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Subject: Black Cat Cougar or other cutter/plotter for game pieces rss

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Jeffrey Knodel
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So because of a couple of other threads here, specifically:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/475977/which-is-better-chipb...
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/749865/tutorial-1-inch-doubl...
and
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/562070/die-cutting-warga...

I've started looking a die cutters, which lead me to materials to work in a die cutter, which inexorably lead me to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVhYK5sYZpM

Which is a YouTube video of someone using a Black Cat Cougar (http://thatsscrapinc.com/13inchblackcatcougar.aspx) to "print out" shapes cut out of chipboard from an inkscape vector drawing.

Which, naturally, had me drooling instantly. Oh the possibilities.

But doing more research, these are primarily used by strapbooking types to make pretty shapes out of paper, and not hyper-anal game design monkeys who want to be able to generate production quality prototypes.

So there is some doubt about how reliably it would handle a printout/glue/chipboard/glue/printout sandwich. I don't want to make a book to highlight my trip to Origins, I want to make tokens that can be thumbed nervously as your position is being overrun by the guy with the smirk on the other side of the table.

I am interested in knowing if anyone out there in BGG land has used one of these, and if so, could they recommend it?

Failing that, I am lining up a person who has one to try to test-cut some samples I send, so any specific suggestions on what I should have tested?


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Tim
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knodel wrote:
So because of a couple of other threads here, specifically:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/475977/which-is-better-chipb...
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/749865/tutorial-1-inch-doubl...
and
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/562070/die-cutting-warga...

I've started looking a die cutters, which lead me to materials to work in a die cutter, which inexorably lead me to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVhYK5sYZpM

Which is a YouTube video of someone using a Black Cat Cougar (http://thatsscrapinc.com/13inchblackcatcougar.aspx) to "print out" shapes cut out of chipboard from an inkscape vector drawing.

Which, naturally, had me drooling instantly. Oh the possibilities.

But doing more research, these are primarily used by strapbooking types to make pretty shapes out of paper, and not hyper-anal game design monkeys who want to be able to generate production quality prototypes.

So there is some doubt about how reliably it would handle a printout/glue/chipboard/glue/printout sandwich. I don't want to make a book to highlight my trip to Origins, I want to make tokens that can be thumbed nervously as your position is being overrun by the guy with the smirk on the other side of the table.

I am interested in knowing if anyone out there in BGG land has used one of these, and if so, could they recommend it?

Failing that, I am lining up a person who has one to try to test-cut some samples I send, so any specific suggestions on what I should have tested?





I bought one of the competing products, the "Cricut Expression". I got a good deal on it from a lady over Craigslist (she was a scrapbooker). It never cut squares as nicely as I wanted (It's an amazing machine and did everything flawlessly *except* plain squares). I was on the Cricut forums, and other users were able to replicate my issues with their machines, so it wasn't a faulty unit or anything...... anyways. It's a straight blade, so you're almost assured to get some "lifting" at the point of the cut. Unlike a die that presses clean through in one pass, or a rotary cutter. Look closely at the youtube video of the lady's "star" shape and you'll see what I'm on about.

Also, look for local scrapbooking stores in your town. They often have these sorts of machines, or die-cutting machines that you can use in-store. There's a place near my house that has 1" square dies and the big heavy duty die-cutting machines, and they charge like $2/hr to use the machines (max $10 per day).
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Brent Doughty
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Cutting chipboard seems to be the bane of DIY gamers and designers. Right now I'm using a product called a Zutter Kutter to make straight cuts. It does an awesome job for nice straight slices, but nothing like what is possible with one of those Black Cat Cougars.

The price for those BCC cutters are up there though...
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Mike Kollross
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An Accucut Mark IV with a few customs dies and you are good to go.



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Tim
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MK-Ultra71 wrote:
An Accucut Mark IV with a few customs dies and you are good to go.



Yeah, that's the one my local scrapbooking store has. It's a thing of beauty, I just couldn't remember the name. That thing's crazy expensive, so buying time on it at $2 an hour is definitely the way to go...

Incidentally, where can you order custom 1/2" dies? The best I've seen non-custom is 3/4" but most war games are 1/2.
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Nicholas Vitek
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You can contact Accucut or Ellison.
They have a group internal that makes custom dies.
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Jeffrey Knodel
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tofarley wrote:

I bought one of the competing products, the "Cricut Expression". I got a good deal on it from a lady over Craigslist (she was a scrapbooker). It never cut squares as nicely as I wanted (It's an amazing machine and did everything flawlessly *except* plain squares). I was on the Cricut forums, and other users were able to replicate my issues with their machines, so it wasn't a faulty unit or anything...... anyways. It's a straight blade, so you're almost assured to get some "lifting" at the point of the cut. Unlike a die that presses clean through in one pass, or a rotary cutter. Look closely at the youtube video of the lady's "star" shape and you'll see what I'm on about.


