that buy them have no laser experience, no experience with other items that travel along an X, Y, and Z axis.  They also have limited graphic arts abilities, and minimal abilities to repair malfunctioning electronics.  I basically just described myself at one time, so don’t take that personally.

But I will say this before I start my review.  If you buy ONE machine to run a business, that is a business model designed for failure.  If you are in business you need to plan for downtimes.  That may include owning TWO machines, or having a kit of repair parts.  It might even involve having two computers in case one fails.   Lasers are electrical, mechanical, and optical devices that can break.  Diode lasers degrade over time.  All I am saying is don’t buy one machine, and then run that machine to failure and then declare it to be junk when you have orders you can’t fulfill.  Rant complete.

On with the build and review!
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Buying Tools Without Breaking The Bank

We all need tools.  Whether it be the occasional screwdriver or pair of pliers for mundane tasks…..we all need tools.   Tools can be pretty expensive and for the most part “you get what you pay for” applies.

Analogy time.  The golden age of stereo was probably the 1970’s.  Vacuum Tube amplifiers ruled the audiophile roost while the transistor made it’s way onto the scene with gigantic receivers with beautiful silver faceplates and VU meters.  To this day I lust after giant boat anchor Pioneer and Sansui Receivers.

As it is in the world of tools.  Probably the golden age of hand tools was from the 1960’s to the 1990’s.  Things were robust then.  Men made buildings out of steel, and made in America appliances were built like tanks.   Cars were muscle cars.  Even the family car was substantial.  Powerful, and reliable hand tools were a necessity.  And everyone fixed their own stuff.

While I’m not saying that things today are poorly made, I am saying things are smaller, lighter, more electronic, and less repairable by and large.  People that need the most robust tools are in shorter supply.  Our love of inexpensive items made in China has affected the robustness of our tooling as well.  Walk into Lowes or HomeDepot and the tool areas are filled with inexpensive tooling from China that is cheap and becomes even cheaper around Father’s Day or Black Friday, or Christmas.

The internet is full of web pages comparing those tools.  I just watched one where someone welded a bolt to something and they used each brand of tools to the point of failure of either the bolt or the tool and then declared which tool to be the best.  While that is cool, 99% of the people who pick up a wrench or a socket are not going to encounter that.  90% of the people who use a screwdriver aren’t going to do much more than change the outlet covers to the new kind their wife likes.
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Oh My God I Got A Raspberry Pi 4

In the last year I have bought exactly TWO Raspberry Pi’s.   They have reached the status of “Unobtanium” thanks to world wide chip shortages and supply chain issues.  It takes dedication to find one, much less purchase one.

It used to be that you could buy one whenever you wanted to buy one.  Those days are gone.  I got a Pi 4, 2GB from Adafruit on a fluke.  I really only want 4GB or 8GB Pi’s but you take what you can get.   And once you find one …….. you can only order ONE.

I guess I should consider myself lucky but every day that goes by I get more and more disgusted with Raspberry Pi.  The last couple questions I asked on their forum I got asshole answers.  One gent provided no help and told me to “Learn Python”,   He must be related to Joe Biden who told all the unemployed coal miners in West Virginia to “Learn To Code”.

I usually like having several spare Pi’s laying around so when I see a project I can just get right to business.  As it was though for my last two projects I had to take a couple projects out of service because of the lack of Pi’s I have.  I had to ditch my OP25 Police Scanner on the back of a TV and my GPS PPS clock used as a local time server.  I’ve also been replacing some of my Pi 4 Media Servers (logitechmediaserver) with older Pi 3B+ models.

Anyway, I’m +1 on Raspberry Pi’s at the moment and probably will put OP25 back together and redocument the process if it has changed.

And no, I’m not gonna learn to code.   But the hunt for next Pi is on.  This one only took 3 months.  Ridiculous.

