Today’s visit with the Cut Doctor is for Curio owners only, or for those of you studying to be cut doctors yourselves, or who just want to know what makes the Curio different. That’s because we’re dealing with platforms, which only the Curio uses. I’ll tell you about how that’s a different system than the other machines and teach you how to select the right combination of platforms and mats for your material on your project. (To start with lesson 1 in the Cut Doctor series, go here.)
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click the link and purchase something, I may receive a small commission. This helps me to be able to keep my business going and provide more tutorials. All opinions expressed are my own and are not tied to any compensation.
The Cameo and Portrait system
All cutting machines beside the Curio use a mat system. That means you have a sticky mat that holds the material as the machine cuts, or you’re cutting a material such as vinyl or HTV without the mat. (I’ve got an entire series on cutting without the mat here). On the latter, the adhesive on the back of the material is holding it firmly onto its backing. That backing acts as a mat would.
These machines have 2 silver roller bars that move the mat or material in and out of the machine (look below the first one to see its companion). Hard plastic rollers on the roller bar grip the mat or material. The mat and/or material are not rigid but floppy. The machine itself provides the firm surface underneath where the blade strikes. These machines have a replaceable cutting strip that protects the machine in case you accidentally cut all the way through a material when bypassing the mat. Behind the rollers bars and motor box is a third round silver bar that the motor box runs on. You load these machines using a guideline on the platform.
Because there will always be a slight difference in exactly where you put the mat or material in relation to the guide, you can’t unload and then reload the mat or material back in the exact same spot. There’s also the possibility of a slight difference in when the rollers on the roller bar grip the mat or material, so the spot vertically could be different as well.
The Curio system
The Curio has a rigid base to which you attach platforms and/or a mat. The platforms vary in thickness and you can alter how many of them you use on any given cut. Because there’s more distance between the base and the mechanisms, and because you can adjust how tall that combination stack is on top of the base, you can work with thicker materials (although the amount of downward force is equal to Cameos and Portraits).
A series of rollers moves the base in and out. Several run vertically along the base — above and below it, at the outsides and in the middle — and there are 2 horizontal ones. Only one on the far right is attached to a roller bar. The base has channels on the outside that the upper rollers run in.
To load a Curio, you push the base into the machine and the machine adjusts it to the right starting spot, which is the same each time. There’s no leeway side to side or front to back. That means you can cut/etch/emboss something, pull it out to see how it’s doing and then put it back into the machine. As long as you don’t move the material on the mat, it’s going to go back in at precisely the same spot. This makes it more useful for those who need that precision, such as metal clay artists or those tooling leather. The trade-off is the smaller cutting area.
The base plus the platforms are what provide the firm surface for the blade or tool to push against, not the machine itself. You must use the base, so you cannot cut without the mat on a Curio machine.
The platforms stack
On a Curio machine, you will always use a combination of parts:
This is what the machine uses to pull everything in and out. You stack the platforms and/or mat on it and clips at the sides hold those in place. It’s a fixed height and must always be used.
Platforms are semi-rigid surfaces whose only purpose is the adjust the height of the stack. They are either 1 mm or 2 mm. A number on the side of the platform shows its thickness. Sometimes you won’t use one, depending on the thickness of your material and what you’re doing to it.
In every stack you will have either a cutting mat or an embossing mat. This holds the material. They both have a thickness of 1mm so count as 1 in your stack. Because this is a given and because you always use one or the other, start with this when you’re counting up what other pieces you need.
The cutting mat is similar to the cutting mats for Cameos and Portraits. It has a gridded area that’s sticky to hold your material, and non-sticky areas all around that. It has a blue cover to keep it clean when you’re not using it.
The embossing mat is unique to the Curio. It’s spongy so that the area of the material where you are embossing or debossing your design can sink into it. It has a clear protective cover that you pull off using the small piece of blue tape on the top.
Your material can be up to 5mm in thickness, depending on what you’re doing to it.
–You can CUT up material to 2mm using the deep cut blade. That’s the limit because when fully extended to a 20, the deep cut blade is exposed 2mm. Just remember that the density of the material matters as well.
–You can ETCH, STIPPLE or SKETCH materials up to that 5mm. That’s due to the greater clearance under the bar and the variable stack height that I described above.
The stack you put into the machine is always in the same order bottom to top that I’ve listed here: base, then platform(s), then mat, then material. The base has pegs that the holes in the pieces fit onto, then you snap the clips at the sides.
The numbers in the platforms stack
You combine the parts to achieve the correct height. When you use a default material in the list, the software recommends the number of platforms you need. The trick is that you need to go into the Advanced Material Panel to see it. You get there by clicking the 3 dots at the end of the line that shows the cut settings. Make sure you have the right action chosen, as that can make a difference in the platform stack recommendation.
For cutting, 6mm is the magic number. So the mat on the base plus platforms plus the thickness of your material needs to equal 6mm.
