xTool F1 Laser Engraver – Review & Material Tests

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Enjoy my in-depth review of the xTool F1 Laser engraver – including some material tests and settings! Also check out my favorite crafting gadgets. This post contains affiliate links.


Heads up: this review is long and in-depth so if you want, you can skip to your specific questions using the table of contents:

For the longest time, I wanted to upgrade my crafting capabilities with a laser engraver. My main issues: space and ventilation.

When xTool reached out to me to see if I’d like to review one of their machines, I was thrilled! The xTool F1 Deluxe Bundle was gifted to me, however, I am brutally honest in all my reviews, because I want your investment to make sense for you.

A laser engraver is a big investment that can bring an even bigger return on investment, precisely because it’s a bit less accessible to everyone than other crafting machines. Turning out quantity is also faster than with other crafts, with less time spent on assembly.

It is incredible what you can do, and I’m discovering more and more each day.

I chose the xTool F1 from their selection of machines, and you’ll shortly see why. I’ll share why this might be the correct option for you, and when it might not be.

Meet the xTool F1

The xTool F1 is a dual laser engraver that has two modes: red light – infrared, and blue light – diode. Each one works differently, and the combination allows you to engrave more materials.

It’s a portable model, with an enclosed engraving area, and loads of features, making it the ultimate laser-on-the-go. Think: craft fairs, events, and around the house use, with this lightweight and compact machine.

xTool F1 Review Summary

While it was designed with on-site craft show customization in mind, the xTool F1 is also the perfect choice for those who are short on space – like me! It’s a fabulous entry-level laser, a perfect choice for those who need a second option, and spot on for craft-show goers.

The xTool F1 is a galvo laser, which means that it’s super fast. That’s because instead of having a motorized laser head that moves around your projects, the laser is reflected onto your surface using mirrors. This is critical when doing on-location personalization with waiting customers – as is the enclosed work area.

The smaller surface area is expandable using accessories, and only limits the size you can engrave at once, not the end-project size. Meaning, you can do larger engravings piece by piece, such as a letter at a time on a large porch sign.

That means that for those who generally do small projects but want the capabilities to do larger engravings, this can still be the right machine for you (read on).

For a full-sized, fully featured laser engraver, the xTool S1 or P2 are probably better choices.

Dual lasers – infrared and diode – mean you can engrave more materials, and yes, I’ve provided lists below! The Infrared does a fabulous job on metals – including copper, sterling silver, gold, platinum, stainless steel, brass, and more.

The diode tackles most of the other materials, including woods, stone and brick, leather and some leatherettes, acrylic, and more.

How the xTool f1 works

The xTool F1 features a small engraving surface area, which is expandable using the slide extension – reviewed below. Place your project on the surface. Lower the head super easily using the dial on the side to focus on the project. Both the red and blue dots should be aligned to focus.

There is also an auto-focus feature.

Connect using your device and design using the free XCS app (desktop, mobile).

Frame your project – this lights up an outline on the surface. You have a choice of doing a rectangle of the farthest reaches of the design or an outline of the design itself. Send it to your xTool F1, push the dial (which is also a button) to engrave or cut.

The workspace insert is removable. That means that you can take the whole shebang, place it on a larger item, and engrave through the area of the hole, as I did with this cutting board.

You can also take it outside, and engrave your home address on the bricks on the front of your house. Engrave the paint off your car. Engrave a little graffiti on your wooden fence… You WILL need to have your device plugged in while you do this.

It comes with a triangular prism cutting panel to vent beneath your cut, so that you don’t destroy the base.

If you’re new to laser engraving, you’ll find that there is a huge learning curve to materials, settings, and how to do these things. xTool has a page with basic recommendations.

You’ll still want to run cut and engrave tests of your favorite materials so that you ultimately save time.

In the box

The xTool F1 comes with:

  • The machine – fully assembled
  • A “pegboard” style engraving surface that is removable, along with a positioner that screws in
  • The triangular prism cutting panel
  • Venting Hose
  • Power, connectivity cables
  • Manual
  • A sample pack of materials

The xTool F1 comes very well packaged with well-engineered foam inside the box. I recommend saving this if you plan to carry it to craft shows – I think it’s the absolute best way to transport your machine. Tip: photograph where everything goes/how it’s packed as you unpack it to reference later.

Features & Specs

Specifications

Here’s a rundown of the dry features for you to reference.

