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Review of the Scotch Advanced Thermal Laminator: Don't try this at home

Now that I've played with the Scotch Advanced Thermal Laminator for a while, I kind of want everyone who needs things laminated to come to my house and let me do it for them. It's fast. It's fun. It's easy. It does a good job. The sleeve you put your stuff in adheres not only at the edges but all over the item, so that you can cut off all edging and have, say, a perfectly laminated bookmark with no overhang. So, five stars, Scotch, on this great product.
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That said, make sure you use it as directed. A morality tale:

My daughter came home from college (yes, throwing her under the bus here), eyed our new lamination station, and got busy. First it was regular stuff. A test paper, a bookmark. Then it got more intense. She broke out her box of dried flowers and quickly put together a collage, cranked the thickness of the laminator up to 5mm, and ran it through. The result: not bad. And then I left the room.

In my absence she decided to experiment by putting a couple small dabs of paint in a sleeve and running it through. The result was a laminated sleeve with long streaks of paint running the length of it. And--you may have guessed it by now--paint got inside the machine.

She figured, reasonably enough, that she could get rid of the paint by feeding sleeveless paper through the machine. Perhaps after doing that a number of times, the paint would be pretty much gone and regular lamination could continue, but things went from bad to worse: the paper checked in, but it didn't check out. It was stuck inside, crammed into a very small space on the exit side of the rollers. We tried using various tools to get it out, but it soon became clear that we'd have to expose the innards of the machine if there was any hope of clearing the paper jam.

With some misgivings, we took off the cover and spent a fair amount of time trying to get the paper out. Knives were introduced, tweezers, paper clips. Nothing worked. And after quite a long time we decided that taking off the cover wasn't enough. At this point, I had pretty much given up on the idea that we'd ever get the laminator working again. Taking things apart is easy, but there's a lot that can go wrong when it comes to putting them back together. Nonetheless, I further disassembled the laminator. There was a lot of dried paint in it, more than we'd expected. We chipped it off where we could. But even at this point, it wasn't an easy thing to get to that jammed paper. I wound up having to pry a piece of metal back and then finally, finally, I was able to pull out the paper, which the machine had folded into a very tight fan, each of its accordion fins only a few millimeters wide.

I reassembled the laminator. To my astonishment, and with the sweet stench of burning acrylic heralding its success, it spat out a laminated test sheet--perfect but for needing to be wiped free of melted paint. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a working laminator.

The moral of this story is, be careful what you stick in the machine. Probably you won't try running paint through it, so you're in the clear there. But this woeful tale does point to what is arguably a flaw. Should someone accidentally insert a sleeveless piece of paper into the laminator--and I can see this happening--there is very little chance that that paper is going to come out again. There is no easy way of clearing a paper jam. Perhaps there should be.


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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

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