Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Check out my new toy! Sizzix Eclips with eCal for cutting custom shapes

eclipsR
First let me start out with my story for how I came to purchase something like this. I was making Barbie Skipper shoes out of craft foam. If you’ve ever cut small pieces of foam, you know it’s difficult to cut it just right without leaving jagged edges. So I had an idea to purchase a cutting machine. I have a small budget, so I came across the CRICUT MINI
It is advertised to cut through craft foam. It was also advertised to be able to go online and use their Craft Room and use ANY design that they have for FREE, AND to use images that you own.{ Let me reassure you that it does NOT do these things—later explained}


I know that cartridges can add up to be quite expensive, so I was glad to hear that you could use your own images to create designs.  Joann’s happened to have it on sale, so I picked one up and hurried home to try it out. After hooking it up and playing around with the Craft Room, I realized that I must have misunderstood--you can NOT use your own images. So I found some shoe designs in the craft room, set them up to the correct size for Skipper, and when I pushed the “Cut” button, a message popped up saying that I must purchase the cartridge in order to use the design. So I looked to see how much the cartridge was—$40. Wow, that is really expensive. So I wasted my money in purchasing something that will cost more money the more I use it. So I took it back for a full refund. The advertisement was deceiving and I let the Cricut company know.

So I went online to the Cricut forums to find out something. I don’t even remember what I was looking for, but I ran across something that someone had said. They said that they were contemplating taking their Cricut back and purchasing a machine that is compatible with Sure Cuts A Lot so that they can cut any design that they make. So that’s what I searched for and found the Sizzix eClips and eCal software. I purchased the Sizzix eclips and eCal software online at CraftEdge with free shipping through FedEx and received it 3 days after they shipped it. You can also purchase it on Amazon.  Don't forget to purchase the eCal software too.

I cut a bunch of shoes with it, then my daughter wanted me to cut Tinkerbell, so I used a silhouette photo of Tink that I found online and used the eCal software to turn it into a cut. She was so happy! Then my son wanted me to cut a monster truck for him.
IMG_2922
The shoes on the top row are the ones that I cut with scissors. The bottom row are from the eclips machine. I used 2mm craft foam, which the eclips only cuts 0.8mm. That is why the edges are not smooth. The corkboard I used was a little too deep also. So I went online to purchase some foam and cork board that is 1mm.
Then I decided it would be so cool to design my own boxes for my barbie clothes that I sell. So I went online and downloaded some free box svg files. I wanted the boxes to have a silhouette of a girl peeking around the corner as though she just found the dress and was excited about it. I couldn’t find anything online, so I took a picture of my daughter and made her into a silhouette.
IMG_2870sil kr arch
Then I changed a few things on it, using the eCal software, to make it look more like Skipper. Here is the finished product:
IMG_2924
{It is facing opposite because after I cut it out, I decided I liked the dark brown for the outside better than the light brown.}
I actually changed the size of the box (after many, many hours of practicing with the new software) so that it would fit perfectly using a 12x12 inch paper, and I added scoring lines so that it is easier and more precise folding.

Free SVG:

You can download the original here, or download my altered version here.

Eclips and eCAL Pros and Cons:

Pros:
  • You don’t have to buy cartridges for it.
  • You can make any design from any silhouette-type image using the eCAL software.
  • It is very easy to use and so is the software.
  • You can plug it in to your computer with a usb port or use their remote that comes with a cartridge.
  • It has a laser preview on it so that you can see exactly where it is going to cut before you cut. This is helpful when you have a small piece of paper and you want to make sure it will cut it just right where you want it.
  • It is inexpensive compared to other machines like it.
  • The blades and mats are fairly cheap.
  • You can adjust the pressure and blade depth, and the speed.
  • It cuts a wide range of materials – from paper, vinyl, construction paper, cardstock (light, medium and heavy), adhesive cardstock (light, medium and heavy), vellum and light chipboard.
  • It cuts shapes ranging in sizes from approximately .01" (.025cm) to 24" (61.0cm). The Cutting Mats allow you to cut paper sizes up to 12" x 12" (30.5cm x 30.5cm) or 12" x 24" (purchased seperately) (30.5cm x 61.0cm).

Cons:

  • It only cuts a blade depth of .8mm or smaller.
  • The blade gets dull fairly quickly, especially when using thick material.
  • The blade gets paper debris in it, so you have to clean it out often.

Tips and Hints:

  • When cutting a design for the first time, use your view options on layers to turn off all views except the smallest piece on your paper, then cut only that to find the correct pressure and blade depth for the paper you are cutting
  • Check your blade EVERY TIME you cut paper. Think of it as a dryer lint catcher. You need to clean it out each time after use. If you don’t, there will be so much debris in the blade housing that it will not cut.
  • To clean out the blade after debris has gotten lodged up inside the housing, get a toothpick and put a little bit of adhesive on the tip {I use an adhesive tape runner from Honk’s dollar store} and carefully put the tip inside the housing hole. The paper will stick to the adhesive and you can easily get it out.
  • DO NOT USE WHITE CORE PAPER. White core paper is used for scrapbooking so you can tear it and it will give it a different look. When used in a cutting machine, it tears easily and puts lots of debris inside the blade housing.
  • If the blade housing seems to get stuck while it is cutting, causing your design to be inaccurate, change the blade. I went through at least 20 sheets of paper because of this. I kept trying it again and again and it kept being off just enough to make the design not work for what I needed. I finally changed the blade and it worked perfectly after that.
  • If your sticky mat starts to lose its stick, wash it with warm soapy water, then air dry. I dried mine over the heater vent as it was going and it was dry in no time.
  • If your sticky mat has no stick to it at all and the washing doesn’t help, use blue painter’s tape to hold down the paper. You can use it multiple times. You can also use a spray on adhesive to make it stick again.
  • Have lots of scrap paper on hand to test your design so that you don’t waste good paper.