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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey guys,

I'm new and have lurked quite a bit in the past few weeks with only one concern. I need a vinyl graphics cutter and I'm on a shoe string budget.

Here's why:

In the last week of April, I bought a severly underdeveloped dry cleaning and laundry business. It was an old business and the sidewalks were beat up, there was no phone, they only took cash and check, and there is no road signage. Unbelievable.


I've tackled the other issues, but we still need road signage (and customers) BADLY and I'm going to make my own. My allowable signage is about 48 square feet - or 6'x8' ish - which is a pretty big sign!

I don't want anything fancy. I'm going to paint wolmanized 3/4" plywood with several coats of high gloss paint, the just apply some basic reflective vinyl lettering with our name, hours, and a list of services. The cheapest quote I got for just the lettering work was over $500, and I'd still have to stick it all on myself.

In addition to the road signage, I also need to create some signage inside the store - WELCOME and whatnot, I need to letter up the windows of the store and I also need to letter up our personal vehicles as well.

As you can see, it doesn't take long for it to make sense to just to buy my own stuff.

That being said - I need a machine to do those simple lettering tasks for me and it will have already paid for itself. Beyond that, I may do some oney-toosy stuff for personal use and some templates to mask off for sandblasting glass - but that's about it.

I respect the full timers advice of buying the Roland's and the Graphtec's, or any of the "NON-chinese" elcheapo machines since their livelyhoods depend on it - and I don't disagree with their quality - but at the same time there has to be such a thing as "good enough for who it's for" concerning my needs.

So please, realisticlly, understanding the short term and simplistic nature of my requirements for what I need a machine to do, would something like a basic US Cutter brand 24" machine fit my "good enough for who/what it's for" needs?

If so, how can I tell which ones of those would be the best deal out there in the "about $320 or so to my door" range?

I'm seeing the ProCut CR630, the ProCut CR630FB (what's the difference), the USCutter MH-721, and several others all sell for about the same money. Heck I'd even buy a used one right now if I could find one.

I'm set as far as the computer requirements go, but I'll need something that has the software included and I'll also need a good source for outdoor reflective vinyl.

Anyway, sorry for being so long winded - but I'm just a little frustrated at the mixed bag of reviews I've found since it seems that many, if not all of them lack the minimal usage context that applies to me. I obviously don't WANT to buy a total POS, but I also am trying to be financially responsible in fitting my purchase to match my need without wasting money. I'd rather have a slow, noisy machine with a great reputation than a silent zippy one that's headache prone - if that makes any sense.

Please comment and help if you can and thank you in advance for your input.

Appreciative noob,
John
 

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I think US Cutter has a pretty good users forum...I am not familiar with this machine. there is a thread here that compares some cutters. Most would do what you want. I would stay away from any machine that does not connect via USB...I am not a fan for the conversion connection through a serial port...just my personal biased opinion...
 

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I will say they are a great machine and cut as well as the more expensive machins. They don't contour cut, but I don't think you that feature. .... JB
 

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First of all, I'd like to say while I respect Roland and the other large brand names, I really believe the USCutter can do the same things, and do it just as well. There are several of us here that have the Refine 721, and It really does a great job. I have been using mine more and more in the last 6 months, especially in the last 2-3 months, and haven't really had a problem with it. I had some kids in the shop and one of them ran into it, on the stand and it came off the stand, hit concrete floor rolled and slid about 6 feet. I picked it up, had to "rig" the USB connector because it's not broke off in the hole, put it back on the stand and it works like brand new. For the money, I feel like they cannot be beat.

With that said, reflective vinyl stock is a good bit more expensive then regular vinyl. It's not stock that you want to "learn" or experiament with. At least I wouldn't. You can find some here. And also Ordway has a larger selection.

I believe the only difference in the ProCut CR630/CR630FB is that the 630FB has a vinyl basket to catch the longer cut from falling on the floor. This keeps(helps) it from getting scratched.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
By "learn" do you mean learning on that machine - or is your concern more regarding me learning to apply the vinyl once it's cut?

I cut my teeth last year on applying graphics on a golf cart I designed for my inlaws. I designed all the graphics, but without a cutter, we had to farm that part out.

(Gratuitous pics)







Not rocket science, I know, but there were alot of non-flat surfaces - and despite it being my first job at it - I was very happy with how well it came out. More importantly, so was my Father in law.

Despite being gynormous, my road sign will just be flat, so I'm not overly worried (yet) about applying the vinyl. I plan to just take my time and swear alot.

Thanks for the good feedback and information everybody. I wasn't aware that the US cutters had their own forum, so that's a confidence boost for me all by itself.

I'll likely pull the trigger on one in the next 24 hours or so sinc eeveryday that I don't have a sign out a tthe road I lose potential customers.
 

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I could sit here and tell you til I'm blue in the face, which I have to people here before. But I'm not going to, I will sinply say "Buy one, you won't regret it". That's all I am saying on the subject. I own 2 Refines and my main one is used more daily then I bet you 95% of the Rolands or Graphtecs out there and mine is running like the day I bought it, over 2 yrs ago.
 

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So please, realisticlly, understanding the short term and simplistic nature of my requirements for what I need a machine to do, would something like a basic US Cutter brand 24" machine fit my "good enough for who/what it's for" needs?
Sounds like it would be "good enough" for what you describe your needs.

Remember, many users have been using those machines for a long time. It's not like it's a "cheapo" machine or anything :)

Not everyone needs a Roland GX-24 or a big mamma jamma Roland Versacamm printer and cutter.

Not everyone's needs would be filled by a US Cutter machine.

After your research, you just have to pick the one that best fits your needs, budget and business plan.
 

