Archive for October, 2014

I currently own my second Cameo. The first I had less than a week before returning it. However, I thought to myself that it was because I didn’t quite know what I was doing and I had tried the Circut Explore for 24 hours. What I mean by that is I brought my new Cricut home, discovered it required the internet to use it, boxed it up, returned it. And came home again with my second Cameo.

I bought this for professional craft work. Even with the learning curve I have to go through, I feel it’s got issues. I think I hate this machine more than my ex-husband. But I am going to give a fair review for those who are looking to purchase a Silhouette brand machine anyway.

USE: I bought this machine primarily to cut shrinky dinks. Now I know the Cameo isn’t strong enough to cut shrinky dinks, but my husband and I did some research before taking the plunge and we simply couldn’t afford this other cutter I covet. There were a lot of bloggers who managed to cut shrink plastic so it was worth a try, we felt, because I primarily make charms to sell and my hand isn’t as good as it once was.

It cuts great through paper, cardboard, cover stock, vinyl and a lot of other lightweight materials. I have tried and failed to find a comprehensive list of what it can cut, so will probably be starting one of my own to put on the internet. With shrink plastic, even though if you look at the sheets they’re no more thick than some of the other stuff the machine will cut, the blade may make a line slightly in the surface if you’re lucky. We even bought a specialized blade with an aluminum case. No luck. I did develop a way to convince the silhouette to cut through the plastic almost to the other side that involved a lot of offsetting and many more cut passes than double cutting, however I don’t recommend you do this to your silhouette every day.

So far I’ve forced my silhouette to “cut” at least one whole pack of shrink plastic and a few other projects. It’s still working. So it tries.

BLADES: The Silhouette blades dull easily, so treat them well. After much research I found that cleaning them off by running them a few times into a bit of folded tin foil helps enormously. Tin foil does not sharpen the blade, btw. It’s softer than the blade itself, so it can’t.

I really like that the blade itself is adjustable. Instead of having to switch between 10 different blades I just pick up the adjustment tool and find a number.

What I don’t like is how dirty the blade get so quickly, and how the blade cartridge housing inside the machine is a dust magnet. Last night I thought my machine had broke forever because so much paper residue had gotten into the casing and it didn’t want to work properly anymore. Keep your machine meticulously clean. Even if you never wash your dishes, clean your machine after every use with an air gun or something.

THE MAT: I hate that **** mat. I hate the mat system period. The mat is one reason why I returned the machine the first time. It dirties too quickly, loses it’s stick the moment you cross your eyes at it, and silently curses your name while you’re feeding it into the machine. There are a lot of tutorials on the internet from other people on how to keep your mat clean, how to redo the sticky, and all sorts of things. I followed them. My mat lost it’s sticky in ONE DAY. I mark this as important because the last time I owned a cameo the exact same thing happened.

You can restick your mat reliably by cleaning the dirt off with goo gone or something like that, putting painter’s tape around the edges where your machine rollers will run, then spraying the inner grid with a *re-positional* spray glue like Easy Tack. The stick lasts longer according to many people than the Silhouette’s original, as well. I say re-positional, because with permanent or anything that says permanent then temporary you’re going to mess everything up. Listen to the voice of experience.

However, I think I’m not asking the Silhouette company too much in asking for some way to redo our mat without having to find someone’s experience tutorial on Youtube… or maybe just find a better way to glue their mats…

INTRICATE CUTS: The answer is yes and no. Oh, my machine tries to do them. It’s even succeeded a few times. The stupid mat was too sticky and ripped them apart. Or the stupid mat wasn’t sticky enough and the machine ate them. I can’t go into my experience with intricate cuts without wanting to punch something with my bare hands.

STICKERS: I’m actually pleased with this one. I took the original Silhouette recommended settings and then adjusted so that I can cut stickers… and only have the sticky part on the top be cut. The bottom half of the sheet stays untouched. The stickers come out nicely. Very good.

ACCURACY: This is one feature of the Cameo I actually love. If you’re making your own designs and want to cut something like, say, a printed sticker the Cameo has a sensor built in. Your printed sheet has marks on the edges the machine will look for, and that’s how it knows where to cut. Sometimes it’s off by a mm or two but I’m still happy considering the machine’s limitations.

