Monday, April 24, 2006

Difficulty and Cost of a Wishblade Media Cutter

By Christina VanGinkel

I have owned my Wishblade media cutter since October of 2005, and I am continually amazed at the many projects that it has been useful for. I originally purchased it solely with the intention of using it for my scrapbooking endeavors, but I have used it for several other projects including Christmas and other cards, stickers, vehicle decals, and my son has used it for several school projects. We are all constantly discovering new ways it can be used.

I belong to several online lists related to the ownership and use of the Wishblade and similar cutters, and two of the most common questions posted by new members who do not yet own one, but are interested in them is if they are worth the cost and if they are difficult to use. Therefore, I thought I would take this time to give my opinion on these two often inquired about questions.

Is a Wishblade or Similar Cutter Worth the Cost?

The Wishblade and similar cutters cost approximately $400 for a basic setup. Other costs will include replacement mats, blades, cutting strips. Other cutters can run upwards of a thousand dollars or more, so be sure of which cutter you are interested in before comparing cost differences and savings.

You need to ask yourself how much money you spend on items such as die cuts, titles, paper piecing, vehicle decals, and cards each year. Consider any paper item, card stock, vellum, or vinyl object that you routinely purchase. Think of finished items, and be sure you do not overlook small party favors, craft envelopes, and children's items. Once you consider all of your typical purchases, be sure to figure back in the cost of the material that you will still need to buy to make the items yourself. For example, I routinely buy and use vellum envelopes on many of my layouts. A pack of five envelopes cost me approximately five dollars. I purchased a pack of vellum in a size that would fit my cutter with no alteration and a pack of decorative vellum in colors and designs that came in a size bigger than what my cutter could use, but that I quickly trimmed to size with my Fiskars paper cutter. I bought both packs for just over twelve dollars. I now have enough vellum to keep myself in envelopes for at least the next year or two, besides having enough vellum to try any other project or two that I might come across. When I figure in the cost of just the savings on vellum envelopes, I can account for over twenty-five percent of the cost of my cutter purchase.

If you are a teacher or a librarian and you routinely buy bulletin board displays, these cutters can make many of your display pieces for you, including alphabets and pictures. If you want to print and cut multi colored pictures, these can also be done on many of the cutters, including the Wishblade. Keep in mind though that you must hand trace the pictures in the software application, then print them to a color printer, and then place it back into the media cutter where it will then, and only then, cut the picture out.

If you now own some other manual style die cutter, consider the cost of both the machine and the dies. With a Wishblade or other computer aided media cutter, once you purchase the set up, you will have additional purchases such as cutting mats, cutting strips, and blade replacements, but you will not have to buy a die every time you see a new one you want. Every font on your computer, including many pictorial dingbats can be cut in various sizes up to the size limit of the individual cutter you choose. If you choose to cut connected titles, you may need to add a software package of your choosing, but that will be an optional purchase can vary greatly in cost, so it must be a consideration. There are shareware software programs that will do the connected words for you, but they are mostly in the experimental stages and unless you have a lot of patience and computer knowledge, I would not recommend them.

Is a Computer Aided media Cutter Difficult to Use?

Ask yourself if you are comfortable in front of a computer first, because there is a learning curve with the software, and with the cutters themselves. They are not like a printer in that you can tell them what to print and walk away. There is always a small risk of paper slipping which would allow the blade to be damaged, so I always sit and watch whatever is being cut, or at the least, stay in front of the computer doing something else so that I am near enough to power down the machine if there is a problem. If your mat loses it grip (and they invariably do) you will need to either replace it, which can be costly, learn how to reapply the grip through some secondary means, or learn to make your own as many on the groups have done. I would not say that any of this is difficult to learn, only that some time and patience must be given to learn them.
You will also have to have the patience to lift off whatever design you have cut. This can be simple with large, clean cuts, or tedious with small, more detailed designs.

The program with the Wishblade is easy to learn, or I should say no more difficult than any other graphic program. If you plan to sue a secondary graphic program such as Illustrator or CorelDraw, there will also be a learning curve with them unless you are all ready proficient using them, then you will just need to learn how the two work together.

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