Well, to a certain extent that makes sense, except where the Cricut loads shapes from a cartridge (So you are cutting a square, with a starting point, 3 line segments, and three 'turns') the Cougar follows paths set in the SVG file.

Meaning, that its up to you to decide if you make your squares by tracing a bunch of squares, or you cut a large number of straight lines in a hash pattern.

In reality, I am not going to be cutting shapes with points, or sharp corners -- I'll want card shapes with rounded corners, and hexes, and circles, which I think could be done without having the tear-out problem.

Of course, I say that having owned neither of the machines in question.
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Jeffrey Knodel
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Nich wrote:
You can contact Accucut or Ellison.
They have a group internal that makes custom dies.


I am a little disappointed in the selection of dies, considering how long these things have been around. I mean, I want an 8" x 10.5 inch die that cuts out 18 'european size' cards with rounded corners. Is that too much to ask?

And while I am on it, why do all these things have 6" wide feeds? Where do you get 6" wide paper? That's not even a standard size for Europe, is it?

By the time I bought a machine capable of doing 8.5" wide paper, and a dozen dies for squares, circles, and hexes, I may have well bought the Cougar. (Says the man who wants to buy the thing, even though its probably not going to do what he wants...)
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Jake Staines
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knodel wrote:

I am a little disappointed in the selection of dies, considering how long these things have been around. I mean, I want an 8" x 10.5 inch die that cuts out 18 'european size' cards with rounded corners. Is that too much to ask?

And while I am on it, why do all these things have 6" wide feeds? Where do you get 6" wide paper? That's not even a standard size for Europe, is it?


Firstly, you have to understand that the majority of users of the smaller die-cut machines are scrapbookers. There are a huge number of dies available for Allstar-compatible machines like the Sizzix Big Shot if you want to make frilly patterns to glue on top of other frilly patterns in your scrapbook. Or whatever these people do with these things. After that, there's a load of 'general home use' dies like gift-label cutters, but most people don't want to make playing cards themselves, after all!

After that, a lot of the larger devices seem aimed largely at educational use; there's a reason that Ellison's website is "ellisoneducation.com"! I guess maybe they thought teachers wouldn't want to cut playing-card shapes, since there are lots of blank cards on the market already?

As mentioned previously, you can get custom dies made, it's more expensive but you get exactly what you need. You don't necessarily have to go to Ellison or Accucut to do it, either, there are third-party die manufacturers who may well be able to match the same specs and fit the machines.





As to the size, not all die cutters are 6" wide; just the home-use ones, the ones they aim mostly at scrapbookers and the like.

Really, it's the US which has the weird paper sizes; more countries than just Europe use the international standard (ISO) sizes! There isn't a standard paper size which is 6" wide because we use metric for a lot of things, but there is a very common paper size which is just under 15cm wide, or 5.84". ;-)

This is A5 paper, which is half a 'normal' sheet of A4 paper, the nearest equivalent to US Letter. A5 is 148.5mm by 210mm, and the format is commonly used for jotter pads, notebooks and the like. And, of course, it's half an A4 sheet, and most special varieties of card are most-commonly sold in A4 sheets, so you can cut it in half and get two A5 blanks for die-cutting. I guess they didn't want to make the home machines the whole 210mm+ wide it would need to be to accomodate A4 sheets (realistically more likely about 220mm wide to accomodate US Letter as well with a little gap to avoid binding), since that would make the whole unit much more expensive.
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Jim Harmon
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I purchased a bosskut gazelle about a year ago hoping to use it to make game pieces. It's one of the better ones on the market with 500 grams of pressure and laser alignment. It could easily handle thin chipboard like cereal boxes but not much thicker. In the end I decided to sell it and get a manual die cutter. The black cat cougar has a good bit more pressure so it might be more successful.
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Sam Phillips Beckerman
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knodel wrote:
[q="Nich"]
And while I am on it, why do all these things have 6" wide feeds? Where do you get 6" wide paper? That's not even a standard size for Europe, is it?


