Friday, 25 November 2016

ScanNCut Basics 4d: Adventures in Test Cutting - Flamingos

This Flamingos paper cut really tested my patience and also my understanding of what the machine can do, and how what I do affects what the machine does.
This Flamingos Papercut is currently available to buy in PDF form HERE I've been testing how it cuts as an SVG file

First off, Brother reckon that the machine will only cut things down to 5mm (say a circle). Nope, I proved that with a super low speed and the right settings for blade depth and pressure, it will cut smaller (though it's fiddly to weed.)

Secondly, this exercise proved that with care and the right settings, you can still cut a reasonable result with a broken blade lol. Though to be fair only the very very tip of it was broken off, with a blade broken further down the tip it wouldn't be possible.

Thirdly, when testing a file someone else made, you can really really save yourself a LOT of head scratching if you take the trouble to find out what size it SHOULD be! However, it's good to know how intricate and tiny the machine can cut!

So how did this all start? Well, I've always loved manual papercuts, particularly Chinese and Polish paper cuts, I own a few as 'art'. And before I became unwell and too feeble, I used to love doing 'fussy cutting' for my card making etc as well as actual manual papercuts. Part of the reason I wanted to get the ScanNCut was the hope that I could do papercuts using the machine.

A month or so ago, Facebook showed me an advert or maybe a friend had liked a post, anyway, of a craft/designer business called Embellish Cuts offering a free manual papercut as a PDF email (it's a reward for signing up to her mailing list. It's still available HERE and is super cute - Love In the Woods.

Love In the Woods - free PDF template from EmbellishCuts HERE
 The difficulty with it was that I had to freehand draw around the image to scan it into the machine to get it to cut. So as I liked EmbellishCuts work and the designer has a Facebook Group - I did the cut, and posted it to the Group and really it went from there because I suggested she might like to create and sell her images not only as PDFs for manual cutting, but SVGs for machine cutting. And I offered to test them.

So, the designer Amy sent me a file. She's a designer using I think Illustrator, and I'd had my machine about a week. So I tried opening the SVG in Canvas and in the Machine.

Initially it looked ok, but it was two images and also the word Embellish was cutting very very finely and making a right mess. So I fiddled around in Canvas and stripped out the extra bits, so that I could try cutting it. Initially the file she sent me was of 2 images, one line drawing and one for traditional manual cutting with the cut areas printed in a colour. So the test cuts show 2, because I was doing them both to see if there were any differences.

It drew out fine (multiple lines initially) and as far as I could see, there was space between each drawn line, therefore the cut wasn't going to collapse into confetti!
Using the Draw function to see what the design will look like when cut
 My first choice was to do the SVG cut using 80gsm copier paper, because, well, why not! I have lots of it, and already knew the settings for it to cut a papercut I got from Brother's UK Project Book 1 (available on the Brother UK Website. This one - it worked fine with that, so it'll be fine right?

Project from Brother Project Book 1 - find on Brother UK website
Sadly not. Because I hadn't considered that the Live Laugh Love papercut was considerably less intricate than the Flamingos papercut.

Learning Point No. 1. The more intricate the cut, the more tensile strength your paper needs to have! It was a disaster!
It managed the first bits of a space between the flamingo legs, but when it got to the foliage. Nope!
I tried a couple of times with the 80gsm copier paper and concluded I needed a heavier weight paper, so I rootled around and found some 130gsm cartridge paper. And did a few Square Test Cuts. Which worked beautifully - gave me a nice clean cut with barely a mark on the mat. Hurrah! Then I tried cutting the whole image. And whoah! NOT a nice clean cut.

Lovely clean test cut, whoah poor actual cut! This was Cut 1.
So I fiddled with the settings and did Cut 2, increased the pressure and kept the blade as it was.
Learning Point No 2 - sometimes the test cut is great, but the cut not so good. Alternating setting changes in pressure and blade depth can sometimes fix it.
Cut 2 worked better, but some half cuts
So I fiddled again and did Cut 3 - leaving pressure alone and slightly increasing the blade. Was better but still some half cuts, especially where the foliage is at the top - it's super intricate.
Cut 3 improved but still some half cuts
So I fiddled again and did Cut 4 - increasing blade depth and slightly reducing pressure. Still half cuts, and also some misaligned cuts. So I needed to do a Blade Alignment adjustment (in Settings) before trying again.
Cut 4 - still half cuts and now the blade was misaligned obviously too
So I did the Blade Alignment Adjustment and didn't change anything else - and ta da! a nice cut!
Cut 5 - success!
I went from blade 3.5 to blade 4, and pressure minus 1 to zero.

Learning Point No 3 - Do a blade alignment before you start anything intricate
Learning Point No 4 - Increasing your blade depth by 1/2 again maximum will probably get rid of half cuts on intricate designs on thinnish card without killing your mat.

So in future, if I get Cut 1 again, I'll know to increase blade depth by 1/2 point max and change blade pressure by 1 max and I'll probably get a perfect cut without cutting my mat in half. HOWEVER, I did it incrementally because I wanted and needed to learn how to fix the problems for myself rather than just whacking up the depth and pressure and hoping it would work. That's what the Age of Enlightenment (18th century) gave us - a damn good reason to follow empirical evidence and make small changes for a controlled result to extrapolite how to improve the outcome. Just saying :)

I was super chuffed that it had worked, and sent it to Amy, who said 'oh it's so small'. What? says I, small? Yup, it's supposed to fit into a 10x8 inch frame, but was coming out on that file as about 5x 4.5 inches. LOL.

