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Should I even get a laser?

JBurn

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Jan 30, 2022
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9
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Hello everyone, this is my first post here. I’m asking for advice because I’m on the fence about even getting a laser at all.

I realized that I am now in a position where I could potentially fulfill my childhood dream of having a handheld laser that could burn things and start fires. (I used to think that 1W spyder from wicked lasers was the holy grail of handheld lasers, but I know better now).

I already have a bunch of expensive hobbies that I already can’t go very deep into because money, so I don’t want to start with a weak laser and buy a bunch working my way up to higher powers. If I buy one I’d want to go for burning power right away.

But I also understand how dangerous lasers are, especially at higher power levels. And on some level I’m scared of owning a high powered laser. I keep going back and forth between “f*** yeah I want a 1W+ laser” and being so scared of the dangers of it that I don’t think I should get one at all. I am a firearms enthusiast but the idea of a laser where one mistake, one glancing hit from a refraction or reflection could permanently blind myself or someone else, it scares me more than any of my guns ever have. Are lasers similar to guns in that they get less scary once you learn more about them and how to be safe with them?

The only prior experience I have is a roughly 5mW pen from dealextreme years and years ago, and a cheap I’d estimate <100mW rebranded 301/302/303/304 (idk which one) style laser.

If I were to get one, I would also buy a set of OD4 glasses in the appropriate wavelength from survival lasers. But I’d also want more resources on how to be safe with it beyond just wearing the safety glasses.

Thanks
 
Last edited:



wolfram

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Sep 13, 2008
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460
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First off, welcome. There is a great library of information here and a treasure trove of intellects. I hope that this thread leads you well, as others will no doubt question you regarding your vision, apprehensions, and over all intentions.
 

bostjan

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Dec 29, 2011
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289
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Why do you want a laser?

If it's to burn stuff, a lighter is cheaper and more effective. If it is for cutting, a knife is cheaper and more effective. If it's to look at the beam, a 5 mW is much much safer than a 1000 mW. If it's for doing raman spectroscopy, a lab laser will almost certainly work better.

Honestly, and ironically contrary to my presence here, I don't see why high-powered handheld lasers are as big of a thing as they are. It seems like we started with specific-function lasers, and someone made a laser pointer, then this whole hobby was born out of the question "what if we made this laser pointer comically overpowered?" and then, ever since then, the hobby has never been to complete a goal, but instead the hobby itself is the action itself of tinkering, optimizing, and the pursuit of bigger/better/different. That sort of hobby is the sort that is truly a bottomless money pit.
 

JBurn

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Joined
Jan 30, 2022
Messages
9
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I don’t really have a specific purpose or use in mind at all. I mostly just want one (and have wanted one since I was younger) for the sheer coolness of it.

I don’t at all expect to get some use or utility out of it that’s worth what I’d have to pay for it, but I’m fine with that.
 

bostjan

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Dec 29, 2011
Messages
289
Points
43
Lasers are definitely cool. Owning lasers is cool, but with great coolness comes great responsibility, at least according to some guy who used to sell rice.

But, if you have no need for a laser for any reason, you either start this as a full-on hobby, which can get semi-expensive, or you buy the finished laser, play with it for a few minutes, burn some stuff, then put it away and forget about it until years later when you want to use it to assassinate cockroaches or caterpillars for whatever reason, I guess. If either of those ideas haven't turned you off, then go for it.

If you go for it, you have a lot of options nowadays. There are some ridiculously high powered blue multimode diodes now, and the greens and violets are pretty powerful and not too much more expensive. The world is your oyster if you have a couple hundred USD laying around to burn with on lasers.

Green is the most visible, but, if you go with a 532 nm DPSS (diode-pumped solid state) laser from an untrusted source, you might end up getting something that leaks a lot of infrared, and that can be extremely dangerous. 520 nm (and also 510 or 515 nm) direct diode lasers don't have that problem, and also provide a nice colour for a reasonable price.

