Digital Craft Cutting
Colin at blackcatcutters.com was Dawns partner, he is attempting to take over the company that Dawn has spent all her time and effort to develop.
To this end, Dawn and her international retailers have decided to launch a new cutter which has equal or better specifications than the blackcat range, they will be manufactured in the same factory and will only be available from Dawn and her approved retailers.
Claims that Dawn is no longer a UK distributor and unable to obtain spares to honour warranty repairs etc are completely untrue, however Colin is hell bent on destroying the reputation that Dawn has created, he is unable/ unwilling to put the in effort needed to offer a support system even close to that which Dawn offers, in fact his idea of support was to steal the entire content of the Blackcat learning centre website created and produced by people who are not in any way a part of the blackcat company. Even in this endeavourer he was unable to get it right and posted it on his own website in a non working state!
If you are interested in a blackcat cutter, or the upcoming new machine which will be as good if not better, then please contact Dawn at http://www.thymegraphics.co.uk and discuss the matter with her. The support system is 75% of the cutter and Dawn has complete and utter control of that, trust me when I say you will severely regret buying a cutter from blackcatcutters.com
The new Phoenix Silver Bullet Pro has been launched on the world!
While the Cougar is still a bloody fine cutter I have to say that the Phoenix Silver Bullet Pro is much better! It is faster, stronger, quieter, more accurate and cuts cleaner. In short it is nothing short of spectacular.
For my review of this machine and details of where to buy worldwide check out my Phoenix Silver Bullet Pro Review
The comments section is beginning to look like I am a sales person.. Let me just make it clear that I am not and I have no connection with the people who do sell them other than I own a machine and I help to run the Thyme Machines forum as a volunteer. Therefore the obvious enthusiasm I have for the Silver Bullet Pro is purely because as a user I am still constantly amazed at how good it is every time I use it, I will get the same amount of money recommending a Wishblade as I do recommending a Silver Bullet – £0.00
My latest fad is a Digital Cutter so I though I would put a dedicated page on line so anyone interested can find my cutting files and other stuff easily.
I started out with a Craft Robo cutter, which I found to be just a little too limiting with the materials it can cut. It is fine for most light craft work but I found it was just not up to cutting some of the thicker materials I wanted to cut so I have replaced it with a 15 inch BlackCat Cougar which is a much more capable machine.
I can also promise you that the before/ after sales service you will obtain from Dawn at Thyme Graphics is absolutely second to none! If you have any problems or any need to contact her you can be assured of a reply on the support forum within minutes, day or night, I don’t think she ever sleeps! If that is not enough for you then fear not, if Dawn cannot help you via the forum/ email she will talk you through the problem on the phone and if all else fails even take control of your computer via remote connection and take you through it on your own computer. I cannot stress strongly enough how superb the support from Thyme Graphics is!
The BlackCat Cougar cutter is every bit as good as the support, it has a cutting force of 950 grammes with 255 adjustable steps and a cutting speed of up to 600mm/s both of which can be changed in the software or directly on the machine LCD display. You can even pause the cutting and change the cutting force and speed on the fly. If your cut settings were not quite right you can simply make adjustments to the blade length, adjust the force, and hit the repeat button to cut again over the original cut – No wasted material.
Cougars come in various cutting widths from 13 inches to 24 inches and unlike some other cutters on the market that is the actual cutting width not the media width. They can cut a range of materials from thin vinyl up to 1mm chipboard or 1.5mm mount board, metal foils, shrink plastic, paper, card etc.
The Cougar has a built in laser alignment system so you can perform contour cuts. Basically you can add cut lines to a picture/ photograph ect within the software, then you can print the file on a normal inkjet/ laser printer and put the printout into the Cougar and automatically cut out the shapes around your image. This is often referred to as Digital Die Cutting or Print & Cut. The process is not quite as automatic as it is on the Craft Robo, but at the same time it is less limiting – with the Craft Robo the limited cutting size is further reduced by having to avoid large areas around the page so the system can locate the special registration marks, the cougar does not suffer from this problem and will allow you to still cut up to the full size of the media when doing contour cutting.
That’s not the end of the matter by a long way, not only does the Cougar cut but with an optional tool it also embosses card, velum etc. The tool has interchangeable tips from 1mm up to 6mm diameter for outline or filled embossing. I have the embossing tool and the results are really quite fantastic
Had enough yet? because there is more, much more! There are a number of other optional tools available, such as an engraving tool to engrave metal, detail blade holder for cleaner cuts on very fine detail cuts such as lattice work, click adjustable blade holders for quick and easy blade adjustment, cutting tables which attach directly to the machine to hold the media steady while cutting and a number of other tools are currently being developed including a rotary engraving tool & hot foil transfer pen among others.
