A few weeks back the folks at X-ACTO offered to send over a few of their items for me to review. My first thought was, “What could I possibly have to say about X-ACTO that my fellow Curbliers don’t already know?” My next thought was, “Since I’ve never actually owned an X-ACTO, I can’t really answer that question.” I know, I know! How has a chronic DIYer never bought an X-ACTO?! Because such purchases occur to me when I’m at the checkout. You know, where they sell the knock offs for a buck or two. And, honestly, I figured one craft blade was pretty much like another for how I use them. Yeah, I was wrong.
For this report, I decided to do a quick review and then a little how-to to get us all in the Halloween mood.
X-ACTO sent over 3 items in all and, like Goldilocks, I found the one that was just right.
The Retract-A-Blade (the second one pictured above) is great in that it’s, well, retractable. I however, found the handle a bit big, but that is probably do to my more petite hands. It was definately the Momma Bear of the three.
The #11 Craft Knife (the fourth one pictured above) has a nice ergonomic handle and was super comfortable to hold. It’s perfect for those who might have joint issues. I, however, found it chunky for the same reasons as the Retract-A-Blade. This is most certainly the Papa Bear of the clan.
The Gripster, (the third one) although not retractable, fit perfectly in my hand and felt like I was holding a pen.
So how did the three compare to my knock off? They didn’t. My cheapo blade lacks precision, makes a very wide cut (as exampled in the first cut on the left in the picture below) and, because it has break-off blades, it always leaves burrs on the next one in line.
Okay, so based on my lab tests, I became a total X-ACTO convert, but I had no idea how I would use them in my real DIY world. Enter scherenschnitte (pronounced SHARE-en-shnit-tah).
Scherenshnitte, the German art of paper cutting, dates back to the 1500’s, and although scissors were the tool of choice for cutting them, the X-ACTO really is the way to go these days. The highly ornate designs were–and still are–created in such a way that when the artist is done cutting them, the images are in one intact piece. Here is an amazing example of the craft from Karin Dickel-Jonasch:
Its fairytale quality is not accidental, as many scherenschitte artists are inspired by one very famous practicioner, Hans Christian Andersen. Much as Andersen did, they create their own designs and then start cutting. If that sounds a bit out of your skill set, don’t worry. It is perfectly acceptable to use a template to create a scherenschnitte, which is exactly what I did.
When I found this weird and wonderful tricker-treating werewolf by Cindy Ferguson, I was smitten…with both the image and Cindy. I simply downloaded the picture, resized it to fit a 5″ x 7″ matt and printed it out on regular old printer paper. I then got out my cutting matt and my new X-ACTOs. After using all three knives, I definately felt the Gripster was the most accurate for such detailed cutting.
Here is Mr. Wolf after cutting. Not so neat-looking, huh?
BUT, turn him over and he looks great.
To mount the image, I just applied a bit of glue stick to the back (the lined side) and adhered it to some black cardstock. One note about glue–I’d suggest NOT using spray adhesive. I tried it. It was a mess.
If you’re as taken with scherenschnitte as I am, then just take a look at this one, also from Cindy:
And, yes, she has a free download. For more of Cindy’s designs (she really has some of the best on the web) follow this jump. And to read more about the history and practice of scherenschnitte, check out this informative article.