Here’s what’s REALLY important to know

You’re reading this review because you already know what a laminator does and why you need one. But there are so many brands and models to choose from, which one should you get?

Assuming you have not owned one before, here are some tips based on a lot of experience using laminators.

First off, as a professional photographer, I generally would not use the type of laminator sold on these pages. The best type is a design that uses two metal heating plates in which you sandwich your item between and press down until the item is laminated. That design works best because the entire item is under equal pressure over its entire surface which minimizes bubbles or uneven lamination. I’m telling you this because the principle behind the design of a flat table laminator contains a lot of the answers you need to help choose the right one for you.

Most laminators like this one (they are all surprisingly alike despite how they look or what they cost) start off by making a big point of how quickly they heat up. That is actually one of the LEAST important things you want to be looking for. They all heat up in a reasonable time, +/- 5 minutes. It is a rare person who uses a laminator in such a way that they start it, use it and then shut it off for an hour and come back and turn it on again. Most people either use it for a long stretch of time or only use it occasionally, and start-up time is meaningless for that majority of users.

What you DO want are (rated in order of importance):

1. A very smooth, even pressure across the entire surface of the item you are laminating. A fast speed is not a positive feature and can actually be a negative. The best laminators I have used will take about 20 seconds to laminate one standard sheet of paper

2. Temperature consistency. Once the light tells you it is ready to use the laminator needs to keep that temperature, not cycle off, cool down and then heat up again. Some models are much better than others in staying at a consistent temperature

3. A release lever/switch. Unfortunately once a laminator screws up your work there isn’t much you can do to save it. But a release switch can help you from making matters even worse. Not all laminators have one. I would not buy one without this feature

4. A two-level temperature switch for laminating both 3 mil and 5 mil sheets. Different brands of laminating stock require different temperatures and sometimes you will get better results using a different temperature, despite the thickness of the media. It’s good to have the option.

5. A horizontal front feed slot has worked for me better than one where you drop the item down into a slot. A horizontal slot helps me guide the media to help prevent bunching, when it feeds from the top (gravity feed) there is little you can do to guide it

Everyone has different needs but I do offer this word of advice from experience … it is best not to attempt to laminate something that is a one-of-a-kind heirloom or irreplaceable. Keep your original is a safe place and if you want to use, handle or display it make a good color photocopy and laminate it. Laminators are pretty good, as cheap as they are, but they have an unfortunate tendency to mess up at just the wrong time. Once the plastic gets melted to your original there is no saving it. So use a bit of caution.

Bottom line is that this Scotch laminator meets or exceeds all of the above. I would kind of expect that from a product with the Scotch name on it, especially compared to the many no-name products being sold. I can tell that there is at least some degree of precision in the design of the rollers because so far I have never had it grab my work and feed it off kilter like the other one I use. It is not intended for heavy office use but it feels like it is built good enough to be used by an average user on a daily basis. The cost is reasonable for what it offers and I am happy with it enough to rate it 5-stars.