“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Every so often a technique comes along that so fundamentally changes my processes to such a degree that I end up exclaiming…
Where was that all my life?!?
I’m not the first to discover this process. In fact, I may be one of the last. But earlier this year I purchased a Cricut Explore cutting machine for use on The Hills Line, and I find myself wondering why I didn’t dive in sooner.
Others have long extolled the advantages of using such a device for model railroading. Sometimes referred to as a poor man’s laser cutter, this craft plotter has found a home in our basement, cutting styrene and basswood in such a precise manner that it has significantly improved how I’m constructing certain components of the layout.
In a nutshell, I use a vector-based drawing program to sketch out designs for anything from small detail parts to full structures… or even the lean-to loading dock on the north side of the Iowa Business Supply building in Iowa City. The sketch is then converted into a format that the Cricut can recognize.
These craft cutters are designed primarily for paper goods, so I’m not going to cut through anything but the thinnest styrene sheet. But the cuts are good enough to be able to score and snap the individual parts from a complete sheet, making repeatable and consistent shapes possible in a fraction of the time it would take for me to do by hand.
Some cleanup after the fact is still a fact of life. It’s the same as it would be when using any method for cutting styrene, so I have no plans to toss my X-ACTO knife or nibblers. Nor will I give up some of the more proven methods I’ve already adopted for the layout. But for some of the tasks I have left on the mile-long to-do list for The Hills Line, this will be a game changer.