Reported by Dana Vitek
(Fair warning: this review is not all sunshine & happiness. It’s also really long. Just so you know what you’re getting into!)
I have been in the market for an electronic die-cutting machine since the first Cricut appeared on the market. But I waited. I waited through the bigger Cricut Expressions too. I didn’t want to be tied to buying a bunch of cartridges with limited sizes. I wanted it ALL, baby! I have approximately
1 million 10,000 all the fonts ever created, yep, and I wanted to be able to use them with my die-cutting machine.
There are a number of computerized die-cutting machines on the market. The aforementioned Cricuts are self-contained, portable units that don’t require a computer hook-up. That’s great if you need the portability aspect, but I don’t. I don’t go to crops, and I hate people, so really, the thing could be as big as Deep Blue for all I care. I just want it to work, out of the box, exactly the way I think it should.
Aye, there’s the rub… despite all of the research I did (and I did plenty… I’m a scientist after all, and this was no small purchase), the Pazzle Inspiration was not the electronic die-cutter for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that out until after I bought it!
The Pazzle Inspiration is a snazzy looking machine, about the size and weight of a large printer. It includes a software CD, featuring image manipulation software. It also comes with an adjustable cutting head and a 12″ x 12″ sticky cutting mat; seemingly everything you need to get started (except for the computer, but we knew that already).
I loaded the software onto my laptop, and started playing with the image manipulation program; choosing a stock image and setting up multiple copies to be cut out of a 12″ x 12″ piece of cardstock. I went to save my project, which brings us to:
In order to save anything using the included software, you need to have your computer hooked up to the Pazzle Inspiration, and the Inspiration machine TURNED ON, even if you have no intention of cutting anything yet. For someone who has one computer, this is not a big deal, but how many of us want to be able to work on a design while sitting on the couch with our laptops, watching the kids, and then execute the design later on? I’m guessing lots, myself included. So then I had to load the software onto our desktop too. But whatever, I was willing to keep trying. Which brings us to:
After getting everything set up to cut, I set the thing in action, and was a very happy girl… for about 3/4 of a 12″ x 12″ sheet of cardstock (or about 9 large snowflakes, for those keeping track) when all of a sudden, the cutting head zoomed across the page, cut a deep gash in my mat, made a horrific grinding sound, and just stopped. Stunned, I turned it off, turned it back on again (Bill Gates has trained me well), and heard more of the same grinding noise. I let it sit overnight, and pictured this:
while I frantically googled for solutions. I emailed technical support, joined the Yahoo Group, and finally found out about both a software and a firmware patch that needed to be downloaded. This brings us to:
I totally understand that if a product is sitting on a store warehouse shelf, not coming directly from the manufacturer, and the need for a patch is discovered, there’s really no good way for the manufacturer to get that patch out to all of the existing product. HOWEVER, I registered my Pazzle Inspiration online, and can’t imagine why as part of the “Welcome” email I received I wasn’t directed to download the patch. I shouldn’t have had to freak out in a panic and search for an answer. To be fair, Pazzle’s customer support emailed me over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which exceeded my expectations, but regardless, there’s a better way, and it wasn’t utilized.
Okay, so I’ve downloaded both the software and firmware patches, I’m on my desktop computer, I set up another file to cut (this time a cute scrolly frame), slap some black cardstock on my sticky mat, and away we go. Which brings us to:
I went to peel up the black cardstock and it wouldn’t come up. It was stuck fast, and even when I tried with a little scraper, to gently lift the edge, it separated and boogered up my (way too) sticky mat. So, I put a little brute strength behind it, removed the black card stock, and a good bit of the sticky on the sticky mat. Ergh.
Okay, fine. How about cutting some felt? I had a great idea about creating Spirograph-inspired wreaths for my holiday cards in hot pinks and orange, because how fun would that be. Yeah. Don’t go checking your mailboxes, because we’ve arrived at:
I beat myself senseless trying to get my design into the software package (rasterized .jpgs vs vectorized lines, and by the way, I’m VERY computer-literate and still wound up with a headache), AND THEN, when I went to cut it, the peel & stick felt wouldn’t stick to the sticky mat (felt side down OR backing sheet down) well enough to keep from moving around, so I peeled the backing off and slapped it down on the not-so-sticky mat. It wasn’t moving now, boys!
So, my Spirograph-inspired wreaths were coming along reasonably well. But then I tried to peel them off the mat (no sticky pretense), and all the remaining original stickiness came up with the wreaths. I went out and bought 3 different kinds of temporary adhesive to reapply the sticky. To be fair, Pazzle’s does make an adhesive refill, as well as extra mats, but that brings us to:
Try finding any Pazzle anything at your local craft store. I have three large, well-stocked craft stores within a 15 minute drive, and none of them have Pazzle products on their shelves, regardless of the fact that I bought the thing from one of the big craft store’s web sites.
After (what I thought was) a stroke of brilliance, I used one of my 50% off coupons on a Cricut Expressions 12″ x 24″ pack of two sticky mats. I cut one of the mats in half, so now I had 2 12″ x 12″ sticky mats, 1 12″ x 24″ sticky mat, and a bag full of spray adhesive that I didn’t really need. Genius, right? Not so much. The Cricut mats are not sticky enough (in my experience) to be used more than once with the Pazzle Inspiration, which despite the adjustable cutting head pressure, just moved the cardstock around.
Because this is Craft Critique, I’ll give you some pros too, just to show I’m a good sport:
- Ability to use any True Type font that’s on your computer
- Not limited by prepackaged cartridges or preset sizes
- Really cool accessories, including engraving, distressing and embossing heads to swap out for the cutting head. This was a big selling point for me.
- Customer Service reps work on Black Friday, and send very friendly emails.
Cons (in addition to those listed above):
- It’s loud, even when it is working the way it should be
- It’s pretty slow too, and the cutting path it follows seems to be inefficient
- It’s expensive (retails for $699, I bought it on sale for $499 USD)
And so, I give up. I’d love to show you a project that I made, but I don’t have one. Frankly, I gave it my all, and it’s just not working for me. I’m returning it, and don’t recommend it.
Do you love your Pazzle Inspiration and think I’m an idiot? Please, let me know. Seriously, bring it. I’m ready