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Cutting Issues With Your Scan N Cut

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Are you having cutting issues with your Scan N Cut? We will look at how to resolve some of these problems when cutting with your Scan N Cut.

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Common causes of cutting issues

Unfortunately, there are a lot of variables with crafting which in turn means there are a lot of causes why your project may not be cutting as well as you had hoped. Some of these are simple troubleshooting types issues and then there are those that will not be fixed easily.

Reasons for your cut not to be as it should include:

  • Materials you are using. This may be the cardstock or vinyl that you have purchased.
  • Blade settings
  • Blade issues
  • Pressure settings
  • Speed settings
  • Your design
  • Materials not attached to the mat well enough and slip

Cutting issues with your Scan N Cut and vinyl

Every brand of vinyl is a little different. Some are great and some…. well, can cause issues. Even well known branded vinyl. This project I used Metamarc vinyl and came across some issues I hadn’t noticed with the vinyl when I had used it previously. There is more information on this further along in the tutorial.

The depth of your blade is especially important when cutting vinyl. It needs to do a “Kiss Cut” which is when the blade only cuts through the actual vinyl and not the backing paper or in the case of HTV the transfer sheet. How you set your blade differs between the CM models and the DX models.

I have added a complete section below dedicated to settings for your design.

Cutting issues with vinyl and your Scan N Cut

As you can see above…. things can go very badly.

This is some Cricut vinyl I was silly enough to walk away from for a few minutes while it was cutting out. While I had performed two test cut (you can see the triangles on the right) it hadn’t picked up that there were still some issues. If I had been watching it as it cut I would have stopped the Scan N Cut and made more adjustments.

A guide to working with vinyl can be found here.

Cutting issues with Cardstock

Your Scan N Cut may have more cutting issues with cardstock as there seem to be even more variables with cardstock. The settings that you choose on your Scan N Cut make a big difference however the cardstock you purchase is also a BIG factor. From my experience a bigger factor than when purchasing vinyl.

I recommend that you buy solid core cardstock which has much less cutting issues than cardstock that separates or peels when you cut it.

Recently I purchased a pack of 6 black sheets and 6 white sheets. The white sheets cut out fine however the black sheets were terrible. The black left fluffy bits of the card over the mat which was unusually hard to clean off and the actual card ‘peeled’ See pictures below.

The black cardstock I ended up tossing and I bought some much nicer black card which cut out beautifully. Less stress. The stuck bits of cardstock doesn’t look as bad in the picture as it was in real life.

Cardstock that left card fluff on the Scan N Cut mat causing major cutting issues.
Cardstock 'peeling' after cutting with the Scan N Cut. Major cutting issue.

TIP: Clean your mat after each use with alcohol-free wipes (baby wipes). You will find more information on maintaining your mat here.

Mat too sticky

If your mat is too sticky for your cardstock it will pull the backing off even if you are using a good quality card. Pat the mat down with a tea towel or something similar to reduce the level of stickiness. Lint-free or microfibre would be ideal.

Mat not sticky enough

A more common issue is that the mat is not sticky enough. This is a major as your materials may move during the cutting cycle and cause an unrecoverable disaster.

Press the material that you are about to cut down firmly with your hands, you can use a brayer if you have one or a squeegee. However, this still may not provide enough grip.

If your project needs a firmer hold then add masking tape to hold the cardstock or vinyl down. It can be placed around the outside of your design or where ever you feel it needs extra hold. I often tear my masking tape in half so it isn’t quite as wide and doesn’t go outside of the cutting area where the rollers travel or over the registration marks.

Keep in mind that if you have a lot of internal cuts the masking tape may not provide enough hold in the center area of your project.

Squeegee to press vinyl and cardstock firmly down to prevent cutting issues with your Scan N Cut

There are a lot of other suggestions for holding materials firmly on to the mat, including using basting spray. I personally don’t recommend using spray adhesive however if you choose this method please be careful not to spray near your machine as any sticky that gets onto your rollers or into the mechanisms of the machine will cause you ongoing grief.

Once you are beyond holding anything down with masking tape then it may be time to Zig your mat.

More information on Zig glue and how to regain your mat’s stickiness here

What settings to choose for your Scan N Cut

Setting the blade depth in the CM models

The CM range is a little more manual than the DX range of Scan N Cut machines. This is NOT a bad thing so don’t be concerned. The upside of them being a little more manual is that YOU have more control. I personally love that.

The first setting to adjust is your blade setting. This controls the depth of the cut and will depend on the thickness of the material you are cutting and whether you are cutting cardstock or vinyl. It is a very important setting to get correct.

I recommend that you start lower, potentially on a 2 or a 3 for vinyl or thinner paper. Remember always do a test cut. Depending on the results then increase the depth accordingly. If it has hardly cut the material at all then increase the depth by 1 full number. If you are close to what you need then only increase by a half number.

