You have received your new cutter, made a place for it on your desk, and now you need to test your new cutter to get started using it. If you need help setting up your cutter, see this document called Get Your Cutter Out Of The Box. I know you might be afraid of hurting your machine, but you don’t have to worry about that if you follow the steps provided here on how to do some test cuts. If your machine has issues, now would be the best time to discover them, while it is still under warranty, and you still have all the packing materials handy should you need to send it back to your place of purchase. I will walk you through the tests that I perform on each of my new machines as I get to know their capabilities and become familiar with what they can and cannot do. Your tests will reveal cutter accuracy, maximum cutting width, where it cuts, where cuts start, what media it cuts, and what settings work best for the types of projects you want to make.
Loading Your Mat
Before you can make some test cuts on your new cutter, you will need to load your mat into the cutter. Cutting machines designed for crafters usually include a cutting mat. The exception would be if you are cutting vinyl with a backing. Dedicated vinyl cutting machines do not require a cutting mat, because vinyl has a protective adhesive backing, through which the blade should not penetrate. Vinyl on a roll may be fed through this type of cutting machine without using a cutting mat. Multi-purpose cutters such as Pazzles, Cricut, Scan N Cut, Silhouette, KNK, and Silver Bullet are shipped with cutting mats that allow crafters to not only cut vinyl, but also to cut other media that does not have a protective backing.
The cutting mats have adhesive on them to keep the media in place as cutting progresses. The adhesive is protected with a cover that should be removed before using. Before removing the cover, mark the top side of the cover with the words “This Side Up”, as sometimes the covers are different on each side. After cutting, scrape the mat clean, wipe down the mat with non-alcohol wipes, and replace the protective cover with the correct side up. Store the covered mats flat so that they do not become warped.
Some machines such as Silhouette, KNK, and Silver Bullet allow users to cut vinyl without a mat, or to use a mat for other types of media. Other machines such as Pazzles, Cricut, and Scan N Cut require users to always use cutting mats. These machines have an auto-load mat feature. To load the mats into these cutters, simply press the edge of the mat firmly against the rollers, and press the Load button. The mat will feed into the machine automatically, and position the cutting head at the proper start position.
Test Using A Pen
Cutting mats vary greatly in thickness, stiffness, and weight. It is possible for an incorrectly set machine to cut all the way through a cutting mat, and thus ruining both the mat and blade. For this reason it is important to do test cuts on your cutter. Your first tests may be done using a pen in the carriage instead of a blade. You can use paper on the mat for doing these tests. Use an inexpensive piece of 12″x 12″ paper or card stock on the mat for the initial tests. Because the adhesive on new mats can be quite strong, card stock may be easier to remove from the sticky mat than light weight paper. Align the corners of the paper on the grid lines printed on the mat, and press the paper firmly in position. Check your pen to make sure it writes by hand. Place the pen in the carriage according to the Quick Start instructions provided with the machine. Load the mat into the machine. Some machines require an optional pen holder for using pens.
The first test cut is to find out the cutting boundaries of the machine. The cutting mat is marked to hold a 12″x12″ piece of paper, but some machines cannot cut the full 12″ width. The manual for your cutter should indicate the maximum cutting width for your machine. Open the software designed to work with your cutter.
Add a square from the basic shapes in your software and resize it to 12″ square. Line up the upper left corner of the square on the screen to x=0 and y=0. Set the software to draw. Send the file to cut. If there are presets for drawing pressure, use the default setting. If your cutter will draw a full 12″ square, notice where the square was drawn. Did it draw directly on the edges of the 12″ square paper? Did it draw any of the lines way off of the paper? Where did the drawing start – upper right or upper left? Lower right or lower left? Measure the drawn lines. Did the height of the square measure the same as the width of the square?
If your machine will not test cut a full 12″ width, you will receive an error message. Resize your square to 11.5″, and send it to the cutting window. If there are presets for drawing pressure, use the default settings. If the square is drawn on the paper, check to see where the square was drawn. Did it draw where you expected it to be drawn? Where did the drawing start? Measure the drawn lines. Did the height of the square measure the same as the width of the square?
How accurate are your test cuts ?
Resize your square to 10″. Send it to draw. Measure each of the sides of the square that were drawn. Are all sides exactly the same measurements? Measure with a metric ruler. If your measurements are off even 1 mm, you will get lopsided circles, scallops, squares, and cards and frames won’t be perfectly square. If you want to cut around printed images precisely, you will need accurate cutting.
