Craft Tool Review: Rotary Cutting Machine by Simplicity

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I started quilting about 10 years ago, and I quickly learned that tools are important. Rotary cutters made the job of cutting so much easier by ten-fold! So when I learned that Simplicity made an electronic rotary cutter, I figured that it would the best. Tool. Ever. And besides, I know quite a few quilters who have hand issues that make even rotary cutting difficult- and this tool sounded like the answer to many a prayer.

I looked on the website, and the description is as follows:

• Rotary Cutting Machine can be used for cutting paper and fabric
• Cutting is done by pressure between drum and blade, not by sharpness, this
makes our blades last longer than traditional rotary cutter blades
• Adjustable guide for cutting strips from 3/8” to 2 3/4”
• Great for use by sewers, quilters, scrap bookers, and rug hookers
• Suitable for cutting paper, felt, oilcloth, fleece, cotton, lightweight wools and more
• Rotary Cutting Machine comes with a power cord and foot pedal
• Lightweight and compact machine can be carried to classes
• The box becomes a storage case with handle
• Small footprint of the machine stores easily on a shelf
• Machine blades for pinking and straight cutting are included
• Cut fabric on the straight of grain or on the bias
• Finish edges of scrapbook paper with a pinked edge
• Cut strips of paper quickly
• Additional blades available September 2009:
Straight blade
Large wave blade
Small wave blade
• Not intended for professional use
• Suitable for use in Continental U.S. only

I pulled the tool out of the box- it’s electronic and runs on a direct current. It’s super easy to set up- just plug in the cord that’s attached to the foot pedal, and away we go!

You get the machine, foot pedal and two blades (straight and pinking) in the box.

Adjustable arm of the Simplicity Rotary cutting machine.

There is a handy-dandy arm on the front that adjusts to the different widths- from 3/8″ to 2 3/4 inches. Now, that’s a little disappointing, because I often need strips that are 3 inches wide.

Now I did read on the instructions that don’t expect it to work out of the box. You will probably need to adjust the blade- which cuts by pressure by the way- not by being super-sharp! This means that you can handle the blades and not be afraid of cutting off your fingers. While traditional rotary blades are dangerous, these are about the sharpness of a butter knife.

So I took a look at the cutting mechanism, which looks like this:

Simplicity rotary cutting mechanism- top is a pinking blade.

I tried the cutter right out of the box, and sure enough, it scored the paper but did not cut it. So, to adjust the mechanism, you use a straight-slot screwdriver to remove adjust the tension of the bottom drum. The instructions say that just a small turn should be all that it needs. So I tried a small turn, and the blade didn’t cut.I adjusted it some more, nothing. I gave it a really good twist (in the directions, it says to be careful not to over-tighten)- and I got it to cut the sheet of craft foam.

I got it to cut through foamies cleanly, but nothing else.

By the way, I tried paper, felt, quilters’ cotton, and the aforementioned craft foam.

Then I wondered if the blade wasn’t the issue- and maybe I should just focus on the straight blade instead of the pinking one. To change the blade you need a Philips-head screwdriver. (Note that it’s different from adjusting the tension wheel.) This resulted in wasting 15 minutes trying to find another screwdriver. I wonder why they didn’t just keep it consistent so all you need is one tool?

Anyway, I got the protective plastic cover off and started to wiggle the blade free. This was a little tricky because you are working in such a small area. I got the pinking blade off, then placed the new, straight blade on. You have to line up little pins to make sure the rotary wheel are on securely.

Now, as for me, I’m blessed with good eyes and manual dexterity. But if the reason you need the machine is because of arthritis or neuropathy, changing the blade is going to be difficult if not impossible to do independently.

I finally got the blade on, the plastic case replaced, the screw screwed in…..and give it a whirl.

It still didn’t cut. Ok, back to unplugging,  re-tightening the bottom wheel (switching tools), and plugging back in. It left a nice dent on the foamies, but didn’t even cut the paper.

Again, let me stress that each time you go to adjust the tension wheel, you need to unplug the unit for safety. So if you are keeping track, by this point I’d put in 20 minutes and had only gotten it to cut a sheet of Foamies.

OK! One more time… unplug, gave it the biggest twist I could muster, re-plugged….and….

It cut the foamie sheet! That felt like success! How about the paper?? Well, no. Just scored it. Felt? No. Quilting cotton….well….kinda.

