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Circle Cutters – A Comparison

Reported by Sara McKenzie

If you are going to cut a circle, you want to make sure that it is a perfect circle. Even if you trace a perfect circle, it is challenging to then cut exactly on the lines, all the way around. So for circle cutting, the best way to go is to purchase on of the tools on the market to help you cut that elusive, perfect shape.

I have over the years purchased four different circle cutters, and will share my view of them here. They are:

For all tools except the Coluzzle, you’ll also want to invest in a glass cutting mat. The self-repairing cutting mats will work okay, but you can sometimes end up with skips.

For this review, we’ll start with the simplest tool, and work our way up.

Coluzzle
The Coluzzle is one of the original circle cutting tools; it’s been around for many, many years. The Coluzzle system requires three items: the plastic cutting template, the “Guarded Swivel Knife,” and the “Easy Glide Cutting Mat.” They are all shown below. The resulting circles range in size from 7/8″ to 4-3/8″; the cutting channels are in fixed, 1/4″ increments.

The template has laser-cut channels, into which fits the cutting tip of the swivel knife. The paper or card stock to be cut is placed on the special cutting mat (it’s a foam-like material, spongy to the touch), and the template placed on top of the paper. You guide the swivel knife through the channel that represents the size circle you want to make. The swivel is a very nice feature on the knife: you don’t have to contort you wrist and forearm to make it all the way around. Be sure to keep the knife perpendicular to the template, or else it will cut into the plastic and get stuck.

Because it is a one-piece template, however, there are two places in each cutting channel that are not cut, in order to hold the template in one piece (see below). As a consequence, after you have used the swivel knife, you still have to use some paper snips to release the finished circle from the sheet of paper.

A close-up view of the coluzzle template.

This little piece must be snipped to release the circle.

Coluzzle also now has many, many templates for all kinds of shapes and images. They range in price from $7.49 for the circle template shown here to $19.99 for full alphabets and other more complex shapes.

Coluzzle Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Light weight and portable
  • Transparent plastic makes placement easy
  • Templates available for all kinds of other shapes
  • Nested templates allow for precisely sized mats to layer.
  • Can be used on scraps of paper.

Cons

  • You have to keep track of 3 different things: the template, the swivel knife, and the special cutting mat.
  • An extra snip with scissors or a hobby knife is required to release the circle.
  • The size of your circles is limited to the sizes in the template.

Fiskars Circle Cutter

This is a compact circle cutter, with a clear base that makes it easy to align and place your circle where you want it. It will cut circles from 1″ to 8″, and any size in-between as it has no pre-set increments. It comes with two blades, and refill blades are available.


The cutter is placed in the center of your desired circle. The size is obtained by adjusting the arm (with sizes listed in both inches and centimeters) and locking it in place with the finger wheel. You push down on the orange knob at the top, which presses a rubber foot onto the paper, and holds it in place while you turn the arm to cut the circle.

 

Circle cutting with the Fiskars tool.

It has a $21 MSRP, but I’ve seen it as low as $11.99, so shop around.

Fiskars Pros

  • Light-weight and portable
  • You can store the cutting blade in the tool, protected, for travel.
  • By design, it holds your paper in place while you cut.
  • You can make any size circle between 1″ and 8″.
  • Works well on scraps of paper, since it holds the paper in place at the center of the circle that is being cut.

Cons

  • You have to simultaneously apply pressure to the center, and over the blade, all the way around the circle to make sure it cuts all the way through, all the way around. I’ve been frustrated by this more than once.
  • You cannot see the center of your circle, so if you want to cut around a specific image, you’ll have to do a little measuring, and perhaps make light pencil marks to make sure your desired image is centered in your final circle.
  • Setting the size is not a precise exercise – it may be a little challenging to get exactly the size that you want.

Curvy Cutter

This is a much more elaborate tool that consists of 5 pieces: two cutting rings, two positioning guides (to determine size), and the cutter itself. The cutter is purchased separately from the template. The cutter ranges in price from $7 to $15, and the circle template from $12.95 to $17.99, so it pays to shop around. They are both readily available at many sites on the internet. There is also an oval cutter, and a rounded square. And of course replacement blades are available. The circles range from 2-1/4″ to 7-1/2″.

Curvy Cutter cutting rings, positioning guides and cutting tool.

The cutting tool sits in a track on the template; you choose which track based on the size of the circle that you want to cut. The positioning guide allows you to choose your circle size. Once the cutter is in place, you simple swivel it around the template, in the track, to cut your circle. (Sounds a bit complicated? Yes. That’s probably why EK Success has a PDF file to show you how to use the Curvy Cutter).

Circle cutting with the Curvy Cutter.

Curvy Cutter Pros

  • Cuts large circles (up to 7-1/2″).
  • Other shapes (oval and rounded square) make it somewhat more economical, because the cutting tool works with all of them.
  • Open design makes it easy to center your circle.