Thin materials almost always use all the platforms with the mat. Most of the materials in the default settings list are Silhouette brand and so are made to cut on any machine with a regular blade. The thickness of the material is so small as to be inconsequential, so it doesn’t count in the number. *That’s the thing that can throw you off.* There are only a few things in the default materials list that have a platform recommendation under 6 (I’ll give you some examples below).
The thicker the material (closer to 5mm), the fewer the platforms. This is where you need to measure and experiment because they are most likely not on the list of default materials. If you intend to use thicker materials frequently, it’s a good idea to invest in a good caliper to make it easier to measure the material thickness.
For actions other than cutting, the number of platforms can really vary. The tools for these actions work on the surface instead of going all the way through the material, but how far they go differs based on the action on that material. For example, stippling on metal sheets should go deeper than etching on them. Plus, the materials vary in density even if they are the same thickness.
If you’re using Silhouette brand materials for specific actions that they make those materials for, the software gives you the recommended platforms. For example, for stippling on metal sheets the software recommends a platforms stack of 4. Embossing or debossing with Silhouette’s Score and Emboss paper is a 5.
Many times you don’t use Silhouette brand materials for these actions so you have to experiment to find the correct number of platforms to use. The software shows a recommendation of 1 for platforms on papers other than their Score and Emboss paper, even though on that specific paper it’s a 5. I suspect that’s more of a case of “we don’t make this material and/or don’t expect you to perform this action on it so we don’t know what setting to tell you” than anything else. So you start at a 1, which is a low setting, and go up from there by testing.
Honestly, I wouldn’t even say with certainty that the default settings for Silhouette brand materials are spot on. For example, embossing with the Embossable Foil is 6, while for the Printable Foil it’s 1. I’ve used both and can tell you there’s no way they are that different. I’m not convinced they have actually checked the settings for embossing on all the materials they sell.
Examples of platform number sets
Cutting standard cardstock
The thickness of the material is so small that you don’t count it in the stack. The recommendation, as with many other materials, is 6. So your stack is:
Platforms (5), which is a 2 platform + another 2 + a 1 (all 3 included platforms)
Embossing standard cardstock
We just saw that the stack for cutting cardstock is 6. But when you’re embossing, you’ve got a different action so may need a different platform stack. If embossing on the Score and Emboss paper is 5, but for regular cardstock it shows a 1. Since the Score and Emboss paper is about the same as a thick cardstock, you’ll probably need closer to that 5 or even 6. TEST, TEST, TEST!!! before you put expensive material in and try to do the whole project.
Cutting craft foam
This is one of the default materials in the list that’s thicker. That means you need to use a deep cut blade and adjust the number of platforms. The recommendation is 5. That assumes that the thickness of the foam is 1mm, so you need 5 more to create a 6mm stack.
Platforms (4), which is a 2 + another 2
Etching on metal etching sheets
Here again, the material is thicker as well as more dense. The Silhouette brand is 1mm, so you’d use platforms that equal 5 to get to the magic number of 6.
Platforms (4), so a 2 and another 2
If you’re working with metal that’s thicker, you’d need fewer platforms.
Cutting leather that’s 3mm thick
This is an example of a material that’s not in the list but is fairly thick. That means you need to account for the thickness. You take the magic number 6 and subtract the 3 to get a platform setting of 3.
Platform (2), which is a single 2
If you were going to tool this leather instead of cutting it, you may use a different platform configuration.
Here’s a material that lots of folks use with Curios. Since it’s not one Silhouette sells, you have to find info elsewhere. Because it’s an action other than cutting, you must experiment to figure out platforms. I haven’t done enough myself to give you specifics, but here are some GENERAL tips:
- You can use a template that keeps the pieces in the right spot. The template is like a platform, but has holes in it. The mat holds the acrylic and the template. The template keeps the acrylic from sliding around.
- Some folks use the cutting mat, others the embossing. Which one you use affects the platforms stack.
- Craft Chameleon sells acrylic blanks and templates to match. They have tutorials on their blog. They tend to use the cutting mat (1) with 2 #2 platforms (4). The template counts as a 1 platform, so a total of 6.
- Instead of using a template, you can use strong double-sided tape to adhere the acrylic onto the cutting mat. Don’t do this on the embossing mat, or it will rip the sponge material when you try to take it off.
- Cindy Pope does extensive etching on acrylic. She doesn’t have a blog, but you can find her group MCSilies on Facebook and there’s LOTS of good info there. She has a class on Craftcast, which includes etching on other materials.
- To protect the mat and keep it sticky, Cindy recommends using Protectofilm (I talked about that in this post).
- Cindy’s recommendations for 3mm thick acrylic is a cutting mat and a 2 plus a 1 platform; for a 2mm it’s a 2 plus a 2. That equals 6.
- Kelly Wayment has a tutorial here. For 3mm acrylic, she uses an embossing mat (1) with a 2 platform. Again, a total of 6.
