Sharp Thinking – Mastering Cut Settings

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Finding great cut settings is the first real challenge you will face when working with a new cutter. You can buy the best cutter and vinyl on the market, but if you don’t have the ability to adjust your settings for your different types of vinyl, you’ll get frustrated quickly replacing blades, ruining vinyl, and recutting designs.

It is imperative that you get personal with your cutter and the material you are cutting. There are four main variables you will need to keep in mind to get a great cut:

Type of Vinyl- The options of vinyl are abundant. Glitter, brick, Easyweed, adhesive (just to name some) are all made of different materials and may require different cut settings. Think about the thickness of your material as you load it.

I use Siser Easyweed as my standard of comparison because it is the most commonly used and the easiest to cut. Here’s an example: Siser Easyweed is relatively thin and will require less pressure. Siser Glitter vinyl is thick, it will require a lot of pressure to cut. If my pressure is an 8 for Easyweed and the material I load is slightly thicker, I will increase the pressure by about 2 and try a test cut.

The more you handle vinyl, the more you will get a feel for it.

Blade- Different cutters have different blade options. Some, like the Silhouette CAMEO, only have a one-degree blade but give you numerical values for blade depth. This ‘ratchet blade’ makes cutting much simpler, as there are fewer variables to adjust. More industrial cutters (every other cutter we sell) usually have options for different degree angles. Most come with a standard 45-degree blade in the cutter, and the option to buy either a 60-degree blade (Graphtec) or a 65-degree blade (Roland, GCC Cutters). We use the 45-degree blade for the thin stuff (Easyweed, Easyweed extra, stretch) and the 60/65 degree blade for the thicker stuff (Magic Flock, Siser Glitter, Holographic vinyl).

When you have interchangeable blades, you will need to consider blade depth as well. Our rule of thumb is that we always allow our blade to stick out of the blade holder to credit card depth. Feel free to even go ahead and hold a credit card against the blade to make sure they are the same thickness. NOTE: This is where we start to see the variance in cut settings. If I put my blade at a credit card depth, and so do you… chances are, our blades will not be identical. Because of this variance, we give suggested cut settings, but can never promise our settings will be identical to yours. Test cuts are key!

           

Cut Force- Referred to differently with different cutters (sometimes pressure, thickness, etc.). This setting refers to how much pressure the blade puts on the vinyl cutting it. Being that each cutter has a different unit of measurement for its cut settings, it is difficult to figure out where to start with your cut settings. I recommend looking at our cut setting document here. This document gives recommended cut settings for each cutter on each type of vinyl we sell.

Speed- Your speed can remain as high or low as you’d like without affecting your cut thickness. The only instances you would want to decrease your speed are if you have a super intricate design or an extremely long design. When cutting an intricate design, there are a lot more cut lines in a small area. If the blade runs along those areas at a high speed, it can actually pick up parts of the design and ruin your cut. Slowing the cutter down solves this. For longer cuts, slowing your speed down can also prevent your vinyl from going off track, or sliding around.

To Double Cut…or nahh?

The double cut is a great tool for tough to cut materials. It is another one with different names for different cut softwares (Step Count for GCC, passes for Graphtec, etc). We always use double cut for holographic vinyl and Magic Flock, and will sometimes use it on glitter and fashion vinyls. If you are having trouble finding the double cut feature on your cutter, you can always use the vinyl double cut and stone 2+ cut features on the TRW Design Wizard. The videos here will explain what those are.

The Test Cut Process:

Okay, so now we know what all of our settings do, let’s move on to finding that perfect cut setting. We can note from our information on our blade depth that each blade may be at a slightly different depth. Because of this, we want to fine-tune our pressure to combine with our specific blade depth and give us the perfect combination for each type of vinyl (remember, not all vinyl is created equal).

  1. Create a small, easy design. I like to type the word test in impact font at about 1-inch tall. The key word here is small! If you start cutting a 10” design before you know how to adjust your cut settings, you are just going to be grumpy. So, don’t.
  2. Send the design to your cut software.
  3. If you have a Roland, GCC, Graphtec, or Silhouette cutter, consult our Cutter Specs and Recommended Cut settings and plug in the recommended settings. Do the test cut.
    1. If the design cuts through the backing of the carrier sheet, you know your pressure is too high. Lower it by 5 and cut again.
    2. If the design does not cut through the vinyl and you are unable to weed it, increase the pressure slightly.
    3. If you don’t even see an outline (it looks like nothing cut at all) check to see how your blade holder and vinyl are loaded. If you are sure they are loaded correctly, increase pressure significantly and cut again.
    4. If your design cuts just through the vinyl enough to emboss the carrier sheet but not cut through, you’ve got the perfect cut!

The more you get to know your cutter and the more you work with materials, the more “guessing” or ranging your cut settings will become second nature.

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Hope loves sharks and laughing at people. Read her articles now, because she's gone in June.

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