Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cricut Personal Cutter - A Review



For about a year I have been umming and aahhing over whether or not to buy an electronic die cutting machine, and when I saw a brand new Cricut Personal Cutter on ebay for under $200 I took the plunge.

To put that in context the Cricut machines here in Australia retail for between $400 - $600.  The Expression 2 which is the larger machine with a 12x12" cutting mat is currently 'on sale' at one store for $429.  So although the Personal Cutter is a smaller machine with a 12x6" cutting mat, it's still quite a bargain for $200.

Now I will admit that a large portion of my disappointment and frustration came from not doing thorough enough product research, and that is why I am posting here, to share the information that I dug up after purchasing a Cricut.

There are two fabulous programmes that you can use in conjunction with digital die cutting machines, that let you cut svg files that you can purchase very cheaply online, or if you have a programme like Inkscape, you can create your own shapes, fonts etc from scratch.  These programs are called Make The Cut (MTC), and Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL).

This was why I bought the machine, for the fabulous versatility.  No longer did I have to use a regular die and be bound by the limitations of cutting the same flower or scroll again and again.  I could tweak here and tweak there and make original designs every time.  You can take an image and stretch it, flip it, merge it and meld it with other images.  Sounds fabulous right?  It is, but not if you own a Cricut.

The first thing I discovered was that ProvoCraft, the makers of the Cricut, had taken a lawsuit out against the manufacturers of MTC and SCAL and won, which meant that these two programmes had to be changed so that they were no longer compatible with any Cricut machine.  I initially feared I had just bought a $200 paper weight!

Older versions of the software, and Cricut machines with an older firmware are still compatible, so I hunted down an older version of SCAL2 and after a few technical difficulties I am happily cutting away.  I had to install it all on an older pc that is running Windows 32, as SCAL2 has issues with Windows 64, but I got there in the end.  I also had to buy a Cricut cartridge as the machine won't load the paper unless a cartridge is plugged in.  It took a week of trail, error and research, but I got there!

ProvoCraft have their own software package called the Cricut Craft Room, which is free to use and looks quite fabulous, and they also offer the versatility of electronic cartridges as downloads rather than having to buy a physical cartridge, however they won't ship outside of the United States, even on digital products that are not shipped at all but downloaded.  Another thing to be aware of is that if you launch Circut Craft Room while your Cricut is connected to your computer it will automatically update your firmware on your Cricut, making it incompatible with SCAL and MTC.

The Cricut machines are the only ones, to my knowledge, that are not compatible at all with MTC and SCAL.  Had I bought any other brand of cutting machine I would have had immediate plug and play capabilities.  The real kick in the pants for me though was the fact that they refuse to allow overseas consumers to purchase their digital products.

The machine itself cuts beautifully and quickly.  I haven't used the cartridge I bought to get the machine to operate so I can't comment yet on how easy or not the machine is to use as a stand alone unit, but in conjunction with SCAL2 it is as simple as loading up the image you want to use and hitting the cut button and voila!

If you are thinking of buying a digital die cutting machine I can definitely say they are worth the investment.  It will open up worlds of creativity.  Rather than having to buy a whole set of circle dies such as the Spellbinders Nestabilities, I can simply load in a circle shape on my software and cut it to any size I wish.  I have downloaded dozens of free svg files for doilies, snowflakes, borders, scrolls, cupcake wrappers, and much more saving me hundreds of dollars in buying dies to create the same effects.  This saving alone has more than paid for the machine.




The above image is just one example of dozens of files you can download for free from here.

I would, however, strongly suggest not purchasing a Cricut, but rather look at the many other brands that are available on the market. 

As soon as hubby returns from his holiday and brings my camera home, I will start posting some of the fabulous creations I have been making :o)


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