Monday, 12 January 2015

Silver Bullet/Cameo/Portrait Comparison

OK, as promised I have made a video showing some of the features of the Silver Bullet. Only when I had finished, I realised there were a few things I'd forgotten to mention. Of course there would be! Have you ever tried holding a camera in one hand, talking (and trying to make sense), while demonstrating something? Talk about multi- tasking! So forgive the shaky camera work please and the tongue tied ramblings...:)

So here is the control panel. With the Silver Bullet, you can control the force and the speed from here as well as from the software.

The carriage showing where the blade holder will be located, easily tightened with the screw.

There are four of these pinch wheels, although most of the time you only need to use two..they can be moved to change position against the grit shaft there, to ease wear on the mat.

Like many Silver Bullet users, I have chosen to buy a Click Blade Holder as an extra. I don't need to explain to Cameo users the advantage of these!  NB - Thyme graphics sell one suitable for the Cameo too.


One of the main differences in functionality is that with the SB, you can alter the pressure to a much greater degree, leaving you more wiggle room in blade depth. It will happily cut anything from tissue to mount board. Unlike the Studio software, there is however, no ready set guide by numbers. There is a learning curve that you must travel, to find the best settings for your materials to create your own.

A really big difference is the option to cut in 'What you see is what you get' (Similar to Studio) or to use the Origin mode, where you set the actual blade where you want it on your material and the cutter will use that as the bottom right corner of the design.

It can cut much more than a Cameo can cope with. But let's face it, so it should, as the price is not comparable. You would need to be a keen beginner to jump right in with an SB and even then, you may get too frustrated to get to grips with it. I'm happy that I had a Cameo first. This is more like a bike with the training wheels removed. It's silly to try and directly compare the two, it's like comparing a Mercedes to a VW Beetle. Both do what they are supposed to do but they are very different animals and while you could learn to drive in a Mercedes, you'd probably be safer starting in the Beetle!

That said, it has only taken a couple of weeks for me to be able to do pretty much anything I would want to - but I am one of those people who does not give up until I have mastered something.

I know many will be keen to learn about print and cuts on this machine. How are they done? What is the software like?

There is a SIMPLE process in SCAL4, guided by the software, to calibrating the machine before you do a print and cut. It will take a few minutes but once done, that's it. There are some numbers to note down and these stay the same for your machine, no matter what computer you use, they don't change. You make a note of them and keep them safe. If you change your computer you just plug in those numbers and it will be back to normal.
Basically, it calculates the distance between YOUR laser and YOUR blade, so it knows where to cut.

When it comes to doing the print and cut, you use computer keys/mouse to move the carriage and laser to the dots on the registration marks. There are three, two at the top and one bottom right.

You do the lining up and then the machine starts cutting. Very accurately. Incredibly accurately. Notice that the registration marks are in relation to the design, not the page size. It isn't necessary to have a whole sheet of paper just to do one small design. Put the paper anywhere on the mat as long as you guide it to the registration marks.
The Silver Bullet is fast and quiet. I haven't even tried it on the fastest speed yet. I don't need to!

Another difference is the use of a spacer to elevate the blade 1.5 mm above the material you are cutting. Insert the spacer under the blade but over the mat and material to adjust the height. It only takes a moment but improves cut performance. For thick materials there is also the option to turn off the 'soft landing' of the blade. Normally that soft landing is what helps preserve the life of your blade by not giving it too much of a bashing at the star of a cut.

There are also a range of extra tools you can buy, for engraving, embossing, punching. 

The SCAL4 software is not as intuitive as Studio but the bugs are being ironed out of the latest version and it is quite useable for most things. If there is a problem with it, I can easily design SVGs in other art programs and import it but it is improving, even this rapidly after Christmas.

One of the nice features of SCAL4, is the library. It stores projects, shapes (loads) and fonts - enabling you to see large versions of fonts in a window rather than have you squinting at a tiny pane. Save files into it or export to your desktop.

The Silver Bullet is available in different width sizes, so if the Cameo is not big enough for you, it may be an option. I agree with what I have read, it may not be the first cutter you buy but it may well be the last. It is a work horse, a machine designed and built to keep going all day if need be, it is solid, sturdy, robust. It takes some effort to learn how to use it, it is not the machine for occasional users, it is for those who cut on a regular basis and want the best cut they can get.

I love mine already!


  1. Hi Sandra,

    I discovered your tube channel & then your blog today. Both were a really nice find. I am a silver bullet owner but have not used my machine very much. As you may have discovered there are not a lot of tutorials specifically for the Silver Bullet. I usually use MTC but I am looking forward to any SCAL 4 tutorials that you may post.

    I am a Brit living in New York.

    Take care & be well.


    PS is there a link to subscribe to you blog. (I looked but may have missed it)

  2. Thank you for the kind words! There WAS a link to subscribing but it seems to have disappeared, I shall have to investigate! I'm a lot better at crafting than I am at formatting blogs....I also used to have a Pinterest Pin and that is not showing up either.
    I do intend to do more on the SB and SCAL4, I realise there is not that much out there for some reason.