A Star Cutting Board

Cut stars are a mainstay for most of the amateur pyro folks, but they are tedious to make. If you are a stickler for nice, uniform stars, then you might like the design of this cutting board. It helps you cut perfect cubes without any eye-straining guess work.

I started with a piece of 10 inch wide, plastic surfaced shelf board. You can buy them for a few bucks at Home Depot or HQ with a wood grain or white finish. This board has been cut to a length of about 16 inches.
Next, attach edge guides to two sides of the board with screws. The edge guides should protrude above the cutting surface of the board no more than the size of the smallest stars you plan to make with this board. I used a few strips of plastic surfaced paneling for bathrooms. Personal preference is used to decide which corner of the board you prefer to work in. The sides of this corner are the ones where the edge guides are attached.
The star cutting board is complete. To use it, you will need to make a set of tooling for each size of star you want. To do this, three pieces of gauge strips are cut from wood or plexiglass. One of these strips is then cut into two short lengths of about 4.5 inches. The thickness of the gauge strips is the same as the size of the stars you want to make. The gauge strips shown are 3/8 inches thick and will yield (real rocket science here) 3/8 inch cut stars. If wood is chosen for the gauge strip material, it must be sealed with polyurethane and warping may still be a problem.
The strips are used to border the sheet of dough as you roll it out. The two strips which contact the edge guides are held stationary by the guides. The other two are held in place by hand. The short one is adjusted to the size of the dough batch.
Now, another piece of plexiglass is glued to a piece of wood to act as a cutting guide. It is placed with one edge recessed from the bottom, as shown. The recess should be greater than the star size by about 1/8 inch. The plexiglass is attached to the wood by several dabs of hot glue which hold the plexiglass away from the wood by roughly the width of the blade of the cutting knife which will be used to cut the star dough. The reason for this will become apparent shortly (if I manage to make myself clear). Again, the wood should sealed by some means to facilitate cleaning after use.
To start making a batch of cut stars, I put down a piece of wax paper and then place the gauge strips on top of it. I then use my hands to roughly flatten the lump of star dough within the gauge rails.
I then use a piece of PVC as a rolling pin to flatten the dough to a very uniform thickness. If the dough is somewhat sticky, I might use a piece of waxed paper to cover the dough while rolling. The gauge rails are then removed, leaving a very well formed rectangular sheet from which to cut strips of star dough.
The cutting guide is now used with a wide putty blade to cut the strips. The guide is designed to assure the cuts are vertical and uniform in width. To use it, I bring the wooden surface into contact with the dough, as shown. This is done lightly so the dough is not encouraged to adhere to the guide. Holding the knife against the plexiglass surface of the guide, I lower the knife onto the dough and gently mark a line into the surface of the dough. Then I back away the guide until the knife edge is outside of the mark in the dough. Now, with downward pressure on the guide to hold it stationary, the knife is pushed down into the dough to cut off a strip. This cutting action will force the strip of dough away from the rest of the sheet by exactly the width of the cutting knife blade. There is room for this to happen without forcing the dough into the guide because the guide was initially backed away by this much distance. The whole intent of this procedure is to avoid causing the dough to stick to the guide or the knife. The severed strip is then slid or rolled away from the sheet with the cutting knife. Each strip is left beside the next with a small separation between each one.
Finally, the cutting guide is again used to cut the strips into cubes. Unless a different, much longer knife is used, two cutting actions will need to be performed for each new row of cubes cut from the strips of dough. If the star dough becomes dry and crumbly before all the cutting is finished, I often mist the dough with a spray bottle of solvent to keep the dough moist. When the cutting is done, the wax paper is lifted or slid off the cutting board with the stars on it and placed on a rack to dry. If priming is necessary, I usually do this after the stars have dried. In case you're wondering what kind of bizarre star composition this is, an inert, dyed salt dough was used to illustrate this marvelous star cutting method. Had you guessing, didn't I??

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