What is the best vinyl cutter / deal to complement the glowforge

Trying to take a short cut and leverage the expertise here.
Which model looks to be the best to complement the glowforge?
cricut? cricut explore air 2: $196 Michaels
-does the cricut maker have features justifying the price of $340?
Did I miss any really good deals today?
I recall hearing how some of these have some really interesting software scan abilities.


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What do you want to do? I’m not sure I consider any of them to be a complement, but it really depends on what you want to accomplish. I have an older Cameo which I use for cutting vinyl, among other things. It’s great except for really intricate designs.

I want to keep vinyl out of the laser. Possibly create templates for sandblasting glass. I’m not sure card stock would be strong enough for this. It’s nice cricut has finally opened up their machines to cut any shape you send to it (this is the case, right?). We have an old one with cartridges for fonts.


I have both a Cricut Maker and a Brother ScanNCut2… IMHO either would be perfect for what you want to do. There is a learning curve with either one, but nothing you couldn’t handle. I cut vinyl and card stock with them, and both are capable of intricate work. Lately I lean toward the Cricut because the workflow feels smoother to me, but YMMV.

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Just went through this exercise. Ended up with the Cricut Maker. Would likely be fine with an Explore Air.

Basically, like the GF, the only downside is the relatively limited work area; 12"/x12" or 12"x24" (which, in both cases, is really a little bit less width than that).

Note that the Cricut is also a cloud based system. Unlike GF, it has been down every now and then (not catastrophically so) and, also unlike GF, there is no community forum of this nature to speak of. I generally learn about downtime details by watching their Twitter or FB feeds.


But, on the other hand, Cricut’s customer support-- online chat-- has been top notch! I have learned a lot by working through problems with their software with them.

And the software is actually pretty good. Has some quirks, but it does work. Interestingly, the iPhone/iPad app has some very powerful additional features not found in the pure-web “app”. The iOS app also allows you to work standalone via BlueTooth.

I’m happy with it and have been having a blast cutting vinyl bits to stick hither and yon.

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I use the KNK orbit. They make a 15 inch and 24 inch wide version. I have the smaller one. I like this one as I dont need to use a mat and able to go up to 5 or 6 feet long. It was an upgrade from BossKut.

Ok, you don’t really need a Maker. I had an older Cricut that require cartridges, so I can’t speak to the newer version, but my Silhouette Cameo does not require cloud services and you can work with your own files, of course. Although the mats are limited in size, you don’t need to use a mat when cutting vinyl, so you can cut it as long as you want (12” wide).

I don’t know that either brand is that much better than the other so I guess at some point it just comes down to the smaller features and drawbacks. :slight_smile:

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I have the Silhouette Cameo 3 and love it but I’ve only ever owned Silhouettes so I can’t offer pros and cons to the others. And for what it’s worth, I use mine almost exclusively to cut glass etching stencils.
One annoying thing is that you have to purchase software upgrades to get some pretty essential features, like import/export of SVGs or the conical warping tool (a must-have if you’re etching glassware). Just another cost to consider when comparing options.


Let me tell you, weeding vinyl is no fun and if you have dreams of doing a lot of glass, or intricate designs, you are going to have second thoughts before long. But it does work well, if you set your expectations accordingly. An inexpensive cutter should be OK for occasional stuff that doesn’t have super complex artwork.

Here is something else to consider: a film you put on your glass, then you put the item in the laser and blast away the film where you want the etch effect; then etch as normal. It looks really cool and easy, but it is expensive, and you are limited to items that you can fit into the Glowforge. I am dying to try this stuff!

There is one other major category of glass etch masking available, and that is photoresist. You print your artwork on a good quality laser printer or inkjet printer. Then, you place the artwork and a special photo-sensitive film into a UV exposure unit. THEN, you use a high-pressure water spray to wash out the un-exposed film, leaving you with a mask that you can apply to your object.

This is neat because there is no weeding and you can reproduce fine detail, even halftones. But a good exposure unit is a few hundred bucks, or requires ~$100 and a DIY commitment. You also MUST have a decent printer. A tired laser printer with a streaky drum will not set you up for success.

Anyway, on cutters… I have a KNK machine and it is very nice. They come in various price points and are a step up from the Michael’s-grade Cricut machines. If I was looking at ~$300 for a Cricut I would definitely consider stepping up to a KNK.

US Cutter and other commercial-style shops carry more serious gear too. I honestly do not know much about the brands carried here but have gotten a generally decent impression over the years.



At the higher price point you are considering, you may want to look at low-end commercial grade plotters. They will not hold you hand the way the hobby-grade machines do, and depending on your needs they may be overkill, but if you want to work with 24” or larger roll material then that’s the way to go. UsCutter and signwarehouse both carry house-brand plotters that are fine production machines. Signwarehouse (dot com) also sells (to the public) the higher-end commercial grade plotters from Graphtec, Roland, and Mutoh.

