Life is full of experiments, not mistakes. This holds true especially when you are embarking on a cutting project with new-to-you materials. All the material setting charts, tips and tricks are but starting points on your artistic journey. To be successful with your machine, you must give yourself permission to make a few mistakes and use up some material to get the best results. Today’s project was a prime example of this truth and here is the tale of my journey.
My daughter is a new theatre teacher and she wanted some unique and durable hall passes for her students. She initially thought of laminated cardstock passes that would be hung from a lanyard. I designed a playful twist on the iconic Playbill magazine for her hall pass. Time spent = 3 hours
Version 1 – Printed on cardstock and laminated was the easiest, but the least durable. The thinner the cardstock, the less rigid the pass. Thicker cardstock did not seal well along the edges of the lamination. Time spent = 1 hour
- Decided to use a plastic for the pass base and adhere the design to it. The pass needed to be double sided with a white base, but where to get a suitable plastic sheet material in one day? (did I mention I only had a weekend to produce this?) After stops in 4 stores both hobby and home improvement, I resigned myself to a For Sale sign from Lowes. The plastic is rigid but not too thick to be cut with my cutter. Problem was there is only a 5” x 20” space of white on the sign, so there is a great deal of waste. (I may be able to use the leftovers in another project that is one sided.) Time spent shopping = 4 hours.
- I have since found several sources for this plastic, white ASA Styrene, online. Mainly from model building companies.
- This plastic was a breeze to cut on my KNK Maxx Air. Time spent cutting = 1 hour.
- Any material I printed the design on would need to be water and smudge resistant. I had found some Silhouette Clear Sticker Paper and some Water Slip Decal paper that was ink jet printable last time I cleaned my office, so I thought I would try them. Both materials printed nice and bright, cutting however proved to be a bear. The clear sticker paper was thick, more like a craft plastic instead of a vinyl. I started with a vinyl cut setting and eventually worked my way up to the same settings I use for .007 craft plastic. A range of force from 42 to 140. The decal paper was a little easier, but still much more force and blade exposure than I anticipated. Time spent = 3 hours and double the materials needed.
- After adhering these units to the base they needed to be water proofed. The decal paper came with its own special spray, which did not spray so I tossed that material. For the clear sticker paper, this meant the arduous process of spraying several light coats of clear epoxy on both sides and waiting 30 mins in between each coat to dry. I confess I am not very good at spray painting, too much and it runs, too little and no coverage. I was not pleased with the results. Time spent = 3 hours
- There has got to be a better way that takes less time and no waterproofing! Woke up the next day and started over. Sent husband to the store for more plastic and tested more materials. Then it hit me, Ink Jet Transparency film. A material that is not commonly seen in stores anymore since the rise of digital projection, but still available. I have quite the inventory of it as it makes great fussy cutting templates for quilt piecing units.
- You print in reverse on the treated side of the transparency, so the ink is protected by the plastic. Flipped my Print and Cut project and cut using the same settings as I do for thin .007 craft plastic.
- Since the transparency is crystal clear with no backing sheet, you need to slip a white piece of paper underneath your mat to be able to see the registration marks for the Print and Cut process.
- After cutting, I ran the cut shapes through my Xyron sticker machine to apply permanent adhesive on the back of the units.
- Adhered to the plastic bases, making sure to brayer and squeegee any air bubbles out. Time spent = 3 hours
I spent a total of 15 hours over 2 days on this project. I went through 2 -3 times more material than what was needed for the actual end product. Seems excessive for such a simple thing, right? But that whole time, I was learning about new materials and machine settings, problem solving until I had a product that I know will stand up to daily use.
And that is how it is in life, you learn by doing, to not try or give up at the first setback means you never get anywhere or achieve your dreams. So, don’t fear your machine. Keep trying and testing, give yourself permission to make mistakes, because they are just experiments, not failures!
ASA Styrene Sheet – I used the For Sale sign, but blank sheets can be sourced online. White Styrene Sheets .020
Xyron Sticker Machine
Maxx Air Settings
Force = 125, Speed = 300, Passes = 1, Blade Height = 25