Cons

  • You should cut your circle from a large piece of paper, because the gripper feet are outside of the cutting radius. If you try to cut a circle from a scrap, the paper moves around with the blade. Of course you can use temporary adhesive to hold the paper to the glass mat.
  • Storage is a problem. I’ve not figured out a good way to store it, other than to keep it in the packaging that it came in. And that’s not simple: it is about 14″ square!!
  • It is not straightforward to locate the right track for the cutter, and it can be awkward to keep the cutter in the track.
  • Cuts only in pre-defined increments.
  • You have to keep track of lots of pieces!

 

Circle Scissor Plus

Interestingly, this is also made by EK Success (I wonder if it is intended to replace the Curvy Cutter?!). This cutter consists of two pieces, the base and the cutting handle. There is also a drawing handle which can hold a pen or pencil for drawing circles, if desired. (It adjusts to hold pencils of various sizes, too). You dial in any size circle that you wish to cut, from 1″ to 6″. EK Success has provided an instruction sheet for this product, as well.

The base unit sits on top of the paper you intend to cut, and you dial in your desired circle size. The cutting handle swivels as you turn it around the base unit, making it easy and comfortable to operate.

Circle Cutting with the Circle Scissor Plus.
Cutting handle for Circle Scissor Plus.
Circle drawing handle, with pencil (pencil not included).

Prices on the internet range from $23.95 to $29.95.

Circle Scissor Plus Pros

  • Cuts relatively large circles, up to 6″.
  • Cuts any size circle desired; there are no fixed increments.
  • Easy to operate.
  • Draws perfect circles, in addition to cutting them.
  • Open design allows you to center your circle easily.

Cons

  • You should cut your circle from a large piece of paper, because the gripper feet are outside of the cutting radius. If you try to cut a circle from a scrap, the paper moves around with the blade. Of course you can use temporary adhesive to hold the paper to the glass mat, if desired.
  • You have to keep track of two/three pieces: the base, the cutter handle, and the drawing handle.
  • Compared to other tools, it is relatively expensive.

What is my overall recommendation, you may ask? I would have to say the Fiskars Circle Cutter. It cuts up to 8″ circles, you can make any size that you like (i.e. there are not fixed choices), and by its very design, it holds the paper in place while you cut. Finally, it is also lightweight and pretty compact, making it easy to carry with you to crops or classes.

There you have it. Have you used any or all of these? Or do you have other circle cutting tools to share? Let us all know!


Clearsnap Style Stones

Reported by Sara McKenzie

I’ve been playing with Style Stones by Clearsnap for a number of years now. So it was fun to pull them out again and take a really critical look, and try some new things with them.
Style Stones are a man-made stone material. They have a very smooth surface and require no additional preparation before you use them. And they are pre-drilled for use on jewelry, lanyards, or to hang from other pieces of work.
Below is a package of the “Small Shapes” package in the plain ivory-colored finish. They are intended for stamping images directly on the stone. Four to six stones come in a package for about $4.00.
In addition to the small assorted shapes shown above, the smooth surface stones come in a package of 4 larger assorted geometrics, a package of rectangular stones (all the same size- perfect for bracelelets!), stars and shells, tags, and oval cameos.

The package below is the “Leaves” set. These are natural finish stones that are engraved, and lend themselves to the use of contrasting colors.

The maple leaf, below, shows up-close-and-personal, the detail in the engraved sets.


There are loads of images in the engraved sets: celestial, quilt tiles, bugs, Celtic designs, Asian images, fruit, Geishas, flowers, chickens(!), snowmen, angels, Christmas trees, faces, and Aztec designs. And these are just the square shaped tiles. They also make Style Stones in shapes: hearts, star, triangles, dominoes, hands, flowers, faces, and the list goes on. Many of the designs also come in bulk packaging: 24 stones for $11.95.

In addition, there are engraved tiles (no holes are drilled in these), and frames.
For my projects, the first, easy step was to compare craft ink versus dye ink on the flat, ivory style stones. The picture below shows a cameo stone (1″ long and 3/4″ wide) in the center, and a triangle stone (a 1″ equilateral triangle) on the right. The stone on the far left shows the natural, unfinished color. The middle stone was colored with Stampin’ Up! “Taken with Teal” Craft ink, and the stone on the right with “Taken with Teal” dye ink. This very clearly shows how much more opaque the Craft ink is, versus the dye ink. The same color has a completely different look: deep and rich versus pale bright and transparent.

After heat setting (and you MUST heat set! no matter what ink you use!), I added a second coat of ink to each stone. You can see below how the color becomes more even with the additional coat.


The messiest part is coloring the edges- but I suppose you could wear gloves and avoid the inky fingers!


