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  1. 1. Do you currently own a cutting machine?

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Ah, so it is to draw and cut a scale length Tummel Viaduct then? (A nice lattice girder viaduct on the Aberfeldy branch of the Highland Railway) I have the drawings.....




Andy G

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Before starting this project, please download the Studio manual from here: http://www.silhouetteamerica.com/media/docs/manual_silhouette-studio_v5.pdf.


Project – A Coal Merchant’s Office in Styrene




This will be a fairly simple project to create a one room building in styrene or card. The building could be a coal office, a beach hut, or a small lockup. The output will be the scoring of planks and the cutting of sides, window frames, a window panes, a door and door frame. There will also be a roof cut in a way that will allow it to bend in the middle to fit onto the top of the structure. For this first project there won't be a drawn plan, The whole thing will be drawn in the computer by hand by tracing over a photo and making leaps of faith for the other sides. By the end of the project the skills learned will be:

  • Creating a new file using the template.
  • Importing a photo.
  • Creating guides.
  • Drawing and colouring lines and shapes.
  • Using groups
  • Amending shapes by dragging points.
  • Scoring the panelling and roof
  • Producing a cut file output in card and plasticard.

I've found that the easiest way to work is to build up the drawing so that all of the pieces are present and in the correct places, and then disassembling it to create the files needed to produce the cut parts.


Based on the photo above, the wall on the left is solid, the wall facing us has a small window and electric bell, the wall to the right I’ll insert a door and a window as it faces the yard and the siding used by the firm. The wall on the other side I’ll leave solid.


There will be three files at the end of this:

  1. a cutting file for the door, door frame and window frames,
  2. a cutting file for the walls,
  3. a scoring file for the planking.

If you are using .020” plastic for the walls, all .020” styrene lines will be scored as the plastic will be too thick to cut through. The “cut lines” around the outside of the walls etc in this case will simply be deeper than the planks.


Finally, We're Making a Start

  1. If you are going to use the photo in this post, save it to your hard drive first.
  2. Open Silhouette Studio and then open the template with File --> Open.
  3. Open the photo using File --> Open.
  4. Click on the photo and use Edit --> Copy, change to the template tab and then use Edit --> Paste to copy the photo onto the template file.
  5. Save your file as coal office master 1.studio (no material or action component to this file name, that will come when we come to do the output later)

Positioning the Ruler

  1. Select the ruler if it's not selected by clicking once on it to display the “placeholders” (these are the tiny squares on each corner and halfway along each edge). See the 101 tutorial video on page one for more information (
  2. Press the shift key and click on and drag the green circle around to turn your ruler 90 degrees to the vertical. The shift key will snap the ruler to vertical, 45 degrees or horizontal.
  3. Click on the ruler and drag it to a more convenient place.
  4. Use the second button in the fourth button group at the bottom right of the screen to bring the ruler to the front. If you don't do this then when you more the ruler to the photo the photo could be displayed in front of the ruler, so hiding it.
  5. You can colour the ruler yellow so you can see it over the top of the photo. Make sure the ruler is selected, and at the top right of the screen you will see a button displaying some coloured horizontal lines. Click on this to open the line colour window and then choose a more useful colour.

Resizing the Photo

  1. Click and drag the photo so the bottom of the office wall is in line with the 0 on the ruler.
  2. Then I move the top right square in and out until I have a wall about 6’ 6” high to the slates.
  3. You’ll notice the bottom has moved down as well, click on the photo and move it back up, then repeat step 5 and 6 until you are happy with the size. Your office will now be the right size for 4mm scale.

You should end up with something like this:






Guides are very useful in situations where you don’t have a sharp photo or plan. If your photo has an edge that blurs over four or five pixels, which of those pixels should be the definitive one? Adding a guide gives you something definite to aim at when creating your shapes to make sure they all line up correctly. Unfortunately, the free version of Silhouette Studio does not have genuine guides as these are only in the pro version. To get around this I use ordinary lines to simulate them.