Learning Point No 5 - The machine, if it's set to a low low speed can do far finer more intricate and delicate cutting than Brother says. Those bird eyes, they're not even 1mm across and it cut them! (I needed a needle to weed them but they are clear).
Learning Point No 6 - ASK what size the file should come out at when you load it in the machine. (lol)

Cos let's face it, I bet it would have cut far more easily if it was bigger to begin with!

We then had a week or so of a hiatus whilst Amy sorted out the file. She sent me a file that came out at the right size, but had multiple cutting lines. Eeek! I found this out when I tried to cut it, it seemed to be going over some parts several times. So I used the machine to draw it out, and yes, it was. So I told Amy and she sent me another SVG file, this time with a single cutting line, hurrah, which also came out at the right size to fit a 10x8" frame, hurrah!

So testing this SVG would be dead easy right? I'd use the same paper and the same settings, this should be a no brainer.

Except what? what? it's bigger so less intricate, why is it NOT cutting the foliage bits? WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU BEAST OF A MACHINE! Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
At first I thought it was because it was right up at the edge (my bad placement on the mat)

So I kept the settings and turned the image upside down in case my mat was the problem. My mat was super not sticky by this stage, and I was using masking tape as a temporary fix as I didn't own any glue I could use to restick it. I KNEW the blade depth was a bit more than was needed, so the pressure shouldn't matter so much, though with hindsight I should have reduced it to zero.

Nope moving it to the other end of the mat didn't work. How weird!
The back where you can see it had half cuts BUT ALSO was mangling the underside of the paper
 I thought, well, maybe it's just because the paper is too thin and I'd just got some Adorable Scoreable 350gsm so I decided to do some test cuts in that, and then see if it cut it.
Initial Test Cuts for Adorable Scorable. The Fifth test square worked.
Then I told it to cut the whole Flamingos image
Adorable Scorable image
What you can't see is that at each sharp angle, the pink surface of the card is slightly removed, and that the main bulrush stem was miscut and severed (I needed to do a blade alignment again). But I mended it with a bit of glue and masking tape.

So I thought right, it's DEFINITELY NOT the file. The file cuts absolutely fine. It cut fine when it was much smaller on that paper, it's cutting fine on the thicker card. So what could have changed - and I realised I'd used the blade a lot, and also dropped it on the floor between the original smaller file and the new correctly sized file.

I had a think and decidedthat as the pressure was lower than before, and the mangled bits were on the underside of the paper it couldn't be a pressure issue, because paper mangled by pressure is on the top usually (I know this from using Construction Paper).

I checked that the blade housing didn't have debris in, I took the blade and checked it under a magnifying glass, but couldn't tell if it was truly pointy or not, I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the blade, nothing seemed to be wrong. So I tried again with a cardstock between Adorable Scoreable (350gsm) and the Cartridge (130gsm) I'd been using. Did a lot of test cuts, it seemed happy at 6.75 for the blade and pressure of 0.
Attempting different card half way between Adorable Scorable and the Cartridge Paper I'd been using

I checked in the Gentleman Crafter's PDF and I should have only needed 4-5 pressure a card of around 180gsm, but I needed the blade to be at nearly 6.75 for it to cut nicely on  card that was only about 160-180gsm thick (Adorable Scorable is 350gsm)!
Nice cut on 160/180gsm card at nearly 7 for blade eek!
So I got out a brand new Standard Blade and by closely examing though a magnifying glass, I realised the very very end of the tip of the old blade wasn't there. It was cutting, but needed more pressure and more blade depth to do so.

Learning Point No 7 - The Standard Blade is quite delicate. If you've done everything else that usually works and it still doesn't, your blade may well be broken so slightly that it'll still cut, with more pressure and depth than before, but if the cardstock is coated, it won't be a super clean cut.

So I changed the blade, redid the Flamingos in Blue Adorable Scoreable for my carer and ta da! It was on Blade Depth 5.1, pressure 1 and no tugging of the coating at the sharp angles! Relief!

Test cut at 4.5 and 5 with new blade
One final beautiful clean cut Flamingos!
So there we go. I finally got there, and learned an AWFUL LOT about how Blade Depth, Pressure and the actual paper or cardstock you use interact!

Hopefully I had all those sorts of issues so you don't have to!

That's it - Basic machine upkeep, maintenance and set up is all done and dusted. The next set of posts will be about using Basic Shapes and manipulating them to make simple and more complex shapes and images within the Machine itself.


  1. Hello Please could you tell me what size the Live Laugh Love project from the Brother website was when you scanned it in? I had trouble getting to grips with my CM600 years ago and hid it in the cupboard. Now I thought I'd try again, Any help is appreciated x

    1. sorry I only just realised you asked. It's tiny when scanned in from the magazine. I instead scanned it via my printer/scanner, enlarged it, then scanned the enlarged one into the snc. the snc has now had scanning functions much improved, I suggest you get it out of the cupboard, and install the software upgrade and see if it's easier this time!


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