Recently a friend asked me if I could make him a stencil to help him paint stars on his flags and he wanted it to be reusable.  I knew I had the cut file and I could make a stencil but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make one that was reusable.  While going over possible materials, I wondered if one of those thin cutting mats might work.  I did a search on the internet and found where someone had tried it.  Even with a Silhouette deep cut blade (affiliate), it just didn’t work.  I did some thinking about what was thinner than a cutting mat but would still stand up to repeated uses and it finally dawned on me – a plastic folder!  I went to Walmart and found one that was perfect and it was only $0.50!

While I was looking, I found another great option – plastic dividers.  A packet of five dividers was only $0.47.  If you are making designs that would fit on one page, these give you the most bang for your buck (or half a buck, as is the case here).  The advantage of the folder is that you can make a larger design that would fit on two pages.

When I got home, I gathered all of my needed materials.

In addition to your computer and Silhouette (or other vinyl cutting machine), you’ll need your cutting mat, tape, cutting material, and scissors (if using the folder as your material).  I chose to use the folder for this stencil so I started by cutting it half then cutting off the pocket.

Once the folder was cut, I placed it on my cutting mat.  You will need to tape down a couple sides of the folder because it WILL move on you once you start the cutting process.  I tell you this from experience.  😊 Any tape will work.  I had painters tape handy so that’s what I used.

Once you have the folder placed and taped onto the mat, load it in your Silhouette. (You can really see here how dirty my mat looks.  I’d apologize for you having to look at that but everyone I know has a dirty mat.  I think that’s just part of the process. Ha!)

To ensure that you get a good cut the first time, you will need to adjust your blade depth.  Start by removing your blade from the cradle.

Use the ratchet notch on your machine to adjust the depth.

I turned mine all the way up to a 10.  The little red line will line up with the depth you have chosen.  Once the depth is set, return the blade to the cradle and lock it in place.

Having the blade on a 10 cut my material without issue and I did not need the deep cut blade.  If you are using a material that has a bit more heft to it and using the regular blade one a 10 isn’t giving you a good cut, you might consider purchasing the deep cut blade.

The next step is to get your file ready to go with the correct settings.  I already had my file pulled up and sized to fit my friend’s request.  For my cut settings, I made sure to select “Cut” for my Cut Type and “Chipboard” for my Material Type.  The reason I chose chipboard is because I wanted to find the thickest material listed to increase my chances for the best cut.

When you have your settings selected, click on “Send to Silhouette”.  You will be taken to a new screen on the right.  Once it shows your status as “Ready” in green, click on cut.

It may take a little longer to cut than normal stencils because I noticed the blade will repeat its path.  You can stay and watch it (It kind of sounds like the underworld in Super Mario Brothers. That may just be this cut file though. I have a video if you need proof.) or you can essentially set it and forget it.

When the machine is finished cutting, unload the mat.  As you pull up the folder, you may see that some of the cut parts are starting to pull away.

For the parts that did not come out on their own, you’ll just have to pop them out.  Mine all came out but just using my fingers to push/pull them.  Some were a little tougher than others.  If you find a part that didn’t seem to cut well and isn’t coming out, I recommend having a craft knife (like an X-acto) nearby to finish the cuts.

And there you have it! A custom, reusable stencil for under $1.  You really can’t beat that.

 Isn’t this such a game changer??  I’m excited for the possibilities this gives me!

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