  1. To draw a line, choose the line tool in the toolbox on the left.
  2. Click on the left of the roof, press don the shift key, and then drag over to the right hand side.
  3. Do the same at the bottom of the wall, the top of the roof, and for the two ends of the wall.
  4. Select all of your guides at once by clicking on the arrow button in the toolbar on the left and then clicking top left above and to the left of the most extreme guide, and then moving the mouse to the opposite corner and letting go. Everything in the box will be selected. Press the shift key and click on the photo to deselect it. You will see the rectangle with the placeholders that surround the selected items will change shape to cover just the guides.
  5. Click on the group button, that is, the first button on the bottom left toolbar.
  6. Click on the Cut Style button on the top toolbar (the one with the scissors) and choose No Cut.
  7. Save your file.

The actions in steps 4-6 will stop the guides from being cut later on. I always change the guides to light blue so I know that they are guides and not cut or score lines.


The image below shows all the lines in place. Now I can move the photo and ruler out of the way and start drawing.




You should now have the photo the right size for a 4mm scale building and guides that will help you to accurately create the sides later.




I've gone into a lot of detail there as I'm assuming I'm not talking to graphic designers. Please let me know if you would like me to assume you have the basics and I'll tighten it up a bit. Also, please have a look through the manual as it gives information about all of the buttons that surround the work area.


I'm definitely not on tomorrow,  so hopefully this isn't a bad start. Please let me know if I've not been clear at any point.


Next time, walls, doors and windows.

Edited by JCL
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This level of detail is just right for me at least. My wife is grumbling that if I cut or score plasticard, I wiil blunt her blades, which

I guess may be the case? Also, which of the 3 coloured blades are best for styrene? - I would like to buy a set for railway use

in the interests of marital harmony!


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Thanks for the comments / ticks guys. JCL, can I call you J for short? The program I have been using to draw up the windows etc is a free cad program that can export in DXF format that as you are aware can then be imported straight into the Silhouette package.

The program, emachineshop is a fairly user friendly and still relatively basic system. I also use Auto CAd Lite at work which is massively over qualified for the silhouette, emachineshop has some nice facilities for copying repetitive sections and at zero $'s hasn't caused any major qualms (as yet )

Still catching up with your in detail post. brilliant.



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But Allan, just imagine using this machine to cut out those tiny bricks now that the old computer card chad is a thing of the past ;-)

Mike T, I have a 1/2 a cubic foot of those things that I offered to Allan a while ago and even his Avatar went a funny colour :O

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Ordered my Silhouette Cameo on 11th November from Amazon for £183. Waiting on delivery from USA, expected by 10th December


Your thread is most opportune, and already answers a number of questions which would have needed some considerable time to sort


I use AutoCAD for all my drawing work, so no problem with creating DXF files


It will come in handy for those precision cuts in card and styrene which test the steadiness of hand cutting, and tedious nature of repetitive designs


Will be following this thread with interest, and if I have anything to add to the experience, will post here



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No problems Allan, it's not for everyone. :)


Cheers for that K, I'll put something up about emachineshop at a later date just to be thorough. :)


JD, I'm assuming you have a Robo, or a Silhouette SD as the Cameo and Portrait use the grey cap blade. The blade with the three coloured caps have been superseded by a backwards compatible grey cap ratchet blade. The grey cap is adjustable by putting the cap on it to turn it around one way or the other. The cap then comes off and you put it into the machine. The Silhouette Cameo also has a representation of the cap actually build into the front of the machine so you can adjust it there. Unfortunately I don't have the machine with me at the moment, so hopefully if you have one you can see where it is (it's in the manual).


When adjusting the new style blade, the lower the number the less the blade is showing, and vice versa.If I was cutting paper, I'd probably have the blade at 2 or 3, if I'm cutting .010" styrene, it'll be at 10. Unfortunately I don't know if the blade settings for the cameo will be the same for you. General consensus is to start low and then increase the blade depth until you get what you want. One for everyone, if you put your blade depth too deep, and the thickness too thick while using, say, thin paper, then there's a chance you might go through the mat, so be careful.


Ron, absolutely, and the more coffee one drinks, the more useful the cutter is! Bzzz.


