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Lorie.J.Call
09-08-08, 11:35 pm
In an earlier thread entitled Coroplast Cutters, <http://www.guineapigcages.com/forum/about-cages/17315-coroplast-cutters.html>, Cavy Cuckoo described his/her experience with the Plast-Kut corrugated plastic flute cutter. By the end of the thread, the consensus seemed to be that utility knives work reasonably well for a lot of people, but the cost of flute cutters makes them worthwhile only to those who build a lot of cages. While I agree with that consensus for the general user, there was one specialized situation that wasnít mentioned, and which Iíll address in this new thread: users with manual dexterity issues.

There are two hand-held flute cutters available in the North American market: the Plast-Kut, <http://www.plastkut.com/>, which is available in the range of US$20-25, and the Saw Trax Coro-Claw, <http://www.sawtrax.com/index.html>, which is available in the range of US$11-15 for the 4mm version.

Cavy Cuckoo described how a flute cutter cuts parallel to the flutes, with both blades being used for through-cuts and the bottom blade being used by itself for score-cuts. A utility knife and straightedge are still needed for cuts perpendicular to the flutes.

Here are pictures of the front and back of the Saw Trax Coro-Claw:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3040/2836944387_2c00ff05d3_m.jpg http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3212/2836945207_bc4a6c8c88_m.jpg

The style and position of the handle transfers the effort from the userís wrist and forearm to their shoulder and back. (See Cavy Cuckooís earlier thread for a picture of the Plast-Kut knife.)

Hereís a picture of the tools Iím currently using to cut corrugated plastic:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3120/2837776874_2112c1f241_m.jpg

My First Tray

For my first tray, I had all the tools shown above, except for the flute cutter. I used a drywall t-square for the straightedge, along with the utility knife. Because of my manual dexterity issues, I couldnít accurately sense how much pressure I was exerting with the utility knife. In addition, fatigue and gripping problems would occur at about 2.5ft of cutting, so I was experiencing blade jumping and blade wandering. For my first tray, a majority of the front wall and about half of the back wall were actually through-cut instead of score-cut. Here are pictures of the two worst cuts I made with just a drywall t-square and a utility knife:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3053/2836950117_ebb3339c7c_m.jpg http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3147/2836950853_f0122a9c7a_m.jpg

My Second Tray

For my second tray, I had all the tools shown above. I made the perpendicular cuts the same way as I did for the first tray. For the parallel cuts, I used the flute cutter by itself, as no straightedge is needed. The Saw Trax Coro-Claw is well-balanced, and I was able to quickly pick up a rhythm to use it. Once the cutter is inserted into the flutes, there is very little wobble. I experienced no fatigue or gripping problems, and I didnít accidentally make a through-cut when what I wanted was a score-cut. I was able to make my second tray very quickly, and with high-quality cuts.

Since then, Iíve made several kitchen trays and small toys with scrap corrugated plastic. I've been able to reliably use this cutter with push, pull, and sideways movements. The worst I could do with the Saw Trax Coro-Claw was some very slight edge ruffling and discoloration on days when I wasnít feeling well and was pulling up erratically on the cutter. I tried to take photos of the ruffling and discoloration, but I couldnít get them to show up on the photo! (And theyíre certainly not noticeable in real life.)

My Current Cutting Technique
A brand-new, full sheet of corrugated plastic is rarely exactly to size, so I measure the entire sheet first. So far (a whopping 3 full sheets), Iíve only found overage, not underage.
I frequently decrease my cutting measurements by 2 flutes in certain directions to account for the thickness of the corrugated plastic. I find this makes kitchen trays easier to slide into the cage tray.
I make my parallel through-cuts first. This minimizes the length of perpendicular cuts needed.
I donít try to do a perpendicular through-cut in one pass; instead I make 2-4 light passes. This minimizes the risk of blade jumping and blade wandering.Conclusion

If you have health issues, itís lovely to be able to work on your projects without needing help from others. With a flute cutter, I have needed assistance only to get the Coroplast homeóbut even people without manual dexterity issues have trouble with that! Iíve enjoyed what Iíve been able to create with the corrugated plastic, and will probably buy one or two more full sheets to play with.

So, to enlarge upon the consensus from Cavy Cuckooís earlier thread: if you arenít a frequent builder-remodeler, arenít a perfectionist, arenít a tool freak, or donít have manual dexterity issues, these specialized cutters are probably not worth your time, money, or toolbox space. But if any of these specialized situations apply to you, one of these specialized cutters might be worth your consideration.

Bennalaya
09-09-08, 12:31 pm
You know, I wish I had one of those last night. Cutting a 6' long piece of coroplast and then scoring it with a small X-Acto blade was tedious. LOL And we were having a thunderstorm. Here I am in the basement with a sharp razor blade in my hand cutting the coroplast when the power went out.

Toadies
09-10-08, 12:38 pm
Did you count your fingers when the lights came back on?

Bennalaya
09-10-08, 04:47 pm
Did you count your fingers when the lights came back on?

Well, the first thing I did was freeze. I don't even remember taking a breath. And yes, I did look to make sure I didn't accidentally slice my knee or fingers open. :D