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A Look at the Coluzzle Cutting System

Reported by Kristine Fowler

While perhaps, a little intimidating at first, the Coluzzle Cutting System by Provocraft is definitely my all-time favorite cutting system. With the Coluzzle, you can cut shapes and designs quickly and accurately without going through the painstakingly cumbersome ‘trace and cut’ method of days gone by. While it’s not a ‘new’ tool, it’s one I tend to rely on time and time again.

The system if composed of 3 basic pieces.

Guarded Swivel Knife
Easy Glide Cutting Mat
Template

Starter sets, like the one shown above which contain 2 Templates, the Guarded Swivel Knife, Easy Glide Cutting Mat and box-cutter style craft knife are available at Discount Scrapbook Supplies {a.k.a The Memory Keeper} for $24.99 CDN.

At first glance, the swivel knife may resemble a traditional craft knife (or X-Acto blade). The primary difference however, is that the blade on the Coluzzle is designed to swivel rather than remain static, making it possible for the blade to turn corners and cut templated curves. The mat is made of foam and is approximately ¼ inch thick. Due to its thickness and density, the mat keeps the blade from hitting your hard work surface, allowing you to make a cut without a great deal of pressure. The templates are made of a sturdy transparent plastic and have ‘channels’ that guide your blade to make the cuts.

Most of the Coluzzle templates contain a series of nested shapes – giving you a variety of different sizes and/or styles of shapes to choose from. For example, the Nested Oval contains guides for 8 different sizes of ovals, the File Folder gives you 7 folder options of differing size, tab style and tab position, and most of the alphabet templates not only give you the letters, but also a shadow shape to cut making matting individual letters a breeze. The nested nature of the templates helps keep the size of the templates to a minimum (increasing portability), and makes the system quite economical in the long run. You can use the nested shapes as they are to create evenly spaces borders and mats for your basic shapes and once you get the hang of it, you can even start combining the basic templated shapes into new shapes. You are limited only by your imagination.

One more word about the templates before I go on…when you purchase them, there is a thin plastic film on BOTH sides of the template that must be removed before you start cutting. The film protects the templates from scratches and damage during production & packing, but it will catch your blade and possibly cause it to slip if not stripped off. I have spoken to many frustrated Coluzzle users who complain about excessive catching and slippage, only to find that they have not removed this plastic film. Believe me, removing it makes a BIG difference.

Pros

  • Portable and Lightweight – As a cutting system, the Coluzzle takes up very little real estate in your work space or crop bag.
  • Transparent Templates – Because you can see through them, the templates make it easy for you to cut exactly what you intended {If you’re a scrapbooker and you’ve ever mistakenly cut a photo off center, or worse – accidentally cropped someone out in whole or in part, you’ll appreciate this}.
  • Variety – A quick visit to coluzzle.com reveals that there are 58 Coluzzle templates currently available. They are divided into 5 basic categories (Nested Shapes, Alphabet Templates, Shadow Shapes, Cards & Envelopes and Boxes) so there is something that should appeal to all paper crafters. Personally, my all time favorites are some of the basic shapes – Nested Circles and Ovals, but I’ve also had a great deal of fun creating projects with the Coluzzle Stampendous Purse Template, the Nested File Folder Template and Tag Templates too over the years.
  • Inexpensive – As I mentioned earlier, various starter sets are available for purchase which include one or two channeled templates, the Easy Glide Cutting Mat, a Swivel Knife, and a Craft Knife. At my local scrapbook store, The Memory Keeper, these starter sets are $24.99 – a reasonable investment. Templates vary in price but basic nested shapes tend to start around $10 and go up from there. Alphabets and some of the more complex bag & box templates are more expensive and can usually be found in the $20-$30 range. At these prices, it’s easy to add new templates to your library as you need them. Replacement blades are available for around $6, and replacement mats if necessary can be purchased separately as well for around $4.

Cons

  • Takes Time To Master the Technique – If you’re like most people, this will not likely be a tool that you pick up and are immediately successful with. You will need to practice moving the knife through the channeled templates. The trick is to NOT treat the knife like a pencil which is guided by your wrist. With the swivel knife, you need to keep your wrist steady and guide the knife instead by rotating your arm from the shoulder. This will allow the blade to travel smoothly through the channels and ‘swivel’ around corners/curves as it was designed.
  • Nicked Templates – If your blade happens to ‘slip’ when moving through the guided channels of a template and creates a nick in the channel, using that template again will prove difficult. For some reason, the blades always seem to find those nicks again and follow them. If the nick isn’t too deep, you can try sanding it out with fine grit sandpaper, but if that doesn’t help, you may unfortunately need to replace the template. Keep in mind that blade slippage is not an indicator of poor product design. Generally, slippage is the result of a dull blade, or of forcing the knife around corners/curves rather than simply letting it swivel through them.