Are there options in your software or on your machine to fix this problem? Are perfect cuts important to you? Every machine is mechanically different. I may get perfect test cuts on my machine, but your machine of the same brand may not have the same results. Contact support for the company from which you made your purchase for help in making adjustments for these mechanical differences. One company that I contacted provided instructions for adjusting the step size to fix the inaccurate cutting. Another company told me that if I needed perfect cuts, that I should probably send the machine back for a refund, and purchase a more professional machine.
Where will cuts be made?
Now, resize your square to 1″, and duplicate it so that you have four 1″ squares. Place the upper left corner of one of the squares at x=1″ and y=1″ . Place another at x=10 and y=1, another at x=1 and y=10, and the last at x=10 and y=10. Send it to draw. Did the squares all draw at the precise locations on the cutting mat where they appeared on the screen? It is possible that one of the squares drew in the correct place, but perhaps ones that were further away from the starting point were not drawn as close to their screen positions. Make note of your test results .
It is important to note how far off the shapes were drawn. You will frequently need to cut scraps. Knowing where to place the design pieces on the screen in the software to correspond with the location of the scraps on the cutting mat can help you maximize the accuracy of your cuts. If a design calls for six or eight small pieces of different colored papers, you may be able to position pieces of each of the colored papers on the mat in specific locations to have all of the pieces cut in a single pass.
If your 1″ squares all drew within 1/2 inch on the mat from where they appeared on the screen, allowing an extra inch in height and width of paper for each design piece to cut on a scrap should be sufficient. For example, if you want to cut a 2″ flower from a scrap of yellow paper, you may need to use a 3″x 3″ piece of yellow paper on the mat to have a little extra room to get the flower cut out completely. But if your squares all drew precisely on the mat where they appeared on the screen, you may be able to use a scrap just slightly larger than 2″. It helps to have an idea in advance of how much variance there is between screen and mat locations.
Test Cuts With a Blade
For optimal cutting with the least waste of media, and the least wear and tear on blades and mats, small test cuts should be made prior to cutting each project. Some software has built in test cuts, and some machines have built in test cut functions. You can make your own small test cut file to use and add it to your projects before sending them to cut. I like to use a small, five-pointed star inside of a small square. I resize the square to about 1/2″, grouping it together with the star. This small cut can be added to a tiny bit of unused space on every project. It is easiest to check your test cuts if you place them somewhere near the bottom of the mat rather than near the top where they will be difficult to check without unloading the mat or moving the carriage.
Start with a bit less than the recommended blade extension, speed, and cutting pressure or “force” for your first test cuts. Your goal will be to use the least amount of blade extending from the blade housing, and the least amount of pressure necessary to make good clean cuts through the media you are using for your project. Too much blade, or too much pressure will cause media to bunch and tear. Too little blade or not enough pressure will result in parts of the design not cutting through the media.
After doing your test cut with the tiny star in a box, check the points of the star. Does the star lift out of the box easily and cleanly? Are the points of the star bunched or smooth? Is the box cut cleanly so that it lifts out of its position? Did the cut leave a small attached tag between the start and end of the cut? Did the cut leave a gouge in the cutting mat? If both pieces of the test cut do not lift out easily, then move the test shape, make adjustments in blade or pressure, reduce the speed, and try again.
It is normal for the blade to leave a slight scratch on the surface of the mat, but it should not cut deeply into the mat. Retract the blade in its holder if it has cut too deeply into the mat. Slower speeds produce more accurate cuts. Repeat the test cuts multiple times, each time making a small adjustment. Once you have found a blade depth that cuts cleanly through your media, you can make additional adjustments in the pressure, up or down as necessary.
Record the Results of your Test Cuts
Use a chart to record the best settings you used for each media type. Refer to your chart to determine the best settings to start with the next time you need to cut a similar media type. Get a free copy of the Personal Media Settings Chart from the Free Library.
Doing test cuts can save you lots of time, money, and frustration. Recording the results of your test cuts will save you time for future reference. Environment, changes of media type or color, blade condition, and mat condition can all effect the quality of your cuts. Make test cuts and necessary adjustments frequently to avoid damaging your blades, mats, and media.
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You were so excited to purchase a new electronic cutter so you could start creating fabulous projects. Is that Cricut, Cameo, Scan N Cut, Pazzles, Klic N Kut, Silver Bullet, or other fine cutter still sitting in its unopened box? It is time to get your cutter out of the box! Don’t let the warranty expire on your machine before you even have a chance to use it! Do you need some help getting started using your cutter? Do you want to make some of those lovely projects you have been admiring for so long? I have helped many crafters get their cutters out of the box, set up, and started using them. If you live near me in the Pacific Northwest, you might want to come for a visit. Or perhaps you can attend a class that I am teaching in your area. Alternatively, the following tips can help you get started. You can begin to create some of the projects you envisioned when you invested in your cutting machine.
