You may be able to extend your blade’s life with something you probably already have-heavy duty aluminum foil! I first found this tip from here and tried it out myself. I used non-heavy and doubled it up twice, but I can’t recommend it. I don’t know for sure that it works as well as heavy duty.
Tear out your heavy-duty aluminum foil big enough to cover your cutting mat’s sticky area twice over, fold it in half, and apply to the cutting mat. In Silhouette Studio or Make-The-Cut, use large letters or simple shapes like flowers to be cut. Ratchet your blade to 1 and in the program, set the speed to 1 and the thickness/force to 1. Do this at least 2-3 times before trying to cut out a test design with paper. The more you use your blade, the more often you would want to do this to keep your blade sharp.
Alternately, you can do this by hand yourself so there is no danger of ruining your cutting mat. Use a hard surface like a clipboard under your foil and doodle some shapes.
My blades, but not blade holder (also known as “blade tool”) arrived! I bought them from different sellers on eBay.
If you’ve priced the cost of blades for the Silhouette machines, you know that they are pricey and sometimes you get one from a bad batch. So I looked to 3rd party alternatives and the Graphtec CB09 blade holder came up. I bought one for $25 with 3 blades included and a 5pc blade set for $10 from another seller. Free shipping on both.
I haven’t gotten the chance to use the blades yet, but I do know that blade adjustment is fully manual. It does not have a convenient ratchet system, but that’s industry standard. By being manually adjusted, it gives you more control over how much blade is exposed.
If you check out eBay, you will notice that they offer 30°, 45°, and 60° blades. Both black and blue Silhouette blade holders have 45° blades. It has middle-of-the-road capabilities like it will last longer than a 60 because you’re using more surface area of the blade to cut with, but it will not cut intricate designs, vinyl, and thicker material as well as the 60.
The 30° blade is meant for large designs and also fabric, which I regret not knowing before I purchased my blades because I would have gotten the sample pack that has all three types. I’m very interested in cutting fabric with my Portrait but I haven’t done it yet. I don’t want to hurt my machine!
If you’re getting extra tearing or other bad cutting behavior, you should try cleaning out your blade holder before chucking it out in anger and getting a new one. Take it out of the machine and ratchet the blade to 0. After that, hold it in your left hand horizontally with the blade side outward, then, with your right hand, push inward and twist off the white cap by turning it toward you. It should easily come off and the blade will be exposed. Just tap the paper scraps gently out and then maybe use a Q-tip if there is still some left.
Check out what I found in mine!
I found this tip out on a youtube comment on this video. If it is your sort of thing, you can head over there and thank Kip. ^_^
UPDATE October 7th, 2013:
I tried this with my blue blade holder and I can’t get it to unscrew. When you press inward, you should feel the cap already give a little and then easily come off. Do not try to force it to come off!
I examined both of the blade holders and they look identical except for the coloring. So, try and see if you can take the cap off and tell me about it.