Hi Mike, I should be on commission. :)


If you are following along and having a go, then try adding rectangles, circles and lines to a blank file, then try clicking on them to move them and resize them. You can go made and change the line colour as well. This will help when we do the walls, doors and windows tomorrow. If it gets annoying, close the file without saving and start a new one (think etch-a-sketch)

Edited by JCL
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Two limitations are the thickness and the resistance of the materials. Although the blade extends to approximately 1mm, or .040", you will only be able to cut through styrene up to .015" thick (someone here has done it: http://www.hobbytalk.com/bbs1/archive/index.php/t-361584.html), after that you will be scoring and snapping.

There are some really interesting concepts on that thread, but bear in mind it is using one of the earlier generation of Silhouettes.


Sorry, wrong link. It is actually one referred to by the first link: http://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=23354.0

Edited by MikeTrice
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Great thread, toying with the idea of whether I can justify sufficient use out of one for 7mm.


I guess though that as long as you stay within the machine's parameters, the scale is actually irrelevant as you can laminate multiple layers together and glue end-on to make things longer than the size of the cutting table.


Will follow with interest and see if I can persuade Santa...

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You're right Mike, you would need to be careful, so this line should be for everyone:


General consensus is to start low and then increase the blade depth until you get what you want. One for everyone, if you put your blade depth too deep, and the thickness too thick while using, say, thin paper, then there's a chance you might go through the mat, so be careful.


That's pretty much the worst that can happen, the worst that has happened to me is that I scored my mat fairly deeply. Note that no matter what you do you will score your mat to some extent. Light scoring isn't a problem.


I once tried to put material in the that was far too thick, and all it did was make an awful sound and reject it (it physically couldn't get under the cutter head). If you do that, press the pause button and either take it out or cluck Eject and take it out. I'm not sure what you would so with the portrait as I'm not sure if there is a pause button - can someone he'll me out there?


If anyone wants to give styrene a go the recommendation that I've seen, is to crank up all the dials:

Thickness 33

Blade depth 10

Speed 1

Double cut - yes


These are the settings I use for styrene .010" and thicker. I haven't tried thicker than .040".


Unless I'm just cutting straight lines, scores on the (coach) doors for example, then I leave the speed at 1. I'm saving a lot of time and squinting by having a machine to cut things out for me, and it's not going to kill me to mate a cup of tea and give it the time to do it as accurately as possible. Remember we're often working with designs that need to be accurate to less than a millimetre.


Hi Cromptonnut, glad yo see you here. I've been thinking about uses beyond windows for 7mm, and so far, it could be:


Wrought it on railings

Cutting out dressed stone blocks, especially for quoins or window arches (Mike's link has a discussion about this)

Overlays for coach and wagon sizes, and if you use the score and snap for thicker styrene, you could produce the main strengthening layer as well.


Latticework (see my footbridge)

Could you do point rod rodding brackets? Signal arms? I'm not sure that would work, but might be worth a try.

Fancy door panels

Picket fence

Circles! I can't cut circles by hand, so this does it for me.

The lead in a stain glass window would be interesting to try, and while we are thinking about 7mm churches, the brackets on the front door.

Score fancy pattern cobbles or roofing slates in 7mm scale you could even have a go at fancy ridge tiles somehow.


Just to reiterate, .020" and thicker will be score and snap.


Right, better wake the dog up, long drive ahead. I'll put up the next stage when I get there.






I've just realised my posts are very long sorry about that. :-/

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I'm sure once I got one and got to grips with the thing I'd find no end of useful things I could do with a cutter.


It's just that initial thought of spending out a large chunk of money on the unknown, which I may not get on with, or really ever get my money's worth out of - and the money could easily be spent on other stuff - although of course £250 in O gauge doesn't necessarily go that far - one Heljan Mk 1 or half a Heljan loco, 6 Peco points etc...

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Well I've just ordered one too.


I can think of things like the ends of carriage seats (for sticking to Ratio seats for where you have an open coach) little tables for coaches and for cutting gaskets for my Moggy Van!


We are all going to be very busy I feel!


Jason.. What shape blade do you use? Some seem to advocate a 60* one for finer work.


