When a basic art supply lets you down that can mess with everything. That art supply is currently my full table self-healing cutting mat. I have a drawing table that I work on all the time. It’s got a big surface. 30×42 inches. I have that surface covered with a self-healing cutting mat. I’ve never worked on the bare wood of my drawing table because bare wood it too vulnerable to scraping and pitting. Putting a piece of drawing paper on an uneven surface is an exercise in frustration. All the bumps in the wood come through in the drawing.

I bought my table back in about 1991 and covered it with a drawing surface called Borco. That stuff was pretty good. It was vinyl surface that was excellent to draw on and could be wiped clean. It’s important to be able to clean a drawing surface. But you couldn’t cut on Borco with an X-Acto blade. Well, you could but you were taking a chance of the knife cutting the Borco. It can handle minor cuts but not major ones. Any cutting I had to do in those days I did on an 11×17 inch self-healing cutting mat.

A self-healing cutting mat is a cool thing. It’s made up of many layers of plastic and those layers close up the knife cut as the knife draws across whatever you are cutting. You can cut and draw on the same surface. That’s convenient.

At some point in the mid 1990s I decided to upgrade my drawing surface and buy a cutting mat that would cover its whole surface. A 30×42 inch self-healing cutting mat was at least $100 at that time. That’s pretty expensive but I thought it would be worth it. It’s a nice durable surface that would last me for years. And it did.

In the early months of 2020 I decided that cutting mat would have to be replaced. I had cut on it so much in the 25 years I had used it that a few grooves had developed on it. They weren’t terrible but they were a little inconvenient. I tried to find a replacement but the company who made my cutting mat, Alvin, are out of business now. I found another one at the size I need but a few bad reviews made me wary of rushing to buy it.

Being that the mat and my drawing table is 30 inches high/tall I noticed that I did most of my cutting on the bottom half of the mat. I have my drawing table at standing height so almost all the time I’m working on the part of the table that’s closest to me. The top half of the table had almost no cuts made on it. I decided to flip the cutting mat upside down. I made the top of the mat the bottom of the mat.

The first annoying thing about that is that all the numbers were upside down. The mat has a grid made up of lines half and inch apart on it and those lines are marked by numbers. It’s a cutting mat with built in rulers but now all the numbers marking the ruler were upside down. I actually use the markings when I have to line up a piece of paper to cut it. Now it takes an extra moment to make sure I’m reading the ruler the correct way.

The real problem is that the top of the cutting mat is not as flat as the bottom part I was using for 25 years. Maybe it was because the sun hit the top of the cutting mat more than the bottom and that made it warp slightly but it’s noticeable now that I’ve flipped the mat. It’s only slightly warped. Maybe by about a 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch. It lifts up slightly from the drawing table right in the center. That means when I lean on it it goes back down but when I release pressure it rises up again. That’s really annoying.

Back in the beginning to the year I tried to fix it by taping it down to the drawing table. I used some double sided tape. I slipped a few pieces under the mat and hoped it would stick to the table. It did for a good long while but now ten months have past and it’s popping up again.

It turns out that using a ruler or a triangle to make a straight line gets hard when the surface you’re on is warped. The ruler is a different height compared to the paper from one end to the other. It wobbles and the ruler won’t stay in place as it pivots around the high spot in the mat. I have to lean on the ruler or triangle and use my weight to flatten the self-healing cutting mat. That doesn’t make for easy working.

I started looking today at replacing the mat again. I’d like to buy one at Dick Blick but none of the brands they cary makes a 30×42 inch one. I found a mat on Amazon but some of the reviews warned that theirs came warped and wouldn’t flatten. I certainly don’t need another warped cutting mat. I think I may have to try and use tape again to keep mine flat. That’s a pain since I have to take my parallel rule off my table if I really want to do it right.

Here is an odd thing involving my old 11×17 cutting mat. Even after getting my whole drawing table covered with a self-healing cutting mat I still used the portable one too. If I had to do a lot of cutting of photos I would pull that one out and use it. But over the years my use of it tapered off quite a bit until I found I hadn’t used it for months and months.

That 11×17 cutting mat used to sit in one spot for decades until a couple of years ago I decided to move it. I don’t even remember now why I thought it needed to be moved. Sometime last year I decided to pull it out and use it again. Except I had no idea where I put it. It’s not like I have a ton of spots to stick an 11×17 cutting mat so where did it go? I have no idea. Maybe I threw it out but I don’t think I did. Why would I toss a perfectly good cutting mat? Maybe I’ll run across it someday when I least suspect it. I hope so.