On to the engraved stones. I had never tried acrylic paint on these stones before, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Below is one of the Leaf stones, on which I painted a copper metallic acrylic paint. No sweat. Coverage was perfect, and took only one coat. And it doesn’t require heat setting. You can see where I painted a little bit outside the lines; that was cleaned up easily by a light sanding with one of my craft sanding blocks.


I then held the stone by the edges, and tap, tap, tapped the surface against my ink pads. Again, I compared the same color dye ink and craft ink, because I wanted to see them contrasted against the metallic paint. The dye ink is on the left and the craft ink on the right. I like them both- but I really like how luminescent the dye ink looks- almost like it is lit from behind.


Clearsnap also provides an inking brush for working with the engraved styles stones. They are packaged in a set of 3 with slightly different sizes, or you can buy them singly.


They are really nothing more than small stippling brushes, so you might be able to find them at an art store or your local big-box craft retailer. But if not, they are the perfect size for working on the engraved Style Stones. AND, they are double-ended. One end is short and stiff and good for getting in the small crevices (below, right) and the other end is a bit longer and good for filling in larger areas.


In the photo below, I am touching up the blue portion of the design. The green was applied first, with the inking brush. I wanted the surface color to be more even, so I used the brush for that as well.


So, what did I do with these interesting little embellishments?

First, I used them like tiles. I finished 8 of the leaf stones as shown above, and plan to use them on the top of a wooden box that I had finished earlier. The top has an inset, and it is just crying out for something special. I am a little embarassed to say that I have hit a bit of a roadblock: how best to mount the tiles? I’ve thought about using copper foil tape and soldering them, as if they were stained glass. And I’ve thought about using grout, just like regular tiles. But I haven’t been able to decide. So, the pictures below are still showing an unfinished top. (If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!!)

Above: Painted wooden box with inset lid.
Decorated Style Stones just waiting to be set in place!

Above: Close up of finished Styles Stones. I used dye ink for the surface-
I like the slightly mottled look. Wondering how to mount them….

Then, I decorated a tag Style Stone. I inked with bright green, heat set, and then stamped a pattern on top with turquoise ink, and heat set again. I added some small rhinestones, a brass dragonfly charm, a glass leaf charm, and glass beads. I finished it with some ribbon and cotton crochet floss. I plan to give this to a teenage friend so she can hang if off of her backpack.

Above: Decorated Tag shape.

Above: Detail of decorated Tag Style Stone.


And finally, I made a necklace using the triangular Style Stone that I coated with Taken with Teal dye ink (above). I over-stamped an image in White Craft ink, and then embossed it with white embossing powder. It is edged with my favorite gold leafing pen from Krylon. I covered the design with Crystal Effects, and added a tiny clear rhinestone in the center.

Style Stone necklace strung on ribbon and fiber,
which I knotted at regular intervals.

Close-up of Style Stone necklace.
Pros:
  • Fantastic surface to work on – smooth, even, takes ink and paint beautifully.
  • So many choices!! Both plain shapes for your own designs, or engraved images to elaborate.
  • Pre-drilled holes. Hooray!
  • Not too heavy- you can wear them comfortably as earrings.
  • Not too light- necklaces will hang properly.
  • Great size for all kinds of uses: jewelry, decorating other items, scrapbook pages, cards.


Cons:

  • This is not so much a con as it is a caution: when you heat set the ink, the stones get REALLY hot, and take a few minutes to cool down. I usually work on two or three stones at once, so I can work on one while another one is cooling off.
  • Apparently you can’t buy them directly from Clearsnap (see below), but they are available at many other stores online.
  • I’ve never seen them at the big box craft stores, but I have seen them at occasional independent craft stores.
  • They are a bit expensive when bought in packs of 4 ($1 each), but are a better value when bought in bulk (50 cents each).
I am pleased to see that Clearsnap updated their website- it is a little more user friendly than it used to be. On the other hand, I was surprised to see that Style Stones do not show up on their product list! Fortunately, they are still there- just do a quick search and you will find all of them. The unfortunate aspect of their website design, at least as far as this article is concerned, is that I cannot create links to every specific product window. You’ll have to do the work on this part: go to the Style Stones page, and then click on the various images to see the different styles. And, you apparently can no longer buy from them on-line- even though a catalog is in the navigation bar, it is not a live link to anything. Nor are there any prices listed. Hmmm…..

But overall, here is my impression of Style Stones: Love them!!

So, let me know if you have any ideas for me on how to mount my tiles in the top of my box! And share your experience with using Style Stones, too!

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Comparison of Gold Pens

Reported by Sara McKenzie

I am a huge fan of adding just a bit of gold to many of my projects, and for a long time have used one particular brand of gold pen to do just that. But I recently purchased a second brand of pen, and thought it would be worthwhile to do a comparison of them.

