Ensuring that the 3D printer is set up correctly is the first step in obtaining successful prints, as even a slight error can throw the 3D printer’s calculations off during the printing process and cause the printing process to fail or produce a defective product.
Bed leveling, in particular, is a part of the setup process that causes the majority of the issues, both due to how heavily an unlevel bed can impact the printing process and due to how challenging it can become to level the bed correctly in a consistent manner.
Today, we will have a tutorial on leveling the bed of an Ender 3, specifically with a tool called a feeler gauge, which allows the manual leveling of the print bed in an optimal way that will prevent you from having issues related to the levelness of the bed down the line.
So, how can you optimally use a feeler gauge to level the bed of your Ender 3?
To your Ender 3’s bed with a feeler gauge, start by loosening the leveling knobs on all corners, pre-heating the nozzle and the bed, homing the printhead, and disabling the steppers.
Afterward, place the feeler gauge with the thickness of your choice (which should correspond to the first layer height you use) on a corner, bring the nozzle on top of the feeler gauge, and tighten the leveling knob until the feeler gauge sits tightly between the nozzle and the build plate. Repeat for all four corners and the center.
Next up, we will go deeper into the process of utilizing a feeler gauge to level the bed of an Ender 3, examine the purpose of a feeler gauge in better detail, look at alternative ways of leveling the bed without a feeler gauge, and finally, compare using the feeler gauge to the classic paper bed leveling method.
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How to Use a Feeler Gauge to Level the Bed of an Ender 3 (Pro/V2)?
A feeler gauge is a handy tool to have at hand if you aren’t using an automatic bed leveling sensor, such as the BLTouch, to level the bed of your Ender 3, as it offers a highly consistent way of getting the bed leveled correctly.
Below is a detailed step-by-step guide you can use to use a feeler gauge to level the bed of your Ender 3 quickly and consistently:
- Start by loosening all four leveling knobs below the print bed of your Ender 3 to bring all four corners of the bed to their natural position.
- Heat the nozzle and the bed to the temperatures you usually utilize for the filament you will be printing with to create the same conditions as the printing process.
- Use the Auto Home feature of your Ender 3 to bring the printhead to the zero position.
- Disable the steppers to be able to move the printhead freely again.
- Place the feeler gauge with the thickness that matches the first layer height value you will be using on one of the corners of the print bed.
- Place the nozzle right above the feeler gauge.
- Tighten the leveling knob that belongs to the corner you are currently working on until the feeler gauge is gripped tightly between the bed and the nozzle.
- Repeat steps 5 to 7 for all the corners and the center of the bed.
As you can see, leveling the bed with a feeler gauge is no different than the paper method, as the only thing that changes is the usage of the feeler gauge instead of the standard piece of paper.
Can You Level the Bed of an Ender 3 (Pro/V2) Without a Feeler Gauge?
We can consider a feeler gauge to be a rather specific tool that you may not have at hand if you are freshly starting with 3D printing, which may make you wonder whether it’s possible to get your Ender 3’s bed level without one.
It’s entirely possible to level the bed of your Ender 3 without a feeler gauge, as the feeler gauge, similarly to an automatic bed leveling sensor, is an improvement that will make the bed leveling process quicker and more consistent, but not a necessity by any means.
If you currently don’t have access to a feeler gauge, you can still use the standard method of leveling the bed with a piece of paper and obtain a successful final product from the printing process without any issues.
Is a Feeler Gauge Better than Paper for Leveling the Bed of an Ender 3 (Pro/V2)?
Using a feeler gauge or a paper are the two of the most common methods of manually leveling the bed of an Ender 3, with both methods offering advantages and disadvantages of their own that one should consider.
We can consider a feeler gauge to be a much better tool than a piece of paper for leveling the bed of your Ender 3, mainly because it comes with many different thicknesses that allow you to reliably level the bed in line with the first layer height you will be using for the printing process.
While the paper method works well enough as long as you’re careful, especially if you’re planning on using lower first layer height values due to the paper having a thickness that falls between the range of 0.05 mm to 0.1 mm, the feeler gauge is definitely a worthy pick up for the long-term.
On the other hand, the only downside we can think of for utilizing a feeler gauge is the initial cost of obtaining it, and considering that a feeler gauge is a relatively cheap tool, especially for the benefits it brings, it’s a minor one if at all.
Investing in a feeler gauge and learning how to use it to level your Ender 3’s bed will definitely be a worthy addition to your 3D printing experience if you aren’t planning to install an automatic bed leveling sensor on your 3D printer.
To quickly recap, using a feeler gauge to level the bed of your Ender 3 is not much different from using the standard paper method, with the only difference being that the feeler gauge offers a much more precise measurement that directly matches the first layer height you will use.
Considering that inconsistencies in bed leveling are always a significant problem in 3D printing, we highly recommend picking a feeler gauge up if you already aren’t using an automatic bed leveling sensor, such as the BLTouch, to level the bed of your Ender 3.
Mike started his 3D printing journey with the Anet A8 when it first came out back in 2017, and has been obsessed with 3D printers ever since. Nowadays, he primarily uses his Ender 3 to print functional parts that make his life more convenient whenever possible.