I was frightened to take my cutter out of the box when I first received it, about 13 years ago. It took me 4 months to actually start using it! Some private help from the company who sold me the cutter gave me courage to get my cutter out of the box. Perhaps you don’t have the advantage of hands-on help where you are. If not, I hope I can help you a bit here to get you started. Here are some steps to help motivate you get your cutter out of the box, and set up. Then you can get started using it for some creative and fun crafting!
Prepare a Space for your Cutter .
While you are waiting for your new cutter to arrive, decide where you will be putting it once it arrives. This is a great time to prepare a space for your cutter. You need a space as wide as your cutter, and about 36 inches deep. Your machine can sit on a desk, or under a shelf on your desk. Leave some room behind and in front of it to allow the cutting mat to move in and out of the machine smoothly without interference. If you don’t have room on your desk, you can set up a sturdy table, stand, or rolling cart behind or beside your desk. Cutters equipped with bluetooth may be used further from your desk after you get it set up. You will find it much easier to get bits of crafting done if you don’t have to worry about taking care of these details each and every time you want to create something. You will use your cutter more if it is within arm’s reach of your computer work space, plugged in, and ready to use.
- Prepare a place for your cutting supplies near your cutter. Having a shelf above the cutter could be a workable solution. Do you have some space under or near the table, stand or rolling cart where you can keep your cutting supplies? You will need a place for your mats, blades, and frequently used tools. Mats need to be stored flat. I keep my covered mats stacked neatly on top of my drawer cubes. Get the free list of Five Must-Have Cutter Crafting Tools in the Free Library.
- Learn while waiting for delivery day. You can watch some unboxing YouTube videos . Find the company’s support page, join some cutter support groups, and learn about your new purchase. Unboxing videos will help you to warm up to the idea of getting your cutter out of the box, and become friendly with the possibilities waiting for you with this new tool.
- Delivery Day! Think about why you purchased this machine in the first place as you head toward that box. Place the box on a large table with room for all of its contents.
Unpack the Box
. You can use scissors, a box cutter or knife to cut through the packing tape and open the box. There is another box inside of the shipping box, so you don’t have to worry about damaging the machine when you are opening this outer box. You may see a packing list which you can check as you unpack the contents of the box.
- Remove the inner box from the shipping carton. You may need help pulling it out. It may be easier for you to get the inner box out by turning the carton on its side or upside down to pull the outer box off.
- Open the inner box. The cutting mat is often wrapped loosely around the body of the machine. Take it out and allow it to lie flat while you unpack the remainder of the box contents.
- Remove packaging. The machine is wrapped in plastic foam or bag to protect it from moisture during transit. Remove this wrap and other packing material used to stabilize the machine during shipment. Save all packing materials. If you ever need to ship your machine for service or repairs, etc., it will be much easier to ship if you have the original packing materials.
- Look for the “Quick Setup” instructions that are most likely near the top of the box. This will guide you through each step of setting up your new machine. Continue unpacking the contents of your box, to make sure everything is present that you will need. Your Quick Start Guide will list everything that should be in the box.
- Power Cord and Converter Box. The converter box may look like many others that you have around the house. However, this one is unique to this cutter. Do not use other power supplies intended for other cutters or devices, as not all electronic devices have the same input and output power ratings. Use some tape to label these cords with the cutter name to avoid confusion in the future.
One end of the black cord plugs into a surge protector strip, and the other end plugs into the black box. You should invest in a surge protector power strip if you don’t already have one, in order to protect your machine from sudden surges of power that could destroy your machine.
- USB Cable If your cutter connects to a computer via USB, it probably shipped with an A toB USB cable, similar to one that a printer uses. One end of the cable plugs into the cutter, while the other plugs into a USB port on your computer. Plan to use a primary USB port on the back of the computer, rather than an auxiliary port or hub. If a hub becomes necessary, use only a self-powered hub. Even if your machine is equipped with blue tooth wireless technology, you may still need a USB cable when first setting up your machine. Check your instructions and follow the recommendations for setting up the machine and software used to run it.
Software – If your cutter purchase included software, there may be a software CD in the box. Some companies provide software downloads in lieu of an installation CD. Software frequently requires updates, so even if you do have an installation CD, you will need to install software updates once your machine is set up. If there is a registration number in or on the CD packaging, be sure to put that number in a safe place. Be sure to register your machine and software with the company. This software has the License Key number on the back of the CD envelope.
- Don’t let your warranty run out without doing some test cuts on your new machine. There should be a warranty document included in your box. Take a look at that to see if you have any warranty time left, if you delayed in opening your box. Most electronic cutters come with a one-year warranty. If that time is drawing short, you should plan to dive right in to using your cutter as soon as possible! There is likely a warranty registration card. You should definitely register your machine right away, either by sending in the card, or registering its serial number online with the company.
