Thursday, October 16, 2008

the mr. potatohead of the printmaking world

It's about time someone said something about the new look of the Speedball Cutter. This tool, commonly used for carving relief matricies, is inexpensive and has always been super reliable. As the picture above illustrates, it is possible for one to own multiple cutters and still have money left over for eating, ink, and paper. It is made of a plastic handle and a little doodad at the bottom, which can be tightened and loosened, to accommodate specially made gouge cutters of various sizes. The dome top of the cutter can pop off to reveal a hollow interior where the blades may be stored when not in use. It's brilliant, like Mr. Potatohead for Printmakers. Many moons ago, this cutter was bright orange. The company switched the color to the maroon color, pictured attached to the two leftmost fingers. When this switch from orange to maroon happened, the integrity of the tool was kept fully intact. Recently however, Speedball has changed from the classic maroon color to a variety of new and "hip" colors like blue, hot pink, neon green, and yellow. I like colors, so I purchased a few to try them out, and here is what I think.

The new tool is total garbage.

The metal part at the bottom, which adjusts to fit a blade, now has a rougher exterior. I suppose the reasoning behind this was to provide more tooth so a person's finger does not slip while carving. If however, you are good at what you do, you won't slip anyway, and with this new added tooth you will wind up with some big old blisters all over your hands. The old maroon cutter was slightly textured, for a non-skid quality, but apparently it was not good enough, so they made it even worse. In addition, this rougher texture rubs against the fingers more and actually causes the fixture holding the blade in place to loosen as you are working, making for a more dangerous situation. I never had a problem keeping the blades tight in the old maroon cutters. The second thing I would like to point out is that the dome lid to the hideaway compartment is now a screw top. I think this is numero uno on the lame list today. What was the point of doing this? Printmakers are generally rustic people, capable of popping a top off of a plastic tool. Now, I suppose, this tool is more friendly for the younger users. I guess this makes sense though, since the only place where relief printing exists is in high school. Don't get me wrong, I think it is important that people of all ages make prints, but perhaps they should market this cutter as the "arthritis friendly version", or "kid tested", and still sell the old faithful for us diehards. Perhaps if the person wielding the tool cannot pop the lid off, they should not be in charge of an implement that can cause so much destruction, for danger of hurting themselves or others. My last complaint is that instead of the nice curvy logo and the word "Speedball" in block letters stamped in relief into the side of the tool, the word "Speedball" is now the only thing stamped, in a wussy script, into the side of the tool. Nothing about their font choice represents the essence of printmaking. 

Now, I don't know if anyone else is up in arms about this disastrous feat of engineering because not many people are all that into relief printing anyway. It's probably a moot point. 


1 comment:

Beki said...

IT IS NOT A MOOT POINT. I too am up in arms about it. I was destroyed inside when I saw these pieces of ass garbage at Pat Catan's. I had no idea they were even worse outside of the packaging!!!

I will be using my old maroon friend until the end of time. My grandkids will be like, "Diggity dog granny, upgrayedd to the new shizzle!" And I will punch those ungrateful little fuckers in the mouth.