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How to cut a stencil the fast, fun and easy way!

How to Cut A Stencil... and other Tips, Tools, & Techniques!
Cutting Tools & Materials    Stencil-Cutting Tips    Tips for Transfering Designs    Design Proofs   

Cutting Tools & Materials
New tools and materials can make stencil cutting fun, fast and easy!

Items Needed for Cutting Stencils:
Stencil material: E-Z Cut or Heavy Duty E-Z Cut; Electric stencil burner with fine-point angled tip or an X-acto or other knife blade; metal stand to hold the burner; tempered glass cutting surface; emery board or nail file; red, green or black extra-fine tip Sharpie permanent markers; masking tape &/or scotch tape.

Electric stencil burners (also known as hot cutters or stencil cutters), are similar to wood-burning tools. The type we sell has a fine-point tip that is perfect for cutting intricate stencils. The tip is angled, which allows you to hold the lightweight wooden handle in a comfortable, natural position, like holding a pen. It is a major improvement over the burners with plastic handles (they tend to have inconsistent temperatures and handles that get hot to the touch). A wonderful advantage of using a stencil burner is that you can move it in all directions, whereas a knife works best only when pulling toward yourself. Stencil burners are definitely the tool of choice for cutting circles, curved areas, jagged edges (leaves) and irregular shapes. Cutting goes faster with a burner, so they are great when speed is a factor, or when many stencils need to be cut. For those with arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or other hand ailments, stencil burners are easier to use than knife blades, and cause less fatigue. Very little pressure is needed... the burner does the work! (as long as you use them with E-Z Cut Stencil materials, not mylar or similar materials which tend to get ridges and rough beaded edges when cut with burners. See more info, below...).
In comparison with stencil burners, X-acto knives with a sharp #11 blade are the best tools for cutting straight lines, large curves, tiny lettering, and designs where total accuracy and precision are needed.

Stencil Materials: E-Z Cut and Heavy Duty E-Z Cut are clear, durable stencil materials available by the roll. They work incredibly well with our stencil burners and with X-acto knives for cutting intricate and detailed designs. Their nickname, originating 21 years ago, is "cuts like butter!". Heavy Duty E-Z Cut is used when greater strength and size is needed, and for dimensional stencilling. It's always a thrill to see the look of amazement on peoples' faces as they try cutting E-Z Cut stencil materials with a stencil burner for the first time-- before trying this combination of tools, people didn't know that stencil cutting could be so easy and so much fun!
*One of the main benefits of E-Z Cut stencil materials is that they do not get ridges and rough edges when they are cut with our stencil burner. (When mylar and most other materials are cut with a stencil burner, they often develop beaded edges or ridges along the cut areas which need to be scraped off or sanded down.)
Another benefit when using E-Z Cut stencil materials is that the burner tips last longer because there is less resistance when cutting these materials.
For best results, store all stencil materials loosely rolled, away from direct sources of heat. If the E-Z Cut seems to have a curl to it, roll it in the opposite direction and it will correct itself.

Cutting Surface: When cutting with burners or knives, use tempered glass with polished edges (or wrap regular glass edges with masking tape), or flat-surfaced ceramic tile. Self-healing rubber cutting mats can be used with x-acto knives, but not with stencil burners. There is more resistance when cutting stencils on self-healing mats compared to cutting on glass surfaces, and some people prefer the slower cutting speed and feeling of control this gives them. However, most people prefer the speed of cutting stencils on glass with their stencil burners!

Sturdy Metal Stand: As a safety feature, our metal stand is recommended to hold the stencil burner when it is not being used. This lessens the chance of it falling off and burning anything/anyone. The metal stand can be taped down on the side of the work surface with masking tape or blue painter's tape to hold it in place. If you have an extra tip for the burner, tape it onto the stand so that you'll know where it is when you need it.

Repair or stencil-cutting mistakes: Use strips of clear scotch tape on the front and back of the stencil to cover the "oops", then re-cut the area using an x-acto knife.

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