The 13-inch Hot Laminator Kit is a comes in a trim little package that includes the purple trimmer, the instruction booklet, and a set of 70 clear pockets in the following quantities and sizes: 25 business card, 25 letter size, 5 luggage tags, 5 – 6″x6″, 5 – 8″x8″, and 5 – 12″x12″. I was excited to break open the box because I had several laminating projects lined up:
Purple Cows sells laminating pockets in sets of 20 in a variety of different sizes (the ones noted above), but not in the variety pack that came with the laminator kit. The prices range from $12.95 for the largest pockets to $4.95 for the smaller ones. They also sell paper cutters and trimmers priced from $19.95 to $69.95.
The laminator is very easy to set up. I placed it on my kitchen table on a corner near an outlet. I set the feeder side facing toward me. The instructions say the machine needs 3 minutes to warm up. The power light will turn from red to green when it is ready. It does make a clicking sound intermittently the whole time it is running.
While the machine was warming, I prepared my hundreds charts. I first mounted them with double-sided tape on file folders that I cut in half. Then I placed them in the “hot pockets.” The pockets are 2 pieces of clear laminating film that are sealed on one side, so it is easy to position your work inside the sleeve. I simply fed the project through the feeding end, and it came out the other side.
I was impressed with the fact that the sleeves really did seal well. Even when I put several smaller items inside the largest sleeve and trimmed them after the sleeve cooled, the pieces remained well-sealed. The firmness of the finished projects was also good, even when I did not first mount them on a file folder. Those aspects were just as good, if not better, than the laminating for which I have paid in local teacher supply stores
One difficulty I noticed was with the issue of curling; specifically, the top corners that are first fed through the machine tend to curl on the way out, sometimes wrinkling and damaging the work inside it. The instructions clearly state, “Insert the pouch into the feed slot on the front, folded side first, and let the rollers pull the work through. Gently support large pieces as they come out of the laminator to avoid curling.”
I tried a few different strategies: holding the front edges as they came out of the laminator, placing a book the same height as the laminator to minimize any possibility for the ends to bend, and placing the work lower in the sleeve. Try as I might, the corners just wanted to curl. I experimented with different sizes of the pockets. The unit laminated about six letter-size pockets (for copies of the hundreds charts) and three 12×12 pockets for Bible verses, which I later trimmed. Then things went bad.
I attempted to laminate a 5×5 pocket containing a picture printed from my computer on regular 22 lb. printer/copier paper. The piece went in and never came out. I turned the unit over to see if there was any visible part of the pocket, but there wasn’t. I attempted to run another piece through, thinking that a new piece might dislodge the first one. The second one disappeared too. The instructions specifically warn against trying to open the unit, so there was nothing else to be done.
I called the company and spoke to a gentleman who said they hear about something like that happening “every once in a while,” and he graciously sent out a completely new unit. When I set up the replacement machine, I decided to start with the size that had given me the trouble. I laminated one 5×5 pocket, again using regular printer/copier paper. The top left corner was slightly curled. I put another one in. The machine ate it as described above.
What a disappointment. I read and re-read the instructions to ensure I had not inadvertently killed the laminator though misuse. I really wanted this product to work. It held much potential for my family for casual craft and household use. It’s compact and reasonably priced, and it certainly beats making a separate trip just for laminating. And it’s purple! However, I cannot recommend this product based on my experience.