Looking for a highly capable and also highly portable laser machine? Check out my review of the xTool F1—xTool’s first handheld laser engraving and cutting machine. My xTool F1 review was made possible by xTool gifting me this machine to review.
My xTool F1 portable laser engraver review & thoughts on its capabilities!
Hey all! Have you ever felt like you had the best job in the world? I feel that way every single time xTool sends me another machine to review. I’m so thankful that I get to test these out and share my thoughts with you all!
And today’s post is one I’ve been looking forward to writing for a while. Since xTool announced their first portable, handheld laser cutting and engraving machine—the xTool F1 portable laser engraver—I’ve been itching to get my hands on it!
- xTool F1 pros & cons overview
- My initial thoughts…
- Size, ease, and versatility of use
- Laser types & accuracy
- Workspace size & engraving speed
- Smoke management & safety
- Rotary attachment for tumbler engraving
- Project example #1: Engraving slanted & vertical surfaces
- Project example #2: Engraving a necklace
- Project project #3: Engraving bamboo
- Closing thoughts on the xTool F1
xTool F1 pros & cons overview
Looking for a quick overview? See my high-level pros and cons below, then read on for my in-depth review!
- Portability: It’s a handheld, lightweight machine, making it convenient for users who don’t have a dedicated workspace or who value portability.
- User-Friendly: Its use is straightforward and suitable for beginners.
- Dual Lasers: The machine features two lasers, a 10W diode laser and a 2W infrared laser, allowing for versatility in engraving many materials.
- Vertical and Angled Engraving: The F1 can engrave on vertical or slanted surfaces.
- Engraving Speed and Accuracy: The F1 offers fast engraving speeds and high accuracy, making it capable of fine and detailed designs.
- Expanded Capabilities: An optional slide extension accessory is available to increase the working area for batch engraving, as is a rotary-engraving attachment.
- Limited Workspace Size: The F1 has a smaller workspace compared to larger desktop laser machines.
- Not Ideal for Cutting: While it can cut smaller items, I see myself using this machine more for its ease of use, portability, and engraving capabilities.
- Cost: The F1 machine has a base price of $1,599, but its capabilities are on par with or better than similar machines at this price point.
My initial thoughts…
Why have I been itching to get my hands on this machine, you ask? Because I love convenience. I don’t have a real dedicated craft room or workspace. So while I absolutely love my P2 laser, I find myself carrying my M1 up to the patio for smaller, quicker projects that I don’t need the P2’s power for.
Speaking of other machines, I will be mentioning some other machines throughout this post for comparison’s sake. For full reviews, check out my xTool P2 CO2 laser machine review, as well as my xTool M1 diode laser cutting and engraving machine review.
My new F1 means that I’ll be able to have an actual portable laser. Not just one that I lug around based on where I am working. And it’s small and easy to store.
Until the F1’s debut, these—along with the xTool D1, which I don’t own—were the most popular machines. They are larger desktop machines with a ton of capability. But why go bigger if you don’t need to? F1 to the rescue.
Size, ease, and versatility of use
Because it is small, it is largely no frills. That means it is easy to use and a great option for beginners. Larger machines with more features and different kinds of lasers can be overwhelming…I speak from experience.
The xTool F1 portable laser is straightforward and would be a great option if you’re looking to get your feet wet in the laser cutting and engraving world. I also love that I can bring this bad boy out onto the patio and not worry about venting fumes.
The F1 also provides a SUPER cool feature where you can engrave vertical or angled surfaces. That’s right—you can hold the machine in place using the handle to engrave something like a wood wall panel. I’ll show you guys what I mean in a bit.
Laser types & accuracy
One thing I love about this machine is that it has two lasers. The first is a 10W (455nm) diode laser. So the same as the laser type and power on my M1 machine.
You can use the 10W laser to engrave wood, rock, cork, leather, glass, ceramics, fabric, rubber, slate, dark acrylic, and more. It also has the power to cut through up to 8mm-thick basswood and 3mm-thick dark acrylic (in multiple passes).
Switch to the 2W (1064nm) infrared laser to engrave plastic and metals such as stainless steel, gold, platinum, copper, aluminum, silver, and more.
Workspace size & engraving speed
The workspace is smaller, but that comes with the territory of a smaller, more portable machine. Its max engraving area is a rounded rectangle that measures 115 by 115mm, and it supports engraving heights of up to 113mm.
You can add the slide extension accessory and increase your working area to about 115mm by about 460mm. I’ll test that in this post, too. It seems to be a good choice to temporarily maximize your processing space for batch engraving.
