One of our more popular items for sign making is our line of Endura cutting mats. These matte white ruled cutting mats are quite handy for making sure your corners are straight as you resize materials to fit your projects. In addition to filling in for a T-square in a pinch, the basic function of the mat is to provide a surface on which materials can be cut to size without scarring your work tables.

Trading a scarred work table for a scarred cutting mat that needs to be replaced regularly isn’t much of a bargain, so the Endura Mat is made of high density polyethylene, otherwise known as HDPE. This is a rigid substrate but it has a soft enough composition, so we have referred to it in our catalog and email marketing as “self-sealing” or “self healing.” But that doesn't mean that cuts made to the surface just magically disappear. Some have objected to this term, saying that it’s not really a self-sealing mat. So is it self sealing or not? If not, how long can I use it before it needs to be replaced?

Determining the life of a cutting mat is a little like evaluating the EPA figure on a car’s window sticker. Your mileage may vary. If you drive conservatively, your new Ford Fusion Hybrid may get or exceed the EPA estimated 41 mpg. If you drive it like a teenager in a Corvette, you’ll probably be filling up more often. The same principle applies to the life and usefulness of your Endura cutting mat. If you use it reasonably with a good sharp knife you will find that it wears well and hides marks well enough to be used and considered as a self-healing mat. But if you go at it like a caveman with a dull axe, you may be replacing it more often. In the interest of getting the best possible mileage out of your hard-earned dollars, here are some tips for the care of your new Endura Cutting Mat.

  1. Avoid repetitious cutting and always use a blade or knife with a sharp edge, applying just enough pressure to cut through the material. Cutting mats can be scarred by using a dull blade and too much pressure.
  2. Use the proper knife. We recommend extendable knives with break-away blades (like the Olfa SVR-1) or an art knife with a sharp blade angle (like a 60° Xacto or Olfa Art Knife). Avoid using heavy duty utility knives
  3. Avoid using utility knives designed to cut sheet rock and carpet.
  4. Cut on your cutting mat using the same amount of force you would use to trim vehicle graphics on paint without scoring the paint
  5. Train your personnel that, when cutting vinyl, premask, banners or other materials commonly used in the sign industry that more pressure is not the answer.
  6. Using multiple light strokes to cut through thicker materials or multiple layers is more desirable than trying to cut all the way through in one pass. Two of the hardest materials to cut without damaging your mat are corrugated plastic and PVC foam substrates.
    1. Corrugated plastic can be cut in three or four successive strokes
    2. PVC is generally 1/8” to ¼” thick and can be cut by hand on a mat. Anything thicker should be cut on a panel saw or router. The fastest way to cut PVC foam board is to score it with a knife, then lay it down on the edge of your work table and break it. You’ll get a clean edge without having to cut all the way through.

A good cutting mat will last a long time if used properly. As with the Ford Fusion Hybrid example above, your mileage may vary. The biggest reason your Endura mat will last is how you “drive”. Of course if you want to carve it up, and order a new one, that’s okay too. We have plenty in stock ;)