Linsey was an angel last night and happily played in her baby demilitarized zone (ie. the jumbo play pen) while I got down to business with the Cricut. I had Survivor on the TV, Itsy Bitsy Spider going in the pen and the Cricut on the coffee table humming away.
Okay, notes first -
1 - Wait until commercials to push CUT. Otherwise, the bug will flat drown out Jeff and you'll miss something important. Thank you Dish Network DVR!!!
2 - The manual may look thick, but it's got lots of languages, so reading it takes no time at all! It's super easy to follow and understand. (don't do as I did, take time to read it!)
3 - The cutting mat is uber sticky. I mean UBER sticky.
4 - 6x12 paper may sound like a good idea, but scraps work fabulously with less waste.
All that said, I am so in love with this tool! Definitely five star. I can't wait to get my new cartridges.
After breezing through the instruction manual, I discovered there are three settings that help you get a great cut. The blade housing has kind of a depth setting on it. I found that a 3 on the blade cut both patterned paper and cardstock very nicely. I fiddled with speed and pressure settings as I sampled various papers. Mostly a thin patterned paper and a smooth 80lb cardstock I got from Stampin' Up! It seemed to me that these adjustments are some personal taste and some technical functionality. I think that I'll get a feel for what is needed on what sorts of stock as I use the bug. For reference, I used a speed of 2 and a pressure of 5 on the cardstock.
After playing last night, I must say that at least 2 mats are essential or you are going to spend half your time unload and loading paper onto the mat. Did I mention that it's oh my gosh sticky??? It's so sticky that when I pulled the patterned paper off, it curled. Yeah, that sticky. I can see that over time it will lose that stickiness (which is the main reason to replace the mat), but for initial use, it's got almost too much grab. As for having two, I was cuting letters and shadows out of different colored cardstock. A little foreplaning on that with two mats, I can load the paper on both, cut the first, set it to shadow, load the paper and cut the second, setting both with the finished cuts aside while I work on my layout. Sadly, the machine only comes with one mat, so pick up a pack when you buy the machine.
There is a Cricut tool kit out on the market. While it isn't essential, I can see where it would be helpful. It has moved up to near the top of my Christmas wish list. You can definitely manage without it. I used my Creative Memories multitool and that helped get the letters off the mat (like I said, UBER sticky!) without tearing them up. I tore the patterned paper ones the first go. I used my pampered chef stone scraper to get left over bits off the mat. I have a set of Stanley picks I stole from my husband's tool box (Shhhh! he doesn't know! :) He had three, he won't miss one set, right?) to poke out holes and whatnot. This worked, but after two hours straight of playing with the bug, I wanted that toolkit.
The Cricut comes with George/Basic shapes. It's a nice multifunctional cartridge...that I am totally bored with already. First, it's a unicase font, only upper case letters available. I'm a title case type of girl, so I'm craving lower case letters. Second, the shapes are basic, thus the name. :) There's a couple of styles of tags, two flowers and then a set of squares, circles, triangles and various polygons. Once I had run through them, I was itching for variety. I didn't order a shapes cartridge, but having played with the basics, there are now a couple on my Christmas list. The set it and forget it mentality of this machine already has me wanting to do shaped die cuts, which I haven't done much of in the past.
My favorite thing about this little bug is the "shadows" feature. I have oodles of alphas for my Quickutz (like 12 I think), but not a shadow in the bunch because I'm not willing to pay the full amount of the alpha cost over again to get the shadows to go with it. No extra cost here. Just push a button, type in the letters, press cut. Voila! Bliss. I now have "LINSEY" with shadows in 6 sizes. That feature alone has me sold! See the note above about mats though. If you even think you might do lots of shadows with your lettering, get those extra mats. Or if you're going to do a shapes cartridge, so many of those are layered with different colors!
My last comments are on paper. I started out slicing 6x12s, since that's the size the mat would hold. Within 15 minutes, I had grabbed my box of scrap cardstock and was using it. It takes a little thought, but even small scraps work. The mat is printed with a rulered grid, so you can see the sizing. If you're going to cut 2" letters, you want to make sure you've got a good 2" plus a bit strip of cardstock/paper to work with on the mat. I did 2 1/2" strip with no problem cutting 2" letters. It's also a piece of cake to position the blade at a different location on the mat to use up bits of paper you have left over and to really get the use out of the whole cutting surface on the mat.
Now I've been an avid Quickutz advocate for five years. I haven't been so impressed with their releases this year, which is one of the reasons the Cricut caught my eye. Don't get me wrong, I love my dies, but I can already tell that about half my alphabets are likely to appear on eBay in the very near future. There is just something to be said for being able to type in your word or phrase, push cut and walk away.
(NOTE - review originally posted on Create My Keepsake on 11/10/2006)