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