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CutterPillar’s Subjective History of the Light Board

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Once upon a time, in the mystical realm of creativity, a visionary artist stumbled upon the enchanted concept of a "light table." Legend has it that in the early 20th century, amidst the fervor of artistic exploration, a photographer named Enzo Lumière had an epiphany while working on his latest project. Frustrated by the limitations of traditional techniques, Lumière yearned for a way to bring his negatives to life. In a moment of pure inspiration, he fashioned a magical table that emitted a soft, luminous glow from beneath its surface, allowing him to trace, edit, and transform his photographic negatives with unprecedented ease. News of this miraculous invention spread like wildfire through the artistic community, and soon, every painter, illustrator, and photographer sought to harness the power of the illustrious light table.

Technically, Edison invented this back in 1915.  But we have heard he was kind of a jerk. So we're acknowledging him and moving on. 😉


As time marched on, the light table became a cherished tool in the arsenal of creative minds worldwide. From animation studios crafting iconic cartoons to architects sketching grand designs, the light table's influence knew no bounds. Its legacy endured, evolving alongside technology, from humble beginnings as a wooden frame with a glowing bulb to sleek, modern iterations boasting adjustable brightness and digital interfaces. Through the ages, the light table remained a beacon of innovation, illuminating the path for generations of artists seeking to bring their visions to light in the most enchanting and precise of ways.


CutterPillar’s illuminated, but humble beginnings started in a print shop south of Salt Lake City. Our founder worked in “pre-press” getting complicated print jobs ready for printing: One of the tools used was a ginormous, ancient light table.  It had blinky, hot florescent bulbs under a piece of glass. This glass surface was scratched and marred from print staff dulling their blades trying to cut through layers of paper lined up while stripping-negatives on this light table.  That’s when the epiphany hit... “Why don’t we put a translucent cutting mat on top of this light table so cutting won’t continue to ruin the glass surface and dulling cutting blades?"

The problem was… After an exhaustive search, no one made a translucent cutting mat to put atop this light table. It was unbelievable that no one had thought to marry these two things together… to cut on the light!!

This idea was tucked away for a few years while the work was being done on our first paper trimmer, the CutterPillar Pro.  Which had its own light source under the blade, a strip of LED diodes that illuminated the cutting line. 

The CutterPillar Trimmer was and instant hit with paper-crafters.  That’s when this original epiphany took on a new meaning: “people like to see what they are doing”.  Obvious, yes.  But more specifically: that the light coming from underneath a craft medium was an important distiction... the ambient room light was inconsequential. Light from underneath eliminated hand and head shadows from lamps and overhead lights. No more straining to see those tiny crop-marks.  Is that blue or black you ask?  Is that a 7 or a 4?   An illuminated surface dramtically changes the way one interactes with the craft medium.

That’s when the idea was fully formed.  Create a LIGHT BOARD!!! Not an expensive table… not a thick, heavy box… but a portable, movable board that had all the benefits of the its bulky ancestors... but transformed into a light, slim, sleek piece of acrylic. It didn't hurt that the “LED revolution” was in full swing in the mid 2000’s. It was now possible to see this marriage happen: a portable light, and a way to cut on it.


CutterPillar found international partners that could see this vison through. The CutterPillar Glow was born.  While it’s true others had similar ideas about shrinking these light tables and boxes down to more manageable size.  They called them light tablets, light pads, light frames.  Some of them beat us to market. That is the American way.  But CutterPillar's ace was this translucent, self-healing cutting mat.  This is what makes CutterPillar’s Lightboards exponentially more useful.  Being able use cutting tools on the light surface is why CutterPillar stands above it’s many competitors.

Now CutterPillar has transformed the “one-trick-pony” lightboard into a crafting system. We looked at many of our customers crafting dilemmas and were inspired to create


“add-ons” to the Glow to solve them. Tempered Glass Mats for glueing, inking, embossing, painting, ironing, and fusing.  Different styles of cutting mats, gridded and un-gridded.  Totes, to allow the super-lightweight, 2.5 pound Glows to be taken on the road safely. 

Many of our other stand-alone products were designed to be even more useful when combined with the Glow... like our rotating cutting mat, the Swivel.  Or the paper scoring-board, the Crease.  All designed to disrupt outdated, stagnant products? Sure.  But more importantly… designed to make your crafts: easier, enjoyable and BRIGHTER!! 


We hope you enjoyed this subjective story of the light table.  By the way… our Glows have been back-ordered for many weeks now.  They are coming back in mid-January.   We are running a promotion for a few days that offers our blog-readers a chance to pre-order before we raise the price next year (damn that inflation) Also, get free shipping to boot.  Click here Use code: FREESHIP

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