In the past we have been using a self-sealing cutting mat, Olfa knife, and a steel edge safety ruler to do all of our custom trimming of posters and prints. Fortunately the vast majority of our work has not required any custom trimming since we design all of our standard posters around 17” (43.18 cm) roll paper, and posters come off our printer trimmed to size and ready to ship.
(NOTE: click on images to enlarge them)
When one of our clients recently awarded us a large order for 700 custom safety posters we decided it was time to invest in a more efficient trimming approach. Not only did we have to trim the posters down to a custom size, we then had to encapsulate them in 5 mil lamination film, and trim the finished 15 mil thick poster assemblies a second time. We needed something that would be reasonably easy to store when not in use, fast to operate, and deliver consistent, professional results. After doing some research we added a Dahle 554 Professional Rotary Cutter to our compliment of print production equipment. The cutter measures 36 x 14.13” (91.4 x 36 cm) and can perform cut lengths of up to 28-1/4” (71.8 cm).
The Dahle 554 features a self-sharpening upper rotary blade and a lower, fixed steel blade. We found that it trimmed very precisely and did not leave any burrs on the edges of our posters. It also cut through posters encapsulated in 5 mil lamination film without any issues at all. The lower, fixed blade is extremely sharp and the trimmer should not be held along this edge.
The rotary blade is encased in a plastic housing for added safety when operating the unit.
The rotary cutter’s design enables cuts to be done in both directions which saves a fair amount of time when doing volume work.
There is a see-through plastic cutting guide that also operates as an automatic paper clamp, applying some downward pressure on the item being trimmed as soon as the trimming motion is engaged. It does flex slightly which can affect cutting accuracy if the guide is used as a cutting reference point.
An adjustable backstop is released by depressing the red clip and can then be slid along the guide bar. This set-up enables consistent trimming of volume items.
The metal base provides good stability and features a well-marked grid pattern to assist in the trimming process. While the majority of users will find this grid useful, people in the United States may be disappointed that the majority of markings are metric which may limit the functionality of the grid for them.
On the underside of the trimmer you will find some non-slip rubber feet which do a good job stopping the trimmer from slipping while in use.
There are mounting brackets on the trimmer which enable it to be wall mounted. Given the size of the work we do I don’t think wall mounting would be very practical for us, but other users may feel differently. There are two larger models (556, 558) in this family of Dahle professional rotary trimmers for which mounting stands can be purchased. This may be something to consider if your shop does a high volume of custom trimming.
The Dahle 554 Professional Rotary Trimmer worked like a charm with our large, custom poster order. The only issue we had was with very premature wear of the pre-printed grid lines. After contacting B&H the customer service folks there put us in touch with Dahle in the United States. A brief telephone conversation, along with sending them some quick photos of the premature wear, resulted in a no-charge replacement unit being authorized by Dahle and fast RMA service by B&H. According to Dahle the premature wearing of the pre-printed grids lines that we experienced with our trimmer is a very rare occurrence.
The Dahle 554 Professional Rotary Trimmer is a well-made intermediate grade trimmer that is ideal for professional photographers who have a medium amount of custom trimming work to do. It operates smoothly and delivers good quality cuts. Users should find it more accurate and faster to use than trimming with a cutting mat, knife, and safety ruler.
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