Of course, if you are cutting something really thick then you can start at a little higher number to start or you may be there for a while.

NOTE: your mat will show cut lines after general use of it. This is normal so don’t be concerned.

TIP: Should you accidentally cut right through your mat you can use packing tape on the back-side of the mat to repair it.

The DX blade setting

The auto-sensing blade on the DX models is a huge step forward for Brother. You will have the choice of half-cut for vinyl where it needs to only cut through the top layer of the vinyl and not through the backing sheet. There is not a lot of room for adjustment with the actual blade. The main adjustment is with pressure and speed if necessary.

Speed and Pressure

Speed and pressure are the next areas to look at adjusting if you are having cutting issues with your Scan N Cut. This is particularly true if you have the DX model.

Basically, if your project is looking a bit gouged around the edges adjust the pressure down may get you the results you are after.

A fairly normal cut pressure setting on the Scan N Cut
Adjustment on the Scan N Cut of the pressure setting to reduce cutting issues.

The above pictures are the adjustments I ended up making. The picture on the left is a fairly normal setting and the one of the right-hand side was set to resolve the issues. You can also reduce the speed if you are still experiencing issues.

TIP: The default settings usually have a box around them if you need to find them again.

The telltale test cut

You probably already gathered that I am a strong believer in doing a test cut at the start of each project as there are so many variables that can change.

If you have recently cut the same material and use the same settings, then you may be fine to miss doing the test cut. For the CM model crafters with a memory like mine, you may like to jot the blade/pressure settings down in a book or what I have done on my cardstock, note it within the packaging so that when I pick up the card to use it I can see at a glance what setting worked for me the last time I cut it.

Things to keep in mind that may change are:

  • That your blade wears down slowly over time
  • You have cleaned the blade holder and screwing it back together, the numbers don’t end up exactly where they were.
  • The vinyl is slightly thicker or thinner. This can be true of both adhesive vinyl and HTV.
Test cut showing the difference in depth of cutting the vinyl

This picture shows the variations of depth of the cut in the Metamark vinyl. The test cut on the far right is too deep and while it does not cut entirely through the backing sheet of the vinyl, the depth will cause issues when weeding. Similarly, the middle test cut is still too deep.

The test cut on the far left is correct and you can see the blue waxy type film which is there to allow the vinyl to lift easily off of the backing sheet. As soon as you cut a bit too deep and into the blue film with this vinyl you start having issues with transferring the labels or design.

How to rescue your project

Once you have already cut out your project you are then in rescue mode. It seems such a shame to simply throw it away and there are a number of things you can do to rescue your project so all is not lost. I will fight hard to save a disaster LOL

Before you unload your mat

Check your cut before you remove your mat from the Scan N Cut. You can just spot check it depending on the design. If I am cutting cardstock I will usually remove the outer card off the mat while it is in the machine and then remove the actual project by bending the mat slightly so the design lifts nicely off the mat. This is not really an option for vinyl so I simply check to see if the cut looks clean and depending on the design, I may lift parts of what will be weeded away.

If your setting were not quite right you have the option to send the design through to cut it again (or if you are foiling you can foil again too.) Adjust the setting if necessary although sometimes just a second cut with no changes will do it.

Once you have unloaded the mat it is very risky to try to load the mat in the exact same location and cut the design a second time. Might be a bit like winning the lottery if you manage to line it up again so that it cuts in exactly the same cut line.

Cutting too deep with vinyl will cause issues

The main problems caused by cutting a little too deep include the transfer tape not wanting to pick up the design and the top layer of the backing sheet sticking to the adhesive vinyl. Of course, if you have cut right through the backing paper of the vinyl as well this also causes issues.

NOTE: Your vinyl choice will make a difference too as some brands of vinyl will cope quite well.

Recovering from cutting all the way through the vinyl

Cut all the way through to the mat when cutting vinyl? Whoopsy!

It happens so never fear. Remove the unwanted section of vinyl while your project is still on the mat. Get your transfer sheet and lay it over your design and then gently lift it off the mat. You will still have the backing paper on the sticky side of your design so you will need to have a little patience and remove it.

How well this technique works does depend on how intricate your design is. It may not be viable if you have just cut out a mandala that is a 5 hour weeding project. I will leave that up to you to decide.

HTV

Fortunately, HTV has a thicker transfer sheet built-in and it is less likely to cut all the way through the backing sheet, especially if you have remembered to do your test cut.

Unfortunately, you cannot place a transfer sheet over the design and pick it up quite the same way as you can with the adhesive vinyl as the top part of the vinyl is the side that is ironed on to your t-shirt or whatever you are making. Remember, HTV works back to front to how adhesive vinyl works.

Depending on your design you may be able to find a way to leave the design on the mat until you get it to what you are going to iron it on, then gently peel off the HTV so it stays in place. This may be more viable if it is a simpler design like lettering or if you are layering the vinyl.

