Monday, June 7, 2010

Matboard Stencil Tutorial, IF You Have a Cricut (Sorry)

You betcha stencils are important in Montessori education. Stencils allow for the precise reproduction of shapes whose forms should be internalized--not so much letters or numbers, which children must learn to recognize in a variety of scripts, but geometric figures, for instance, whose degrees and angles remain consistent. The premise lends itself well to my idea to make stencils of each of the fifty states: precise reproductions of consistent forms that the girls would do well to memorize.

Montessori stencils are generally made of metal, and are expensive. Metal, of course, is a logical material for a Montessori stencil. Montessori philosophy avoids the use of plastics, but a paper or cardboard stencil not only wouldn't be nearly capable of withstanding average wear, but it also wouldn't have the kind of high, very stiff edge that gives support to the child's pencil without becoming worn down over time.

Expensive, though...yeah. I'm saving up for a microscope for the girls, and I wouldn't dream of buying stencils. Good thing that I own a Cricut! I've used my Cricut to make everything from paper dolls to patches on my pants to felt board figures--pretty much everything EXCEPT scrapbooking.

Even on the Cricut, cutting matboard is a stretch. But with a little more effort you can make a perfect stencil, and matboard is the perfect material. It's very stiff and very sturdy, yet inexpensive, recyclable, and doesn't require so much fussing that if you wreck a stencil you feel angst about tossing it and trying again.

To make a matboard stencil, you will need:
  • Cricut with the cartridge that you want. I'm using the 50 States cartridge to gradually make the girls an entire set of 50 states stencils. Any kind of geometric shape would also be very fun and useful.
  • Cricut deep cut blade and deep cut blade housing. It's VERY easy to switch these out on your Cricut.
  • matboard pre-cut to the appropriate size. I cut my matboards to approximately 8"x10", with the stencil being at least an inch smaller on all sides than the matboard that contains it.
  • X-acto knife and self-healing cutting mat.
1. Install your deep cut blade and deep cut blade housing, and set it to its deepest cut. Then, set the Cricut's pressure dial to almost its highest point, and the speed dial to around the midpoint, if not a little slower.

2. Press the matboard face-up on the sticky mat, and load it into the Cricut. Manually set the paper size as a little smaller than the real size of your matboard, to prevent the Cricut from cutting the stencil too close to the edge of the matboard. Remember this exact paper size, however.

3. Set the size of your shape so that it is at least an inch smaller on its widest side than the size of your matboard.

4. Turn on the multi-cut function.

5. After the Cricut finishes its cuts, re-set the paper size exactly the way you did in step four, and re-cut the stencil, again using the multi-cut function.

6. Unload the mat and, using the x-acto knife, finish cutting out the last little bits that didn't completely cut in the Cricut.

And then you're done!
Now go tag somebody's building with Kentucky.


Paducah Peg said...

Tag my building with Kentucky! Please!

julie said...

With the caption "Kentucky is for lovahs!"