Andy G

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Before I start, I just want to remind you to keep saving your work as you go along as it’s very easy to get involved and forget to do this. Also, if you are having problems with something, open a blank canvas and play around on it before coming back to your drawing. Finally, at the end of each stage, give the drawing a different version number so that you can always go back to a previous version if it goes very wrong!


Creating the Walls


To make this building, I’ll be drawing out two identically shaped side walls and two identically shaped end walls. I always try to clone parts that are identical rather than draw them from scratch each time.


So, I’m going to have to make a guess about the width of the end walls. They just need to be wide enough for a door and a window.


I’m going to use a rectangle to draw the side wall:

  • Click on the rectangle tool
  • Click where you want the top left corner to be, and drag the mouse down to the bottom right before letting go of your mouse button.
  • If you don’t think it’s quite right, zoom in to the lines, and then adjust the size by selecting the rectangle and moving the placeholders around. The sides of the rectangle should lie on top of the guides.
  • Click on the button that looks like a sunflower on the top right of the screen.
  • Choose “Duplicate Below”
  • On the first rectangle, create another smaller rectangle to represent the inside of the window frame
To produce a wall with an apex, I do the following:
  • Create a rectangle the width of the end and the height of the eaves (the latter using the guides). This will be the end wall.
  • Draw a vertical line to use as a guide somewhere inside the end wall. This is green on the image below. Remember to hold down the shift key to keep it vertical.
  • Select the wall and the guide (use the shift key to select multiple elements).
  • Click on the Align Window button on the toolbar.
  • Choose align centre. This will move the green guide so it is exactly in the middle of the wall.
  • Click on a blank bit of screen.
  • Click on the side once to make sure that you have selected the right element, then double click on the top line of it to enter “point editing mode”.
  • Move your mouse around the top line of the wall until you get an arrow with a diagonal line next to it, then click and drag a point up and release it at the intersection of the roof apex guide that you drew and your green vertical guide.
  • Make a duplicate of this wall for the other end.
You should now have something like this:




Building the Door

Because I’m a bit like that, to make a panelled door, I draw one half, then I duplicate it. That way I know the panels are symmetrical.

  • Draw the inside of the door frame.
  • Reuse the green guide by moving it to centre it on the door frame.
  • Select the door frame and centre line and then use the Align Centre button to make sure that the centring is accurate.
  • Draw the first panel and click on the “duplicate below” button.
  • The second rectangle will be selected, move it down slightly and use the small squares to resize it as necessary.
  • Select both panels and group then with Ctrl-G (or click on the group button, bottom left of the screen).
  • Duplicate the grouped panels to the right and manually move them to the right.
  • Select all the panels and choose Align Top. Because we grouped the two panels, the two groups will align to the top of the selections. If we hadn’t grouped them all four panels would have shot up to the top of the selection.
  • I tend to group elements like this in case I have other doors to make, or if I want to adjust the position or size of the door as a whole.
And the Window


The window should be created the same way that you created the door, except that the outer frame should be aligned center to align them horizontally and aligned middle to align them vertically. When you are aligning, don’t forget to group your window panes first!


Finally, draw in the rectangles that represent the outer door frame and window frame. I decided to create block guides that would ensure I had a frame 3” wide. To do this:

  • Using the template ruler, create three squares that are 3” across. Move them so they look like the image below.
  • Draw a rectangle around the door making sure that the bottom edge is in line with the bottom of the wall.
  • Using the placeholders, resize the rectangle so that it touches the outer edge of the guide blocks.


Delete the guide blocks. I also added two circles and a rectangle to represent the outside telephone bell in the illustration below. I also drew another rectangle around the outside of the window on the side wall.


Once I’m happy that everything is in the right place (and I can check by moving the photo back, at least for the side view), I can now remove the guidelines. As I’ve colour coded them to be light blue or green, I know I will delete them all. There’s nothing worse than doing the cut and a guide line cuts through your cutout!


I haven’t drawn it in here, but don’t forget your roof! Obviously it’s just two rectangles of card, so you would cut it yourself. If you use the cutter, your middle line will be cut with the same amount of pressure all the way along, and so should bend without breaking to form the apex.