I haven’t had to recover from the HTV whoopsy as yet…touch wood. If you have this issue I would love to hear about your recovery story.

Transfer sheet won’t pick up vinyl

When you cut a little too deep, not all the way through but deep enough to just cut through that first layer of the backing paper you may also have issues with weeding. One issue is that the transfer sheet won’t pick up the vinyl. If this happens try using your fingernail to gently lift the vinyl off the backing paper as you are coaxing it onto the transfer sheet. Bend the backing paper back against itself while coaxing the vinyl off will also help to separate the two.

Weeded vinyl labels that caused an issue

The above weeding looks fine yes???

No….it wasn’t quite. While the main part of the vinyl weeded really easily, the actual letters did not. I had inadvertently set the depth a fraction too deep and in some places, it had nicked the backing paper and the vinyl did not lift and weed as it should.

For this issue, I needed to use both the above and below solutions to get the project to a happy ending.

Find more information on how to weed and transfer vinyl here

Backing paper stuck on the backside of the design

If you cut through the first layer of the backing paper of your vinyl it will often pull up and stick to the adhesive vinyl. Obviously, this is not good as it inhibits the vinyl sticking to your project. In most cases, you can still remove the backing paper by scraping it with your nail or a pin or maybe even your weeding tool to separate the excess backing paper off the design.

Trying to separate the two can be a bit fiddly and in some cases frustrating.

Be careful not to touch the sticky underside of the vinyl as this will impact the long term sticking power of your vinyl. It doesn’t matter if you touch the transfer tape as this is only required short term.

back to school project that caused vinyl issues

The picture is my recovery.

Blade causing cutting issue with your Scan N Cut

If you are getting jagged or odd cuts even after you have adjusted your settings look at your blade. It is often the culprit.

Clean the blade housing

Unscrew your blade housing to check whether this is the problem. You can give it a shake and if you have a small soft brush use that. I even blow inside the housing to try to dislodge the unwanted bits left over from a cut.

Scan N Cut blade holder with bits stuck inside it causing cutting issues.
Looking down the blade housing with some pieces stuck inside causing issues with cutting

As you can see in these photos the blade housing can collect lots of bits. That quite large piece in the picture on the right will definitely be causing your blade’s cutting issue.

Scan N Cut blade housing with the extra piece next to it.

That unwanted piece is actually quite large.

Check your blade

The next thing to check is your blade as it can become too worn and possibly blunt or even had the tip broken on it.

Scan N Cut blade starting to wear
Brand new Scan N Cut blade

The blade on the left is starting to show some wear and tear. I am still using this one so it isn’t dead yet. The picture on the left is a brand new one. I recommend that you have one spare in your kit so that if you are having trouble you can swap it out to check if a new blade fixes the issues.

TIP: The blade can be difficult to get a good look at so I use the camera on my phone and zoom right in close and then take a picture. Problem of visibility solved.

Dirty blade

Yep, dirty blade. This can occur especially if you have been cutting vinyl as the adhesive can stick to the blade and cause cutting issues.

There is an easy fix though. Scrunch up some alfoil into a ball and push the blade in and out lots of times… maybe 20 or 30 times. Be careful not to stab yourself and the blade will have a sharp end and I have seen images of band-aided fingers.

Scrunched up alfoil ball to clean the Scan N Cut blade

Font choice causing cutting issues

While most fonts are perfectly fine and will cut nicely, you occasionally come across one that will not. Have a look at the video below and you will see why it is worthwhile having a quick zoom in to check if your font is going to look nice once you have cut it out.

Design issues

An issue with your design also could be at the bottom of your problem. While Canvas Workspace is pretty good at removing any areas of your design that it doesn’t think will cut properly, ( this can be annoying) sometimes the size or shape of the cut can be a problem.

Another problem that is associated with your design is too many nodes… fortunately Canvas will let you know and won’t load the design or will remove parts it doesn’t think will be managed by your Scan N Cut.

The design fault is something to keep in mind though, especially if you have downloaded it from somewhere and it hasn’t been created or perhaps downloaded quite as expected.

I do hope that this tutorial has been helpful to resolve at least some of the cutting issues with your Scan N Cut.

Until next time,

Happy creating

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4 thoughts on “Cutting Issues With Your Scan N Cut”

  1. HI Sue, I have just cut on my new mat on my new SDX 1000. It cut well but Cardstock is very stuck on the mat. How do I get the cardstock off without damaging the mat?
    Your help with this would be much appreciated. By the way the machine is soooo quiet, can hardly hear it.
    Regards
    Andrea from New Zealand

    1. Hi Andrea, thank you for contacting me. I emailed you suggestions as I was away from my computer. 🙂 The mat is quite sturdy and you can rinse it in water to get off excess cardstock that has stuck on. Between cuts, you can also wipe the mat down with alcohol-free baby wipes.
      Here is a tutorial on re-sticking your mat for when you need it.

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