Looking at the prices on a commercial grade machine may help justify the price of any hobby-grade machine. It’s also worth checking craigslist, plenty of used ones out there in fine condition, often with some amount of free vinyl (lots of people that think they can start a sign-business and get rich quick, only to find that it’s a lot of work and very competitive)

I have a Graphtec FC8600-100 and it is an absolute workhorse. At this point I wish I had gone for the larger model to handle 60”-wide material, but at the time the 42” cutting width seemed huge. I use it for full-time commercial production, I would never b able to justify the price if it was just a personal/hobby/part-time/art toy.

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I saw a video on this cutter and it looks interesting. I’m considering getting one. For $329 it seems nice enough.

I have a Bosskut Gazelle, which is inexpensive, performs well and, is no longer available because the maker went under.

I previously had the original machine from KNK. It was an unmitigated disaster of a machine and, the poor behavior of the company has put me off their products, despite newer models getting excellent reviews.

When I last looked into it (some time ago, now), the Silver Bullets seemed to be the machines to beat. Anyone have experience with those?


Agree totally on the Gazelle, it was my go-to machine for heavy duty cutting before the advent of the laser. Also agree on the original KNK machine - not so much for the machine which was fine, but the software was extremely difficult to use compared to the other options available at the time. (It would be easier now, I’ve learned to use Inkscape.)

They all cut vinyl just fine, so a less expensive machine is a smarter choice for vinyl cutting. Right now, the Silhouette line is my favorite since their Studio software is absolutely superior for a lot of things.

But any of them will work just fine for vinyl, and you’ve got a laser for everything else. (A gal pal of mine likes the Silver Bullet just fine… all vinyl cutters are pretty much the same, it boils down to choosing the software.)

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The original KNK machine had problems with accuracy, which matters a lot for the sorts of things I wanted to do with it. Some pop up card designs, for example, may require accuracy down to less than one millimeter. They used a cheap serial chip in it to save a buck and, it dropped nodes when cutting. So, cuts were often off by several mm over larger areas. The company misled people about the issue and, censored even cordial discussion of the machine’s issues or limits in their forums with a very heavy hand.

I’m likely to stick with my Gazelle until I want to do something it can’t or, it dies. I can see some other things besides vinyl where I would choose it over the Glowforge. I’ve done some experiments with integrating electronics into paper art (e.g., https://evermorestud.io/garden-lantern-pop-up-card-with-integrated-electronics/ ), and, have used the gazelle to cut conductive fabric and copper tape. I have used it to cut foil-covered paper stock where the Glowforge would not cut through (e.g., https://evermorestud.io/hart-of-winter/ ). There are also some cases where laser cut edges ruin the aesthetic of a design.

Of course, I’m not sure any of that is more challenging for the cutter than vinyl.

I’ve always done my designs in a dedicated vector art program (mostly Corel Draw) and, just imported into whatever software to cut (mostly MTC with the Gazelle, unless I need print-and-cut).

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Huh! Didn’t know the KNK dropped nodes and had accuracy issues…I only ever did software conversions for it. I think the original was modeled off a Roland cutter, like the Wishblade, ScrapSavvy, CraftRobo and Silhouette cutters. (Unfortunately, the personnel issues I can believe, they tried to cause a lot of heartburn for the competition. There were some very immature and nasty games played back then, I think I still have the docs on it. It got very, very ugly.)

The Gazzy still works very well, so that’s an excellent choice. If Phyllis hadn’t died, it would still be going strong, but her husband wasn’t interested in carrying on alone. Absolutely the best value in digital cutters. I used it to etch glass, cut clay and stiffened fabric - you’re right, it has lots of uses. :slightly_smiling_face:


I loved my Gazelle. It still works but the light indicators stopped working properly. They offered to replace the part but the cost was more then it was worth. For KNK, I haven’t had issues other then the learning curve. If they had bad service back then I haven’t experienced any now

Interesting, do you remember which model that was? I have a KNK Maxx Air 24" and it’s been a trooper. One time I remember seeing a path closure being off by about 0.5 MM on a 24" wide piece. Other than that it’s been flawless.

That said, if I was doing it all over, I would look much more seriously at the sign shop house brands, Roland, etc. I made the mistake of buying a Maxx Air in part for its high downforce, dreaming of cutting thin plastics, fabric, etc. Well, you can do those things with a drag cutter but I found it to be a PITA and rarely did it. I probably would have been better off with a more professional unit that was specialized for vinyl.

Anyway, it is a gas to be able to make up a T-shirt on the spur of the moment. I have a big stash of HTV and a modest stash of cheap blanks from JiffyShirts. Good times. I recommend anyone who likes making stuff to get some kind of vinyl cutter!

Yes. It was the original yellow KNK. The very first model they ever produced. I don’t think it has any other designation than “original yellow KNK.” It looked like this:

As I said, I have heard that more recent models are better. It’s still the same company, though …

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