Find and record the Serial number on your machine. You will need this number to register your cutter. It is usually found on the bottom of the machine.
- Remove packaging Tape. Moving parts of your cutter may have been taped down for protection during shipping. Your quick setup instructions should direct you to locate the positions of the tape or other packing materials, so that you can remove it before starting to use your craft cutter.
- Insert the cutting blade into the blade holder, and insert the blade holder properly into the carriage on the cutting head. The blade should barely be peeking out from the end of the blade holder for most cutting purposes.
Be sure to position the blade holder in the carriage so that the depth setting is visible from the front of the machine. This will make it easier to make adjustments to blade depth without having to remove the blade holder from the carriage.
Plugging in your Cutter
- Take a look on the machine to find the power port. The USB port will be located near the power port. Plug in the power cord to the converter box. Plug the other end of the power cord into the machine, and plug in to a power source. Don’t turn the power on until you are directed to do so by the instructions that came with your machine.
- You may find some extras in your box such as sample materials to cut, depending on the machine package that you purchased.
- Install the software that will be used to drive your machine as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions. Some cutters use online software, while others come with stand-alone software that you will install on your computer. Some also have apps for your mobile devices. Go ahead and get the software loaded on your computer and/or your mobile device.
- Once you get your cutter power plugged in and get it to connect with your computer or mobile device, you may be directed to do some firmware updates. Most cutter manufacturers provide updates for the machines they produce. You may need to access the most recent Firmware updates for your machine online. Firmware is the programming that is built in to the machine. The update process is usually simple, and often it runs automatically. During the software installation process, the drivers necessary for your computer to communicate with your cutter will be installed as well.
Get Support if Needed
- Don’t let this process get in the way of setting up your machine. You can always contact the company from which you purchased the machine for direct help in setting it up. Don’t be afraid to call them, email them, fill out a support ticket on their web site, or post your questions in online forums. Even if your machine is now out of warranty, most companies are willing to provide the help you need to get your machine and software up and running.
You now have your cutter out of the box, set up and ready to use! Don’t forget to grab your free list of Five Must-Have Cutter Crafting Tools from the Free Library, and get them in their new home near your cutter. Then you are ready to move on to making some test cuts and get started on making some of those great projects you have envisioned!
Would you like to have the free list of Five Must-Have Cutter Crafting Tools as well as some FREE SVG cutting files for a variety of projects?
Get the password for the Free Library with free SVG files by filling out this form:
Would you like to make a lovely Floral Gift Box for someone special in your life? That someone is sure to be wowed by a lovely handmade creation such as this. After making this floral gift box, topped with this special heart flower, I filled it with chocolate bon-bon candies, and gave it to my Step-Mother as a birthday-Valentine’s gift. She absolutely loved not only the chocolates, but she also appreciated the handmade heart flower that I used instead of a bow to decorate the top of the box, as well as the lovely box that she can now use to hold jewelry or other small household items.
The floral gift box has a magnetic closure to keep it closed. You might want to decorate your floral gift box with more masculine papers for male recipients. The flower may be used to decorate other DIY projects such as cards, frames, scrapbooks and more. You could even make an entire bouquet of these flowers and place in a vase for some lovely home decor.
You can make this box out of ordinary cardstock, which cuts nicely on electronic cutters such as Pazzles Vue or Inspiration, Cricut, Silhouette Cameo, Scan N Cut, KNK Zing, Zing Orbit, or Force, Silver Bullet, or other cutters that have software that can use SVG, AI, or WPC file formats. The heart flower ornament can be cut out of cardstock or from lighter weight paper. I used some lovely iridescent text weight paper for mine.
Illustrated, printable, step-by-step assembly instructions accompany the cutting file, to make the assembly process quick and easy. It amazes me that we can make such gorgeous gifts out of something as mundane as paper! Do you need a box for a gift for a special occasion coming up soon? The box measures about 3.5 inches square, and it is 1.5 inches high, making it a perfect size for a watch, jewelry, a special sweet treat, as well as a gift card. I hope you will give it a try for an upcoming occasion.
This is my most recent Pazzles Design Team Project. It is both a card and a mini album! I gave this to my husband for Valentine’s Day. He gets to select the photos he wants to display, and I will add them to the panels for him. You can see all of the details here. https://www.pazzles.net/wordpress/2018/02/12/sweetheart-mini-shutter-album
The cutting files are posted in SVG, WPC, and AI formats, for free download for all Pazzles Craft Room members. Those who are not members may purchase the cutting files.
It took all day, but I finally was able to start my very first blog. I am looking forward to getting things set up here soon!
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