The panelling will be scored into the .020” styrene, and will be 2mm across. I’ve found over time that the easiest way to do this is to draw one vertical line somewhere away from your sides and a horizontal line that is 2mm long, making sure that the horizontal line is aligned to the vertical one (select both lines and “align left”). Group these two lines together, and use the “Row of Four” button to clone them. When you have enough, group all of them, and move them so that they are over the top of the walls. As you can see, my grouped panels didn’t quite line up. To get around this, I clicked on a panel line to select the whole group, and then I dragged the right hand side placeholder out so that the brown lines in my illustration below overlapped the red lines exactly.




Master File


Up until now we have been creating, after this point we will be dissecting and deleting. This means that you should now have all of the elements on your drawing drawn correctly an in the right places. This will now be the master drawing, so save it before moving on and call it Coal Office Master v1.studio. If you need to make wholesale changes then change this file. It’s usually relatively quick and easy to then separate things out again.


Tomorrow we will split out the file, set up the cutter, and then cut the parts.


Hope this all makes sense still. Feel free to ask questions and I'll try to answer them.


Some more ideas:

Trellis, bean poles, sofa, chair, cast iron gents urinal ;) , greenhouse anyone? Loco cabs, splashers

Edited by JCL
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Oh well if we are making lists I'll add tender side frames, footplates, solebars, wagon bodies, mobile telephone exchange trailers (in model form!), bridge girders (I'll get in with that before Ron!).


Do you think we could make a decent tyre representation?


Andy G

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AndyG - what's this with bridge girders - aren't they simple enough using straight edge and knife  :scratchhead:


JCL - Sorry to be jumping the gun a little, but I can indulge in a little thinking time before the machine arrives


Now this maybe what AndyG was referring to -


Have been drawing up the ornamentation for the GN Deansgate Bridge - it was built on the skew, and the North and South faces were of differing lengths


It is hoped that the various laminations will be cut in 5 & 10thou styrene - the laminations vary in height between 11 & 72mm (with the exception 30thou strips), and the lengths are 452 and 486mm. When the laminations are fixed together the overall thickness will approach 2.5mm



North Face Ornamentation Laminations


In some places I may have to introduce some support tags, etc. or produce a longer support mat, or even draw & cut in two separate sections, so that they can be butt jointed


Any comments



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I am about to embark on designing a LNWR covered wooden footbridge. I originally intended to get it laser cut, but am watching this topic with interest. With laser cutting I can use .75, 1.0 and 1.5mm Rowmark (.029, .039 and .059 inch), which is styrene compatible. This would cost more, but considerably reduce the number of lams.


M concern about building up thicker items like this from many laminations is both alignment and distortion/buckling as the solvent dries. I wonder if the edges of the assembled parts are likely to show the laminations and need any/much cleaning up?



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Trust Ron to come up with THAT as a bridge design! From simple to advanced in one easy step!


Jol, you could incorporate an extra part of the cut layers that could contain some sort of lining up tool. Say three holes (two at one end, one at the other) that you can put a nail through to locate each layer. After you have put solvent on (sparingly) the edges will stil show the lamination markes, but once painted they should disappear. As long as you don't have large areas where the slovent can't evaporate there sholud be no distorsion.


Andy g

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My concern about building up thicker items like this from many laminations is both alignment and distortion/buckling as the solvent dries. I wonder if the edges of the assembled parts are likely to show the laminations and need any/much cleaning up?



Hi, Jol


I agree multiple laminations can cause all sorts of distortion especially in the length of thin strips. I use a quick brush of butanone/mek along one long edge joint and leave for a few minutes before a quick brush down the other long edge joint, if the strip width is wide enough to warrant it, leaving the ends unfixed. I normally only laminate narrow strips between 10 thou and 20mm wide, not sheets


Maximum number of laminations fixed so far has been seven, on the CLC Deansgate Bridge. It is now 5 years old and still looking ok, although it is now going under a partial modification to accommodate a second signal gantry and associated electrics





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