How to Cut Chipboard on a Cricut Maker
When I first shared my initial impressions of the Cricut Maker last month, I mentioned that one of the primary reasons I was excited to upgrade to Cricut’s newest machine was to be able to cut different mediums such as fabric, wood, mat board and chipboard. Since I rely so heavily on my Cricut to create custom decor and organization solutions for our homes, being able to cut these additional materials really opens up a whole host of possibilities for me. Chipboard has long been one of my favorite labeling products because of its sturdy weight, but I always had to rely on whatever pre-made shapes I could find at the craft store. It’s probably no surpise then that I was most anxious to the put the Maker to the test by cutting some custom chipboard labels for our laundry room. Today, I want to show you how to cut chipboard on a Cricut Maker, and share some tips and tricks I learned along the way!
What is Chipboard?
Chipboard is essentially really thick, sturdy, stiff cardboard. It doesn’t bend, crease, or warp easily; it can be decorated with paint, paper, vinyl, and more; and it is best used on projects where you want depth or structure. If you’re a crafter, you’ve likely seen an array of chipboard products in the craft store aisles such as tags, labels, signs, book covers, cake toppers and more. Until the Maker came along, we were pretty much restricted to whatever chipboard words or shapes we could find. Now, you can pretty much cut any shape, word or design you desire!
I used to have a really hard time finding chipboard for projects, but now Cricut makes both 1.5mm and 2.0mm chipboard. They come in both solid and patterns, are sold in packages of 5 sheets, and are pre-sized and ready to go right into your machine! Cutting my very own, super sturdy labels that won’t rip or warp just go so much easier!
Getting Ready to Cut
Cutting a design out of chipboard begins where every other Cricut project begins: in Cricut Design Space! I picked a simple scalloped square for my laundry room labels and sized them to 3″ each.
While desinging for chipboard doesn’t require any special techniques, it’s the actual cutting that requires some important modifications. First, when cutting chipboard, it is recommended that you limit your design to 11×11″ (rather than the more common 12×12 or 12×24″). I will show you why in just a moment. For now, while you are on the cut screen, go ahead and make sure your design falls well within the 11×11″ lines on the virtual mat.
TIP! When possible, spread your design out as much as possible while still staying within the 11×11″ boundary. Although this doesn’t quite conserve your material, I found the chipboard held together much better when small, thin borders and margins between elements were eliminated.
Once you send your design to cut, you will need to select the exact material you will be cutting. In the case of chipboard, be sure to choose the specific thickness of chipboard you’re using for your project.
Once you select chipboard, you will notice that Cricut Design Space prompts you with some VERY specific instructions that you need to follow in order for your project to come out right.
First, it will tell you to move the 4 white star wheels all the way to the right of the machine. Moving these wheels will prevent grooves on your chipboard and help the blade go as deep as necessary to cut through the thick chipboard. With these four wheels positioned to the right, you can now see why designs are limited to 11″ wide.
TIP! Cricut’s chipboard comes pre-sized at 11×11″ so you don’t need to pre-cut it before you get to work on your project!
Next, Design Space will instruct you to load your 11×11″ chipboard sheet onto a purple strong-grip mat and secure it with masking tape along all four sides. The machine will be making many passes over the same cut lines (in order to cut through all the layers), and your design will be ruined if the chipboard slips at all. The machine will cut right through the tape, so don’t worry and don’t skip this step!
TIP! I found that painter’s tape did a great job keeping my chipboard in place yet didn’t damage the chipboard surface as it was pulled away!
NOTE: It is recommended that you only cut chipboard with a Cricut Maker using the Cricut Knife Blade. Using other machines or blades on such a thick material will likely produce unsatisfactory results and possibly even damage your machine!
Cutting Chipboard on the Cricut Maker
With your design set within the 11×11″ margins, the white star wheels moved, your chipboard secure to a strong-grip mat, and the Knife Blade inserted into your machine, you are (finally!) ready to send your design to cut! To do so, you simply hit the flashing Cricut button, like you would any other cut!
Here is the most surprising thing about cutting chipboard. Although the Knife Blade is stronger than any other Cricut blade, it is only able to get through thick materials like chipboard by making many (MANY!) passes over the same cut lines. After the machine makes its initial cut, it will estimate how many passes are required and how much time it will take to fully cut out your design. As you can see below, it took almost an hour (!!!) to cut out my 8 labels!