TypeDetails
Laser type10W diode laser +
2W 1064nm infrared laser
Machine size7 x 9.25 x 13 inch (approximate)
Product weight10 lb (approximate)
AccuracyMovement accuracy:0.00199mm
Repeat positioning accuracy:0.000248mm
Working area4.5 x 4.5 inch rounded rectangle (approximate)
Expandable to 15.75 x 4.5 inches with accessories (approximate)
PreviewRectangle or Outline
Max working speed4000mm/s (engrave, slower with RA2 rotary or slide extension)
Compatible appsxTool Creative Space (XCS) or Lightburn
ConnectivityWiFi & USB
Supported File TypesSVG, DXF, JPG, PNG, BMP
Supported Operating systemsAndroid, iOS, iPad, Windows, macOS
Input24V 5A

Pros & Cons

Because a lot of the features have built in pros AND cons, I created this chart for you to see it visually, so that you can choose the laser that is best for you. I will elaborate on everything further down – this is for the benefit of those who want a quick list.

FeatureProsCons
Galvo LaserSuper Fast – as of publish date it’s the fastest portable dual IR and diode laser at 4000 mm/sSlanted edges when cutting (so not for accurate modeling unless you can account for that) and sometimes gives edge fading on larger full-surface projects (slide extension fixes this).
CompactPortable and perfect for craft showsLimited working area (mitigated by the addition of the optional slide extension)
HandleEnhances portabilityAlso adds to transport size and isn’t removable
Accessories – RA2 Pro RotaryEven wraparound engraving on cylindrical itemsManual positioning, much slower speeds
Accessories – Slide ExtensionMajorly expands working areaManual positioning, much slower speeds
Accessories – Desktop Air PurifierMakes it much more portable, can work with anywhere Expensive replacement filters (can be washed by hand and reused to some degree)

More pros and cons – left is pros, right is cons. They’re not related to each other…

ProsCons
XCS (xTool Creative Space) software that you can use free with your device allows you to export your work as SVG and save files to your computer.Limiting surface area
Comes pre-assembledLess power than other options
Ultra HD ResolutionNo camera preview
Laser light-proof coverNo bluetooth connectivity
Smoke-free Built-in FanNo air assist
Overheat Protection
Works with Lightburn 3rd party software – more advanced.
Live Preview
Comes assembled!
0.00199 mm movement accuracy (font sizes as small as 0.3mm) and up to 1270 dpi HD resolution

Favorite Features & Cool Stuff

I found xTool Creative Space, xTool’s native software, easy to learn, as an experienced Cricut crafter and graphic designer. I still prefer to design in Illustrator as there’s much more I can do there, but for quick projects and text-based customization, XCS is all I need.

The iPad app has the ability to freestyle write in it – I wish the Windows app had that too! Especially since it’s often used for onsite customization, it would be a shame not to have that. Surface computers are a popular choice for crafters and creators, and often an alternative to iPads for artists. Surface users expect to be able to do all the writing/drawing they need to on their devices. I’d love to see that feature come to Windows.

While you should still NEVER leave your machine unattended, the xTool F1 does have an auto shut off if a flame is detected. It’s nice to have that safety feature.

In addition, since it’s fully enclosed, with a laser-proof cover, you can watch your work. Keeping in mind that this is a device that you bring to work with on-site, it’s important not to allow your customers to blind themselves by looking at the laser.

While it doesn’t have a camera to show you where you’re placing your design (a feature that I imagine would majorly up the cost of the machine), you do have a live preview that shows you where your design is placed. You can nudge it on the screen to the right spot.

Of course, the biggest features are its space-saving design and portability, which is ultimately why I chose this one. It even has a carry handle, to make moving it less awkward.

The machine base has little screw holes in it, and a corner positioner so that you can place smaller, smoother items without experiencing shift. That means that you don’t need a jig for everything, and you can batch produce many things without any extras.

Overall, the xTool F1 looks sleek and modern, with intuitive handles, ease-of-use features, switches on the back, and even a “cheat sheet” sticker on the side of the machine. It has an emergency stop button on the left side of the machine.

And it can capture incredible detail when you use the right image and settings.

A portrait of my husband’s late grandfather engraved on a black metal business card.

xTool F1 Accessories

With the F1, xTool sent me some add-ons that you can purchase with your laser engraver, or add on later. My reviews for these will be brief, but feel free to ask any questions – comment below or email me.

Slide Extension

The slide extension more than triples your work surface. This is most practical for when you want to make something larger OR when you want to batch process.

