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Tool N' One Product Review

24 July 2014  |  Admin

The Tool N’ One strikes me as an example of one of those products that somebody invented out of frustration and that usually means it is designed to do a specific task and do it well.

The tool consists of a sturdy plastic handle with a small hole at either end. It comes with a roller brush with stiff bristles already attached at one end and a slot at the other end which can take one of two attachments – a small spatula or a sharp pokey tool. The idea is that the combination of these three elements gives you everything you need to release those intricate and stubborn dies.

It seems very well made, with a sturdy spring load mechanism to load the attachments at each end. The handle unscrews in the middle and the spatula and pokey tool fit inside – a safe and useful place to keep the sharp pokey tool when you are not using it.

The tool works best in conjunction with the Tool N’ One foam, a special density foam with an anti-static coating.

Parchment release paper can go a long way to easing those fine dies out, but even with that, I have had some with fine lines or intricate curls that need an extra helping hand, so I decided to try this tool out and see what it can do.

So how does it actually work in practice?

One of the things that this tool was really designed to do was to eliminate the need to spend ages poking out the bits that get left behind in intricate dies.
Place the die cutting side down on the foam and roll the brush over it. This is usually enough to release all those trapped bits of card.  Use the pokey tool for the really stubborn bits.

As with many tools, I find myself using it in a slightly different way, so let me show you how I find it useful.

In this picture the dies are still embedded into the card. With the cut side against the foam, roll over the back of the die with the brush and it will easily separates the die from the background card.

Once separated from the background, I give it another light brush to get rid of any stray slivers of card clinging to the cut edges.  I would not recommend doing this from the front as the brush is stiff enough to leave scratches or indentations on your card.

The spatula tool is great for getting in and releasing the main areas.  Often this is all you will need to get the cut out of the die and with the simpler shapes, this tool makes it a breeze.
If you still have fine areas bedded into the die, then you can use the pokey tool to very gently push the fine areas out.  Don't push too hard or you will make a hole!

Once the cut is released from the die, there may still be fiddly areas that need to be separated. You can roll the brush over the die carefully which may release more sections. The spatula is very useful for this final stage too, and in my experience, less likely to damage delicate lines and swirls than tweezers or fingers.
I used this die for my test as it has been a tricky one in the past for me, even using parchment release paper, so I am very pleased with the results.

Are there any downsides?

Well one word of caution is that the pokey tool is extremely sharp and should definitely be used with caution, kept away from children and not be left where pets could get hold of it. It comes with a plastic sheath so I would recommend always replacing that when not using the tool.

If you choose to store both the spatula and pokey tool inside the handle, remove the spatula first. The curve on the end of the spatula makes it a little awkward to grasp the pokey tool to remove it and I almost ended up performing a little home acupuncture on myself the first time I tried to remove it with the spatula still in place.

You may notice in the photos that I unscrewed the handle and ended up working with just half the handle which worked just as well.

It is not a miracle tool that is going to make all those awkward dies work perfectly. Most of the time, when a die is not releasing cleanly it is simply because it has not cut cleanly. No amount of brushing, poking or lifting is going to fix a die that is not cutting.

If you are having problems with dies not cutting properly, it is often because of the type of card being used or the state of your cutting mat. If you want to establish whether your die is actually faulty, try to work with a new cutting mat and use a hard, china clay coated polished card (the sort you would use for brayering) rather than a soft fibrous type. Try it in different positions on the mat and if it always fails to cut in the same place, return it to the shop where you bought it and include the failed die cuts with it, so they can return it to the manufacturer.

To summarise

I actually think that the Tool N' One is a very useful little gadget, but it does work best in conjunction with it's foam pad. (You can buy both the tool and foam as a money saving multi-buy).  I tried it with funky foam and a mouse mat, but they weren't soft enough and that anti-static coating on the foam is very handy - the bits really do shake off into the bin.

Another bonus I found of the foam was that even for simple shapes that release easily, there can be tiny little 'threads' of card around the edges. Place them on the foam and give the edges a quick roll with the brush and those fine slivers of card detach from the shape and brush off the foam.

I don't do an awful lot of fiddly die cutting, but I have tried a few of my challenging dies and for me, this tool and its foam have earned their place on my die cutting table.

Click here for details of the tool, the foam and our money saving multi-buy.

* For the grammar freaks, I would just like to point out that the spelling of the Tool N’ One is taken from the packaging.