Like I said, blue diodes are usually the most power-to-price ratio. If you want something much more than 1W, that's going to be your option. But more power means more heat and more heat means better thermal dissipation/protection. A budget handheld will probably mitigate that by simply telling you not to power the laser on for long enough to damage it. If you want to use your laser to blast a hole in a 2x4, that run/cool cycle time won't be much fun, but if you are just getting the laser merely for bragging rights, I suppose that doesn't matter.

Red and violet lasers are almost always direct diode (I'd say that they are always direct diode in handhelds, but certainly someone out there could prove me wrong). But red isn't as stimulating to the human eye, so even if you track down a really powerful red, it'll never look as dazzling as a green. Violet is even less bright-looking. Also 1W is a bit tougher to find at those wavelengths. But violet is really cool when you shine it on something fluorescent and it lights up like nobody's business. That sort of exemplifies what I'm saying. For example, a lot of 5 mW 405 nm "pointers" are way underpowerreported, as in, you *think* it's 5 mW, and it doesn't look like it could possibly be more, because it's dimmer than even your 1 mW reds, but then you point it at a fluorescent yellow (or fluorescent green, it's the same colour, just people call it different things) safety stick or a box and it's so bright it immediately hurts your eyes and gives you a headache. Now keep in mind that the fluorescent light you saw is necessarily less powerful than the output of the laser, and it makes you wonder about the safety of the thing.

Personally, I love the 405 nm lasers, for multiple reasons that I won't bore you with; but they are probably the most dangerous out of what I listed for reasons I've touched on, and also the hazard that they can damage DNA, which means that they can make you sick if you aren't careful. For that matter, the high powered blue lasers can do similar things. It's not 100% known what the long-term effects of using them might be, but all the more reason to be very careful.

If anyone else here has anything to add or wants to contradict me, please feel free. I'm certainly not an expert compared to most of the users around these parts.
 

julianthedragon

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Jun 3, 2020
Messages
264
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How old are you? I think it's your decision and no one here can make it for you. If you're an adult just be careful, wear the appropriate OD6+ goggles, don't use it around people, animals, vehicles etc or reflective surfaces. You can purchase one with a lens cap and keylock tailcap (e.g. from JetLasers) for additionally safety. I don't think anyone here wants to jump in this thread and tell you to get a >1W laser due to the risks involved but you certainly wouldn't be the first one here to own one. Just use common sense and be careful with it, it sounds like you already are terrified of it which is a good thing. A multiwatt laser demands responsibility from the user just like that other thing you mentioned. If you just think it's cool and want to scratch it off your bucket list, then again it's your decision presuming you're of age. You could always resell or even return it if you end up not wanting to use it
 

JBurn

New member
Joined
Jan 30, 2022
Messages
9
Points
3
How old are you? I think it's your decision and no one here can make it for you. If you're an adult just be careful, wear the appropriate OD6+ goggles, don't use it around people, animals, vehicles etc or reflective surfaces. You can purchase one with a lens cap and keylock tailcap (e.g. from JetLasers) for additionally safety. I don't think anyone here wants to jump in this thread and tell you to get a >1W laser due to the risks involved but you certainly wouldn't be the first one here to own one. Just use common sense and be careful with it, it sounds like you already are terrified of it which is a good thing. A multiwatt laser demands responsibility from the user just like that other thing you mentioned. If you just think it's cool and want to scratch it off your bucket list, then again it's your decision presuming you're of age. You could always resell or even return it if you end up not wanting to use it
I am almost 26. I was eyeing a 445nm 1.6W PL-E pro from jetlasers, especially since they offer it with a key lock which I very much want.

One question I have though is is you mentioned I should use OD6 glasses, but I had used an online calculator to determine that the OD4 pair I was looking at from survival lasers should be sufficient. Also just math and my (admittedly very basic) understanding of all this a pair of OD4 glasses should reduce it by a factor of 10000, so 1600mW divided by 10000 is 0.16mW; well within the 5mW safety limit.