Your engraving speed will be slower, since the motor-free effect of the galvo laser is mitigated by the fact that the extension itself moves with a motor.

The surface is also a triangular prism surface ideal for cutting, and it includes a few slide-in clamps to help your materials and blanks stay in position. Setup took minutes as it was mostly assembled right out of the box.

DEFINITELY get it if you tend to process larger orders or batch process. I recommend it if you intend to engrave or cut larger items too.

RA2 Pro Rotary

The rotary extension is one that I need to learn about a LOT more. It’s got its own learning curve, loads of little features, and lots of functionality. I believe that it’s compatible with other laser engraver’s from xTool’s lineup so that is a huge plus.

The RA2 Pro basically rotates the item you’re engraving, so that you can get an all-around engrave. This allows you to engrave around a bangle bracelet or ring, or around a tumbler or ornament.

It definitely adds to the functionality for both jewelry creators and other crafters.

Set it up on the work surface, placing the insert next to the machine to stabilize it. Plug it into your machine. There is an optional support for the other side of your blank.

You can use the rollers that support the item on each side, or the chuck, which holds the item using tension. The chuck also comes with different attachments. The RA2 Pro rotary extension does require some assembly.

I don’t think it’s a must for jewelry creators unless you do a lot of personalization on rings and bangles – it is a MUST for tumbler creators. It adds an incredible amount of functionality for all crafters.

I definitely need to fine tune the settings on this one, and I had the sizing wrong – but look at the beautiful all-around engrave!

Desktop Air Purifier

One of my biggest hesitations with getting a laser engraver to begin with was the lack of an outer wall in my craft room. Laser engraving and cutting sets off smoke and fumes, and MUST be vented. And since I’m an asthmatic, it’s even more critical.

The desktop air purifier is not the best way to vent your fumes. The best way is outdoors. However, if you DON’T have that option, the desktop air purifier can be what allows you to own a laser at all.

I found it to work very well. It’s not perfect, but I do think of it as “good enough”. It connects to the air fan on the F1 (you can actually see the smoke being suctioned in) and purifies the air before allowing it out. It contains multiple levels of filtration, with a few replacements.

The replacement filters are pricey, but you can actually wash them out and reuse them a few times.

So the purifier is a must for those without a way to vent outdoors, and a bonus for better filtration for those who can. I do have an air purifier in my craft room to help as well.

Setting it up was super easy – as easy as just attaching included ducts to the correct openings.

(Make sure you choose the deluxe bundle)

Here are some things that aren’t part of any packages but you’ll want to have for using with your xTool F1:

  • Laser Proof Goggles – I don’t know why the F1 doesn’t come with these by default. Looking directly at a laser can be harmful to your eyes. While you might often work with the cover closed, you’ll also sometimes have it open (at the very least when working with extensions) and since this is basic safety, I wish it came by default. You CAN get one for free with your purchase here – just make sure to request it when you place your order.
  • Fire Extinguisher – Another thing to have handy for safety – just in case. I got a car sized one to keep in my craft room. I haven’t had to use it yet (and don’t plan to need to).
  • Digital Caliper Not a must, but a fabulous tool for if you want precise measurements, especially on smaller jewelry items. I picked one up and I’m using it heavily.
  • Jigs – These can be super helpful when batch processing. Because of the removable base of the F1, you’ll find some that fit right in and make designing the same thing a breeze, using a template.

What can the xTool F1 Do?

To know if the xTool F1 is the correct machine for you, it’s important to understand from the start what it can and can’t do.

What can the xTool F1 engrave?

This is not going to be an exhaustive list (it can engrave over 300+ materials), because that would pretty much be impossible, but these are just some examples and popular materials to engrave. Keep in mind that each brand you buy from, each finish, each exact item is different from the next.

You’ll get to know the materials you like best, which work best, as you create.

  • Stainless steel
  • Sterling Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum
  • Copper
  • Brass
  • Coated aluminum
  • Aluminum
  • Opaque acrylics excl blue
  • Slate
  • Ceramic
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Chipboard
  • Basswood
  • Bamboo
  • Leather
  • PU Faux Leather
  • Cured clay
  • Some natural stones
  • Brick
  • Food (like macarons)
  • Some fabrics like canvas and denim

xTool F1 Engraved Material tests

These are some of the materials that I tried the F1 on and how they performed.

Slate Coaster

The slate coaster that comes in the materials pack engraves beautifully. It’s a perfect starter project – and the first one I did with my machine.