Here are a few of pages from a mini-album that I’ve been working on – all tolled it is 10 pages that will be held together with a binder ring. I am using the Coluzzle Nested Circle Template to cut not only the shape of the pages, but many of the photos, mats and embellishments too. If you look at the page on the left, you will also see that I used my Coluzzle to cut only a portion of a circle from the blue paper and adhered it to my page as a border. I can honestly say that if I had to ‘trace and cut’ all of these pieces that I would never have tackled this project at all.

Suffice it to say that I can’t say enough good things about this handy tool. It is definitely a must-have for me. What about you? Please share your thoughts!

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10 Responses to A Look at the Coluzzle Cutting System

  1. Anonymous April 30, 2008 at 1:23 pm #

    Thanks for posting such an informative piece about the Coluzzles. I have had my mine for several years, but have a servious love/hate relationship with it. You’ve inspired me to bring it out again and give it another shot.

    Take care – Regina Davis

  2. Mari April 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    Hmmm, thanks – but no thanks! This system has givem me nothing but grief. I only used it once before having a nick in the template and I’ll never be able to use that size again (but I’ve tried!). Those nicks are like magnets for the knife!
    One more con that you didn’t mention – you have to finish cutting out the shape. For me that means a flat spot in the circle. :( Maybe that’s just me….

  3. Emilie Ahern April 30, 2008 at 2:33 pm #

    I also hate the Coluzzle. Maybe I never mastered the technique you offered up, but mine was filled with nick and plastic madness within one day of owning it. Ugh!

    I’m so glad it works for you, but I much prefer the Fiskars circle cutter which has many of the same pros, but none of the cons.

  4. java diva April 30, 2008 at 2:38 pm #

    The first time I earned my Coluzzle, I read so many negatives about it, I gave it away to a friend that really wanted it. Over the years I read more and more about it, mostly good, so I gave it a try. And I fell in love with it right away! And I had my customers use it and they love it too and one got over her intimidation of her own, so she’ll be using hers more now.
    Thanks for the info about the nicks/grooves in the template. I need to go check out my template now!

  5. Gayle April 30, 2008 at 6:00 pm #

    Love mine!! But truth be told, I probably had it for a year or more, trying it unsuccesfully on and off till someone helped me understand how to hold the blade properly. From that point on it was smoth sailing!! Recently made 80 high heeled shoes as a party favor for my nieces 16th birthday!!! They were the hit of the party!! And so easy!!

  6. Radiogirl April 30, 2008 at 9:31 pm #

    I love using circles on my cards, but I usually use punches. But I want to make larger circles. This seems like a financially feasible option. At any rate, I am anxious to try it out using your tips. Thanks.

  7. Kristine May 1, 2008 at 7:59 am #

    Thanks to you all for popping in and sharing your thoughts on the Coluzzle cutting system. As I expected, the waters are truly divided on this little gem. And Mari….I agree with you that the need to trim your shape to finish is a bit of an inconvenience, and I ‘almost’ listed this as a con since when I started using the system, I too had difficulty with this. Have you tried using a craft knife to do your final ‘snip’ instead of scissors? This is what changed things for me. It should help you to avoid those flat spots!

  8. Trish D May 1, 2008 at 8:03 am #

    It does take a bit of practice to master it, but I love all the shapes I can cut from it (bookplates, nested tags, Patty-Wack templates like the mug…) Another big plus – very little storage space required! :)

  9. Karen Hanim August 26, 2008 at 1:24 pm #

    Your article is the best article I have ever read about the Coluzzle. I wish I had this information before I started using mine. Now I get it! I have been using mine more these last few weeks out of necessity and with practice I am starting to really like it. Coluzzle ought to include your explanation in their craft kit. It would certainly prevent people from nicking up their new templates as they try and figure out how to use it properly.

    Karen Hanim

  10. veesknees October 22, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    Fantastic cutting system. I just got mine from e-bay, tried it, got the hang of it straight away. I searched on the net and got my info before I made the plunge. I got loads of great tips for if a tiny little snag ended up on the edge of a cut out was to just smooth it with a fine sponge type emery board which I tried and yes it works for me.