Silhouette Cutter - an overview of what it is, how it works and what it can do for Railway Modelling

Discussion in 'Computer Aided Modelling' started by Rob Pulham, Jan 9, 2019.

  1. Rob Pulham

    Rob Pulham Staff Member Administrator Feature Contributor

    Messages:
    1,412
    Likes Received:
    798
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2017
    I was asked to explain a bit more about the Silhouette Cutter over on the Guild Forum and thought it worth repeating my post here too.

    The Cutter is a device originally designed for crafting - the making of greetings cards, doilies etc. My cutter is a Silhouette Cameo 2 from Silhouette America. My model has now been superseded by the Cameo 3. These are around £250

    Silhouette also produce a couple of smaller versions, the Portrait, and the Curio. The portrait is effectively a smaller version of the Cameo in that the Cameo will take a cutting mat of 1' x 2' (300 x 600mm) whereas the Portrait is only 8" wide and will nominally take a 8" x 12" (203x 300mm) cutting mat.

    In reality both would take a much longer cutting mat if you were able to get someone to make one up for you.

    I have two sizes of cutting mat which I use for different things - 300 x 600 and 300 x 300. I use the smaller matt for cutting details and the longer one for van and coach sides.

    Replacements are around £18 for the longer ones and £12 for a pair of smaller ones depending where and when you buy them. How long they last depends' on how much you use them. I got a couple of years from my first two mats but found that the stickiness wore off the small one and I had to resort to using pieces of masking tape to hold the styrene sheet in place. Eventually the edges of the mat wear out and it will no longer retain the registration and the mat wanders while cutting ruining the cut.

    The cutters come with a piece of free software - Silhouette Studio which is used to control the cut and you can draw with it but I find it a bit clunky. Anyone who is proficient using a CAD package will find it easy to draw for cutting but if using a CAD package you need to save it as quite an old version of DXF to import it into Silhouette Studio.

    I must confess that despite working in IT, I have never managed to grasp CAD packages so I was really quite pleased when I read about people using Inkscape which is more akin to Corel Draw than traditional CAD and I found it easy to pick up and work with. The bonus is that it too is free. - https://inkscape.org/ What I did do (or rather my good lady did), was to buy the upgrade to Silhouette Studio which is the Designer Edition (approx £25). This allows the native Inkscape.svg files to be opened directly in Silhouette Studio without having to save into a different format for import and cut.


    How it works is that the cutting mat moves in one direction and the carriage that holds the blade moves in the opposite axis and the blade is free to rotate in the direction of travel so a combination of movement by the cutting mat and carriage allows circles to be cut. The simplest way to describe it is to imagine an inkjet printer with a blade instead of a print head.

    The key thing to remember is that the blade cuts by being dragged across the surface of the styrene, it doesn't spin in the manner of a milling cutter.

    It's limitations are that it will only cut through 10 thou (0.25mm) but you can score and snap 20 thou (0.5mm) it won't take anything thicker. I am led to understand that you can cut through 15 thou bt I haven't been able to buy any 15 thou in 300 x 600 sheets to try it.

    I buy my styrene sheets from EMA models - I have no connection to them other than as a satisfied customer.

    The main reason that I buy from them is the sheet size that they sell fits the cutter directly. Whereas other suppliers tend to sell sheets in standard format A4/A3 sizes etc. Which would mean cutting them to size before use and potential wastage. In reality once you get the hand of it you can actually make use of quite small off cuts as long as you make sure that you position both the drawing and the offcut in the same position on the cutting mat.

    Sheets of HIPS from EMA are currently £1.20 for 0.25mm and £1.40 for 0.5mm - size 305mm x 660mm. The downside is the postage which due to the size of the parcel isn't cheap but doesn't tend to go up too much the more you buy so I tend to order £50/£60 worth at a time to make postage more cost effective. - I seem to recall it was £6.95 for my last parcel of £60 worth of sheet and Plastruct.

    I use DLimonene bought by the litre from eBAY to stick up my layers of styrene together having found Mek etc. a bit aggressive on the thinner sheet to the point of melting it. Limonene takes a bit longer to set and I usually place my layered up sections between two sheets of toughened glass (shelves from an old fridge are ideal) for a minimum of a couple of hours but overnight is better if you can.

    What can you do with it for railway modelling?

    You are to a degree only limited by your imagination and the ability to translate what you want into layers to build up either strength or levels of detail.

    For example I tend to build up wagon or coach/van sides from 3 layers of 0.5mm them add details such as hinges, washer plates etc. cut from 0.25mm

    So far I have made with the aid of the cutter parts for:

    Open wagons
    Covered Vans
    CCT's
    Small details such as label clips and RCH registration plates and of course the coach sides that I am just experimenting with.
     
    jakesdad13, Ron and TimberSurf like this.
  2. Rob Pulham

    Rob Pulham Staff Member Administrator Feature Contributor

    Messages:
    1,412
    Likes Received:
    798
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2017
    To give an idea of what Silhouette Studio looks like when cutting - the colours are all the different lines that are being cut and are controllable both in the order that they cut and whether you actually cut them at all.