So I played around a bit with three different pens, and report on them here:

Krylon Gold Leaf Pen (top) and Prismacolor Gold Metallic Pen (bottom).

Zig “Painty” Gold Metallic Pen

The Krylon Gold Leaf Pen comes in a single size with a large, flat nib. The Prismacolor Metallic Pen comes in two sizes: one with a broad, rounded nib, and one with a fine point. I only had the broad tip to test. The Zip Painty Pen has a fine tip, with gold on one end and silver on the other.

Prismacolor nib on left: Krlyon nib on right.

Zig Painty Pen Gold nib.
All of these pens have a solvent or alcohol-based ink, so they are waterproof, and they work equally well on porous surfaces (paper, cardstock) and nonporous surfaces (plastic, glass). The pens also all work in the same way: you depress the nib a few times to get the ink flowing. You may have to depress it a few times during your project, depending on how much coverage you are trying to get.

Above: Krylon nib completely depressed against cardstock to start the flow of ink.

Below is a comparison of the width of each of the pen strokes:

You can use the Krylon pen in two ways, to get a slightly broader or narrower pen stroke, but I don’t find it to be particularly different. I suspect it is because the ink tends to flow a bit when you are laying it down. The nib on the Prismacolor pen yields a line about as wide as the “narrow” use of the Krylon nib.

Above, on the right, I have shown Zig “old” and “new.” The old pen is about a year old and has been used; the new pen was brand new, and the ink had not yet been brought to the tip. What you may (or may not!) be able to see is that the “old” pen did not leave a very clean line. I would not be happy trying to use an older pen to draw a fine line. And I could not get it to work any better with repeated depression to bring new ink to the tip. But the new pen is perfect for journaling or other decorative writing.

One of my favorite applications of the gold pen is to edge a piece of cardstock for a card. This provides, in my opinion, just the right amount of “bling” without having to add another layer of gold cardstock to your design. The Zig pen does not lend itself to this, and I have always used the Krylon Gold Leaf pen for this application. I tried the Prismacolor pen to see how it compared:

Hopefully you can see that the Krylon pen resulted in a straight, smooth line, whereas the Prismacolor pen, while pretty good, did not provide a straight edge. The shape of the Krylon nib lends itself best to this application.

With repeated use, though, you will see some damage ultimately done to the Krylon nib. See below for what I mean. I think that the edge of the paper (or cardstock) ends up cutting the end of the nib. It is still usable for the edging application, but it does become increasing harder to get an even edge. I always have a new pen on hand to use for only edging, and then switch it over to other applications when the nib gets too chewed up.

The nib of my well-used Krylon Gold Leaf Pen after repeated use for edging cardstock.

Below is an example of how just a bit of gold edging can dress up a card just the right amount.

Above: A Krylon Gold Leaf Pen was used to edge the white cardstock.

And below is a comparison of the Krylon Gold Leaf Pen (bottom) and the Prismacolor Gold Metallic pen (top) in covering the edge of some Clearsnap Style Stones. There is a slight difference in color, but the quality of coverage and overall metallic effect are pretty equal.

Above: Clearsnap Style Stones colored with Krylon (bottom) and Prismacolor (top).

Below is an application of the Zig Painty pen – this piece is of polymer clay, with a stamp impressed in it, colored with acrylic paint. I wanted to add just a few dots of gold- and the fine Zig tip was perfect for that.

Above: Polymer clay design with a few gold highlights added by the fine-tipped Zig Pen.
Finally, the other application that I love my Krylon pen for is to incorporate it into the “Polished Stone” technique. This is when you apply alcohol inks on a felt applicator to glossy cardstock, and pounce it around to get a beautiful mixing and mottling of the colors. You can leave little “puddles” of gold ink on the cardstock when you start (by depressing the tip and holding it down for a few seconds). Then pounce as usual, and the gold gets moved around the page with the other colors.

Above: “Polished Stone” technique, incorporating ink from my Krylon Gold Leaf Pen.

The Krylon Pens come in 18 Kt Gold, Pale Gold, Silver and Copper. I have only seen the Prismacolor pens in Silver and Gold. And I have seen only the silver and gold combination in the Zig pen.

Summary:

  • The brands all worked well when new and lay down a lovely metallic gold ink.
  • The Krylon is still my favorite for edging as well as laying down larger areas of color.
  • I have had a couple of my Krylon pens for years (literally!), so they last a long time. I suspect the Prismacolor pen will as well, but I don’t have the same amount of time invested in them.
  • I was disappointed that the tip of my older Zig pen tended to skip and leave an uneven line. I would buy the fine line Prismacolor pen before I invested in another Zig painty pen.

What about you? Is there a gold pen that you love and I haven’t mentioned? Because I’m always up for exploring something new!!