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I will say that i like my roland, but I bought a endurcut (re branded GCC machine) and it served me well and still serves me well. When I place a design from each of them side by side I can't tel which is which. ..... JB
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks again to all for the input. I was about THIS close to pulling the trigger on a refine when I noticed that I could try the free DL of signblazer, so I wanted to dink around with that for a little bit first. I messed with it for a few hours last night, but didn't really come away feeling too impressed with it.

I then began to look at other auctions for machines that would have better software included and now have another question?

Still - understanding what I want it for .....

It seems that a Pcut machine would be about $100 cheaper than a refine and has similar specifications. What advantages would the refine have over the Pcut machine that it would be worth it to spend the extra money?
 

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I'm going to paint wolmanized 3/4" plywood with several coats of high gloss paint,
Wrong substrate. How will this sign be mounted?
Applying 18" decals and 7 1/2' decals are 2 different animals.
Reflective is not needed for the whole sign and probably not at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Wrong substrate. How will this sign be mounted?
Applying 18" decals and 7 1/2' decals are 2 different animals.
Reflective is not needed for the whole sign and probably not at all.
Please help me learn here. Why would plywood painted up with high gloss exterior paint be a "wrong" substrate?

I'm not completely dialed in on the design and the mount just yet, but I'm thinkin, depending on a pending costs comparison, the sign will either have a stick built 2x4 boxed in frame with interior studs, and faced on each side with the plywood - OR - I'm going to make a big square out of 2x2 steel tubing and bolt the plywood to that.

Either way, I see there being an overhead beam with that boxed configuration being suspended by chrome plated looking steel chain. I share the building with a record store, and part of me being allowed to have a sign is that I have to also re-mount his 3.5x10 foot sign (similarly boxed) below mine since the township rules dictate that we can only have one set of sign posts, etc. I think the look of them both being suspended, his below mine and wider than mine would be a pretty cool look.

I'm actually a designer by trade, so please trust that it will be structually sound well beyond the point of overkill.

Now, in all fairness - please explain to me how and why the way it's mounted has anything to do with the vinyl, the substrate, and the lettering.

Also - I wanted to go with the reflective vinyl because - with no electricity out there (yet) there won't be any lighting directly pointed at the thing other than indirect lighting from passing headlights. I figured being reflective would give it that little extra POP to catch people's eye. I'm in Michigan, and during the winter it gets dark here by 5pm. I just figured that I need all the POP I can get and going reflective on at least our company name seemd like a cheap way to get that effect. You are right though, the other lettering needs to be regular vinyl, so that the reflective name pops harder.

Now, if you don't mind - share with me your thoughts on how to do it "RIGHT".
 

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I learned my craft of sign and apparel cutting on a JSI which I bought used for $300. I had it a year before winning a Roland. Then I sold it to the guy I bought it from for $200. I made over 5 grand in year from that cheap machine. I didn't know about what other machines did. I knew mine got the job done that I needed. It was a bit noisy though.
 

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Sounds like it would be "good enough" for what you describe your needs.

Remember, many users have been using those machines for a long time. It's not like it's a "cheapo" machine or anything :)

Not everyone needs a Roland GX-24 or a big mamma jamma Roland Versacamm printer and cutter.

Not everyone's needs would be filled by a US Cutter machine.

After your research, you just have to pick the one that best fits your needs, budget and business plan.
Ok, Rodney. You used Cheapo and big mamma jamma in the same post. Scary. You forgot to use dangit and fraidy cat. :D
 

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Thanks again to all for the input. I was about THIS close to pulling the trigger on a refine when I noticed that I could try the free DL of signblazer, so I wanted to dink around with that for a little bit first. I messed with it for a few hours last night, but didn't really come away feeling too impressed with it.

I then began to look at other auctions for machines that would have better software included and now have another question?

Still - understanding what I want it for .....

It seems that a Pcut machine would be about $100 cheaper than a refine and has similar specifications. What advantages would the refine have over the Pcut machine that it would be worth it to spend the extra money?
Most people don't seem too happy with Signblazer. I just got the Copam CP2500 but opted for the Signcut X2 software instead of the signblazer. Signcut [email protected] works very well for me.
 

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I love my UsCutter PCUT... And while others dont necessarily like SignBlazer, I love it as well. Between photoshop and Signblazer, I can take pretty much any image, make it look how I want, and cut it out. I took the UNM Lobos logo (yes, i Know it is a copyrighted image, just wanted to see how well my skills would do with a 4 layer image... wasnt made for profit or anything) and made it... came out hella awesome... Just gotta be creative :eek:)
 

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Very nice. When you first think about flat, one color vinyl, you don't think about all the things you can do with it, design wise. If you think in layers, like your design, you can really make some cool stuff. Gotta think in layers.
 

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Laminators Inc. - Sign Panel Products - Products: SignPly is a better choice.
PT ply holds a huge amount of moisture from the treating process, tends to delaminate comparatively quickly and has a pretty rough surface. Oh yeah tends to curve really good when hung. It is not meant for signs or sign shop owners would be lining up at the home centers for cheap substrate.
If you want to be a sign man than use sign man stuff. If you want to be a hack go for it.
 

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Most people don't seem too happy with Signblazer.
Signblazer certainly has its following. While it seems to have a good feature set, and it's reasonably priced, the problem doesn't "flow" well to me. The interface screams Windows 3.1, and the workspace, tool bars and sub-tool bars are a mess, TO ME. With that said, the creator and supporter of SignBlazer passed away earlier this year, and development of and support of the program has came to a scretching halt. People who purchase it are having trouble just getting activation codes from the company who took it over. I think it will be off the market soon, unless something major happens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
YAY ME!

I just scored my USCutter MH-721 for $284. Considering I was about to pay the $330 for the same maching from the same company only hours before, I'm calling this one a win.

Thanks all for your support.
 
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