It cut the fabric, but all the way through.

It cut the fabric, but as you can see, not all the way through in all the places. Actually it reminds me of a rotary cutter that’s just too dull for the job and needs to be swapped out.

I also should mention that the foot pedal takes some getting used to. It only has two speeds- stop and go- and can move a little fast. The guide is there, but you still have to control the fabric or else it fishtails and makes inaccurate cuts.

By now, I’d spent 35 minutes trying to calibrate this machine and gotten it to cut foamies and 1/2 way through some quilters cotton. It did not cut the felt or paper at all.

As you can imagine, this was very disappointing. I felt like I gave it the old college try AND the benefit of the doubt- but the bottom line is that this was an epic fail for me. Maybe my machine was just wonky, but in good conscience I’d have to warn most folks away from purchasing this tool (MSRP is $79.99 USD.)

I had high hopes that the Rotary Cutting Machine might be a tool to keep disabled quilters sewing longer- but the reality is that if I can set up the machine with two good eyes and two good hands, someone with paralysis, neuropathy, or arthritis won’t be able to at all. (And that’s without the poor performance.)

I know I’ll probably catch some flack from this review- but this is my experience as a person with little technical skill. (Probably, like most crafters.) So I’m ready- leave your comment. If you’ve had a great experience, by all means, set me straight.

Disclosure: I received this machine as a perk of being on a design team, but was not paid for my review or opinions.

 

 

 

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About Jenny

Chief Craft Test Dummy, Craft Evangelist, Founder, Editor, bottle-washer, trouble-maker, and creative whirlwind.

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23 Responses to “Craft Tool Review: Rotary Cutting Machine by Simplicity”

  1. Michelle jadaa Says:

    well im glad to read an honest opinion,i too was hoping this machine did what its for…especially considering the price lol

  2. thezenofmaking Says:

    I’ve been thinking about getting one of these for a while. But, now that there is fabric interfacing available for my Silhouette SD, it seems like a surer bet for consistent cuts (shapes, too). I do think that, if you can get it to work, the rotary cutter would be great for bias tape.

  3. Shoni Says:

    Thanks for the review – and the honesty – Jenny!

    Shoni

  4. carmen shannon Says:

    I wish your candid review had been out before I purchased this last December. I still have not taken it out of the box. Oh well, live and learn.

  5. Mary Says:

    I had high hopes that maybe it would work, but after replacing the blade several times and turning the screw in every direction, it still does not cut my fabric. I’ll be returning it to the store now.

  6. Linda Says:

    Same for me I bought a week ago on offer and thought it looked great advertised on tv however no amount of trying ca get this to work.

  7. Cat Says:

    If you get a flat head screw driver and turn the bottom screw left (under the ”table” on the same side as the blade)it will cut. My problem with this machine is that it’s really hard to keep the fabric straight….

  8. Jenny Says:

    Cat- you have to trust me that I tightened that screw by 1/4 turn increments until it was too tight to move. It STILL didn’t provide enough pressure to cut anything- even paper.

  9. Katie Says:

    Thank you so much for this detailed review. I would love a review of the deluxe version, although, honestly, at nearly $200, I probably won’t be buying one anyway. That’s a lot of money for an iffy product.

  10. Helen Stanley Says:

    Just opened my rotary cutter – tried and tried for half and hour. Zero cutting – just scoring. I have seen so many poor reviews of this product saying exactly the same thing – how are they getting away with it. What is going on? Will be returning this product ASAP – it was half price – and no wonder. Rubbish.

  11. Val Cave Says:

    Hi! Having stumbled across this review of the Simplicity Rotary Cutter, I felt very disheartened, having just purchased it – but, it works perfectly! Admittedly, I had some teething troubles this afternoon. My husband had to turn the screw (anticlockwise!) because I didn’t have enough strength in my wrists; it’s a very tight adjustment! You need a reasonably large screwdriver because the mechanism has a locking nut on it. If you can slide a piece of paper under the cutting wheel when the machine is unplugged, the screw is not sufficiently tightened! The machine doesn’t like polycotton but it cuts quilting cottons beautifully! It needs a bit of practice to cut straight! I have placed a piece of tape on the extension table (an optional purchase) in line with my cutting width to help me align the fabric. I’ve been practising on a piece of scrap calico and am really pleased with the results. I’m glad I bought the extension table as I want to cut lengthwise strips off of yardage; I think it would be very difficult without it as the fabric would drag down out of the machine.
    I hope this is an encouragement to those who are thinking of buying one and, if you’ve had unsuccessful results with a purchase, have another try!

