Sunday, 28 December 2014

Santa Delivers the Goods

As someone who hates Xmas shopping I love Amazon wishlists, although sometimes I think my darling wife might use this to her advantage.

Every railway and model railway enthusiast will, I'm sure, have received presents in the past from a well meaning relative that either replicated something they've had on their bookshelves for years, or that fell into the bumper book of trains category. Pointing people in the direction of a wishlist means you are much more likely to open a present that it is genuinely useful.

This year I have to say it worked rather well, although for the third year in a row Caroline is still to make an appearance on Xmas morning. What did appear were various tools, most notably a Silhouette Portrait cutter.  For those of you unfamiliar with these it is worth checking out the relevant RMWeb thread. Yes, sometime it still has its uses. Essentially we are talking about a poor man's substitute for a laser cutter.

I've disclosed my dyspraxia in the past, and this gizmo offers real hope to those of us who struggle with cutting basic straight lines. To make best use of it you do need to be able to find your way around a basic vector graphics program,  like Silhouette Studio that ships with it,

You also need to do a lot of advance thinking about how you are going to build the final model.  I messed up my first attempt, Llynclys weighbridge, because halfway through construction I decided to use a thicker card for the basic shell.

These are the initial cuts I produced, but when I moved to using thicker card I didn't make enough allowance for the change in dimensions so the "fold up" brick work no longer fitted. I had to resort to Photoshop to cover up the resulting cracks.

The other thing I think is apparent from this photo is that it isn't a substitute for every problem. The door, for instance, was scribed by the Silhouette but would have been much better if I'd fabricated it.

On the plus side  producing a corrected version tomorrow will only take ten minutes.

I'm really impressed with how it can be used to produce windows. It certainly makes the prospect of building signal boxes a lot more attractive.

There are a couple of tricks to play around with that I hope will enable me to align cuts and score marks with brickwork and other artwork. In theory it might even be possible to use it to accurately cut out existing paper and card models.

Yes, I know the rest of you clever b*****s out there could achieve the same results with a ruler and a fresh Swann Morton blade, but I can't.

Meanwhile, in other news....

... a new Apa display unit has been thrown together to highlight the Lcut range, and starting construction of their latest products is next on my to do list. I've also finally taken a scalpel to the brace of 14XX  I've been hoarding.  The early Airfix chassis really was awful, so i suspect I'm committing to more chassis building.


  1. What I don't understand is why somebody who claims to be unable to use a straight edge and a knife would take up this hobby BEFORE all these pooterised contraptions were around!

    1. That is a good question. I was born into it, my parents were running a model shop in Coventry, and on top of that Teddy Boston christened me. Seriously I think the imperative to recreate a scene and a certain atmosphere over-rides my technical incompetence.

  2. Those are really good results with the Cameo Cutter. It's a great piece of kit, especially considering that we're asking it to do something it wasn't designed for. With care and the right blade, it's possible to make very thin astragals for windows, sub 0.5mm on 100gsm substrate. I like to cut the Daler Murano self-coloured paper, then I can display mount the things straight on to the glazing. I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

    Christened by Teddy Boston?...then you never had a chance of not being a model railway enthusiast! :-)

    1. I'm impressed so far. I have a number of jobs in mind for it, I've only just started looking at alternative blades and blade holders. Do you have any recommendations?

    2. The Graphtec blades and blade holders give me good results and are more economical than buying the factory fitted blade holder. Punch "Graphtec CB09 Cameo Cutter" into Ebay and several will come up. I generally buy the 45 degree blades as they are good all-round tools, but the 60 degree ones are useful if you are cutting thicker material or doing very fine work. I have used them to cut .015" styrene to great effect.
      Setting the blades requires care as you have to judge the thickness of the material you are cutting and reflect that in how far out the blade is exposed. I should also say that I feel the CB09 blades are better engineered and work better. The first one I used I even forgot to put the spring in and it still worked fine! There's an interesting post here about it:

      Paperwise, I seem to get best results for windows using very good quality cartridge, 100 gsm artist's quality from a sketch pad. This is for windows, otherwise the Daler Murano is my paper of choice.

      I've just had to buy a new cutting mat after two months of intensively using the cutter, which I reckon is not bad. As you say in your post, there are some tasks it is simply not up to...I haven't tried to emboss with it, but I can't imagine that would be all that good. It does do curved windows rather well...the limitation here is the software which I find less than intuitive, being used to Illustrator. I will have to get the plug-in that exports files to the cutter.

      Anyway, good luck with the cutter and let's see how you get on!

    3. Iain, Thanks for that, I've ordered one and a selection of blades.

    4. Great! Hope you find them as effective as I do.