A Cutting Commentary: Blades!
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Even as a child I would complain about "dull scissors". Remember those imposter scissors they gave us to use in elementary school? Rounded ends, no real blade edge, simply pieces of cheap metal shaped to look like a pair of scissors. Those scissors created nothing but frustration in my hands! Now, these many years later, I rejoice in being able to select and use paper cutting tools that actually cut paper! Since we can select the cutting tools we want to use as adult crafters, why do some people still buy dull or inefficient blades? I think it is because they don't know what options are out there (just like me when I first was learning)!
This blog post looks briefly at various paper cutting options. From traditional scissors to die cut options to cutting plotters. I will tell you about some of my favorites and the reasons why they made my list.
Let's start with the obvious: scissors! When thinking about cutting paper, "scissors" is probably the first thing that pops in your head. Scissors are a necessity in paper crafting. We cut not only paper, but foam parts, acetate, ribbon, twine, fabric... all those things we want to add to our paper crafts. But how do we pick out our scissors? I am a believer in "the right scissors for the right job" theory. I don't know if that is a real theory, or if I made it up, but for the purpose of this discussion let's go with it.
For cutting straight lines I've been using my Cricut Trimmer regularly for just under a year and the blade is still sharp (although I keep a standby blade on hand for that eventual day when it needs replacing). It is affordable and works great. Word of warning, don't reach over to pick up the trimmer by the rail, you run the risk of puncturing your thumb and that really hurts... for like a week! Always pick your paper trimmer up by the base, lesson learned.
I also keep my Fiskars 8 Inch Razor-edge Softgrip Scissors on my craft table for general cutting (ribbon, string, fabric, acetate, etc.) They fit nicely in my hand and have stayed sharp for a very long time.
What about cutting adhesives? I have my non-stick micro-tip scissors from Close To My Heart, perfect for cutting foam tape, or anything sticky. I prefer to use these non-stick scissors for this purpose because not only are they sharp, but it is also easy to clean any residual adhesive off of them.
For fussy cutting paper, I use my Close To My Heart micro-tip scissors. My hubby knows these scissors are off limits as general purpose scissors (No Willis, you may NOT use these scissors to cut plastic wire binders!). These scissors do not leave my paper crafting work area! I love these little scissors because they fit nicely in my hand and maneuver great around delicate little corners. Also, their sharp tips are great at snipping those tiny attached "chads" sometimes left behind when using intricate dies.
It is also handy to keep a hobby blade within easy reach at your crafting table. What you use is often a choice of what feels best in your hand. Lots of paper crafters like using a X-ACTO 1 Knife, Z Series With Safety Cap because it is easy to control and is a nice quality blade for the price. Generally though, in all honesty, I tend to grab one of the inexpensive snap-blade utility knives often found at the check-out counter at Harbor Freight whenever I am tagging along on one of my hubby's shopping trips.
Speaking of inexpensive...when I first started paper crafting I bought a set of those plastic scissors with the various geometric edges. The first time I used them I was reminded of those horrible elementary school scissors I mentioned at the beginning of this post. In frustration I shoved them to the back of my crafting table where they remain today. I admit, I do occasionally dig one out when I am making a gift tag, or some other small cut, and I'm too lazy to get out my edging dies, but it takes holding your paper and scissors "just right" to make them cut like they should and they are almost more effort than they are worth.
This leads me to die cutting. Being the "paper lover" that I am, I often find myself wandering through the professionally die cut paper options in craft stores simply to take in the marvel of all that is paper. There are so many fun paper shapes and they spark my imagination, but buying ready-made die cut paper shapes is limiting because you can't always select the paper/color/texture and they are a bit pricey. On the other hand, if you have your own die cutting machine and buy your own metal dies you can cut out a nearly unlimited variety of paper shapes/colors/textures to match your crafting needs.
Yes, the metal dies are often a bit pricey, too, but I look at them as an investment. Once you own the die you can cut that shape in any number, texture, and color you choose. Tip: Be careful about the quality of some "no-name" dies. I was browsing the web one day and stumbled across some snowflake dies ... 5 different snowflakes in the set for only $4.00... and I thought "Wow! That's a deal!" When they finally arrived (it took four weeks for them to get to me) only three of them "sort of" worked. The two that didn't work at all were so flat and flimsy they couldn't cut the paper. So I always suggest that when it comes to dies you stick with the better known brands who have built a reputation and have a customer service department who want you to have a good die-cut experience.
The actual die-cutting machine I use is a Cricut Cuttlebug. It not only cuts but I can use it for embossing, too. I buy all different name-brands of dies and, so far, they all work great in my Cricut Cuttlebug.
If you aren't ready to buy a die cutting machine, you can do a bit of die cutting using punches. Punches don't offer the same flexibility as a die cutting machine but there are some cute or helpful punches to be found out there. Once punch I use extremely often is my corner rounder. I also have the Fiskars 01-005505 Lever Punch, Small, Value Pack and use both the shapes and the negatives in this threesome often.
If you want to go "big guns" you may want to invest in a cutting plotter. I own a Cricut Explore Air. Of course, Cricut has since come out with a Cricut Maker, which is an amazing machine, and if today I were buying my first cutting plotter I might buy the Cricut Maker. Not only can the Maker cut paper, but it can more easily cut fabric, and they are even coming out with a blade for it that will cut wood! However, since I am a paper crafter and don't really need to cut fabric, I am perfectly happy with my Explore Air. Any fabric embellishments I want to add to my scrapbooks or cards I simply use my scissors to cut. Note: I will be posting some future blogs with instructions on how to use a Cricut Explore Air, so if you have one stuck in the back of your closet do dig it out and dust it off so we can have some fun together with it. If you don't have a Cricut Explore Air you may want to check out this great deal: Cricut Explore Air™ Machine + EVERYTHING Starter Set
So that about sums up this discussion of blades and cutting. If you have been to my Supply Lists page and read my posts on paper and adhesives then you are probably ready to start diving into some fun actual "how-to paper craft" postings! I agree with you, the funnest part is the creation part, so let's get to creating in the upcoming blogs.
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Happy Paper Crafting!