Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cutting Parchment Paper Squares

Every so often, I have to set aside the piping bag or whatever I'm working on in favor of some form of cake-related maintenance, and today's project is the cutting of parchment paper squares. So, apologies for the dearth of pretty pictures; today I'm going to show you how to save money by cutting your own squares, which are a staple of pretty much any project involving royal icing and a flower nail. I'm not sure you can even buy pre-cut parchment squares on the Wilton site anymore; they appear to have vanished. If so, good riddance. One pack of 100 cost about as much as an entire roll of parchment paper if memory serves, and if you were to cut the entire roll into squares you'd have 1008 squares; that'll see you through piping a boatload of roses! All you need to cut your own squares is a pair of scissors and something good on TV, but if you want to set up your own factory of sorts, you'll need a self-healing mat, an X-Acto knife, a cutting rail, and a roll of parchment paper. Everything can be found at art supply stores (as opposed to craft stores; I don't think I've spotted cutting rails at Michael's, but I've never gone looking for them). I think you can find self-healing mats in the scrapbooking section. This one is made by X-Acto, and has a workable area of 11x17. It's probably about 20 years old; the lines are so faint in the middle I wasn't able to take an in-focus photo of it. 
 The X-Acto knife you're no doubt familiar with. I like this one, because it has a rubbery grip to it. As soon as I took it out of the package I immediately painted the cap's tip with red nail polish; the clear cap would have been just too easy to lose, and an X-Acto knife without a cap is just trouble waiting to happen.
 Be sure to use a cutting rail; that lip on the far side will protect your fingertips in ways regular rulers can't.
 Start by cutting the edge of your parchment clean with the X-Acto knife; that serrated cutter on the box won't give you a perfect edge.
 Roll the paper out across the mat, and line the cut edge up with the furthermost line. Use your cutting rail to anchor the paper down (because it will want to curl back under itself)…
 …two inches in from the edge.
 Hold the rail firmly (and with no fingers overhanging the lip), and draw the blade along it from the far end towards yourself.
 After you've cut four of them (or more or less; any more than 4 and they start slipping around on me), stack them up…
 …and line them up against one of the lines on the mat. Anchor them with the cutting rail two inches away, and assertively cut through the stack. Repeat, repeat, repeat. At some point, you might notice it's time to change the blade; always have a seemingly infinite supply of spare blades on hand.
 Now get piping! You can buy new tips with the money you save cutting your own parchment squares.

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