How to Customize any Surface using Vinyl

Picture of How to Customize any Surface using Vinyl
This is an explanation of how to use vinyl sheets to customise any surface, which in this case is a trashcan. This instructable is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step process of how the signage ‘ProtoTrash’ came to be.

This project was inspired by a desire to do something with the dull-looking trashcan in our ProtoTank office. Fortunately, this project was easily carried out using the Vinyl Cutter tools and machinery located in TechShop San Francisco, which just so happens to be where ProtoTank is based as well.

Again, the methods explained in this instructable can be applied to create any type of vinyl signage, for any type of smooth, curved and non-curved surfaces.
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Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials
Tools Required:

MH Series Vinyl Cutter
Computer with FlexiStarter software
Weeding Pick

Materials Required:

Vinyl for signage and test pieces
Transfer Paper

(All of this is provided in TechShop SF)

Step 2: Setting up the Vinyl Cutter

Picture of Setting up the Vinyl Cutter
1. The first thing to do is to adjust and lock the height of the blade within the blade holder.

2. This is done using the two screw rings, A and B.

3. The protruding blade height should only be enough to cut through the vinyl but keep the backing paper intact.

4. To test the blade depth, scratch the blade holder on a scrap piece of vinyl. If the blade goes through the entire thickness of the vinyl, than you need to reduce the height of the blade.

5. Next, place the blade holder within the rear slot of the carriage assembly, located along the cutting area of the machine.

6. Make sure it is seated properly within the slot. Hold the blade holder in place by tightening the lock knob until the tension becomes moderate, but not too tight.
clapfilk11 days ago



This is so great!


clickyummy1 month ago


Mariska Botha7 months ago
Nice Instructable.
BunnyRoger7 months ago
Very cool indeed. Nice one
Would have been very cool if I actually had a vinyl cutter I could use. Don't think everyone just has one lying around.
MAApleton7 months ago
Hhhhmmmm.... Wonder if anyone maybe has a MH Series Vinyl Cutter lying around that I can borrow hehe....
You should enter this in the Hurricane Lasers Contest!
richb771 year ago
If only there was Techshop (or anything similar!) in the UK!
t.rohner1 year ago
You can get decent 24" cutter including a plugin software for Coreldraw, Illustrator and the free Inkscape for 500$.
(GCC Expert 24)
Of course, these cutters wouldn't be my choice, if money isn't a issue. (I would go for a Summa S-Class...) But the GCC work quite well and the supplied software is pretty good.
The noname (chinese) cutters i inspected at tradeshows, are a waste of money. This may change of course.

I sell cutters and other signmaking machinery for the last 25 years.
When i started, a cutting system (flatbed cutter, software and PC) was over 100k$.

But then, as another commenter pointed out, bring your design as a vector file to a sign shop a have it cut. They have all the vinyl colors around and know how to set up the machine.(mostly;-)
MakersBox1 year ago
Does the vinyl have adhesive on one side or is it more of a static cling?
You can buy vinyl that does either, adhesive and cling vinyl are not terribly expensive and can usually be bought by the yard or roll.
paulstaf1 year ago
I am with Fstedie......Don't have an expensive vinyl cutter sitting around waiting for me to 'discover' it!
Same here. I've been out looking in my garage for that CNC machine I lost. Maybe it's next to that ...
next up how to sew your extra diamonds into that mink coat thats just lying around on your platinum plated rolls royce.
bpenner1 year ago
As a sign shop owner with the cheapest cutter in the shop being around $4500 I can tell you that for a job like this or any other simple job you can print your design on thick paper and cut it out to use as a template and just score the vinyl by hand with an exacto knife. Investing in a cheap machine like a USCutter will simply end up with you being agrevated and feeling jiped out of your hard earned $$$. The cheapest and best bang for your buck for home use or a small shop is the Graphtec Craft Robo Pro about $1200 but you would feel like you got an actual capable machine. Just my 2 cents :-)
I have a Chinese cutter I brought non-working for £30 (around $50-$60), after a replacement motor driver (another £7; $10) it's been great. You can also make stencils for silk screen printing, precision papercraft, lettering and graphics for large scale vinyl banners, stencils for spray painting (a friend used some for marking up his flightcases), personalised slates for low budget movie makers, and of course, signmaking (customised flying helmets and aircraft graphics, vehicle graphics for boy racers, frosted window graphics for our datacenter) etc etc etc. I'm not sure how reliably a cheap cutter would be for day to day use, but for the odd job here and there, it's more flexible than you'd think.

Edit: ...and electro-etching!
I suspect the ~$150 Cricut works just fine for home and even small shop use.
fstedie1 year ago
Wow, and I thought that this would be a unique Instructable about making vinyl letters WITHOUT a vinyl cutter. Silly me.
There's still the avalable Numbers $ Letters "Kits" avalable all over any Town of 1,000 People or more.
A very good Instructable. I just wanted to point out that if you have a steady hand, a bit of creativity you can cut the vinyl with just a scalpel / very sharp knife to accomplish a unique result. The benefit of using a machine for someone like me is that I don't have a steady hand and without a computer I have only limited creativity. I have seen many people who can do it FREEHAND and get GREAT results. So go ahead and get some vinyl and a sharp knife and have a go. :-)
hammer98761 year ago
Can a steady hand, an X-ACTO knife, and tracing paper do the same thing as a £200 ($313) device?
FastElder1 year ago
AMAZING! Using a vinyl cutter to cut out vinyl letters.
Not really a DIY subject is it? I'll have a root around the loft and see if I have a spare MH Series Vinyl Cutter and FlexiStarter software
ummmm.........vinyl cutters are far from expensive. I got one for under £200 for DIY projects, thatsright D I Y Projects.

HTWTUSA1 year ago all need is umpteen thousand dollars worth of software and machinery, then I can D.I.Y. my own vinyl?

xD....just sayin'...but nice to know the process,anyway!
I have one of these.
Machine, one roll of vinyl, one roll of transfer paper for around £300 if you shop around.
Can be used for very accurate cutting all sorts of things.
Now that's cool, for sure.
painterkat1 year ago
I'm sure you could take your computer file to just about any sign shop and have them cut it for you for a reasonable price. I work in a sign shop and know just how easy it is to do.

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