A digital cutting machine is no small investment either in money or the time that it takes to make it useful. One only has one shot at capturing one's initial feelings about whether or not that investment looked like a wise choice in the first few days of using one. And, the answer to that should be helpful to many, many people sitting on the fence who, like me, have never really tried one yet.
I'm in the unique position of having made an investment one year ago and just now opening the box to see if the vision I had back then was true or not. For a variety of good reasons the Gazelle went unused for a year and has just been taken out of the box and set up. And, at the same time a new cutter is coming on the market that promises to be a better match for the goals we have for a cutter. So, effectively, I have made investments in two different cutters with little experience with one and no experience with the other. Now, I am embarking on the first steps to see if those investments are worth it.
So, after these first few days of using a Gazelle, with a version of Funtime that is one revision back, what are our initial feelings? (I'm including both daughters and both grandchildren since all now have had a chance to see the Gazelle in action.)
Costs are both tangible and intangible
It didn't take long to find out that one can spend a LOT of money on suitable paper and that these machines don't come with a million canned shapes. Expendables are not going to be cheap. So, one had better weigh the operating costs as just as important as the initial machine cost. The Gazelle, when I pre-ordered it in 2009, was $429.99. The eCraft, at the time I pre-ordered it, was $259.95. Yet, I don't expect that to be the bulk of the costs of owning either machine. This means that in order to say that these purchases were "worth it" we have to factor in well over $688 in initial costs, alone. These are the bottom line tangible costs.
We also have to factor in the time it will take to learn the software and the quirks of each machine. That is time that could be spent doing something else or time that cuts into the time we were spending on other things we see as creative and important. Those are the intangible costs.
Both tangible and intangible costs need to be considered when evaluating whether or not we have made a good investment.
Returns will be both tangible and intangible.
Tangible returns for our particular situation will be realized if either or both of the machines are able to enhance the production capabilities of my daughter's artistic endeavors. That is going to take some time to know for sure. But, based on the little experience we now have, we are ready to make a prediction.
Intangible returns for our particular situation will be realized if our minds and creativity are stimulated in new and substantial ways. This is NOT a trite thing. The creative mind is an age-defying mind. And, opening creativity in one area spawns new opportunities for creativity in others. I place a HUGE premium and value on creativity. And, I measure an activity's impact on my levels of creativity by how well it triggers new branches and opportunities for growth in other activities.
The same is true for my children and grandchildren. Above all, we want to foster creative and active brains. So, while some returns are going to be intangible, they end up having tangible value in terms of evaluating whether or not an investment in something like these cutters is going to be worth it.
The current consensus?
To a person, we have been surprised by the potential we see in just the few cuts that we have made. We're still totally clueless about 99% of the capabilities and that has not stopped every one of us from realizing that we've been missing something that a cutter can bring to schoolwork, play, art, fun and many other areas of our lives. We range in age from 8 to 66. And, we've had a blast.
We've talked about materials, experimental techniques and possible out of the ordinary applications. And, most telling of all, my artist daughter laments the fact that I didn't bring the machine home to hook it up and see what it could do much sooner.
We are confident that both of these investments will turn out to be good ones.
I can't exactly tell you WHY we are so confident. We certainly weren't this confident BEFORE we actually used one. In fact, I considered it a moderately big gamble with some money to be recovered by selling off the machine if it didn't pan out. But, with just a few cuts under out belt our consensus is that we see places to go with these machines and can't wait to compare the eCraft with the Gazelle in terms of the ideas that have been spawned in just a few short days.
But, if we are wrong, you will be the first to know.
There is always the chance that we will end up being frustrated and disappointed. And, if that turns out to be the case, then I promise you that I'll communicate that to you just as loudly and forcefully as I do my positive findings. I've already mentioned that the mat is a pain. But, one that I can live with for now because the current choice is mat or no cuts. We might find that the eCraft's no mat strategy is so good that we end up parting ways with the Gazelle. But, it might be equally true that the eCraft might not be able to pull off some important types of cuts because it does not use a mat. Either way, you will know it when we make whatever determination we make.
The purpose of this blog is to keep you in the loop to help you when it comes time to make your own decisions about investing in a computer driven cutter. And, right this minute, I'm among those that fall on the "Yes" side of the equation when it comes to answering the question, "Was it worth it?".