Sunday, August 22, 2010

Paper Grain as a Possible Factor

Test Media: Kraft Paper

Yesterday, as my granddaughters and I had a great time playing with the eCraft, we didn't have a single failure.  Not one.

So, today, I went out and picked up some of the paper that I'd used up with my granddaughters.  Then. I set up the eCraft, expecting to routinely capture some images of the eCraft successfully cutting the papers with which we'd had so much success yesterday.  In the first cut it failed with the same Kraft paper used yesterday.  It was totally puzzling and made no sense at all.

The I realized that I have not been paying any attention at all to the grain orientation of the papers as I've been testing them.  So, for my next test, I marked the top of the sheets as I pulled them out of the package.  I then tried 8 different cuts using two different sheets of paper.  Only one of the eight cuts was a failed cut.  But, four of the eight cuts did have visible places where a cut piece lifted up and could have caused a failure or did cause a failure as in the case of one.

Interestingly, all four of the perfectly clean cuts were performed with the top of the paper or the bottom of the paper being inserted onto the eCraft.  And, all four of the not as clean cuts were performed when the paper was inserted sideways.

This leads me to believe that grain of the paper, itself, is a factor in helping to ensure a clean cut.  So, from now on, as I test, I am going to try to remember to put the paper into the machine so that the grain is pointed into and out of the eCraft.  It is very easy to determine paper grain.  If you get a clean fold then the fold is along the grain.  If the fold has small creases along it, then the fold is across the grain.

I'd appreciate it if others might also observe if grain might have a bearing on any failures that you might have.  It would seem logical that the lighter the weight of the paper, the more important paper grain might be.  We'll just have to see.

Test Media: Core'dinations - Whitewash Collection

Core'dinations card stock is a very unusual paper that seems softer with layers that can be sanded for effect.  The eCraft had trouble with this paper; but, in a very identifiable way.  As the blade started against the grain, it would fail.  Cuts along the grain were cleaner.  How clean or how bad seemed to depend on the angle off of the grain direction.  It might not be all that evident in this picture; but, as it cut you could see the effect that direction had on the paper itself.  I would be surprised if someone finds a way to cut Core'dination highly textured, soft paper in the eCraft.

Test Media:  DCWV The Autumn Splender Cardstock Stack

Not a single failure with this wonderful paper when placing the paper into the eCraft WITH the grain.  But, turn it sideways and bad things happen.  In these next two images, the only difference was the orientation of the paper when being placed into the eCraft.  Because of the glitter, it was not as easy to identify the grain.  But, the important thing is that like all paper, it does have a grain and changing the orientation of the paper relative to the cutter seems to make a huge difference in the potential for a successful cut.

Direction #1 - No failures in this orientation

Direction #2 - 90 degree rotation of the paper - no successes.

Test Media - Colorbok Metallic

Colorbok paper comes in several different metallic surfaces.  This is "Shiny Silver" sample delivers mixed results with the eCraft.  In this sample, a Pressure setting of 4 seems to deliver the best cut.  But, even so, there are obvious flaws.  Orientation of the paper seemed to have less effect than the pressure setting.

Here is an image of the best cut I was able to achieve in any orientation.

Smother shapes should be a lot cleaner and on the other end of the spectrum, I didn't even bother to cut the 3" tree since the leaf, which normally is very smooth with heavier card stock was having such mixed results.  The metal, like the glitter, might reduce the effect of the paper grain.

So, while it is NOT definitive, based on these limited tests, we might not be far off track if we start paying attention to paper grain as we try different media.  Over time we should be able to either confirm or deny this theory as more of us try different media and report our findings.

Test Media: Wool Felt

I was asked, in a comment to try felt.  I had actually purchased some to test; but, really haven't had the time to test it well.  So, I decided to give it a try.  What I;m posting here is my first attempt to cut felt.  It is NOT a definitive answer to the question, "Can it cut felt?"  It is merely the result of a quick attempt just because people are interested in it.  I will do a more exhaustive test later.

The graphic will not do the eCraft's cutting of felt justice. The only test I've done used the Xyron adhesive to stiffen the felt.  Other materials might be a lot better.  But, I can say this,  Yes, the eCraft was able to CUT the felt.  But, with the slippery backing it was not able to position it as well as it needs to in order to make a cleanly shaped cut.  And, the 'tabs' in felt must be cut with scissors or the felt can stretch and rip.

I ended up having to hold on to the felt and help pull it back out of the machine with slight pressure.  A less slippery stiffener would not require that.  Here is the first attempt at cutting felt.  While not perfect, it is promising and deserves more exhaustive testing.

I had set the tabs to the widest width and I would not do that with felt in future tests.  Most of the raggedness of the shape has to do with crude attempts to pull the tabs loose.  But, there is some indication of the fact that I needed to help it push the felt out of the machine.  Notice the right side, which is PULLING it back in is much smoother.


Ruthie said...

This is all so interesting - and not just for potential ecraft users...also for those of us using other cutting machines. Alot of the things you are discovering here might be applicable with other machines. Your snarl-ups look the same as my snarl-ups on the wishblade (craft robo) - when I get the chance I will have a little play with some stuff and see if I can replicate some of my issues and then solve them by looking at the grain, or even just the material being cut.

thanks Tom


Denise O'Connor said...

I would have never thought of the paper grain causing problems, but it makes sense. I am curious now if this is the case with other cutters as well. Thanks for letting us know about this! I am disappointed in the results that you had with the Core'dinations cardstock. I have a lot of this paper and I love it. The funny thing about this too, is that the Cricut cuts Core'dinations beautifully, and I would expect the eCraft to do just as well if not better, but this may not be the case. I will have to play with it, when my machine comes in. I have to say also that if the eCraft can really only cut the heaviest of papers, I feel that they may have missed the boat. I love to use the heavy papers, but sometimes use the lighter ones expecially if I am doing a cut that has a lot of layers to it so that it isn't so bulky. I guess we will just have to keep experimenting. One question for you as well, did the eCraft come with a manual offering suggestions on how to cut certain things. From reading your blog, it sounds like there wasn't any direction in this. Suede was able to cut felt, so we know it can be done, but it would be nice if they gave us some direction on how to do it. I really hope my machine gets here soon, because there are so many things that I want to try to cut!

Tom Meeks said...

No directions at all.

That's why, on their Facebook page, I suggested they video tonight's session in N.Y. where they will be cutting fabric.

The Core'dinations cardstock is very interesting. It seems to be layered so that the sanding process gives it an interesting look. And, the fibers in the lower layers in the paper seem to be loosely bound like egg carton material. You can actually peal the top layer away from the lower layers. It appears to me to be at least 2 layers in the one I tested and I believe there are 3.

The difference in the way a mat stabilizes and the way the eCraft stabilizes is that the mat holds the entire back of the material tightly in place and completely flat. The eCraft relies on lateral integrity of the material itself trusting that the tabs will hold securely. The Core'dination material's fibers seem laterally loose once a split starts.

Try tearing it. At first it seems tough to tear. But, the instance a small rip starts it comes apart with a long rip very rapidly. It resists and then literally just breaks apart! Interesting stuff.

cpeep said...

Definitely have seen grain related issues cutting with Craft Robo! I'm very aware of the grain of paper when making pop up cards as your pop up can collapse, rather than pull up, if the grain goes the wrong way.