Crate Club policy

Their Company Logo

Christmas 2018 My wife bought me a subscription to Crate Club. What was advertised then was the stuff was American Made and it was a Monthly ship date. Well, 80% or more was Chinese made gear that I could find on Amazon. In several cases there were items that were advertised as being in these crates but were not there, such as a butane turbo lighter, twice it was listed in a crate but not present. There was useful stuff in these packages but many things were similar items, like I received 3 or 4 different flint style fire striker sets. And some were pretty useless like the round keychain folding knife. I will lay this stuff out soon so you can see what a year of Crate Club at the “Captain” level gets you. I personally believe your $359.99 could be much better spent on choice items. Another claim was military grade, well there may be an item or two that might meet that, but the majority of the crates are no where near “Military Grade”. If you pay for their “General Crates” maybe you will receive military grade and American made but not in the Captain’s Crate!

As you see in the above screen capture they say that these “box values” exceed the amount you are paying. My experience is that I could meet or beat the majority of their prices on Amazon. As most of you know Amazon is not always the cheapest place to get stuff. Here is an example below. I received this EXACT kit from Crate Club. And this is basically the price the crate cost when you figured $360 divided by 12 months equals $30. So I truly question their stated crate values. You should remember this is a retail price, not their price for the kit!

So the next thing is the fact that they sign you up for Auto-renewal when you subscribe. So we received a Notice in November 2019 that this subscription was going to renew. I went in and canceled subscription, I thought. So here we are the end of February (2020) and we still had not received the fee back on our credit card. We also had not received any “Crates” in January or February. We Contacted Sofrep which is the company that runs Crate Club, I guess. We were told, in a chat session no phone number available, that we had only canceled the autorenewal but not the subscription? So how is it you cancel the renewal but that does not cancel your subscription? Then we were told that we could not cancel Crate Club now. We were also told that the subscription had changed to Quarterly, not monthly.

So when I originally canceled this subscription all of the MONTHLY “Ship Dates” showed canceled. Each month had a red canceled sign behind it. Now it shows 5 shipments as unshipped. I wish I had taken a screen shot of that. I truly believe they decided to keep our fee even though they knew we wanted to cancel their subscription. This is really questionable business practice. I really believe you do not want to do business with this company! This is a Dishonest, at best, business.

I will lay out what I have received from them and get photos. You will see the Majority is Chinese made items in the Captains Crates. And much of it is not the quality they claim. Their posted FAQ; “We work hard to find gear made in the good ol’ US of A. However, it isn’t always possible for us to procure the amount of gear and quality we love, or timeliness of inventory delivery this way. Our main focus is to get you the best gear we can find. We, of course, prefer to work with US-owned companies as our first choice!”

This is in their FAQ’s also, but clearly they did not follow this as they made us accept the whole YEAR of Crates. Our original subscription was monthly, they changed that to Quarterly. No where in this FAQ does it state that you automatically signed up for auto-renewal. But, you will be setup for auto-renewal. Once they have your money you WILL NOT GET A REFUND FROM THEM!!! Says so in this shot from their FAQ! Not stated elsewhere.

As to reviews? They only show the glowing reviews from customers, not one negative review on their entire site. But there are Negative reviews.

Crate Club Reviews
Over the years, Crate Club has generated a loyal following thanks to their dedication to excellence, preference for American-made gear, and roots in the US Armed Forces. However, reviews online indicate that there is a healthy mix of negative and positive public opinion about the company.
With over 200,000 ‘Likes’ on their official Facebook page, you might assume that this subscription box company is universally adored. However, numerous customer testimonials and anecdotes indicate otherwise. For example, many of their social media followers have used the platform to express their displeasure with the company’s shipping times or product quality.
It is also worth noting that SOFREP Clubs, the company that owns the box brand, is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While this is not a major red flag on its own, it doesn’t help that the only two company reviews on their BBB profile are overwhelmingly negative, citing delayed shipping times and their auto-renewal policy.

Ender 3 Pro 3D Printer

The Ender 3 Pro has great prints considering it’s low price point!

Well I decided to get a new 3D Printer. After some looking and comparing I decided on the Ender 3 Pro. The price point was very good, I picked mine up from the Creality store for $214.99.

Creality Ender 3 Pro
Creality Ender 3 Pro

It was relatively easy to assemble. I took a lot longer than most say it takes to assemble. I did take my time as I have found you save yourself a lot of time and trouble not hurrying in assembly. I tried to make sure that I assembled it straight and true. Even then I found that the gantry (X axis) was sagging on one side. So after about an hour and a half I took a break. The next day I sat down and pulled the X axis apart and straightened it out, no more sag. A minor complaint here is there are no alignment pins to make sure it goes together straight and true. You line up the top of the extrusion with the top of the plates the rollers and extruders are on. BUT, if you watch it you can get it straight. I still need to go through and check the tightness of the bed rollers, there is some play that might be able to be removed.