More tips about Curio platforms
More or fewer platforms?
Yep, that’s the big question. If a cut or emboss isn’t going deep enough, you probably need to add platforms. That pulls the stack closer to the blade or tool, thus creating more pressure between the tool and the material. But you may alternately need to expose more of the blade instead for a cut. If the blade or tool is getting caught during the job, trying removing a platform. Or, as we’ve learned in previous lessons, lower the blade number and/or force setting.
Bottom line: it’s always a combination of material thickness, platforms, blade number and force. At times you need to adjust just 1 of those variables. Other times, you need to adjust several. Start with simple designs. Try different materials. Get to know the machine and the platform system. Test different combinations until you find one that’s, yes Goldilocks, JUST RIGHT.
Make sure to load your base correctly. The end with the arrow goes into the machine first. If you load the wrong end first, I’m sure you could see the problem there. If you don’t start with it far enough in, your software will stay in “Syncing” or “Load Media” mode because it detects the base isn’t in right. With the machine off, or with the power light flashing, push the base into the machine until the notches on the outside of the base pass the rollers at the front of the machine. Since these notches aren’t easy to find, you can push it in until the bottom set of base snaps are past that machine front.
When using a Curio, you are always going to be adding and removing mats and platforms. Once you get the stack, you MUST make sure the snaps are fully locked. If they aren’t, they will catch on the bars or mechanisms. It makes a terrible racket that can scare you into thinking your machine is dying. It also messes up the cut. Double check each time that you’ve got those fully locked.
You can get replacement Curio base snaps from the Silhouette America website under Replacement Parts. That’s not easy to find unless you know where to look – in the left column on the Support page under Support Topics.
Ratchet blade adjuster
The Curio base has a roundish hole on the lower left side. That’s for adjusting a ratchet blade.
Silhouette makes a larger base for the Curio, along with larger mats. The standard size is 8 ½ x 6; the extended is 8 ½ x 12.
You can use a PixScan mat on a Curio, but you need to make sure to purchase the correct one. These mats are specific to the different machines and are not interchangeable. They come in sizes for both the standard and larger bases.
Your Curio machine comes with some pieces that are confusing.
- The black squares are for doing Print and Emboss projects (that’s a lesson for another day).
- The plastic pieces with teeth are called Curio Material Fasteners. They help hold the edge of your paper to the embossing mat when embossing or debossing.
Curio Settings on Stippling only
While this isn’t a full tutorial on how to use the Stipple feature, there are a couple of settings for stippling that show in the Advanced Material panel only when you have the Stipple action selected.
This is a setting that’s also in the Stipple panel. It alters the size of the dots. This does several things:
- It makes it easier to see the dots on the display on your computer screen.
- If you choose to print out the stipple design from your home printer, the size of the printed dots change.
- It may change how the machine creates the stipples. Normally, the Stipple action is just a single up and down motion for each dot. If you increase the Stipple size, the machine can instead go around the outer edges of the circle instead of punching/drawing just at the center. That makes the dot look larger. It’s not really something you’d normally do on metal, because you’d likely not notice a difference. But you might with the pen on paper. HOWEVER – this only happens if you select Stipple Edge in Action by: Simple or AutoWeld in Action by: Line, Fill or Layer. The other trick is that it doesn’t make any difference if you alter the size in the Advanced Material Panel – only if you do it in the Stipple panel while designing. So does it really make sense to have it in the Send area? Probably not.
Increased stipple force
When you’re stippling on metal sheets, you can check this box to increase the amount of downward pressure on the tool for a deeper impression. You probably won’t want to do it with a pen as it only makes a minimal difference if any.
Here are some samples of the variations with size settings. 2.83 is the default size within the Stipple panel, and the .80 is the default size in the Send area’s Advanced Material panel. The rows on the bottom are where I increased the stipple force, using the same settings as in the top row.
This first one is done with a regular ballpoint pen. You can see that when you don’t have AutoWeld on, you can’t even see the dots. That’s because of the pen itself.
Here’s another comparison with the ballpoint pen. On each row, the only thing that’s different in the 3 shapes is the size alteration in the Send area. You can see it makes no difference at all.
Here I changed a sharpie marker, which has more “give” at the point. It’s harder to get a clean stipple, as I had to adjust the pen in the holder several times. But focus in on the larger dots for each shape and you can see the difference more clearly in the Stipple Edge vs. Stipple. The heavier dots are due to the machine pausing with the mechanism down on the final dot of the shape, causing the pen to bleed. Even with a felt tip pen, the increased stipple force makes only a slight difference.
And again, with the only change in each row being the Stipple Size in the Send area there’s no discernible difference.
At these last 2 appointments, we’ve talked about some obscure topics or ones that might not pertain to everyone. But you DEFINITELY don’t want to miss our next one. We’ll be talking about test cuts — how to do them, why you should use them and how to do them the smart way.
Leave a Reply