Last week, I received a new addition to my ship modeling tools. This one is a little more specialized that many that I have. It’s a Silhouette Cameo 3 vinyl cutting machine.
The unit is software controlled, and connects to a computer, in my case, a Mac. The software is a free download from the maker’s website and it’s actually a bit more sophisticated than I expected. Upgraded versions of the software, called Silhouette Studio, provide more specialized features, including the ability to import files from other programs, such as Adobe Illustrator and others.
These desktop vinyl cutters are basically the size of a computer printer and are essentially glorified plotters (if you remember those), with a blade mounted instead of a pen. It is capable of cutting vinyl, paper, cardboard, and various other similar materials.
In my case, the main driving force for purchasing the vinyl cutter is a model of a highly ornate Japanese boat I’ve been working on for the past several months. I’ve been able to solve most of the issues with decorative parts. However, there is a very regular gold pattern along the sides, and I couldn’t find a way to make something that would look good. Also, I haven’t been very happy with the quality of the gold paints that I’ve found, so I’ve been hoping to find a way to use gold leaf.
With a vinyl cutter, I thought I could possibly create a mask in vinyl, that I could use to paint or something. After working with the Cameo for a few days, I decided to try gold leafing the vinyl and using that for the decorative work.
I cut a piece of vinyl, similar to the one above, brushed on some gold leaf sizing, and then applied 23k gold leaf.
After burnishing the gold leafing, I carefully removed the excess pieces.
I then carefully peeled up the final gold pattern, and applied it to the painted transom piece. Afterwards, I turned the piece over to cut away the excess from the edges of the transom piece.
The final transom piece was then fit into place and I am very happy with the final results.
I would say this turned out to be 100% successful. The next step is to do the same thing with the decorative pattern on the sides of the hull.
Again, I’m really happy with the results and I think the $200 machine was well worth the investment, though I’ve probably purchased another $150 or more of accessories and supplies. I’ll also be able to use this to cut the name lettering on ship’s hulls, and I expect I’ll find many other applications for this machine. But, for now, I think it was worth buying just for the decorative work of this Japanese boat model.