SOFTWARE: My machine came with their version 2 of the design software. It’s okay, but the limitations often have me cursing worse than my fisherman father. There are no layers, no lightening, no nothing to control exactly what I need to control in my work. Yargh. So I updated to their version 3. Double yargh. It’s got better features and, most important, is better at selecting cut edges than version 2 (which was a pain) buuuut… unlike version 2 it doesn’t like to try to “register”. What I mean is, you tell it to find the cut lines and start cutting and it wiggles a bit and flips you a sharp, blade-endorsed bird. I have become very familiar with the manual register process because of this…

Which it turns out I prefer. The one single time my machine registered on it’s own two days ago the cuts were crazy and way off. It’s best you do the thinking for this machine. It’s worse than my roommate.

PAPER WASTER: That’s right. I feel this thing wastes paper. But I’m pretty sure it’s the software’s fault because version 2 wasn’t as bad. With the current software I use the machine would cut to the edge of it’s cut area. With version 3 it won’t. Even when you tell it to. So yes, you get partial cuts. And you shake your fist at the ceiling and curse the Silhouette CEO’s name. If I could afford it, I would buy one of the other softwares the Cameo works with to see how they do, but I can’t. It took me months just to be able to buy the machine…

Which brings me to COST: I guess you could consider it affordable. With the new machine that has just come out (which looks like it’ll do the same job but with maybe a few more features for cutting lightweight material, no shrinky dinks), well. $300… $350… that’s a lot to a lot of folks, especially these days. However, this price is but a fraction of the cutter I covet and for someone like me it’s a start.

Just beware of your limitations.

I did it today. I took the plunge. I went to my work website, http://ebookcovers4u.wordpress.com, and I put myself on (mostly) unavailable status. Now before anyone goes and gets their panties in a wad because we’re at a stage where we’re begging for help (thank you, Uncle Sam) and have had to ignore the car and house payment for almost two months now, this isn’t as chancy as it sounds. For a while now, I’ve been doing ebook covers, formatting ebooks, AND I’ve been working on The Heavenly Bride while flatting for others in the comic industry. The flatting work has picked up. I had to step back from something.

I had been looking for someone to literally give my business to for about two years now, but most everyone I found proved to be people who just didn’t want to work or couldn’t take working at home seriously enough to realize it’s not a vacation in disguise…. or that yes, if you have a busy schedule doing a bunch of other stuff you’re gonna have to figure out how to work now and again.  Right now I have two people on my team that are doing ebook covers. I couldn’t find someone to take over formatting. I tried. I really tried. Fortunately the market has a lot of other ebook formatters out there, some with meaner skills than mine, so for the world it’s not a complete loss.

I just won’t be taking my name down from Smashwords just yet. And I’ll still baby my website, put things up, that sort of things. And I most definitely will take the odd job here and there because the truth is I really *like* working in ebooks. It’s just working in ebooks has been stopping me from writing my own books. And that’s bad.

big eyeA supply shipment came today. I was so excited! Until I opened the box. Then I was moderately excited. What I had ordered was miniature bottles with eye pins for the corks. Part of my intended stock involves these little buggers… but the eye pins are huge compared to the cork, and that just looks like the corks are trying to overcompensate for something. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the eye pins… but it was a damper on my supplier relationship that I had to go online to try to find the right size eye pins. I found some for not much, free shipping. I have no idea if they’re the right size at this time.

On an upwards note, though, my first upcycled resin piece is complete. I’m not completely happy with it, though… there are tutorials all over the web about getting the resin to dry clear – sans bubbles. If you’re not careful the resin will be filled with tiny bubbles and kind of looks like fizzy soda. Now on some pieces that will look great and I fully intend to do it on purpose. But I also want to create pieces without them. I followed them and researched and even came up with a twist of my own to get those pesky bubbles out.  And with this piece, I thought I had done just that.

Well, further research and a day later I find lots of people who feel my frustration. One person said, “Well, it doesn’t matter what I do. There are going to be tiny bubbles in there. So I’ve decided to just use them as a design element.”

Well, this new piece that I proudly put for sale up on etsy.com a few minutes ago looks good with the bubbles, so it’s not a total loss. And I can see using them as a design element… the truth is I think they kind of look neat while not wanting them there at the same time. I used to really like it when I came across a marble that had a bubble in it. It’s just… neat.

But I’m still going to fight the bubble monster because, well… it’s a challenge. One I’ll probably lose.

So here is my latest masterpiece. It’s going to be only one of a short series. It was created from a broken watch I bought at a yard sale last weekend. I was going to fix the watch, but I soon realized I was missing some parts so couldn’t. And upcycling is a wonderful art, I feel. You can do some amazing things with upcycling.

Why, yes, that is the Third Commandment. Neat, huh?

pendant closeup

 

 

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