We have a lot going on this weekend and all I want to do is to try cutting the most intricate shapes I can find on my new Cricut Explore. Nearly everything that I have tried has cut perfectly the first time with no stress over settings.
It is fun to have the subscription access which allows you to see and cut many images, including some that are only sold as digital sets.
I spotted this doily in the Teresa Collins Basics set and thought "Hmmm, more small circles, tiny lines and even tinier pie shape cuts - how small can this go?"
This cut has three layers - two are simple blackout backgrounds but the top doily is very intricate. Since the basket design had cut so well on Friday, I had great confidence that this machine would handle the cut.
I sized the cut at a little over 3 1/2 inches, loaded the mat, used the cardstock setting and pushed cut. The cardstock I used is from Close To My Heart. I'd say it is a medium weight, nice and sturdy but not too thick. Here is how the doily looked on the mat after cutting.
I have been very impressed by the quality of the cuts. They seem to be more complete and very few "hanging chads" get caught in the design. You can see that nearly all of the tiny bits stayed on the mat - that only happens if the cuts are complete. I have spent plenty of time poking out tiny pieces on die cuts made by earlier machines.
There were just a few bits that I had to brush off the cut and none of them required the delicate loosening to break the sections free that you usually have to do with the older machines. The dime will show you just how small these cuts are - the little rectangles are just as impressive as the circles.
All of those little rectangles have sharp corners. You can see from this gridded ruler that the circles (perfect again - thank you Cricut!) are about 1/8th inch in diameter.
The next thing I decided to try was to draw the doily shape with all of the fine details and cut around the edges. I did not get to order a set of pens or the scoring tool when I ordered my machine (they sold out very quickly). At any rate, the pens in that set look to be the same width tip as the pen that comes in the box.
I did the suggested sample project of a drawn and cut Thank You card on Friday when I got my machine set up. The pen in the box is silver and it draws very nice lines but I wanted thin lines.
I stopped at the craft store and bought a set of these American Crafts Precision Pens (the Explore tag line is "Easy. Precise. Versatile."and I wanted a thin precise line). These pens are exactly the same size and shape as the pen that came with the machine. They appear to be made by the same manufacturer and they fit in the accessory section of the carriage perfectly.
I needed to change the doily shape to draw instead of cut. To do this, you click on the image you are working with in the layers panel and a menu flies out to the left. This is also where you change color (I hope they add a full range of colors with a color picker - this palette is very limiting). You just click on "Write" to change the lines from a cut line to a drawn line.
The doily has two mats. I hid the larger bottom mat by closing the little eyeball to the right of the image in the Layers bar. The doily itself was set to draw and then I made sure that the center layer, the mat that is just a bit larger than the doily, was centered with the doily by moving it until it looked right. (This is another feature that I find missing in the software, there are no alignment tools and they certainly would be handy!).
The next important step to keep the two images centered and together is to "attach" them. You do this by selecting both images and then right clicking and choosing "attach" from the drop down menu. "Attach" will keep the drawn shape and the background layer together so they will remain aligned as the design is first cut and then drawn. If you "Group" the images together, they will go to different mats for cutting and the position will be at the top left default so your cut line will not frame the drawn shape. The pen, in the "A" or' Accessory" carriage, drew this design perfectly.
Next, the blade in the "B" carriage cut a perfect line just a tiny bit away from the outer drawn line. The precision is remarkable. If the Print, then Cut feature that is supposed to be added later this year is this good, I will probably be using this machine for almost all of my projects.
Here is a closer view of the pen I used. It is the finest line pen in the pack - the "01" size. This will be fabulous for "handwritten" journaling on pages you design with the Explore and also for sentiments on cards.
One of the things I really like about the dual carriage is that it solves the problem of accidentally getting a mark on your paper when you are switching between pen and blade. With this system, you install the pen before you have a mat in the machine (you could put a piece of scrap paper down to project the machine itself from an accidental mark when you are inserting the pen). There is also no worry about bumping the carriage and messing up the alignment during the switch - you just press go and both the drawing and the cutting happen in the same session.
I also like the idea of using the metallic pens for writing on tags and labels. I have done a lot of print and cut labels but my home printer can't produce a true metallic shine. The possibilities are mind boggling when you start to think about ways to combine the printing and cutting of the images.
Here is one more look at the cut doily - it's truly amazing!
***Note Added June 8, 2014 - there are a number of great Cricut Explore bundles available this week on the Cricut website - you can find them HERE (these are affiliate links).
This afternoon I'll be cutting the scalloped shapes I promised to put in each of the three Blog Anniversary Boxes - oh, and also drawing the winners. Good luck to everyone - and if you don't win this time, stay tuned for a few other giveaways I'll be offering this month.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I hope you get a chance to do something crafty!
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