Friday, August 20, 2010

The tools at my disposal

Probably no new tool has faced such instant scrutiny as the eCraft.  First, people have been using traditional cutters with mats for years and they had a dream in their minds what a matless cutter would do for them.  And, that is perfectly legitimate.

Secondly, the eCraft came along just as I decided to seriously look at cutting machines and create a blog to communicate what I was finding.  That wouldn't be too bad except that I don't know anything at all about paper crafting from an artistic sense, so I had to focus on other things, like technology.

I like the eCraft technology.  And, I like it a lot.  It seems to me that the fundamentals are all there to be THE great cutting machine among many great cutting machines.  And, I say that probably having tested it harder and spotting more flaws in the greatest detail of any other user... except, perhaps their competitors.

I see a danger in what I am doing in that I have the tools to look too hard, too soon in a way that is not fair to eCraft.  I've never looked at a Cricut with these tools.  And, I have never even looked at my Gazelle with these tools.  I didn't have to.  What I saw on the surface of those two machines was enough for me not to want to spend the time looking further.  And, it is not that they are not good machines.  It is just that the technology of the eCraft is that much more promising.

What are the tools at my disposal?  First, I have about a half dozen microscopes of various types with which to examine blades and cuts.  And, I am using some of them to analyze things that puzzle me.  My primary scope is a 10x-40 zoom stereoscope.

How many other digital die cutters have been examined using a stereo microscope?  Probably not many.

Then there is the video equipment I have at my disposal.  The range of types of video that I'm using in my analysis of the eCraft includes Hi-Def and Hi-Speed.  Again, what other machine underwent that kind of scutiny the very first week it was released.  Here, for instance, is the Casio EX-FH20 high speed digital camera that I have been using this evening to analyze cuts in very light paper.

It's capable of capturing 1000 frames per second.  But, I'll mostly be using it at 210 frames per second and 420 fps.  I certainly didn't feel the need to use this camera on the Gazelle.  Why?  Because the Gazelle is not the cutter I see in my daughter's future.  The eCraft is the cutter I see in her future and I want it to work absolutely perfectly with all papers.  And, if I spot that it does not, I want to know why so that it can be corrected.

Ok, so the eCraft has undergone scrutiny under the microscope, hi -def video and hi-speed video.  But, there is a lower tech tool that I'm using to communicate what I see to you and to eCraft.  And, that is the lowly scanner.  That's how I've been able to show you nature of the tabs and quality of the cuts.  But, it's also how I have analyzed repeatable failures like the cops comparing bullets from a weapon.

It's how I was able to prove that I finally found a way to cut fun foam.

And, finally, there is a 21mpx digital camera with images of the eCraft that can be blown up to 40" x 60" with no loss of detail.  Search the web for where anyone has subjected any other cutter to this kind of scrutiny.

So, why am I saying this?

It is so that you understand that my intentions are to do everything I can to make your life with the eCraft a positive experience and to help eCraft end up with a machine that can withstand this kind of scrutiny and shine like a beacon.  I don't want people to take what I find and run in a negative direction with it.  That is not my intention.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I've taken delivery on one and have paid for a second.  I could bail on the second and would bail on the second if I didn't think the eCraft is built on a solid technical foundation.  But, I am NOT.  In fact, I still plan on buying a third eCraft for my second daughter and her family.  I could give her the Gazelle.  But, frankly, I don't think the Gazelle is the right product for my daughters.  The eCraft is the right product for my daughters.

There is a sequal to a quaint little movie about Nanny McPhee.  In this series, when Nanny McPhee first shows up she is VERY ugly with crooked teeth and scary warts.  But, as the children learn new lessons, Nanny McPhee loses a wart here or a blemish there and by the end of the film she is charmingly beautiful and sweet looking.  This, I believe has some interesting parallels with the topic at hand.

We are going to see some warts.  And, some of those warts are going to be pretty glaring.  But, as we (and Craftwell) learn, the warts ARE going to go away and we will be left with something altogether beautiful because we didn't turn away at the sight of the warts.  We did what we could to remove them.

So, for the rest of the weekend, my time with the eCraft will be divided into too very different activities.  The first, is to stress the machine under the critical eye of hi-speed video capture.  And, the second is to have some wonderful fun with my granchildren just cutting out shapes and creating cool projects without even thinking about testing or evaluating.  That is my REAL idea of fun.


2KutiesGrandma said...

I am waiting for my ECraft - it is one of the "boat machines". I so appreciate your blog and the up-close look you have given us of this machine. An unbiased review with "just the facts" is a wonderful thing. I am looking forward to receiving mine. You have brought me much closer to being able to hit the ground running with some reasonable expectations of what this machine will do well. Thanks for sharing!!

Tom Meeks said...

Are you my wife???

She's a grandma to to 2 "kuties" also! In fact, we're carrying our eCraft to their house today to have some fun with it.

I love the eCraft. It is NOT perfect; but, it IS a great machine. Where it excels it REALLY excels and one of those areas is quick and easy cuts for children's fun. It is so easy to use that I won't have to help them after the first minute or so.

Start with what it does best, card stock, so that you can see just how nice it is.

Kate Smith said...

Since you have had good results with foam, what about felt? I have a Cricut, and I would love to trade it in on an Ecraft, but something I cut all the time is wool felt. Haven't seen anyone cutting that with the Ecraft.

Tom Meeks said...

I have purchased felt to test; but, have not fully tested it as yet.

I tried one sheet and found that one needs to pull back slightly on the felt to get it to retract from the eCraft. I was using a backing of Xyron adhesive and another stiffening material might work differently.

I was surprised that the cut, itself, was very clean. But, the piece itself had trouble moving in and out. That is something that I think can be solved using the right stiffener.

So, the jury is out on felt. But, I will add it to my latest article.