Another thing I ran into was the filament would not feed into the Bowden tube. I followed the trouble shooting guides and solved this pretty easily. Loosen the Bowden couplers then feed in some filament. tighten the coupler in place. Do this at the hotend also. This solved the problem. After this I checked all of the factory assembled screws to make sure they were all snug.

I will not go through the whole assembly as there are numerous videos and papers on do this right. You should be able to assemble this printer, in less than 2 hours, even if you have never assembled one before. The others I have put together were a different style from Printrbot.

While buying this Printer I was not too happy it needed manual bed leveling. I am not accustomed to having to level the bed before printing. Both my prior printers (printrbots) were self leveling. They had their own challenges, like learning to set Z height in EEPROM, to get it to print. I thought bed leveling by hand would be a big pain in the rear. BUT so far it isn’t hard at all. I now can set it with a piece of paper first time, every time. But then there is my wife. She cannot set it at all. So I will probably end up with a BLTouch, or possibly an induction probe for her.

I will have to say it is easier than it looks if you follow the directions. Plus one of the videos I watched on it had a little G-code file that makes it even easier. The g-code file moves the hotend to the extent of the bed and stops waiting for your to click the LCD panel knob for the next point. Once you get the right feel for the correct resistance on a piece of paper you are right at the right height to start printing.

Once I had everything straight and the bed level I went for my first print. I went for the Cat to print from TF Card. I was surprised that it went very well. It stuck to the bed and came out very nice, lots of detail. It printed on a raft for some reason. It was very smooth and there were no anomalies in the layers. There was just a bit of blob and string at the tip of each ear.

I bought the Pro version because it had an upgraded Y axis and a upgraded Power Supply. It also had the removable build plate which I am not sure is really worth the trouble. Also the Pro version has made some small changes that covered problems with the earlier models.

Ender 3 Pro left side.

A few things that surprised me: It uses an 8 bit controller. The extruder was plastic. How Quiet this printer is! Cable management is kind of messy. Considering there are so many 32 bit boards out there and they are inexpensive I was surprised that they were not using one. And the upgrade board (1.1.5) is 8 bit also, just has quieter stepper drivers. The plastic extruder works fine but a metal one is just not much more expensive. Another surprise is that the printer is 24V. The heated bed and the Hotend heat very quickly compared to the 12V models I have.

So for $22.79 from Amazon I upgraded the Extruder to metal, To a Capricorn XS Bowden tube and it had the recommended upgrade bed springs. There is enough Bowden tube for two installs and better couplers for the tube also. This upgrade took about 20 minutes to install on the printer. I thought the kit was from Creality but it was from Comgrow which sells branded Ender printers. It was well worth the price and time to install.

Comgrow upgrade kit.
The best first upgrade especially if you plan on using flexible filaments.

There are tons of upgrades available for the Ender 3 series. Extruders, Direct Drive extruders, Hotends, Control boards, fans, build plates, Auto leveling probes,,,,,. But best of all the community has came up with dozens of printable improvements for these printers. Make sure you check which versions you print as there were many small changes between the Ender 3 and Ender 3 Pro.

Overall I am impressed by the prints I am getting from this printer. I will say it is slow compared to my other printers. I think with some tuning and tinkering I can get the print speed up quite a bit. I do plan to move to Auto Bed Leveling in the near future. And I also plan, as part of that upgrade, to move to a SKR Mini E3 V1.2 32 bit controller. I am also thinking of transitioning to a glass bed. A BL Touch or other auto Bed Leveling probe is in my future.

After several prints and cleaning the bed with Isopropyl Alcohol I started having adhesion problems with the removable bed plate. I tried some temperature settings and some bed leveling changes but still had troubles. At this time I resorted to Hairspray. Save yourself this trouble, use hairspray from the start.

I am happy with the printer. It has a great price and prints well. If you want to try out 3D Printing you could choose a worse printer to start with, but this is not one of them! I really do not think you will find a better printer for the price out there!

Future upgrades:

  • SKR Mini E3
  • BL Touch or other ABL probe
  • Printed Improvements

Added some printed upgrades to the Ender 3 Pro;

The first was an extruder knob;

Just printed and installed this parts fan duct;

In between I added this filament guide that uses the old Bowden tube and coupler;

Just added this X tensioner from Amazon. It is a bit of a pain to assemble properly. There are no included directions. Almost every piece can be assembled wrong. If it is not right the belt will not be centered in the extrusion. The smaller toothed pulley means the inner mount tensioner t-nut is right at the very end of the X extrusion. The bolt that is part of the tensioner is a Cap screw. This causes them to use a smaller toothed pulley making the belt essentially longer, a larger pulley would probably solve most of this. If they had used a button, pan or a counter sunk, they could have used a larger pulley. Or they should have made the mount longer. Assembly directions would have been appreciated. Marks on the pieces to help in assembly would have helped also. Online directions would not take that much to include. Overall it does work but could have been better designed to give more adjustment and an easier install.

Another addition is an adapter from Micro SD to full size SD card. I bought the adapter on Amazon and printed the mount for it from thingiverse.