Today I’m back with a post about my tools. Very often I get e-mails asking about what tools I use for my papercuts. Below you can see them. I also need to say that if you ever wrote me an e-mail and never heard back from me, please, Oh please! (as Diego says) don’t be mad at me please. Sometimes it is not possible for me to respond to a large number of e-mails individually. But I hope that this post answers some of your questions.
For my one-color-only, flat papercuts, I just use my X-Acto knife with a #11 blade, a cutting matt underneath the paper for protection, a pencil for drawing the design and an eraser to correct the drawing if necessary.
But for making more complex pieces I use mostly the tools that you see in the picture below:
View this photo in a larger size.
Here is the list:
1- I use both sides of this wooden tool for shaping paper.
2- Metal dentist tool for shaping paper as well.
3- Computer mouse pad for supporting the paper during the shaping or embossing process. A mouse pad has proven to be the best support for shaping my papers so far, because it has a nice cushioning surface that allows the paper to gently expand as you press it down with any of the tools that I show you here.
4- Another wooden tool for shaping paper.
5- Ball stylus tool for shaping and creasing paper.
6- Another wooden tool for shaping paper.
7- My favorite tool for shaping paper! I can do all the work of paper shaping with that single tool. Unfortunately I have no idea where I got it from or even when. I have had it forever. A few months ago it got lost and I almost called 911, I can’t live without it. I did a little Internet search and found it here where it’s called Maxon #3 Burnisher. I don’t know exactly what this tool is originally designed for.
(But you could use about anything for shaping paper. A small metal spoon works nice; use the handle as well as the round part. Just make sure to apply the pressure on the paper gradually, moving the tool in circles. Before I mastered this I had to practice it a lot, there is no formula in particular, you just need to do it a lot and observe how the paper behaves. The paper itself will “tell” you what to do. Up to this day I haven’t found a single book explaining how to do this. I had to teach myself how to do it. If I were going to teach anybody my technique I would need to do it in person. Or I would need to write a whole book with lots of detailed pictures. One day I will offer classes, when the kids are a little older and one day I will also write a book on paper “sculpting”).
This is just a random picture to make this post it less boring 🙂
…now let’s continue…
8- Small protractor for drawing curves.
9- Needle for poking holes on paper. I just took a regular sewing needle and glued it between two pieces of card to make it easier for me to manipulate. You could also make a polymer clay handle.
10- Small triangle ruler.
11- X-Acto knife with a # 11 blade for cutting paper. I replace the blade as soon as the sharp tiny tip breaks. That way I don’t have to make lots of pressure with my hand which keeps my wrist relaxed and healthy.
12- Pencil with soft lead for drawing on paper.
13- Tweezers for handling small pieces of paper.
14- Syringe where I keep my Acid-free glue.
One of the questions that I get asked the most is: What type of glue do you use for your papercuts?. I use several, as long as they are pH neutral. Right now the one that I’m using in this project is a PH Neutral Bookbinding adhesive from a brand named LINECO. See the picture below. I just place a little bit of it in my plastic syringe. The syringe has a tiny aperture for applying the glue, that gives you lots of control over the amount of glue to use. I recommend you to use as little glue as possible on your paper. A tiny miniature touch of it will do the job. I keep the tip of the syringe closed with a bead made out of putty, which is some kind of soft polymer material that never dries, it looks like chewing gum. Chewing gum could be a good substitute by the way and it’s easily found in different flavors and shapes in supermarkets and other places :). Also, if your child or you, or even your pet gets chewing gum on the hair here is a genius way to remove it.
…the list goes on…
15- Regular ruler.
16- Miniature precision scissors from here.
17- Small scissors.
18- Small size scissors. (my favorite). They’re so nice and sharp.
19- Large scissors.
20- Bone paper folder.
21- Retractable owl. It has the same use as the regular needle to pock holes.
The tools number 13, 20 and 21 have little faces on them. That’s not mandatory for you to do. I make little faces for some of my tools because that humanizes them and I love to think that my tools and I together form a team. Sometimes when I am not feeling like working I look at them and they look back at me with their little eyes like saying: Come on Elsita! Do you want us to lay down here on this table forever? So, the bottom line is that little faces on tools are great motivators.
Before I forget, I also get many e-mails asking how many times I have cut myself with the X-Acto knife. I have identified a whole group of fellows who are really afraid of knifes. Here is my answer: I have got cut zero times. Yay!! I will keep my fingers crossed so I never get cut by the X-Acto knife. Well, I don’t think that it’s a good idea to keep our fingers crossed while using the X-Acto knife. But as an alternative we could cross our toes. I think that the key is to keep our 5 senses awake and the table always organized. Using a retractable knife helps too.
I hope that this post was helpful and that you didn’t fall asleep.
See you tomorrow!