Screwdriver Selection Criteria

Everybody needs some screwdrivers, and in fact everyone needs a very small, basic tool kit at the very least.  A screwdriver, pair of pliers, and a crescent wrench will save your day at some point.  This blog entry is for the people that just need some basic hand tools and to provide a thing or two to think about before you spend your money.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching tools in the last week, and I’ve learned a lot about them.  Who actually owns the companies, where they are made, and how they hold up.  I’ve seen comparison videos where devious engineers design devious tests and then stack them up against each other.   While I greatly appreciate the study, thought, and application of those tests,  it just isn’t relevant to 95% of the population.

I’ve seen untold forum posts of “What Screwdriver Should I Get”.  Believe it or not the most common answer seems to be………..”Get something you can afford and don’t look back”.

The reality is that uber quality just isn’t necessary for most of us.  Then again, I’m not most of us.  I made my living using tools and a lot of people do.  I subscribe to the theory of “That Many People Can’t Be Wrong” when it comes to tool recommendations.  So let’s get on with the recommendations.
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More On Tools

I’ll get off the tool train soon and back to my regularly scheduled programming soon as I managed to FINALLY snag a Raspberry Pi 4.  They’ve been next to impossible to get for about a year or more now.

Anyway, you can’t be a Tech Blog Geek without good tools.  That’s really all there is to it.   Over time my tool needs have evolved in several different directions.

After my first stint in the Navy I got a job at an FAA Repair Station.  Obviously my mix of tools were aviation related and we had one specific issue where tool handles needed to be chemical resistant due to the use of a commercial hydraulic fluid called Skydrol.   Even if you had a decent set of Craftsman hand tools those handles would get all sticky and melt.

Fast forward a few years and I’m working for the government who provides me tools at work but I’m starting a family and need basic home tools.  Not much use for a pair of safety wire pliers around the house.   So I retool as much as I can afford to.

Then I move to Japan and put all my tools in storage.  While I once was an Aircraft Structural Mechanic I somehow evolved into an Electronics Tech Rep.   Time to retool again.

Now I’m retired but I have lots of electronics hobbies, not to mention I have a camper, and all manner of Maker gear and by that I mean a Vinyl Sign machine, 3D printers, lasers, and a CNC machine.   My tool needs are way different again.  About the only constants along the way have been screwdrivers, socket sets, wrenches and pliers.

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1,000,000 Hits

Looks like either today or tomorrow John’s Tech blog will flip the counter over past 1,000,000 hits.

I started this web site to document my projects.  In the computing world and especially the Linux world people who have years of experience often forget they are trying to communicate to newbies sometimes.

My approach was just to simplify things and to document the process FOR MYSELF so I could redo it in 6 months or a year later when it broke.

I BASICALLY MADE THIS WEB SITE FOR ME AND IT WAS ALMOST A JOKE TO CALL IT JOHN’S TECH BLOG.

And here I am almost a million hits later.

THANK YOU!

Are You A Tool Rebel?

Wera Tools calls their users and fan base “Tool Rebels”.  I generally don’t fall into hype like that however, I recently picked up a few Wera Tools after having owned a screwdriver set for years.

I think it is safe to say that I’m a Tool Rebel!

Let me issue you a challenge.  Look at hand tools that your father used, or your grandfather used, or look at some antique tools.  Not a whole lot has changed.  Screwdrivers are roughly the same, socket sets are roughly the same.  No one has tried to improve upon these designs.  But Wera has some very unique engineering upgrades to these common items.

Wera Zyklop

Just look at this Zyklop ratchet.  This is the first ratchet I’ve seen with an ergonomic handle.  At best they usually have some rough pattern for grip.  Also the head detents at several different locations.  You can set it to 0 degrees and use it like nut driver then when you need to apply some torque you can detent to 90 degrees like a normal socket.  Or you can detent it to 15 degrees which gives you that little bit of clearance on the handle end just like a box end wrench.  Brilliant.

So does that make Wera the best tools on the planet?  My answer is very situational.  It depends on what you use your tools for.   You’ll get a very different answer from a lifelong auto mechanic  than you will get from the retired guy who just needs to honey-do a few things around the house.  Consequently an electronics repair man is going to have much different requirements than an appliance repair man.

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