Software wise the Cougar comes with various options to suit all abilities, Sure Cuts A Lot is a basic editor and cutting software combined into a single very easy to learn program but can also import and cut SVG files so you can create more complex designs in any software which saves SVG and cut them in SCAL. The excellent Inkscape editor and Signcut Pro package has a steeper learning curve but is about as good as it gets without spending more on software than on the cutter!. Inkscape is a free vector editing program which uses the SVG file format, it is a VERY capable editor indeed and offers pretty much all the tools you would ever need to produce superb cutting files. It may appear a little daunting at first as there are lots of tools and options which will take a while to absorb, but after a short time you will pick up enough of the basics to create very usable cutting files. The advantage of Inkscape is that once you have the basic knowledge you can then progress onto more advanced tools & techniques to produce some stunning bespoke cutting files. If you are dead set against Inkscape then SCAL is the best option, and once you have joined the forum and we convince you to learn Inkscape you will then have both options (simple SCAL and powerful Inkscape) available for the same price
Even if you are not interested in designing your own cutting files SCAL/ Inkscape is still a good choice; as SVG is a free open source format there are a wealth of free SVG files for you to download, not only from the Thyme Machines forum but all over the web, and they will also load up a multitude of other programs files such as Adobe Illustrator AI, EPS, BMP, JPG to name just a few. By the way the Thyme Machines forum is one of the friendliest communities I have encountered and well worth a visit before deciding on a cutter
The BlackCat Cougar is the Porsche of cutters, it may be more expensive than a Craft Robo but the difference in quality and ability far outweighs the extra cost. If you are thinking about purchasing a cutter then think very hard before making the same mistake I did by opting for the cheaper machine, if you obtain a Craft Robo/ wishblade type machine you may well find your creativity being limited by the machine, if you purchase a Cougar you will find the machine driving you to producing bigger and better things.
If, after reading that, you are still heading for a cheaper machine, there is the Craft Robo/ Wishblade machines.
It can perform normal cuts such as cutting vinyl lettering for signs etc or print & cuts (contour cuts) where an image is first printed using a normal computer printer and then the image is cut from the sheet with the cutter – also known as digital die cuts. Some of the Craft Robo range do not do print & cut so if you are just thinking about obtaining a machine and want this facility make sure the machine supports it.
Cutting wise the machine is designed to cut material up to 0.3mm thick, this range can be extended with various tricks and cutting multiple times but your mileage may vary. The blade depth is set by fitting different colour caps to the end of the blade holder which give 0.1, 0.2 & 0.3mm of cutting depth, but depending on the density of the material it may not be possible to actually cut to these depths in one go because the maximum cutting force is only 230 grammes. The cutting speed is also quite low with a maximum of 100mm/s.
The Craft Robo/ Wishblade cutters come with RoboMaster software which is basic, very basic, if you are at all interested in creating your own designs you will very quickly find this software too limiting. I found the software pretty close to useless within a matter of hours, it is really a next to useless software bundle that is going to mean you will need to buy an upgrade pretty soon after buying the cutter! There are other software packages available for these machines which will give you more editing capability, but they are not free so this closes the gap between the cost of the CR & the Cougar.
The Craft Robo/ Wishblade machines are basically home/ hobby machines, not suited to extended use, and only really effective for quite thin materials. If you just want to cut a bit of light weight card once in a while then they are fine, if you want to cut lots of card, or heavy card/ dense materials you will find they are far from ideal.
If you are thinking about obtaining a craft robo, or already have one but are not a member, then you should join the Yahoo Wishblade Group. The group is an invaluable source of tutorials, cutting files, help, support and friendly banter for a range of cutter machines not just the Wishblade The members include some extremely talented crafters with a wealth of experience they are all to happy to share. Joining the group also gives you access to the www.GSDfiles.com which is a superb archive of free cutting files, fonts, tutorials and all things cutter related.
I will be adding tutorials and cutting files to my website which you will be able to find using the appropriate subjects in the Subject navigation links in the sidebar (Craft Cutter – Tutorial/ Cut File/ Print & Cut) I am also working on coding a sort of gallery page with thumbnails of the example pictures which link to the full size image and also provide a quick description plus link to the article & zip file, it may take some time though so for now you will have to do it the hard way
The cutting files on this site will be in the form of a ZIP archive, most of which will contain the cutting file in Craft Robo/ Wishblade GSD format and Adobe Illustrator AI format or SVG (Inkscape) format. The zip file will also contain a ReadMe.HTML file, example photos in JPG format and other files as required.
Please note, I am producing these files for the benefit of the craft cutter community, and unless indicated otherwise in the ReadMe.html file they are:
You are free to modify the files as you like, but if you wish to distribute modified files in any manner they must be licensed under the same or similar licence and also be attributed to the original work and myself by including the following line:
Based on an original design by Louise-Paisley (www.bratpack.org.uk)
If you find any of my tutorials or files useful or have any suggestions regarding them please take the time to leave a comment on the relevant page to let myself and others know