The F1’s engraving speeds can reach up to 4,000m/s. It can be difficult to know if that’s fast without having a reference point…but just know that it is fast! Its engraving accuracy is also very good— it can do very fine designs with .00199mm accuracy.
Smoke management & safety
Unlike the D1 laser machine, the F1 is completely enclosed. You can pull the green cover up to place your material and then pull it back down when the laser is working. This helps to protect your eyes from the laser (though you can also add safety glasses).
The green cover also helps to contain fumes and debris. And there is a built-in exhaust fan that quickly pulls the smoke out of the machine. You can attach a desktop smoke purifier to the exhaust area.
Or you can just freely exhaust out a door or window. Or just engrave outdoors! I love to do that. You definitely don’t want to do any exhausting indoors without the air purifier.
When you load your project into xTool’s Creative Space and send it to your machine, you’ll be able to see the design in a live preview on the material. The blue light used for the live preview is not a laser and is not harmful to look at (see below).
Rotary attachment for tumbler engraving
I always want to mention a machine’s capability to engrave tumblers because I know a lot of people do that. It isn’t really something I do much of at all. But if you do, this is a great machine for it.
You’ll need to purchase the RA2 Pro attachment specifically for the F1 machine. With this attachment, you can engrave mugs, tumblers, canisters, and 90% of irregular objects (according to xTool). This includes rings and spheres.
Project example #1: Engraving slanted & vertical surfaces
I have two surfaces ready to test the F1 portable laser engraver’s slanted and vertical engraving capabilities. The first is a bamboo tablet stand I got from Ikea—originally for my post on things you can laser engrave at Ikea.
But I was unable to engrave it at the time on my M1 machine without risers. (And even then, I’m not sure if I could have. Would have been tricky.)
The F1 machine was a great solution for this because I can sit the stand up and hold the F1 in place while it worked. I used the XCS settings for basswood engraving but added a second pass, and it turned out great!
Just don’t be like me and engrave your design upside down! Orient yourself with how you’re holding the machine before you hit go 🙂 Regardless of the mistake, the machine did a great job. I used the settings in xTool Creative Space for engraving basswood, but I added a second pass.
The second slanted surface I tried was engraving a maker’s mark on the dollhouse I designed and built for my daughter. She has had this dollhouse since her 3rd birthday, so about 3 years. And this turned out great, too!
Overall really impressed with the F1’s ability to engrave surfaces that are too big to insert into a machine. It provides great flexibility.
One thing to keep in mind is that it’s helpful to have a second person to help with vertical engraving. It’s really difficult to hold the machine in place while also running the computer and sending the file. I tried to do both myself but quickly learned that if I moved the machine too much going back and forth, it reset the process because of the movement.
Project example #2: Engraving a necklace
Next I wanted to try some quick engraving on metal. My daughter loves jewelry, and I was curious how the machine would do engraving a couple of different things.
First I did something really simple. I engraved her name on a necklace. It turned out great and was SO fast. So I decided to do something a bit more creative for myself.
I took a picture of a paper where she’d written “i LOVE U” and uploaded it to xTool Creative Space. Then I removed the background and engraved just the text on a necklace. This is so sweet and would make such a cool gift!
Then I tried engraving using s bitmap pictures of my cats! To do this, I uploaded a picture of them to Creative Space and played around with the conversions until I found one I liked. You can also mess with the grayscale and sharpness.
I was super curious to see how well this would engrave…and I was blown away! Below is a shot of me framing the pendant in the machine. Then the finished result of our sweet Blanche’s face. I ended up doing our other cat on the back, putting it on a chain, and giving it to my daughter.
Project project #3: Engraving bamboo
And the last project I did was some engraving on some bamboo plant stakes I had. Below are two examples. I used the engraving settings for basswood. The darker font is two passes, while the lighter font is one.
I engraved plant stakes for my monstera deliciosa and my ric rac cactus! These will definitely make great gifts when I give someone a plant and want them to remember what it is. And it’s so quick and easy to engrave on the F1.
Closing thoughts on the xTool F1
My closing thoughts? Wow—this is a fantastic machine! If you are a beginner and don’t need a huge workspace, the xTool F1 portable laser engraver is an excellent option. The ease of use, portability, speed, and choice of two different lasers gets you a great bang for the buck.
I also like how you can hold the engraver in place and engrave slanted or vertical items that won’t fit in a machine. It isn’t the best machine for cutting, but it is up to the task of cutting smaller items. Overall, you won’t be disappointed!