Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Pen Holder for Sheba

I’ve finally got round to ordering the pen holder for Sheba, my Black Cat Cougar cutting machine, and also a new mat to replace the extremely manky one that was spoilt pretty early on by my falling into the usual beginner’s trap of cutting with too much force and engraving the mat!

I have been keen to have the pen holder ever since I got Sheba, because to be able to draw and write as well as cut is a tremendous advantage. I was able to do this on my old Cricut machine, and used the facility to decorate my Christmas bag skirts, but because the space for the housing on that machine wasn’t very high, you had to use special short pens, and after a very small amount of use, it seemed, they were running out.

The Cougar, on the other hand, has a lid which lifts up, and this enables you to use any pen in the holder, which comes with two different sized cylinders which fit in the holder, enabling you to use almost any sort of regular pen, from gel pens to embossing and glue pens, opening up a great deal more scope for Having Fun.

Here is the kit, together with one of the gel pens from the big set I had for Christmas.

The pens wouldn’t fit in the smaller cylinder, and when I tightened the screw of the larger cylinder to hold the pen firmly, I noticed that it was skewing it. This might not be a problem unless you were drawing and cutting on the same project – the drawing would be offset and not line up with the cut line. I went onto the Black Cat forum and immediately (brilliant lot they are!!) I had 2 replies, suggesting I make a little half-collar out of card to jam in beside the pen on the opposite side from the screw. I tried this, and it worked a treat. You can see the card shim I made, in the picture above.

Here is the pen in the holder without the shim. You can see that it’s definitely offset.

This is a shot of the pen end on – it’s a bit hard to see, but the tip of the pen is definitely not in the centre of the hole.

Here it is with the shim in place, and you can see that the whole assembly is now nice and straight.

This is my test drawing. I just used an old bit of scrap paper. In the bottom right is my test rectangle. I set the velocity to 100 and the force right down to 1 (the lowest possible) and it drew like a dream! I chose my butterfly svg with its 3 colours and drew each separately, changing the pen in the holder for each one. If you look very carefully you can see that the dark purple isn’t exactly lined up with the green, and some of the elements are almost touching. This was because when I placed the pen holder back in the housing after changing the pen, I didn’t position the screw in the forward facing position. When I changed to the pink, I made sure that I did, and the results were perfect.

I then put the blade holder back in, and did a quick test cut – I wasn’t fussed about the quality, and used the 60 degree blade that was still in the holder, when the 40 degree would have been better for this thin paper, and I didn’t change the force either – the result was that it didn’t cut all the way round, and the blade snagged in a couple of places, but it really didn’t matter because the purpose of the exercise was to see how well the cut lined up with the pink drawn line – and it was perfect! So much so that if you examine it closely, there is pink either side of the cut line, showing that the blade cut exactly in the middle of the ink line all the way round! This is very impressive.

Sheba is very pleased to have her new accessories, as I am. She has written a letter to Dawn (inventor of the Black Cat cutters and our gracious hostess on the forum – see link in my sidebar).

I was aware that if you just write text in Inkscape and send it to print/write in SignCut, you get a double line instead of a single line. With a bit of work you can get the machine to cut/draw with a single line, but I didn’t bother in this case – I filled in a few of the more obvious gaps by hand with the same pen after it was done. I also didn’t use anything very posh to write on – just a grotty bit of scrap paper that wasn’t any too clean – sorry Dawn!! It was just a test piece, after all.

I think this goes to show yet again what superb and amazing machines these are. Not only that, but my query was answered pretty well instantly on the forum, and one of the replies was from Dawn herself. You can’t get better service than you get from this wonderful lady (and her counterpart, Sherri, in the US). If you are thinking of investing in a new cutting machine, the Silver Bullet (brand new machine incorporating all the improvements that would have gone into the next version of the Cougar) is now available and is already getting rave reviews!


  1. Hi Shoshi, a very interesting post and well done for getting it to do what you wanted in the end! I am afraid though, you might as well be speaking in a foreign language as I do not have any of these electronic thingys, just a Big Shot and Cuttlebug although the BS is electronic! A x

  2. Gosh Shoshi, this post is way over my head!!I'll look forward to seeing what you do with your new bits and pieces!
    Judy xx

  3. Absolutely fascinating! (Don't know how I missed this post :-/ ) What an amazing machine :0)


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