Stainless Steel Jewelry

The ability to engrave jewelry is one of the big perks of the F1, and on-the-spot personalization of stainless steel blanks is a favorite craft show feature.

The Infrared laser allows beautiful metal engravings. The engraving is actually a marking and maybe a shallow etch – for a deeper engrave, you’d need a fiber laser (that costs many times the price of this one).

I tried it first using the recommended engrave settings on a medical bracelet and it made a decent mark. I then slowed it down and used the following settings on the heart pendant that came in my material sample pack: Power 100, Speed 5, and 300 lines per cm.

I got a beautiful black engraving. I will be personalizing LOTS more jewelry with this in the future!

You’ll want to do a test grid on any metals (and most materials you use) to get the look you like. You can even engrave in tinted color on metal by using a test grid to see the different effects of the different colors.

Black Cast Acrylic

Acrylic is another favorite material, and I hope to try more colors to test their engraving ability.

For now, I made simple stud earrings, engraving a rose (an xTool Creative Space included image) on it. xTools’ built-in settings for their acrylic worked beautifully. The detail is incredible.

Bamboo

I got my F1 around Hanukkah time and wanted a super easy gift I can whip out for EVERYBODY – that’ll feel special, cost very little, and be enjoyed by almost anyone of any gender or age.

I decided that fun little wooden pens with their names on them will do the trick.

Bamboo tends to have variations, and so the finish wasn’t very even, but I like the look. If you make it strong enough, it won’t matter.

I also engraved a cutting board to try engraving a larger item by removing the base plate and placing the whole machine on top of it.

Basswood

Basswood engraves much more consistently than bamboo (possibly because it’s unfinished). I made a dog tag shaped pendant to test it out, using patterns and shapes pulled from XCS.

It came out absolutely beautiful – it looks like a stain – as you can see, and I can’t wait to play with this more!

Metal Business Card

The sample pack came with something I didn’t even know exist before, but I’m super excited about as a graphic designer: metal business cards! These coated aluminum cards are super thin, and engrave beautifully.

And they’re not just for business cards!

I engraved a photo of my husband’s late grandfather on one to see the detail that the xTool F1 can engrave and it’s beautiful.

Leather

As a jewelry crafter, I HAD to play with leather. I took a piece of genuine leather from a scrap pack. It engraved very nicely. I will point out that leathers differ greatly from one another, and you’re probably best off testing small samples of any leather you plan to use.

I haven’t yet tried it with faux leather, as I’m not sure which type of faux leather my stash contains. The sample pack contains a faux leather patch, but since I don’t quite know what to do with it yet, I haven’t tested it.

Kraft Jewelry Box

Since I’m a jewelry crafter, I wanted to share specifically feedback on jewelry-style materials. I engraved a cardboard jewelry box I had hangin’ about. It did a gorgeous job. It’s a beautiful, organic way to customize packaging materials. And it goes pretty quickly. You can make yourself a jig for the lids, use the slide extension and do a few at once.

The xTool F1 might not be your number one pick if you’re looking to engrave any of the following:

  • Clear surfaces – both glass and clear acrylic aren’t considered engravable by this machine. However, there are hacks. I’ve seen people coat the glass or acrylic with a paint that can then be washed off. I haven’t tried this yet.
  • Blue surfaces – The diode laser is the same wavelength – or close to – blue materials such as acrylic, so it absorbs the light. Once again, I wonder if painting it and then washing off the paint would work – I’d like to try that sometime as well.
  • Toxic Materials – Such as PVC. Since it sets off fumes, these materials are not laser-friendly and should not be used, even with proper ventilation.

More ideas to engrave

While my list above focused on materials, I want to share some general ideas so that you can understand just how much you can craft with the xTool F1:

  • Coins
  • Tumblers
  • Addresses on Brick Walls
  • Canvas Artwork – either an outline to paint or a photo
  • Cardboard notebooks – pair them with personalized pens!
  • PU Leather jewelry cases, etc.
  • Silicone watch bands, teethers, shallow molds
  • Microfiber jewelry bags
  • Coated ornaments
  • Device cases
  • Cutlery
  • Pocket knives
  • Scratch art paper
  • Toast
  • Cookies as a decorating template
  • Cork trivets

What can the xTool F1 cut?

Once again, this is not going to be an exhaustive list, just top materials.

