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Craftcutter Projects for Hobbyists

This article was originally written for our model railroading pages, in the "Structures" section. However, we wanted to share information about this topic that would overlap into several other areas, so we are republishing it, with updates and additions here.

We define "craftcutters" as tabletop machines that are designed chiefly for the purpose of cutting vinyl and other materials for craft projects. These machines are mostly interesting to me because they can also be used to cut out objects used for other hobbies such as model railroading, wargaming sets, dollhouses, putz houses, and more.

Dateline, March, 2021

Since I wrote the original article, much has changed. Unfortunately, that means that many of the amateur sites describing things you can do with specific products are outdated or just plain wrong.

For that reason, the approximate date of publication is prominently displayed, in case I don't update this page and you come back to it in five year. At least you'll know it may ot be current.

About "Projects"

The wonderful thing about these machines is that once you have an idea of any kind, it's possible to take it quite far. For example, if you download .svg files that will allow you to cut the windowframes for a two-story building, it's relatively simple to tweak the same file to make it cut windowframes for a ten-story building. (Your cutter just stays busy longer.) If you see an example of a slate roof pattern you like, and it's in the wrong scale, it's not hard to change it to the scale you use (although HO can be tricky with some patterns, and I'm not going to vouch for N).

So while we will be providing original patterns here for various projects, we'll also try to link to examples of other folks doing projects that should inspire you to try your own.

About SVG Files

Most folks who share cutter-friendly files share them in .svg (Simple Vector Graphic) format. That's a format that stores images as lines and curves. Not all .svg files are cutter-friendly. But most cutters' software, including Cricut's newest programs, can import .svg files easily. To me it's important to save any graphics you create as .svg files as well, in case you change cutters later, or your vendor abandons support for your machine (which HAS happened).

Note about Silhouette Studio and .svg Files: For some indiscernable reason, Silhouette's "free" software does not import .svg files, though it will import several other formats, including .dxf (an Autocad format). If you have CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, or Inkscape (a free program), you can export .dxf files for your Silhouette to read. Alternatives include:

  • Paying $50 "upgrade" fee to get the Silhouette Studio "design" upgrade. (Some places offer it on sale, too.)

  • Buying Sure-Cuts-a-Lot 5 for about the same amount of money and using it to drive your Silhouette directly.

More information about graphics programs and file formats is contained in our Graphic Software for Craftcutters article.

Our Projects

This section will contain projects we have done with our cutters. Right now, it's a pretty short list, but I hope it keeps growing.

  • Using a Craftcutter to create building fronts. Click to go to article.Using a Craftcutter to Cut Out Building Fronts Years ago, a request from an arboretum gave me the idea of mass-producing buildings for a temporary display with a signcutter and vinyl. While researching the feasibility of such a project, I created a number of SVG files, then used my cutter to cut three layers of vinyl that make up the little building front shown at the right.

    The biggest advantage of this sort of approach is the ability to cut out many complex windowframes precisely in a single operation even if you use other materials.

    SVG files for two different storefronts in Large Scale, O, and S are provided in the article.

  • Click to go to articleUsing Stencils to Make Buildings - While I was experimenting with the cutter for the article above, it occured to me that if you needed to make something inexpensive to represent large scale buildings on a display railroad, you could do a lot with stencils.

    The truth is, I never got very far beyond cutting the stencils, though I hope to get back to it eventually. I put this article up about the project in case anyone else wanted to try it. It actually uses the same .svg files as the article above, but, obviously, there are different directions and suggestions.

  • Windowframe Patterns for Putz Houses. Click to go to article.Windowframes for Putz Houses - Many of my friends make and restore "putz" houses - those little cardboard houses with the holes in the back that people used to put around Christmas trees in the mid-20th century.

    A big need has always been replacement windows - the old red cellophane widows fell victim to decay and "pokey little fingers." When illness forced the hobby's biggest supplier of those to stop making them available, I stepped in by creating a substitute you could cut on a craftcutter. I also made .svg files that included every common window size. The article that resulted also describes settings I used for various kinds of materials.

Other Hobbyists' Projects

The more I look for answers to questions online, the more I find projects that inspire me to try new things, as well as projects that I had thought about trying but wasn't sure they would work.

Here are a few resources from other folks that include project ideas (and in some classes plans you can download), plus a lot of supplementary information abut cutters, materials, etc.

  • George Downer's O Scale lobster shed, cut almost entirely on a Cricut Explore.  Click to see the discussion forum.George Downer's Lobster Shack - In 2018, Railroad-Line.com forum moderator George Downer began documenting his experiments with a Cricut Explore, starting with making an O scale "lobster shack," complete with cedar shake siding and double-hung windows, all cut out on the Cricut.

    Another contributor volunteers photos of his "slate roof."

    The link takes you to a forum page which, and you have to step through the pages to see the entire project, but it's worth seeing what George accomplished.

  • RMWEB.CO.UK's Craftcutter Forum (Mostly Silhouettes). This forum has been active since 2013, and the contributors have done some amazing projects. Including things I've considered, like building sidewalls for cars, but imagined would be too tricky with styrene only being cuttable up to about .015". I didn't go through the whole forum - so far there are 100 pages, but I kept finding great ideas and helpful hints. Here are a couple project photos I especially enjoyed seeing - a classic British coach and a window detail from a switch tower. There aren't many details on these projects per se, but there's a lot of information on what materials you can cut, etc.

    JCL's GNR coach sides cut with a Silhouette Cameo.  Click for bigger photo. JCL's switch tower windowframes and windows cut with a Silhouette Cameo.  Click for bigger photo.

  • My friend Lucy's PaperGlitteGlue site has countless useful articles for folks wanting to make putz houses and other cardboard buildings.  Click to go to a page that provides some basic information about doing this with a Cricut.Make a Paper House With Your Cricut - "My friend Lucy's PaperGlitterGlue site has countless useful articles for folks wanting to make putz houses and other cardboard buildings. Click to go to a page that provides some basic information about doing this with a Cricut.

    If you sign up for her newsletter (free), you'll have access to any number of downloadable .svg files for buildings, shingles, and other details.

Conclusion

We have more articles about specific projects planned, but we got so many questions from the first few things we posted, we thought establishing some context would be helpful. Consequently, this article is mostly background information for people who are just getting their feet wet, but if that describes you, I hope is helps steer you in a good direction. And maybe clears up some common misconceptions.

Watch this page: more articles are in the works.

As always, we want to hear your suggestions, criticisms, additions, etc. Enjoy your hobbies, and especially any time you can spend with your family in the coming months!

Paul


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