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nCotherman

Cutting Small Letters for Etching Cream Stencils

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I've be working with vinyl graphics for over two years - mostly on a large scale for race cars, signs or window banding. I've recently branched out for etching with Armor Etch cream and haven't run into any problems until now. Does anyone have any tips or tricks to help cut the vinyl stencils with small text? The letters are peeling up from the backing paper as the cutter moves on to the next part of the design. The smallest text height is around 0.125 inches - vector drawing and imported as an EPS file to Sure Cuts a Lot 3 Pro.

 

I've tried the following, and nothing seems to help: 

  • Both 45 degree blade and 60 degree blade
  • Cheap vinyl from eBay & Oracal 651, 751
  • The offset looks fine, the letters are all cutting as they should - no extra curves or inconsistencies in typeface. 

Any and all ideas are welcome, I need to have these items etched by the end of the month to have a little time to spare. Thanks in advance!

 

I've also included the design I'm trying to cut out.

post-92654-0-04396100-1431954368_thumb.p

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Half a card is about 3 times too much. There is a couple videos and instructions out there that use that as an example but it's way too much.  Take your blade holder out and use a scrap piece of vinyl and cut it by hand and adjust it until it will not cut all the way through the vinyl and backing. When you cut it should just scratch the backing but not be able to feel it from the back side. Once you have the depth set you may need to adjust your pressure but probably not much if you have been having successful cuts. 

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When I am cutting I like to get down on eye level with the cut and check that I can just barely see any light between the blade holder and the vinyl. Only the thinest of clearance is necessary. This blade setting should be good for vinyl between 2 and 3 mil so unless you switch to something like blast resist or glitter or some HTV types you shouldn't have to re-set it. 

 

Cutting really small requires near perfect set-up. I would also recommend a sharp blade and be sure there are no little pieces of vinyl stuck to the blade. 

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Thanks I'll give that a try, I know the blade was new/clean - I had the speed set at 100 or 200 and pressure at 90. There really weren't very detailed instructions with this cutter when I bought it... it's been a machine of trial and error. Any thoughts on the speed/pressure settings?

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Pressure sounds about right but I would do some test cuts. If it has a test option (Not sure what cutter you have) do some at varied pressure until you hit the perfect cut that just barely kisses the backing but cut's through. 

 

Speed for small stuff is usually best slowed down a bit. I don't go so slow it's creeping along but probably slower than normal. 

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If you don't have a test feature or can't find it. Just make a small square about 3/4" and put an X in the middle and cut it at different pressure settings. 

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1/8" text is small for allot of cutters. I do a small radius on all sharp corners .003 -.006 to help the cutter out. It really isn't noticeable on something that small. Also when you get into detailed graphics and small lettering for things like your working on there are products much better suited for that. Washout resist and rapid mask but they are for sandblasting not cream. I do text all the time 4-6pt. And there is no weeding.

 

Also if you do get your cutter dialed in (follow the directions given above, blade is out way too far) it is much easier to apply your graphic and weed on the substrate. Letter centers don't pull up etc.

 

If your planning on getting into this a little more I would check out some of the other options you have available.

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 The smallest text height is around 0.125 inches 

 

 

Way too small for the SC series cutters, you would need a Graphtec FC series cutter to cut text this small, and only somewhat bold or thicker fonts can be cut with decent results.

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1/8" text is small for allot of cutters. I do a small radius on all sharp corners .003 -.006 to help the cutter out. It really isn't noticeable on something that small. Also when you get into detailed graphics and small lettering for things like your working on there are products much better suited for that. Washout resist and rapid mask but they are for sandblasting not cream. I do text all the time 4-6pt. And there is no weeding.

 

Also if you do get your cutter dialed in (follow the directions given above, blade is out way too far) it is much easier to apply your graphic and weed on the substrate. Letter centers don't pull up etc.

 

If your planning on getting into this a little more I would check out some of the other options you have available.

 

Thanks for the recommendations - I'll give the radius a try and see how that works out. When you do the 4-6pt are you using it for sandblasting or cream? Also, do you have a recommendation on a cutter that may be better suited for the small text? I'm currently using the US Cutter - SC Series Plotter. You mentioned other options, can you give examples of what those might be. I'm ready to try anything at this point that will make this a little bit easier. 

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NC I don't use cream. I only sandcarve (sandblast) I could cut fonts that small on my copam but only certain fonts and it was a pain. I have  graphtec ce5000-130 and fc7000-100 cutters now and that is still very small.

 

There are many  options for sandblasting small fonts and detailed images.

 

1) Washout film- sandblast only 

2) Rapid Mask (also a film but not washout)

3) Laser tape - you would put the tape on the then put in the laser and laser the design or text then sandblast. You need a laser and sandblast equipment for this.

4) Good old fashioned sandblasting with the proper mask. I use paint mask all the time as it comes off better than regular sign vinyl.

5) Blast mask, rubber or pvc based used more for deep carving and not for fine detail. Can range from 10mil up to 49mil.

 

Depending on what your trying to get into would determine the equipment you need. I very rarely do sign vinyl. Mostly sandcarving so I don't have sign vinyl laying around. I order the mask for projects I am working on. I also do both with sandblast mask and washout film. I use Rapid mask mainly for halftone images.

 

If your serious about getting into it, I would recommend a little more homework before going out and purchasing a bunch of equipment.

 

Feel free to ask any more questions. I'll answer them if I can.

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