  • Faux leather (PU not PVC)
  • Colored acrylic
  • Basswood
  • Leather
  • Cardboard
  • Chipboard
  • Paper

xTool F1 Cut Material tests

Black Acrylic

One of my favorite features of the xTool F1 is the ability to cut black acrylic. You need to make sure you’re getting cast acrylic for this.

The stud earrings that I shared my engraving for above were also cut with the xTool F1. The cut is clean and beautiful. Be aware that if you’re cutting too far from the center, something small like this, you’ll get a noticeable angled cut.

To cut acrylic, you need to remove the backing. Cutting without doing that will result in a flame and burning your acrylic.

Basswood

The dog tag necklace I shared above was also cut using the xTool F1. It’s very easy to get a small flame, and so you don’t want to leave your project in progress ever. However, there is automatic shutoff when a flame is detected.

3mm Basswood cuts beautifully when doing simple shapes.

As part of this post, I wanted to trial more complex shapes. It can definitely cut intricate shapes, however, I haven’t mastered the settings. A big part of doing this is getting the cut settings right, so that you don’t burn your wood too much.

I’ll update this post when I see that I’ve mastered the super-intricate cut, but for now, I’m very happy with its scoring, engraving, and simpler cutting capabilities on wood

Leather

Leather is one of the trickier materials for a simple reason: it varies so greatly – in size, weight, finish, etc.

I tried cutting a scrap of green leather. I’ll be honest, I don’t know that much about leather and if it’s sometimes coated with unnatural materials, but I was not happy with the fumes it set off. That says more about the leather than the laser.

I was, however, very VERY happy with the cut, so I’ll be trying this again with other leathers.

Cutting leather also made a small flame, so definitely supervise! It’s normal, and it is really just a tiny little flame that follows the laser as it cuts (and in fact is probably what was cutting the leather…)

Who should get the xTool F1?

The xTool F1 has its strong suits and its weaknesses. It can be the perfect first machine for some people and the perfect second machine for others. And some people will do better with the S1 enclosed Diode laser or the P2 CO2 laser. So who is it right for?

xTool F1 Review in a Nutshell

Let’s recap quickly. The xTool F1 can do a LOT and packs a punch for a machine of its size, however, it is limited in its size. For people who generally stick to projects in the scope of the F1 sizing it’s all you need. For those who are limited in space and might not otherwise be able to accommodate a laser, it is the solution you’ve been asking for.

For those who often do larger projects, the size limitations are not as efficient as full sized lasers such as the S1 or P2. For those who do tumblers, its’ very easy to use with the RA2 Pro rotary attachment. And for anyone who goes to craft shows, you’ll be ten steps ahead of the competition by being able to produce things on the spot.

Back in my craft show days, I made a critical mistake: I wanted to be able to keep my sample stock, so instead of bringing jewelry to sell, I brought “display pieces” to remake for buyers. I didn’t sell a thing. Buyers often buy on impulse, or value something they can go home with. They don’t want to make an extra stop, wait (or pay) for shipping. Sometimes they need the gift quickly.

While personalization is a bit different in that people expect wait time, it’s that much cooler to not have to have it. Your customers will be pleasantly surprised, not only to WATCH the personalization process through the laser-proof cover, but to actually go home with the custom piece.

For these reasons, I think it’s the perfect choice for jewelry makers – whether as a first machine or a second.

It’s fabulous for keychains, ornaments, wallets, and many, many other smaller items as well, but for jewelry crafters I think it’s spot on.

Here’s why I think it’s the best laser engraver for jewelry makers – hands down!

I think this is the perfect blend of laser features that jewelry makers need. The Diode laser allows you to cut popular jewelry materials: leather, PU faux leather, wood, acrylic – and the black acrylic looks so elegant in jewelry. The other colors it handles are just a perk (note: it does not handle all acrylics well, and definitely not clear or blue.)

The Infrared laser handles metal engraving like a champ and allows you to to personalized jewelry like name or initial jewelry, “mom” necklaces with kids’ names/birthdays, fan jewelry, medical IDs…

The speed, laser cover, and portability allow for onsite customization at craft shows and events (think: birthday parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings).

And since the scale of jewelry is very small, even without a slide extension you’ll be able to batch produce some things. With the slide and the right jigs you can almost mass produce small items!

I love how the xTool F1 can be used for branding materials for businesses too. It’s a powerhouse tool for small businesses, especially jewelry businesses.

If you have any questions, hit me up in the comments or email me.

Got any questions on this xTool F1 review? Comment below and I’ll try to answer them asap!

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