When Chips and I started The Stencil Library back in 1988, we hand cut all our stencils to order.
To make the designs more affordable for customers, we offered the option of buying the pattern printed onto stencil film so they could cut it themselves. We still offer that option on many of our stencils. BUT when our new web site is live, we will no longer do so. Very few people choose the uncut option these days but I thought it fair to warn you that the service will cease and it gives me an excuse to show how to cut a stencil safely and easily whilst we still offer the uncut patterns.
When I started to cut stencils I used a scalpel handle and packs of surgical blades.
One should cut towards them selves and keep the other hand behind the blade guiding the stencil. I think of a sewing machine and fabric. The fabric is manouvered around the needle....and the stencil is manouvered around the scalpel. Keep turning the stencil so that you cut toward yourself until the shape is complete. This way there is control over the blade and it is unlikely that you would cut yourself.
If you accidently cut the wrong area of stencil. Apply sticky tape to the stencil as if it were a sticking plaster on a wound then re cut the shape through the sticky tape.
After I had been cutting stencils for a few years I discovered the heat pens. These are like a soldering iron but with a bent copper tip.
The tip is fine and is bent at the best angle for comfortable stencil cutting.
If you are designing your own stencil, you would draw it onto stencil film using a china pencil like these.
However, if you are quick you could still buy one of our uncut designs. Then you trace the drawn lines slowly with the heatpen and it burns out the shapes. For long smooth lines I prefer a scalpel, but the heatpens are unequalled for cutting small, rounded or fiddly shapes. A glass board with smoothed edges is a good surface to cut upon with heatpen or scalpel but my heatpen suppliers have recently offered a heatproof cutting mat. Brilliant! It looks like a melamine dinner mat and is light and easy to post.
I am happier having the new version in my tool box as I never like having a glass board in the van.
Do we still hand cut to order? No. Our stencils are still cut individually on the day that they are ordered but now Arnie and Thumper our two robotic cutters make our stencils...giving me time to write this blog.
All items are available at www.stencil-library.com except the new melamine mat contact us to order one.