  12. Debbie Says:

    I wish I would have found this website before I purchased the darn thing. I can’t get it to cut anything. It ruined enough fabric, paper, etc. to make it like I purchased it four times! I hate it and can’t return it now. Being on disability is hard enough but purchasing something that is a lemon makes it even tougher!

  13. lily Says:

    hello jenny, i do hope you are well/ I have just finished reading your review and wondered if you have also tried the winder, it winds fabric a contuation of the bias binding maker. I have ordered the bias binding maker so am now intrigued as to how it will do. I will leave you my feedback. Also how did you get to be a dummy run parson, you know testing equipment, I would love to do that, sounds my cup of british tea :)

  14. Jenny Says:

    Lily- thank you for you comment. I have not tried the winder, so we’d be interested to hear how it works for you. As for how I got to be the “head craft test dummy”- well, I saw a need in the crafty blogasphere for down-to-earth, unbiased (which means not being paid to do it) reviews. So I started my own blog on a lark and have been slowly and steadily building it!

  15. Samantha Says:

    I just ran across this review and all the comments. I bought mine last week on Ebay and it’s on it’s way. I saw them on sale at alMart for 59 recenyly.
    I got mine for about 30. At least, I didn’t blow a wad of money. I’ll give it a try and see what happens. Some things sre just too good to be true. I’m surprised you haven’t heard from Simplicity.

  16. Ann Eales Says:

    Thank you Jenny, I have been waiting to buy the new wider width rotary cutter. Now I think I’ll leave it on the shelf. I have used the bias binder machine and it is brilliant

  17. Rose Woodcock Says:

    Don’t buy if you are short tempered as it will end up through the window.
    Like Jenny I too tried everything and I eventually got it to cut, BUT in my opinion there are two main problems 1.the single speed presser foot. (it is very quick) 2. there is no way because of the speed that you can guide the fabric to the end and like Jenny said it fishtails so if you want to do squares for quilting I would think that would be impossible. I also think it has been manufactured to work in conjunction with the Simplicity Binder machine,as your edges don’t have to be perfect for making binding as the edge is hidden. Don’t buy if you require accurate measuring!!!! Go back to your rulers and rotary cutter.
    NOT A TOOL FOR THE QUILTER! Send it back if it is not too late, I’m stuck with mine, What a waste of money.

  18. Rose Woodcock Says:

    Glad I came across this site. Shame I didn’t find it sooner.

  19. Keren Howell Says:

    I was beginning to think it was just me! I got this as part of a bundle with the bias tape maker, which was what I was interested in so I wasn’t too bothered about the cutter but I hate to have something not work so kept on playing with it. I had a frustrating time with the cutter at first, however, it now works perfectly. The pressure wheel does need to be tighter than you would think.

  20. Wendy Hansell Says:

    ive tried for an hour to get this thing to cut…it just leaves an impression in my fabric ..and ive tried adjusting it 578 times! waste of money

  21. Judie Says:

    I, too, was considering getting one of these but that is now in doubt. I WAS wondering, though, if it were possible to change out the cutting blade provided with an actual **cutting** blade for a ‘real’ rotary cutter?

  22. Lorrie Says:

    It arrived today and I done all that it says on the box but it would not cut just score.

    My hubby got the largest screwdriver in the house,turned the pressure wheel screw to the left as far as he could (which goes further than you would think)

    It now cuts perfectly,tried tafetta,satin,polycotton,etc.

    Remember to loosen the pressure screw when you need to change your blade.

    Hope this helps!

    Lorrie

  23. Paula Says:

    I bought this rotary cutter today and although I liked the price, I am not pleased with it. It took awhile to get it to cut, the screws and knobs are very tight, which is difficult with arthritis, but I was able to get it to cut. The problem is trying to keep the fabric straight (I am a quilter) while going through the machine. I thought it would be nice for cutting strips, but Its not worth the trouble to try and guide the fabric. It needs something like feed dogs to pull the fabric through straight. Am going back to my hand rotary cutter. I will be returning it.

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