    For example the green and blue lines that you see unchecked were lines that were scored onto the outer layer to create panel lines but are not required for the inner layers which I am cutting at present.

    upload_2019-1-9_13-12-53.png

    I will be demoing the cutter this month at Pontefract show and at the Guild Summer show and Guildex so if you would like to see it in action do pop by and say hello.
     
    Andy_Sollis, jakesdad13, Ron and 3 others like this.
  3. SBt

    SBt Full Member

    Messages:
    318
    Likes Received:
    458
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2018
    very-interesting.jpg
     
    Mr Porter and Rob Pulham like this.
  4. Rob Pulham

    Rob Pulham Staff Member Administrator Feature Contributor

    Messages:
    1,412
    Likes Received:
    798
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2017
    Further questions have been asked and again I will duplicate the answers here as being of value

    First the matter of blades,

    There are 2 types that fit the Cameo/Portrait/Curio the standard ratchet blade and a supposedly Premium Blade - I will explain the supposedly comment below*.

    The first two images are of the standard blade that comes with the machine. I am still using the blade that came with it 3 years later but I do my cutting in stages starting with no1 on the graduation and building up to 10 with multiple passes and at the same time increasing the cutting pressure (a setting within the software).

    I am aware of users on RMweb who have worn a blade out in 3 months - this type of blade is around £10/£11

    Cutter blade1.JPG

    You can see the actual cutting blade in the image below.

    Cutter blade.jpg

    Next is the Premium Blade, these are around £15 each and are supposed to last a lot longer than the standard blade.
    *I have to say that I have one of each and even though the Premium blade has had little use, I find that it doesn't cut as cleanly as my 3 year old standard blade

    Cutter Blade2.JPG
     
    jakesdad13, Ron and York Paul like this.
  5. Rob Pulham

    Rob Pulham Staff Member Administrator Feature Contributor

    Messages:
    1,412
    Likes Received:
    798
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2017
    I managed to get a couple of shots of the machine. You can see the likeness to an Inkjet printer.

    IMG_0833.JPG
    IMG_0836.JPG

    Finally the best I could get but still a very poor shot of the raw cut sheet. Unfortunately the camera will not focus for a square on shot.

    IMG_0835.JPG
     
    Andy_Sollis, jakesdad13, Ron and 2 others like this.
  6. redpiperbob

    redpiperbob Full Member

    Messages:
    279
    Likes Received:
    199
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2016
    Hi Rob
    I too use a silhouette cutter. I have extended the cutter mats by using photo mount spay It seems to work well for plastic but it is a little strong for paper.
    I think it is a great little machine.
    Be seeing you
    Bob
     
  7. Rob Pulham

    Rob Pulham Staff Member Administrator Feature Contributor

    Messages:
    1,412
    Likes Received:
    798
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2017
    Hi Bob,

    I was planning on getting some spray mount myself but the sides of the mats because so thin that the rollers would no longer grip them so it wasn't worth it.
     
  8. leadie69

    leadie69 Full Member

    Messages:
    286
    Likes Received:
    135
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2015
    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for sharing this info. I'm seriously considering getting a Cameo 3. I can see lots of uses for one of these machines - in particular cutting window and door openings on card kits (it would make arched windows a breeze). I also have some plans for card built rolling stock and even an O scale loco that this would bey very useful for.

    Ian
     
    Rob Pulham likes this.
  9. Rob Pulham

    Rob Pulham Staff Member Administrator Feature Contributor

    Messages:
    1,412
    Likes Received:
    798
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2017
    Cheers Ian,

    I am sure that you won't regret it. I have to be honest and say that I never got on with cutting card on it myself but I suspect that it was more to do with the card that I used than anything else - after all cutting card is what they were originally designed for.
     
    leadie69 likes this.
  10. paul_l

    paul_l Staff Member Administrator

    Messages:
    6,140
    Likes Received:
    1,250
    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2015
    I use a Klik n Kut Zing, and again would recommend it, the one to avoid is the Cricut, as they have banned third party drivers, and you are limited to thier cartridges and web based design tool.

    The software supplied with the Zing is Make the Cut, a reasonably powerful program aimed at crafters, it's biggest draw back is it uses real measurements - now I'd hate for anyone to call me a modern man, but for anything less than 1/2" I use mm, and anything over 300mm I use feet & inches, between 1/2" and 300mm I'll freely mix them up, confusses the hell ot of the kids :avatar:.

    For the cutting matt - I use acetone (cheapo nail varnish remover - without lanolin), to clean off the remaining glue, mask the edges then spray with the low tack repositional spray mount. If its too tacky a light dusting of talc will tone it down.

    I've not tried plasticard yet, but use it a lot with sticky labels to make sash windows, and 180gsm card to make roof tiles.

    Paul
     
    jakesdad13, Rob Pulham and leadie69 like this.

Share This Page