Am I missing something? Or were you just recommending OD6 as an extra safety margin?
 

JBurn

New member
Joined
Jan 30, 2022
Messages
9
Points
3
Lasers are definitely cool. Owning lasers is cool, but with great coolness comes great responsibility, at least according to some guy who used to sell rice.

But, if you have no need for a laser for any reason, you either start this as a full-on hobby, which can get semi-expensive, or you buy the finished laser, play with it for a few minutes, burn some stuff, then put it away and forget about it until years later when you want to use it to assassinate cockroaches or caterpillars for whatever reason, I guess. If either of those ideas haven't turned you off, then go for it.

If you go for it, you have a lot of options nowadays. There are some ridiculously high powered blue multimode diodes now, and the greens and violets are pretty powerful and not too much more expensive. The world is your oyster if you have a couple hundred USD laying around to burn with on lasers.

Green is the most visible, but, if you go with a 532 nm DPSS (diode-pumped solid state) laser from an untrusted source, you might end up getting something that leaks a lot of infrared, and that can be extremely dangerous. 520 nm (and also 510 or 515 nm) direct diode lasers don't have that problem, and also provide a nice colour for a reasonable price.

Like I said, blue diodes are usually the most power-to-price ratio. If you want something much more than 1W, that's going to be your option. But more power means more heat and more heat means better thermal dissipation/protection. A budget handheld will probably mitigate that by simply telling you not to power the laser on for long enough to damage it. If you want to use your laser to blast a hole in a 2x4, that run/cool cycle time won't be much fun, but if you are just getting the laser merely for bragging rights, I suppose that doesn't matter.

Red and violet lasers are almost always direct diode (I'd say that they are always direct diode in handhelds, but certainly someone out there could prove me wrong). But red isn't as stimulating to the human eye, so even if you track down a really powerful red, it'll never look as dazzling as a green. Violet is even less bright-looking. Also 1W is a bit tougher to find at those wavelengths. But violet is really cool when you shine it on something fluorescent and it lights up like nobody's business. That sort of exemplifies what I'm saying. For example, a lot of 5 mW 405 nm "pointers" are way underpowerreported, as in, you *think* it's 5 mW, and it doesn't look like it could possibly be more, because it's dimmer than even your 1 mW reds, but then you point it at a fluorescent yellow (or fluorescent green, it's the same colour, just people call it different things) safety stick or a box and it's so bright it immediately hurts your eyes and gives you a headache. Now keep in mind that the fluorescent light you saw is necessarily less powerful than the output of the laser, and it makes you wonder about the safety of the thing.

Personally, I love the 405 nm lasers, for multiple reasons that I won't bore you with; but they are probably the most dangerous out of what I listed for reasons I've touched on, and also the hazard that they can damage DNA, which means that they can make you sick if you aren't careful. For that matter, the high powered blue lasers can do similar things. It's not 100% known what the long-term effects of using them might be, but all the more reason to be very careful.

If anyone else here has anything to add or wants to contradict me, please feel free. I'm certainly not an expert compared to most of the users around these parts.
Thanks for the detailed reply! I was already looking at a 1.6W 445nm one, though this is still all useful information to consider.

And I figured it’ll either become a hobby, or I’ll play with it a bit and then forget about it for a while, but I am fine with that. Though I also have some friends who will also think it’s really cool, which is why I’ll be buying 2 pairs of safety glasses if I get it.
 

julianthedragon

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Jun 3, 2020
Messages
264
Points
43
Also just math and my (admittedly very basic) understanding of all this a pair of OD4 glasses should reduce it by a factor of 10000, so 1600mW divided by 10000 is 0.16mW; well within the 5mW safety limit.
I just said OD6 for extra safety and ease of mind, and because certified laser goggles are tested for the actual energy density they can withstand over a short time which I presume is higher with higher OD (someone correct me if I'm wrong). I'm not entirely sure if OD4 is appropriate but I always stick with OD6 or 7 to be safe. You should purchase from Laserglow or another reputable seller that offers a CE or OSHA certificate. You can also find an OD vs. Wavelength graph for the glasses and make sure they are the specified OD at 445nm.
 