12"square paper is the standard scrapbooking paper. While you're in the store drooling over their multiple ginormous die cut machines and their wall of dies, look around at the paper. Good quality, linen texured paper everywhere. Step up your game.

as to the selection of dies - these were not designed for the professional production folks. Originally (and still) a mainstay for schools/teachers and last 15 years of scrapbookers.
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Nicholas Vitek
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Their standard dies are mainly for the education camp.

I have an AllStar and a Rollmodel. The RM takes large dies that allows me to do 8 full sized playing cards, no problem. We use it for prototyping cards on games we take via submission.

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Jeffrey Knodel
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I went ahead and did an Ellison All-star, as opposed to the Cougar, because of concerns about cutting the thicker materials.

I found it locally for $82, but naturally, the only dies I found locally were the artsy/cutesy ones.

Of course, I added the Cougar to my Amazon Wish List, just in case my wife is feeling generous in the future. (Hasn't happened yet, but you never know...)
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Colin Russon
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Hi All,

I am the owner / distributor of the Black Cat Cougar, I have read this post with some interest after finding it whilst conducting one of my periodic searches on google for Black Cat Cougar.

I can tell you that I would be very willing to test any materials on the Cougar. The Cougar is a very different cutter to others on the market and now we are three years in it has a recognised ability to cut a lot of materials accurately that other die cutters cannot.

If anybody wants me to test any material then please PM me or contact me directly on Europe: www.blackcatcutters.co.uk or Americas: www.blackcatcutters.com


Thanks


Colin.
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Dave Gray
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Owner of a Cougar which I bought for prototyping.

After much testing on a variety of materials I have some idea what this beast can do; having broken about 5 blades (3 of the strongest available) in the process. I was purposefully testing the limits.

Realize that these comments are biased towards trying to produce something like a Carcassone tile. Versus a lighter-weight token as found in the standard Puerto Rico or Settlers. The gist: lighter/thinner the better results.

First off, it is not going to have die-cut results on thicker/harder materials, but can come close in many circumstances. The limits of what we were able to cut reliably are in the .5mm range with pressboard. We never did get a hold of binder board to test since it did not really perform well on thick pressboard, so true binder board would not have worked.

It can make cuts in 1mm pressboard if the cuts are just straight, replace the blade frequently, and have a method to stabilize the material beyond what is provided as standard accessory. This machine has a LOT of cutting power.

When it comes to thicker materials (generally speaking) the tighter the turns the less likely it is to turn out well (broken blade or severely tweaked corners, etc). But that's when pushing the limits with some of the more firm/fibrous materials.

Less dense but still thicker materials will perform better, but will not have the heft and feel of a production die-cut from thick binder board.

There is such a vast array of materials possible, that I'm still totally amp'd about owning a Cougar for prototyping. I never got around to trying framing mat material, etc. Lost steam on the game we were working on.

One of the other issues we found with thicker materials and larger sheets is that the sheet feeders really lack the tack, and the roller feet the force to hold the sheet in place for cutting. We were pushing the limits there too, having the paper shop cut the large sheets in half which would then be pushing the largest size the cutter could possibly handle.

When we scaled back to very thick cardstock we were able to cut tiles and chits with ease and precision. The only troublesome part was some of them would come up off the mat and interfere with the cutting area once in a while.

When we pick up the project again, next steps are to find the optimal material in cut-ease vs weight, tune the SVG cutting paths, and play with feeding methods (possibly temporary adhesive on the cutting mats).

Hopefully this is not too redundant from what is on other threads. We purchased the cutter two years ago and there was not much information on it at all. I kick myself for not keeping detailed records of what we tried.
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Ron Parker
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Another thing you might try, something I read on a model railroading forum where they're mainly talking about (ab)using the Silhouette SD to cut .020 styrene: make multiple passes at lower pressures and in opposite directions. That probably won't help with your broken blade problem, but it might help with the liftoff problem.
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Dave Gray
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parkrrrr wrote:
Another thing you might try, something I read on a model railroading forum where they're mainly talking about (ab)using the Silhouette SD to cut .020 styrene: make multiple passes at lower pressures and in opposite directions. That probably won't help with your broken blade problem, but it might help with the liftoff problem.


Multi-pass was required for the 1mm thickness (2 minimum, 3 better), if I recall correctly. Great point about it helping with lift-off, but the liftoff happened with all materials even with one pass realistically needed. The lighter materials should have been held by the tack of the cutting mat.

A reverse path would work for another issue I did not mention, and that was at the beginning and ending of a cutting path being very gradual for harder materials; balancing forward cutting speed with the drop depth. That's just more tweaking of the SVG and cutter settings, etc. I look forward to picking it up again sometime soon.

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