After the machine completes its initial set of passes, Cricut Design Space will prompt you once again. This time, it will ask you to check and see if your chipboard is cut all the way through or if it needs a few more passes. WITHOUT unloading your mat from the machine, check several different areas of your design to see if it is cut all the way through. I found it easiest to check by 1) bending the mat back so the chipboard slightly popped off, or 2) using a weeding tool to pry a chipboard shape up and out. If the design appears cut through, unload your mat. If there are still some areas that need additional passes, have the machine cut more.
TIP! As the machine completes a few passes (8-10 passes), it may appear that your chipboard is fully cut through. Trust me when I say your Cricut knows better than you do! DON’T unload your mat until your machine has done it’s first full round of passes (all 20, in my case). THEN check to see if it is cut all the way through. (I’m not going to admit to how many designs I tried to rush because I was certain it was cut through in just 10 or so passes! 😉 )
Once you are confident the chipboard is fully cut through, go ahead and unload your mat from the machine.
To keep the edges of your designs pristine, I recommend peeling away the excess (rather than your designs themselves). To do so, simple peel off the tape and carefully pull away the chipboard area surrounding your design! From there, you can weed out any small details using weeding tools or tweezers!
Cutting Intricate Designs from Chipboard
Those chipboard labels sure cut beautifully, didn’t they? Such clean edges and precise cutting! But what about cutting really intricate designs from chipboard? Well…friends…that answer isn’t so clean cut (ha!)…at least for me!
My original plan for my pack of chipboard was to create some thick, gorgeous script labels for the front of my craft bins. So I used my favorite font to type out each bin’s label, sized them for my chipboard sheets, and then settled in for the 2+ hours it was going to take to cut out all my words.
Here’s the thing about chipboard though: it’s made out of lots and lots of layers of cardboard. And…as I discovered…when the Maker makes pass after pass after pass over really thin, tight, intricate details…it pulls those layers of cardboard apart. The photo below was taken after just 10 or so passes, and you can easily see how the layers are already pulling apart.
Not deterred, I decided to try again. This time, I applied layers of painter’s tape across the chipboard, hoping it would keep the layers together through the entire cutting process.
Unfortunately, that didn’t work either!
The 20ish passes required to cut through the chipboard is just too much for small, intricate designs. My word “vinyl” was practically in bits by the end…
…although it did cut quite cleanly from the sheet of chipboard itself!
So what should you do if you want a really intricate design from thick chipboard? Right now, my recommendation is to cut multiples of your design from thinner chipboard and layer them yourself with glue or adhesive. That said, I’m going to keep experimenting; and I will be sure to update this post when I come up with a better solution!
Finishing Off the Chipboard Labels
Now that I’ve covered all the nuances of cutting chipboard, let me quickly show you how I finished off my laundry room labels!
Once the chipboard labels were cut, I then cut out the label tops from some blue-and-white patterned vinyl. Whoa – did you guys know that there is now patterned vinyl?!? Ahem. Game changer. I then weeded the designs just as I would with standard vinyl.
The patterned vinyl has a little more stiffness to it than standard vinyl, so you can easily pick it up and place it by hand (rather than needing transfer paper) onto the chipboard labels.
TIP! Notice how I keep my base cut attached to my sticky mat while I apply the rest of the layers. This keeps my base from sliding all around, which in turn allows me to place additional elements with precision!
With the blue patterned vinyl in place, the last step was to cut my laundry room basket titles from some plain white vinyl and secure them to the chipboard labels with transfer paper. If you need help with this step, see my in-depth tutorial here.
Finally, I simply used plain ol’ paper fasteners to attach these gorgeous chipboard labels to my baskets! Talk about some stylish labels to dress up my plain laundry space!
I hope you Cricut lovers/users enjoyed this in-depth look at cutting chipboard! As usual, if you have any tips or tricks that will help me or other readers, please feel free to share in the comments! Back here on Friday, I’ll show you those finished laundry room shelves! See you then!
Looking for another creative way to use chipboard? See how I made interlocking dividers HERE!