JBurn

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Joined
Jan 30, 2022
Messages
9
Points
3
I just said OD6 for extra safety and ease of mind, and because certified laser goggles are tested for the actual energy density they can withstand over a short time which I presume is higher with higher OD (someone correct me if I'm wrong). I'm not entirely sure if OD4 is appropriate but I always stick with OD6 or 7 to be safe. You should purchase from Laserglow or another reputable seller that offers a CE or OSHA certificate. You can also find an OD vs. Wavelength graph for the glasses and make sure they are the specified OD at 445nm.
Alright I’ll look into this more. Are there any resources or other information for any other safety guidelines I should be following other than making sure myself (and anyone else in the room if applicable) are wearing appropriate eye protection and making sure I don’t accidentally hit anything reflective?
 

wolfram

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Joined
Sep 13, 2008
Messages
460
Points
43
See J, I am glad that you began this thread. I told you that good things would follow. When I was young the only exposure to coherent beams was from the augmented reality of television and movies. Oh sure lasers existed in labs- Gas, Dpss, ruby and microwave. I surely could not afford those. My first laser was a red 5mW school pointer, then a green Galileo 5 mW pointer, then I learnd how to mod Radio Shack pointers. But, I really enjoyed getting sleds out of DVD burners , and the Blue ray burners and harvesting. I thinks that you would enjoy building your own modules using low cost LPC 826 red or PHR 805 violet. It is very fun. It is what this forum used to be about long ago. But be warned......it is a very addictive hobby. One that can be very expensive. Oh don't forget, we do like to trade sometimes. Whatever you decide, please be safe and wear adequate eyewhear.
 

JBurn

New member
Joined
Jan 30, 2022
Messages
9
Points
3
See J, I am glad that you began this thread. I told you that good things would follow. When I was young the only exposure to coherent beams was from the augmented reality of television and movies. Oh sure lasers existed in labs- Gas, Dpss, ruby and microwave. I surely could not afford those. My first laser was a red 5mW school pointer, then a green Galileo 5 mW pointer, then I learnd how to mod Radio Shack pointers. But, I really enjoyed getting sleds out of DVD burners , and the Blue ray burners and harvesting. I thinks that you would enjoy building your own modules using low cost LPC 826 red or PHR 805 violet. It is very fun. It is what this forum used to be about long ago. But be warned......it is a very addictive hobby. One that can be very expensive. Oh don't forget, we do like to trade sometimes. Whatever you decide, please be safe and wear adequate eyewhear.
I'm getting a reasonably powerful one right from the start also to see if this is even something I'd want to get into further. Also I will be taking safety precautions. I had been hoping to avoid spending this much on glasses, but after doing a bunch of research, I think I'm going to just bite the bullet and get the OD7 glasses from laserglow.

Thanks for responding, and if I do start getting into it as a hobby I'll think about building one
 

wolfram

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Sep 13, 2008
Messages
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Again -Welcome aboard. Ohby the way , you may also want to check out Photonlexicon.com
 

gazer101

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Joined
Feb 23, 2020
Messages
704
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63
Buy a 1W green laser. It burns, and you can rationalize the purchase by saying you will use it for star pointing in the future. It is incredibly helpful to point out stars with a powerful laser when trying to teach your friends about astronomy
 

paul1598419

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Sep 20, 2013
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Welcome to the LPF. I am old enough to remember a time before any lasers. I saw my first laser in 1965, a ruby laser that was used by the military. I got my first laser a HeNe in 1980 which I used to make holograms with. Since then I have made or purchased many laser of all sorts of wavelengths at all sorts of optical powers. Good luck to you.
 

millirad

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Apr 28, 2009
Messages
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Welcome to the forum. There are too many easy choices. Just be safe and keep the laser away from children. Shiny/reflective surfaces will cause an eye injury very easily.
 




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