Even if you follow every tip and have given yourself the best chance for success, sometimes things just go wrong when you’re cutting without the mat. You can often save your project or at least some of it by keeping a cool head and following some tricks during the cut. One of the best things to know about here is that you can pause or cancel a cut job. (You can start with tip #1 in this series here.)
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Tip #13: What to do if things start going wrong
Keep an eye on the cut
This is preventative maintenance. If something does start going wacky, it’s better if you catch it right way. It’s a VERY rare occasion when I leave the room while my machine is cutting. It seems that on those few times I have, a problem crops up. I’ve learned it’s best to stay in the room and keep an eye on the cut. If something goes wrong, I can address it immediately and minimize the damage. What you’re watching for when cutting without the mat is the material getting close to coming out from under the rollers.
Since longer cuts also take more time, you’ll also want to make sure your computer doesn’t go to sleep during the job. That will cause a communication issue between the computer and machine.
How to pause the cut
If things start going crazy, your first step should be to try to pause the cut. That will give you time to decide if you can salvage at least some of the project or material. You can take a deep breath, look things over and make decisions, then either resume or cancel the job.
It depends on your machine
- Cameo 1 or Portrait — It’s one of your buttons. On a Cameo 1, it’s at the lower left. (I’m assuming we all know the universal symbol for pause).
- Cameo 2 or 3 — It’s a screen option during the cut.
- Cameo 4 — See this post.
- Other machines — don’t have a pause option so it’s a little more complicated. You can try to use the pause in the Send area of the software, although this doesn’t respond very quickly and sometimes not at all. It just depends on what point the machine is in the cut job. To pause this way, click the small machine icon in the lower right (the one that looks like a Portrait machine) to open the machine detail window. Then click on the smaller “x.” ***Be sure to read the section below on resuming a cut BEFORE you pause one on of these machines. Then do some testing on scrap material before sending your good material in.
On all machines
No matter which machine you have, the pause doesn’t always happen right away. The machine will complete the line it’s on or even more commands before it pauses. It all depends on how much information has been sent from the software to the machine.
HINT: The machine will have more stops and starts if you turn on Line Segment Overcut (which you should always be doing anyway). That means it will stop sooner when you pause the cut.
Once you’ve paused, the machine screen (if you have one) and the Send area of your software (except with those older machines) will both indicate the cut is paused. In the software, it may take a while for the Paused message to come up. The software may be busy sending information to the machine (the message Cutting). Just watch for it. Then you can either continue the job or cancel it.
HINT: On a Cameo, you can also alter your cut settings while the machine is paused.
If you’re going to continue, be sure to got through the resume process and don’t just start the job again from the software. If you do the latter, the original one won’t unpause. It’s just going to add an extra job to the queue and that job will start as soon as you cancel or finish the previous job. And what’s even trickier is that as that second job is cutting, the pause option may not be on your machine screen.
• Cameo 1 or Portrait — press the pause button again.
• Cameo 2 or 3 — press Resume on the machine screen.
• Cameo 4 — see this post.
• Other machines — hit Resume in the Send area of the software if the option is there. It should be at the same spot as where you see Test, but it’s not always there. It seems to often revert to Test. Unfortunately, if it’s not there there’s not a way to resume the cut.
If you do want to start again, don’t pause too long. Jobs paused for long periods of time can cause a communication error between the computer and machine. This usually happens because the computer goes into sleep mode. Often, this results in the job not completing and a cut being made back to the origin point (upper left corner), right through your project.
Let’s say you decide you have messed up the cut too much and just want to stop completely. You’ll need to cancel the job in order to be able to start a new job properly. Here’s how:
• Cameo 1 — Use the up and down arrow keys on the machine to move through your screen options if necessary. You want the black dot to be next to Cancel Job. Then hit the Enter key again.
• Cameo 2 or 3 — Choose Cancel Job on the machine screen.
- Cameo 4 — see this post.
• Other machines — use the “x” in the Send area of the software. In this picture, I’ve clicked on the little icon of the machine at lower right to open this secondary window. This is a window that I can use in Business Edition if I’m running multiple machines at the same time. Usually you won’t need this.
As with the pause, it may take some time for the machine to finish cancelling the cut. Be patient! Wait until the screen of the machine goes back to the way it looks when a job is completed. And wait for the Ready message in your software. If you get a Syncing message in that Send area screen, wait longer or simply turn the machine off and back on.
Here’s the tricky part! Once cancelled, the motor box does NOT go back to the starting spot in the upper left corner unless you unload. It stays where it was when the machine paused. That means you will have to unload. If you then send a new job without unloading, the machine uses that stopped spot as the origin, not the upper left. Your cut starts in the wrong place on the page.
Let’s say you want to abandon the cut but don’t want to cancel because that means you have to unload and you’re hoping to cut again right in the same spot. You can simply take your blade out and resume the cut. Let it go through all the motions of cutting until it finishes. Because you didn’t cancel, it will roll back out to the spot it was right when you loaded. That means as long as you don’t unload you can send the job from the software again and it will cut in the correct place.
Powering the machine off
If you absolutely have to stop the cut immediately because the pause is taking its own sweet time to happen, it’s perfectly safe to turn the machine off. I mean, if your cut is ruined anyway, why not try to minimize the damage/loss? You won’t be able to start the cut again and have it pick up in the same spot, because you’ll have to unload the material. So you’ve lost some of your material, but you can often save a portion of it. With the machine off, you can pull your material to get it out of the machine. The roller bars move freely when the power is off.
If you do have to resort to this extreme, make sure to follow my hints for what to do before you send a new job to cut.
Adding extra length or width
The longer the cut, the more likely it is that the material will eventually creep out from under the rollers at the sides. Or if you measured your material length incorrectly or loaded past the mechanisms and forgot to adjust for that, you may run out of room at the bottom. Notice in this photo how the edge of the red HTV is dangerously close to the left edge of the roller.
Here’s a cool trick. You can pause the machine, use painters tape or washi tape to put a 1” piece of cardstock (or even another bit of your same material) on the edge that’s about to have trouble, resume cutting and hopefully squeak through. You’ve basically made your material a bit wider or longer, so the machine will still have something to grip onto. Since you have to leave those small margins at the sides when cutting without the mat, you’ll still probably get the full cut.
Using a roll feeder
If you habitually cut long pieces of vinyl, consider investing in a roll feeder. You have a much better chance of keeping the material straight when you use one. I’ve got a tutorial on using one here.
I’ve got just 1 more tip for you on cutting without the mat. Believe it or not, it’s actually things you do AFTER the cut is done. Curious? Check it out here. I’ll also review all the tips in order.